Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Seattle School Levy/Bond Measure

This morning's PI has an editorial supporting Prop.2, the operations levy for the Seattle School district, Seattle School Levy:Essential Vote. I'm probably reading too much into it but it seems that the PI usually endorses linked measures at once and there is nothing about the school bond measure. It may just be a separate editorial that is coming.

This is a good time to speak out about my opposition to the list of school renovation/construction projects that is on Prop. 1, the school bond measure. I took a special interest in the list because of my work on closure and consolidations. I had expected to see some nod to that situation because of the buy-in the Board and the district need (and seem to want) from parents and the public.

There is nothing on this list that supports C&C. I heard from a reporter that an administrator way up the food chain said the district would have liked to align it with C&C but that the staff had a plan of how buildings are chosen, blah, blah. Cheryl Chow alluded this to me as well saying that things were already happening by the time she got on the Board. What? If the people who are pretty much at the top can't do it, then you have to wonder if they wanted it to happen at all. To say that maybe the next list (which would come out in another 6 years) could align with closures and consolidations is a slap in the face of school communities who are going to take it on the chin this fall.

Another problem I have with this list is that there are schools on it that have not waited as long as others and/or whose buildings are not the worst ones. You have to wonder why or how that happened. This ties into another problem which is that this list is not equitable or fair.

I did careful research on this issue. I have a report that I am hoping to post on a website soon. (In the meantime, anyone who would like to read it, please send me an e-mail - westello@hotmail.com - and I will e-mail you a copy.) I draw about 95% of my information from district documents and information from staff. The district made me wait (and have to file a Public Request for Documents form) in order to see many items, mostly minutes of public meetings. Why would that be? Why couldn't anyone ask to see public minutes of public meetings and why would they get doled out to me piecemeal? District staff has been unfailing polite but have also stonewalled me on data requests and not answered questions (they pick and choose which ones to answer).

The minutes, I feel, are fairly damning. They do not reflect a clear line of planning or decision-making. Since they are the only items available to try to understand how BEX II went forward, you have to draw the conclusions that staff just didn't care enough to document the process. There are no documents to understand how they drew up the BEX III list.

The BEX III list is drawn up geographically (meaning a school in most regions although there are none in Queen Anne/Magnolia/West Seattle or the Central area) and I get that from a equity stance. However, if you are not reaching the worst buildings, the district should have adjusted the list to reflect that issue. I was initially told that the list wouldn't reflect any buildings in the CAC review (that would be alternatives, elementaries and K-8s). Well, there is one; New School. I was then told, oh, we only meant elementaries (although there are still no alternatives on the list).

The Facilities staff told me, after I showed them a list of schools that had additions/renovations broken out by grade level, that it looked like the district was rebuilding all the high schools and indeed, that's the plan. Sadly, the building in the worst condition (not just among high schools but the district) is Nova, an alternative high school that sits opposite Garfield (which is in the process of being rebuilt). Nova didn't make the list, I was told by Facilities, because the academic side told them that Nova may move. This was a surprise to the principal when I spoke with him but as usual for alternative folks, he was pragmatic about it. No one in Facilities or on the academic side can identify who might have made this statement.

The two biggest problems on this list are Nathan Hale High School and the New School.

Hale, just speaking from an equity view, has a new athletic field (BTA 1) and a new Performing Arts Hall (BEX II). They are seismically challenged as their building is not anchored to the foundation and the school was built on pilings on top of a bog with a creek running through it. The Facilities staff offered the Board two options; a modest $1M shoring up of the library (the worst area of the school) and taking down the chimney or a $77M renovation. The Board chose the latter. Okay, here's what to know. One, this renovation will only last 25 years instead of the district standard 50. Why? Because it is a renovation and not a rebuild. Why not a rebuild? Because city permitting has changed and they could never get a permit to rebuild. Two, the renovation will only make the building safer, not bring it up to seismic code. Three, so at the end of this process, the taxpayers will have paid almost $90M for a 25-year building. That is ridiculous and it's even more ridiculous when you realize they have a solution right across the street. They could move Summit K-12 (which, if given a good location and decent building, would be willing to move) and renovate the elevated, non-bog location of Jane Addams for Hale.

