I was listening to the last half of The Conversation today on KUOW. Their topic had been Seattle as the most literate city. Then that ended and the host said they would talk to the new head of Neighborhoods and "the crisis in Seattle Schools". I was kind of surprised as there was only about 17 minutes left in the program. He briefly interviewed the Neighborhood head and then went on to the schools.
He was talking to Venus Velazquez who was a member of the CACIEE, the Superintendent's Committee. (She had previously been interviewed, along with Don Nielson and Lynne Varner of the Times editorial board, on the Seattle Channel.) I was not happy with most of her answers and some of how the interview went. Here's the e-mail I sent:
I was listening to the tail end of The Conversation today and heard the piece about Seattle schools. I am saddened by a couple of things.
1. I noticed that Ross Reynolds said it was going to be an occasional series called Are Seattle Schools in Crisis? Do you think you could just a bit more neutral (or fair) and call it "Seattle Schools Today" or "Assessing Seattle Schools"? Crisis is a loaded word.
2. Ms. Velasquez said it was disingenious for Cheryl Chow to say that Seattle Schools are not headed for a financial crisis (even with a $25M reserve). Talk about disingenious! The reason (which Superintendent Manhas and the Board have said - repeatedly) is that the state's funding is not going to meet costs (for any district and that's why many districts are suing the state over Special Ed funding), NOT because of any ineffective management in Seattle. Again, be fair and do your homework.
3. Ms. Velasquez says appointed boards would be good but then says it should be a local decision. Okay, but only the Legislature can make the decision to change how schools are run. I think it unlikely that they would pass a bill that would let every district be managed differently. And if they decided that, would that mean every city would vote on whether the voters decide, the Mayor, the Mayor AND the City Council or some combination? I have tried, repeatedly, to contact Senator Murray to ask about his much-touted (by the Mayor and the Seattle Times) proposed legislation that school boards be appointed. I've had no luck. Maybe you, as journalists, might have better luck.
4. Ms. Velasquez also said there are failing schools. Yes, and speaking as a member of the Closure and Consolidation Committee, we were charged with finding them. The district is closing schools. The district does offer parents of schools failing under NCLB (and failing is a subjective word here) other schools to go to and parents are taking them up on it. (Another interesting story as there are schools who "buy down" class size by paying for extra teachers. However, they are now finding that they must take on new students under NCLB if those students want to leave failing schools. You can imagine how parents who raise that money for smaller class sizes feel about that issue.) It's not like the district is sitting on its hands.
Seattle Schools are having a rough time but I submit they are not in crisis or drifting (as the Mayor says). Could you please use as neutral a tone as possible? I don't care if your guests choose to state their opinions (but it would be nice if it were backed up in fact) but I would hope that as journalists you would want to present a balance to the issues.