Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Recall Election for Board members

I was wondering when this might happen. The Times reports a recall election drive.

It is focused on 5 board members; Cheryl Chow, Brita Butler-Wall, Irene Stewart, Darlene Flynn and Michael DeBell and it's alleging that those members did not do their duty as Board members during school closures. Now the Times originally called for a recall election for Brita, Irene, Darlene, Mary and Sally, claiming they are ineffective. This recall drive claims "acts of malfeasance, misfeasance or violation of the oath of office".

I don't hang around school playgrounds anymore so someone help me out. Has this been a big issue for discussion there or at PTA meetings? I haven't heard any parents except a few at board meetings call for this action.

Of course it begs the question as Brita, Irene and Darlene (as well as Sally) are all up for re-election (should they choose to run) in November when the recall election would take place should it go forward.

I don't think the people pushing this have the members to get the numbers they need to put it on the ballot. According to the article, they would have to get at least 25% of the number of votes each member received in the last election which would make it 5 different recall elections.

One of the issues about school closures was that the CAC met twice behind closed doors. What I can say about this is from our experience in the public hearings, those two final meetings would have been extremely contentious and we would not felt able to openly discuss what we had seen, heard, and considered during our work. I personally feel certain that even if the meetings had been open, audience members would not have stayed quiet (as they would have been required to) and it would have stilled discussion. One of our meetings lasted 12 hours and the idea that people would be wandering in and out, taking things out of context and possibly disrupting our meetings just wasn't going to work.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't have any comments other than to say that the recall election idea is a ridiculous waste of effort and I'd be shocked if they pull it off.
All it's done is given more negative publicity for SPS, but in the end, I believe the general public won't approve of what they are doing and will thus not support it.

Beth Bakeman said...

This recall effort is by the Stop All School Closures group. They circulated flyers about this effort to recall Board Member at sevearl school closure hearings.

I don't believe this effort has a broad base of popular support.

amy said...

I personally feel that this effort is misguided. I would rather see people take all this energy and work towards successfully implementing tough decisions or developing creative solutions (I think both are possible). It's unfortunate, and bad timing.

I also agree with Melissa that sometimes tough meetings have to be done in private. I attended an Executive Board Meeting once and I could tell that the "real meeting" would be happening some other time - it was just too difficult for those attending to really discuss some tough and possibly contentious issues with a bunch of people sitting in the back of the room taking notes. Their comments were very surface-level and guarded.

I am totally for an open process, but in the name of group and organization effectiveness, sometimes things need to be discussed/fleshed out in smaller groups and then shared more broadly.

Brita said...

Amy is right that discussion at some of our committee meetings has been guarded and can seem superficial. This is due to reporters in the room, more than the general public, IMHO. Some reporters have taken my comments out of context and I have learned the hard way to watch everything I say.

That said, we have NEVER had any executive committee meetings that were not posted and open to the public since I have been on the board. What you see is what you get. We are allowed to phone each other individually but we are not allowed to have any meetings of any group of board members currently sitting on a given committee. We are allowed to send an email to the School Board but are not allowed to 'reply-all' because that would constitute a discussion.

OPMA is a great thing but there is no doubt that it stifles full and free discussion when we believe that people present are waiting to pounce.

We abide by these constraints and have not complained. This is the price we pay for democracy and transparency...which we strongly believe in.

amy said...

Thanks for your post, Brita. Wow, I can't believe that you're not allowed to meet "offline" (or even online!) - how in the world you can get anything done at all as a group is a marvel.

Charlie Mas said...

I'm not a fan of the recall effort; I believe that it is misguided and, given the fact that a number of the Board members are up for re-election at the same time - pointless. That said, I think that some good can and will come out of this recall effort.

Before the recall can go forward, a judge must be convinced that the Board violated state law. The laws that Stop All School Closures claims the Board violated are Initiative 200, the Open Public Meetings Act, that M. L. King was closed in advance of the Board vote to close it, and that the closure of Rainier View Elementary did not get the requisite notice prior to the public hearing regarding its closure.

The good that can come from this effort is that a judge will consider each of these contentions and find them each without merit.

The first claim, the I-200 claim, is that race was a factor in the closure decisions. Stop All School Closures present evidence that the closures disproportionately impacted students of color. They will use the Districtwide demographics as a benchmark and consider the disproportionate outcome as ipso facto evidence of race-based decision-making.