Onto New School. First, New School has not waited as long as other school communties for a renovation. Two, the South Shore building which houses New School is a poor building but not the worst. Additionally, facilities staff, in minutes, state that even if BEx III does not pass, New School could remain in the South Shore building several more years. Three, reading the minutes carefully and watching the timeline, it is apparent some event happened to force this decision. The only one I can find, from the timeline, is the new memo of understanding signed by the New School foundation and the district. Meaning, I believe the Foundation put pressure on the district for a new building. Oddly, despite documents, maps and minutes that identify this project as New School, despite minutes that reflect that the building is being built for the New School's program, the district is trying to call it a generic term of "PreK-8/middle school". You have to wonder why.

Four, the district is trying to say that they need to build New School because they need more middle school capacity in the SE. Nonsense. Their own 2010 Facilities Master Plan (which they state in the minutes is the basis for BEX III) says there will be no need for more middle school capacity in the ENTIRE district and if there is, it will be in the NE. Additionally, both middle schools in the region are underenrolled by at least 300 students, each. There are still more middle school seats at African-American Academy (although the district choses to only count regular ed building seats).

Also, the Facilities staff plainly stated to me that the reason to build Denny Middle and Sealth High school at the same time is for design cohesion and cost savings. (The is a $125M project; I hope there's some savings.) However, the South Shore building houses both New School and the Rainier Beach Community Center (the building is jointly owned by the Parks Department and the district and they share many parts of it). If design cohesion and cost savings can be realized in the Denny/Sealth project (which are two different buildings), couldn't you realize even more with a project that is one building? Why not wait for the city to kick in its share and have a lower-cost (to the district in terms of using BEX III dollars) project? The city already has about $150,000 to contribute to the plaza design and will likely have $100,000 in the 2007 City Budget to review the community center? Why not wait?

Lastly, if New School is built, you will have, in just over a one mile area, 2 K-8s, 2 high schools and 1 elementary school (Dunlap, right in New School's backyard). (Oh, and let's not forget, possibly another program - the TAF academy - at Rainier Beach HS. How is that a good use of facilties money or academic programming? How will this set-up not marginalize and hurt at least 1 or 2 of these programs?

This is about using the money fairly and wisely. If this bond measure doesn't pass, the Board can bring it back up for a vote in 6 months. It would be delayed, not denied.

I've been told I'm hurting the kids. I'm surprised. If that's true, then why didn't the latte tax for preschool or I-88 for academic programs pass? They only had to get 50% of the vote and yet parents clearly didn't support them. Also, when I was on the CAC, I and my fellow members had our work attacked and the reasoning was, time after time, the district supplied data. If someone thought the district's data on schools was flawed, why wouldn't that same person be willing to believe there could be flaws (or misreading) of the district's data on buildings?

I just ask that you read the report, consider where I got the information and you can make up your own mind. At least you will be a more informed voter no matter how you vote.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Melissa, I agree with you and will vote in the same way (yes on operating levy, no on capital bond).

I just can't get to a place where The New School portion of the bond plan feels like anything but an irresponsible use of taxpayer's money:

a) when we just told people we needed to close 3+ buildings in the South end because there are too many K-5 seats there;

b) when there are 2 great (K-8-worthy) buildings within a stone's throw and a mile;

c) when there are empty middle-school seats in the South end - and soon-to-be and existing K-8s, one of which (AAA) is not alternative and has many empty seats.

c) when there is no apparent plan to jointly develop that site with the City of Seattle.

Nothing against the New School, their work, or their desire to serve an unfortunately blighted neighborhood - just not $67MM, and not in this bond, when there is so much need in so many other places - which would now have to wait 6 years for another chance.

I admire you for coming out - to many in the school activist/advocate world, it's anathema to vote against a school levy or bond, much less try to inform or influence others.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, as always, I appreciate your thoughtful commentary. I haven't decided how I'm going to vote yet. I am curious- you mentioned posting the report on a website- this one? Or is there another great schools-oriented website I should be reading as well? Thanks for all your hard work.

Anonymous said...

Melissa,

You are not hurting kids, you are speaking the truth. And keeping the adults accountable. Yes on the operating levy, no on the capital bond. I'm not sure what it will take for the academic and facilities "sides" to start communicating better and acting in a more responsive manner, but perhaps this is it.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm not sure if I can post the report here and I haven't gotten a website together yet so if you want to read the report, e-mail me at
westello@hotmail.com
and I'll send you an e-mail with the report attached.

Dorothy said...

I too thought the way the PI supported the operating levy today was odd --- by not mentioning the bond. Figured that you had made a difference and they would consider the issue further before deciding to endorse the capital bond or not. You did say you alerted the media with your position?

Again, my heartfelt admiration, appreciation and respect for the countless hours you have put into everything you've done for the district, the C&C committee and now this.

Anonymous said...

Ok - so where does that leave Denny Middle School, which apparently desperately needs to be rebuilt/renovated? I only ask because I received a call from a phone bank last night regarding the upcoming levy and capital bond, and I spoke to some of the issues raised here about the New School. The caller had nothing to say about that school, but pleaded on behalf of Denny. After I hung up, I kind of felt terrible about my decision to vote "no" on the capital bond. Not sure what to think now - can anyone clarify further?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, of course the dilemma in any kind of package deal is whether the whole package works. On the one side, you do have schools like Denny and Hamilton who have waited a long time in buildings that are poor quality. On the other side, you have the problem of voting yes to an almost $90M building that will only last 25 years (Hale)or a building that isn't the worst, hasn't waited the longest and will saturate an area with overcapacity (New School).

Two things to keep in mind. One, the Board can resubmit this bond measure as early as 6 months from now if voters turn it back. It will only delay, not deny worthy projects. (But given the pr problems in our district, the staff/Board might have a hard time interpreting a "no" vote. Is about the mistrust of the district in general? school closures? the Board? the project list iteself?)

Two, doing the wrong thing for the right reason isn't going to make it right. If this bond measure goes through, yes, there it will help students, plain and simple. It's not about whether any particular group of students is more worthy than any others but rather are the projects chosen the best ones, for this time we are in, to move the district forward? We owe it to taxpayers, both our neighbors and ourselves, to ask that question.

Laura Kohn said...

Some of this information about the South Shore project is inaccurate or misleading.

The previous capital levy (BEXII), the one that was approved by voters six years ago BEFORE the New School project was launched, included funds to renovate the South Shore building. The district repeatedly postponed spending those funds because they were flummoxed by the challenge of finding homes for both South Lake High School and the New School, which were sharing the South Shore building at the time. That political stalemate was broken when New School parents and South Lake parents formed an alliance to demand action that would result in workable buildings for both schools.

The best solution that the planners and school board members could come up with was to spend part of the renovation funds to build a new building for South Lake on the north end of the property, then put the South Shore project on BEXIII. So this puts the South Shore project on par with Hamilton in terms of commitment and "waiting time". This is also the mystery event that Melissa is wondering about.

The only language about the facility in the Partnership Agreement is that the district will try to find an appropriate building for the New School. There was also a reference to the school board resolution that passed when the South Shore project was kicked off of BEXII, in which the board expressed its intention to put a South Shore project in BEXIII. This is a public document, available from the district or from the New School Foundation to anyone who wishes to see it.

No secret deals were cut, no back-room promises were made.

And the South Shore building is in appalling condition. The roof is held up with scaffolding, it leaks torrents, and the ventilation system is kerpluie - a technical term which means that the inside temperature in the building ranges from 62 to 84. I recognize that there may be buildings out there in equally bad shape, but I doubt there are any in worse shape.

The reference to two viable alternatives in the region is inaccurate. There are no other buildings available to house the New School in SE Seattle. The proposal to move the New School to Emerson would have required the program to lose the middle school grades, but otherwise was viable, but the Rainier Beach community didn't like that proposal and I don't blame them. The Rainier View building will soon be vacant, but it's in attrocious shape, too, and wouldn't be viable without a major renovation, according to the district's facilities planners. Plus, the Rainier View property is saleable, while the South Shore property is not, so it makes more sense to build at the South Shore property.

The question about the need for middle school seats is difficult to analyze. There is capacity at Aki and Mercer, but the district and principals express a preference for those schools to remain roughly at their current size for educational reasons. A surprising number of middle-school-aged kids in that region are bussed to north-end middle schools - maybe 1,000? I can't remember - and since the district would like to reduce transportation costs they are motivated to create attractive middle school options in SE. OF COURSE they should also continue their efforts to improve Aki and Mercer, which are beginning to bear fruit. The more quality choices the better.

The city was offered the opportunity to co-develop the site and they declined the offer. The inefficiencies will all be on the city side, not the district side, and while I recognize that they are all our tax dollars, sometimes the stars do not align.