They are, of course, wrong on both counts. First, the outcome is NOT disproportionate. They used the wrong benchmark. Instead of using the entire district's demographics as a benchmark they should have used the demographics of schools with excess capacity. The demographics of the closed schools closely matches the demographics of the schools that had excess capacity. Secondly, the District did not close these schools because they are half full of minority students; the District closed these schools because they are half full.

The irony of this claim, that the decision was race-based, is that the alternative that would appease these folks would be to close some other school instead - one that isn't one-third empty - because that other school has White students enrolled. THAT would be a race-based decision.

The alledged violation of the Open Public Meetings Act refers to the final meetings of the CAC, which were not open to the public. This claim is without merit. Because advisory committees do not have actual or de facto authority to take action on behalf of the School Board, they are not subject to the Open Meetings Act.

The claim that M L King was closed prior to the Board vote is without merit because the school was open when the Board voted to close it. Yes, people were moving forward with closure activities in anticipation of the Board vote, but the school was not actually closed ahead of the vote.

The Rainier View public notice of puclic hearings is a strictly technical matter. I believe that the law requires the District to post a seven-day notice in advance of the public hearing on a school closure. The District had published fourteen-day notices for the other schools but something less for Rainier View because Rainier View was a late addition to the list.

Charlie Mas said...

According to a story in today's Seattle Times, this recall effort has stalled.

From the paper:
"Prosecutor's office rejects recall petition

"The King County Prosecutor's Office on Wednesday rejected a petition to recall five members of the Seattle School Board.

"The Committee to Stop All School Closures filed the petition Friday against members Cheryl Chow, Michael DeBell, Darlene Flynn, Brita Butler-Wall and Irene Stewart. State law mandates that the petitioner, Eric Dawson, take an oath verifying the charges of malfeasance against the School Board are true. In a letter to Dawson, King County Prosecutor Janine Joly said Dawson never took the oath.

"In addition, Joly said Dawson would have to file five separate petitions against the board members. Dawson also failed to provide his address, so prosecutors were unable to verify his King County voter registration."

Charlie Mas said...

I have been informed that the recall petition has been re-filed correctly with separate filings for each of the five Board members, the sworn statement, and the contact information.

Anonymous said...

Do you think that any judge will actually make any decision on the legality of closures while another judge is deciding that issue strait on? I don't think so. In the "ridiculous waste" category, I think this will be a ridiculous waste of tax payer money, as the prosecutor has to spend time on this. I bet that what will happen is that the prosectuor or judge will decide that they have to wait to make the decision on if the recall petition can go forward (reading Charlie's post it looks like the only act of that they are saying is illegal is voting in favor of closure) until the closure case is over. What someone should do is file a recall petition for the two people who are behind all of this, Sally Soriano and Mary Bass. Something tells me that supporting a lawsuit against yourself is not a legal act. You lost the vote, get over it.

Charlie Mas said...

I think that we need to be very clear about the role that Directors Soriano and Bass have in the legal effort to have a Court reverse the school closures. They are NOT parties to the suit. The Seattle Times can print it a thousand times, but it still will not be true that two of the Board members are suing the District. Director Bass has no role in the litigation whatsoever. Director Soriano has provided an affidavit. In the event that the Court hears the case, ALL of the Directors will have to provide either affidavits or depositions.

Let's be very clear, Directors Bass and Soriano are not "the two people who are behind all of this". There is a determined cadre of people who oppose the closures. They are totally convinced that they are right and are not really open to opposing views. They seem to think that they have popular support. I don't think they recognize what a small minority they form. The vast majority of people in Seattle recognize the need for the District to close the half-empty schools and cosolidate the students into the remaining buildings.

Anonymous said...

Both of them filed declarations in support the case. Read them, they ask for things to happen as if they were the ones sueing.

Charlie Mas said...

I have read Sally Soriano's declaration which is part of the SOCKED lawsuit. That case is exclusively about the ML King closure.

In her declaration, Director Soriano says that she was misinformed by Steve Wilson that the MLK closure had community support, specifically from the PTSA president. She said that the CAC had been misinformed about the building's condition. Other than that she railed against the way that the closures were done, made some conjecture about what other people were thinking, and suggested a bunch of stuff, but nothing else that was material to the case.

Anonymous said...

There is no "SOCKED" lawsuit. The case you are talking about, Brooks v. Seattle School District, was dismissed on Friday. But BOTH Bass and Soriano filed declarations in that suit, and basically sounded like poor loosers.