PLEASE, consider all of the quality choices north-end parents have for schools. The New School is succeeding at getting 97% of its second graders reading at grade level - the only other schools in Seattle performing at this level have poverty levels below 10%, while about 45% of New School families receive free lunches. This is what is at stake with this vote...since the best minds in the district and community have not come up with an alternative plan for housing the New School program.

I welcome follow-up questions, either here or via email: laura@newschoolfoundation.org.

Beth Bakeman said...

Thank you for providing this insight and information, Laura. What you have said about the New School is consistent with what I heard from District Operations staff (see Support for BEX III)

I appreciate Melissa's research on this issue and find it frustrating that it can be so difficult to get answers to questions from district staff.

However, I still plan on voting to support both the bond and the levy.

I think we should continue to question the priorities in the BEX III bond with the hope of altering decisions where appropriate, and getting clarifying information where ncessary.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ms. Kohn says some of my statements are inaccurate or misleading. Let me clarify how I came by what I know.

1) The minutes of the meetings of the BEX II Oversight Committee and the South Shore/New School School Design Team do NOT reflect Ms. Kohn's version of how BEX II plans for South Shore went from reconfiguring South Shore building to building two new buildings. I know from Roscoe Bass (uncle of Director Mary Bass, long-time resident in the SE and former Garfield principal) that South Lake was very unhappy and were fighting for themselves for a long time. There may have been an alliance formed but it isn't reflected in the minutes and since they are the only public record we have, I chose to use them.

2) What was left out about the partnership agreement is that New School wants to stay in the Rainier Valley. That certainly limits what can be done by way of program placement. There is another solution for New School which would be to move the AAA program (chronically underenrollment in a very nice, newish building) to a building it can fill and move New School in there. We don't need two K-8s within a mile of each other.

3)What the district had planned for in early 2005 was for New School to move to Dearborn Park and stay a K-5. The district said they felt that the two programs would mesh well and that they wanted to build a middle school on the South Shore site. Of course, this, too, was not reflected in the minutes but I found it in another document. New School foundation rejected this plan.

4)On the one hand, Ms. Kohn says that Aki and Mercer want to stay the same size and then says that there are 1000? (I think it's probably closer to 600-800) students going out of region and will probably be back if the enrollment plan changes. Well, the 300 seats at New School would not fill that need. And, why, if we are closing schools because they are underenrolled, would we keep not one but two middle schools in the same region underenrolled? It doesn't really make sense. If the district were making that choice to keep them underenrolled, they likely would have gone with their plan to move New School to Dearborn Park and built the middle school at South Shore.

5)As to the city declining to develop the South Shore building with the district, again, not reflected in the minutes. There are Parks people there talking about their areas of the building but nowhere does it say that the city and district ever talked about co-development. Additionally, the Parks staff I talked to did not make that statement to me either. I did not go to the top of the food chain in Parks but spoke with staff directly working with the South Shore building.

I wrote a disclaimer in my report stating that I went on the documents that are publically available. The minutes are the only documents that allow you to try to discern the process and decision-making for BEX II and BEX III. I state in my disclaimer that I do not want to make misstatements but that the district did not give me all the documents and/or answers to questions I asked for and did not give me documents in a timely manner. It's not a matter of being frustrated, it's a matter of not being able to get clear answers about how we are spending hundreds of millions of dollars. I appreciate that Ms. Kohn was likely privy to more meetings or documents than the average person but it doesn't make the district's position more plausible.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Laura, for providing so much information. It seems to me like the professionals, both internally and externally, have spent countless hours debating many of Melissa's concerns. The result was put forth as their opinion of the best project list, based on their experience and expertise. I appreciate Melissa's opinion, but in the end it is just that: an opinion. I have a kindergartner and so my kid(s) will be in school for the long haul. A YES vote on the bond is a good move for the long-term health of the schools and communities. I'm glad to take the advice of professionals on this one.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, I'll just chime in one more time. What I have stated is not opinion; it is fact based on public minutes/document/information from staff. You can either believe what district staff have stated themselves about this project or not.

Kirsten Wild said...

One more voice, here - mother of a New School kindergartener and member of the South Shore Building Committee. I can't speak to a number of the items that Melissa mentions, but I can speak to a few of them.

Firstly, as far as I know, the impetus to direct BEXII money to South Lake High School came from the New School PAG (Parent Association Group) and some South Lake High folks. At a PAG meeting we discussed the fact that the C&C process was driving the two schools to compete against one another and came to the conclusion that we were all in this together and needed to work toward a solution that worked for all of us. As a result of this discussion, parents and students at both schools spoke up at School Board Meetings (don't know the dates) with the unified message that both schools desired to stay at the South Shore site and would work together with funding to make this possible. It was (and is) a gamble on the part of The New School - if the Levy doesn't pass we will have lost all our BEXII funding, with the exception of the money used for design of the school we hope will be built with BEXIII funding. I don't know when or how the funding transfer to South Lake High School was made "official".

Secondly, it is not just the New School Association that wants to stay in Rainier Beach. It is the families/kids who all live within a mile radius (ie the entire school population) of the school who want to stay.

Finally, I can't compare the condition of The New School to the condition of other schools, but I can speak with first hand experience that the present conditions are unpleasant and in some cases unsafe, and they negatively affect the ability of teachers to educate kids. The after-school program at the school is presently using a temporary setup because the Health Department has banned them from their regular space due to a leaky roof, mold, and lack of heat.

It's a difficult problem, but I strongly believe based on my experience with the Building Committee, observation at district Operations Committee meetings, and the commitment of so many smart and dedicated people both in the schools and the district, that the operations bond is well worth supporting. It's a step in a long process.

Dorothy said...

This is great. We live in a democracy with free speech (well, sometimes at least). So we get to dig into issues, ask questions, voice our knowledge and perspective, then vote however we please. None of us have perfect information and none of us have a crystal ball to tell us what would happen if a measure passes or fails. So we listen and learn, then do what we think is right.

I can see why some would go with the professionals at the district. Why not? Over one lone parent's investigation and views? Everyone must think that through for themselves. Using their own history of dealing with professionals and especially their history of dealing with *these* professionals.

I've known Melissa for years and cannot speak highly enough of her competence and integrity. So I naturally will give her investigations more weight than some other folks. That's ok, that's what a democracy is all about. I will use my history with Melissa, my careful reading of her report, my own perspective of the district and come to my decision.

I am glad to see comments from folks that have specific things they understand to be different from the way Melissa has described. There is no way I can understand on my own all the dealings and history with the particular topic of New School. So I am glad to hear a variety of perspectives. But then I still have to vote with imperfect knowledge and have to decide on my own what to trust and what to believe. Anyone who might say "Melissa, you are wrong, the bond is great and New School is great." would get a glance from me and be ignored, but folks with "Melissa, you have come to the wrong conclusion about X and here is why..." have gotten a thoughtful reading.

The important aspect of a participatory government is for us to get involved, learn what we can to make a decision, instead of just doing what someone tells you to or not voting at all.

Thank you Melissa for spending the time to investigate this. Thank you for sticking your neck out on something controversial.(that's just one sign of her integrity. she's come to a difficult conclusion and at some personal risk she feels the need to share what she has learned.) And Thank You, commenters who have voiced different opinions/knowledge of specific parts of Melissa's reasoning.

Most importantly, thank everyone who is taking the time to get informed, weighing the sources of the information, weighing the costs of passing or not passing the bond, then voting their conscience.

Me. I feel torn to hear how bad some buildings are and how parents have been promised things, good and worthwhile things for the students. I feel bad that there isn't a perfect answer here. But I also have witnessed the district time and again make poor decisions, whether out of corruption or incompetence, I don't know. I've read the Moss Adams report and was not surprised. So on this I am going with Melissa. This particular "protest" vote might give the district a wake-up call. And it's not a huge set-back, since a revote can happen so soon.

But anyone who has read Melissa's statement and all these comments will do the right thing whatever it is. Simply by getting informed. None of the readers here fall into the knee-jerk 'yes to every school measure for the kids' or 'no on every school measure because the district stinks' voters, and that's what counts.

(now if only someone could tell me how to vote on the viaduct, ick, what a complicated issue.)

Anonymous said...

No offense, but it would be more compelling if we also heard from defenders of the New School construction who didn't have a vested interested in it.

I've heard people get disgusted with dissenters, saying we shouldn't "nitpick" the bond plan but just vote for it, as if on principle - but unfortunately they too have a horse in the race (Hamilton).

In the search for "truth" on this subject, it helps to hear from unbiased folks.

Isabel D'Ambrosia said...

In this case, I feel that the "unbiased" folks are the district staff who have worked countless hours on coming up with the BEX list. I'm glad they put academics first; and I think they have done a reasonable, well thought out job.

It's too bad that Melissa W. doesn't work for the district. I find it hard to believe that Melissa, who works on this as a hobby, can come up with better ideas than those who work at it full time. It's also too bad that district staffers don't have hours and hours to spend writing to blogs or talking to reporters about their ideas.

Every list of schools to renovate -- or to close -- will not be perfect. But at some point we need to close schools, and we need to renovate. "Activists" can find fault with a great many things, but we still need to move ahead.

Voting no on this bond to "send a message" is a huge mistake. There seems to be a concensus within this blog that "of course" the bond would pass on the 2nd try, but why are we so sure? If Seattle citizens want any school buildings renovated at all, voting yes the first time is the only way to go.

Isabel D'Ambrosia

Isabel D'Ambrosia said...

Isabel D'Ambrosia

Anonymous said...

I agree that it's great to investigate and speak up about how the money is spent, and I am impressed with the inquiries people have made.

However, I fail to see how voting against the capital levy would further anyone's cause, except those who are against public education and in favor of slashing taxes.

The Latte Tax and I-88 were new taxes, so we didn't lose anything when they failed. The capital levy is not a new tax. There's a big difference - a levy failure will mean all planned projects would be put on hold until another levy passes.

If you want to send a message to the board, send a message to the board - literally. Fire off an email. Call them. Call your friends and neighbors. That's how a democracy works. You don't vote down good causes because you didn't get to micromanage them.

Voting against the levy just because you don't like the specific projects that are being planned smacks of taking one's marbles and going home. This seems to me to be a rather childish approach to civic involvement, like spitting on the birthday cake because you didn't get a big enough piece.

Choosing which buildings to rebuild and renovate is an operations issue. It's an important one, with a huge budget, but it is still an operations issue, which the people who have been elected and hired should generally be trusted to do competently (of course, with input and feedback from their constituents). If you don't agree with their decisions, fine - complain and press for changes, but don't punish kids by voting against the levy.

Justin

Anonymous said...

To Isabel d'Ambrosia's comment about district staff's being the "unbiased" source in this process, I wonder if you've ever worked closely with them, particularly in Facilities. This seems like sniping - but as a consultant who's worked with thousands of people over the years, I can say that if I could unilaterally replace some of them with people less insular, more communicative, more open, more broad-minded, more even-handed with the facts, more action-oriented, and sorry - brighter - I would do it in a heartbeat.

Note: even if district staffers did have hours and hours to respond, many of them wouldn't. It isn't a culture that considers itself responsible to the public - and after years (decades?) of being hammered by ill-informed outraged parents and kooky "watchdogs", they batten down the hatches and do what they want.

To which one might say - who cares - vote the for d* bond. Certainly your right - just please don't attack Melissa for reporting her observations on working with them, and in drawing a conclusion and sharing it with other voters in the interest of their making the most informed decision they can.

Anonymous said...

Strictly speaking, though, facilities and planning people are not supposed to be accountable to the public. They are accountable to the board, and the board is accountable to the public. That's how local government in a democracy works.

Members of the public are entitled to certain types of information, which is why Melissa can file public disclosure requests to get this information. This is great - the public has the right to know, and it's great to have public discussion on major issues like this.

To a certain extent, though, the public doesn't have the right to micromanage inside public agencies. There are channels through which the public can provide input and feedback to the board on major decisions such as capital projects, but I don't think it's fair to expect every engineer and planner in the district to respond to external inquiries unless they're required to by law or policy. Everyone reports to someone else, and everyone is accountable to the public via the school board. It's not reasonable to complain when people resist attempts to circumvent that chain of accountability.

Justin

Anonymous said...

Justin, good points and fair enough. I'm perplexed, though - I add up the following and can only see a very indirect and tenuous degree of impact that a citizen or parent can have on the system:

- the staff is responsible to the sup't

- the sup't is responsible to the board

- the board is not supposed to "micromanage" but only set policy and manage the sup't - they get smacked down regularly for acting as the complaint dept when individual constituents come to them with issues they can't resolve with the district

- from my vantage point, I haven't seen accountability as a theme downtown - Raj genuinely supports his troops, and I wonder if in the face of all the flack they get, the lack of money and human resources, etc, he doesn't think it's fair to demand accountability (or is not aware of where it is lacking)

- sending an email or calling staff, sup't OR board is much like putting a note in a bottle

- the staff is selective and not very timely about putting material on the school's website, so it's difficult to stay informed

Would be interested to hear your thoughts -