- What are Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's interpersonal strengths and weaknesses? Please ask people with varying levels of power and influence this question, not just School Board members or community leaders. Parents from Charleston have made the following comments on this blog: "She is rude and she does not value parental input. Maria is not big on explaining her actions or her outcomes. Be careful in your selection." "Dr. Goodloe is an excellent individual and will lead Seattle school district to many victories as she has done in CCSD." "If Seattle offers her the position as super then get used to a type of public engagement that usually starts with the phrase 'We've already decided that, so let's move on.'"
- How does Dr. Goodloe-Johnson deal with people who disagree with her? During the interview process in Seattle, she showed some disdain for the School Board members who hadn't agreed with her. Is this her usual method of dealing with disagreement? A Charleston blogger wrote, "Good luck to Dr. Johnson in whatever she chooses to do. I hope that in the future she stops lumping everyone that disagrees with her into the enemy camp."
- How, if at all, does Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's lack of charisma and personal presence when speaking affect her ability to lead, inspire and influence others in the school district and across Charleston? Seattle desperately needs a leader who can effectively communicate a vision for Seattle Public Schools to both people in and outside of the school district, helping to unify the community around specific goals and generate funding and support for reform initiatives. Can Dr. Goodloe-Johnson realistically be expected to play that role?
- How does Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's dislike of politics affect her work as superintendent in Charleston? (positively or negatively) From a recent interview in the Post and Courier in Charleston comes the following exchange between the reporter and Dr. Goodloe-Johnson on this issue: "...So the biggest growth, I think for any superintendent, especially for me, has been the political arena. And it's funny because I hear myself saying to people, 'This isn't about logic, this isn't about what makes sense, it's about politics.' And that's sad to me because that's not what the job's about. I don't think anybody came into education, including superintendents, maybe there are some but I haven't met them, that go into the superintendency because they love politics. ... It's the world we live in, but it shouldn't be how we make decisions for kids. So the biggest growth, really, is the politics of Charleston. Who's who, how they support what, and all those kinds of things.
Q Favorite part of your job?
A Visiting the schools, talking to the kids, talking to teachers.
Q Least favorite part of your job?
A The politics.
- Does Dr. Thornton give different answers to different people on the same questions in order to try to please everybody? During the interview process in Seattle, his highest value seemed to be getting everybody to like him. I discounted much of what he said and found myself rolling my eyes a lot, reacting to what I call the "bullshit factor." Someone on this blog, comparing the two candidates said "She [Dr. Goodloe-Johnson] was honest, and didn't have to continually proclaim how good she is and at the same time try to act modest. That's the one thing that bugged me about Thornton. 'I'm good, I'm not the best, but I'm one of the best'. That says to me that he's working way too hard to convince us that he's qualified for the job."
- Was the no-bid contract ethics violation a single event in his professional history, or does Dr. Thornton have a pattern of unethical behavior? Thornton's boss, Paul Vallas, said at the time the ethics violation was reported, "'You can't accept anything from anyone doing business with the school district,' he emphasized to reporters. 'At the very least [Thornton and Chivis] should have recused themselves. With the trip and the contract being awarded there was a violation of the ethics policy, a serious violation....'Any department head or administrator should be paranoid about the ethics policy. They should not only be afraid to violate the ethics policy, they should also be afraid to appear to violate the ethics policy.'" How can Vallas or Thornton explain what happened and why they both are trying now to minimize its importance? The Board says they are looking for a superintendent who "Inspires trust and confidence, models integrity." Does Dr. Thornton really meet that profile?
- How much experience and skill does Dr. Thornton have with fiscal management? Since Dr. Thornton has never been a superintendent, or even an Assistant Superintendent, is he ready for the job of being a superintendent of a large urban district facing serious financial challenges? Has his visionary educational approach created budget problems? Does his work as Chief Academic Officer extend beyond the boundaries of educational decision-making and programming into other management work? Or does Vallas and his staff handle the vast majority of the financial, capital and other district management issues.
- What is Dr. Thornton's relationship with business and his beliefs in privatization in public schools? During the interview in Seattle, Dr. Thornton claimed that while privatization (charters, Edison schools, and other models) made sense in Philadelphia, it didn't make sense in Seattle. Does he really know enough about our district already to make that statement, or was he just playing to the crowd? In Seattle, Dr. Thornton interrupted an answer to an audience member's question to say "Hi, Jane." I was baffled by that until later when he made a point to again call out the fact that he knew Jane already and to gush about how wonderful Jane and Microsoft have been to Philadelphia schools. Is that how Dr. Thornton typically acts around business people? Does he bend Philadelphia schools to meet business agendas, or just seek business support for his own vision of quality schools? And, given his previous ethics violation, is his relationship with business seen as too cozy?
Seattle School Board Members
While traveling this week and during their discussion of the finalists on Thursday, I'd also like DeBell, Chow and Butler-Wall to ask themselves and their colleagues on the School Board the following questions:
- Are we settling for a "good enough" candidate because of our desire to hire a superintendent before our Board terms expire? Commenters on this blog have talked about choosing between these finalists with phrases like "Well if we only have these two to choose from..." and "so whoever it is, we're going to have to make the best of it." Commenters on other blogs have talked about the candidates as "pretty good second tier candidates," saying that the best superintendent candidates wouldn't consider the job in Seattle until after the Board election happens.
- What criteria did we use, either explicitly or implicitly, beyond what was listed in the superintendent profile document, to choose the two finalists from the 11 candidates presented by the search firm? And should we share the criteria with the public? Both finalists are pushing a standardized curriculum and assessment system. Did you filter out candidates who did not? Both finalists are in districts with Edison schools. Did you filter out candidates who were opposed to any type of privatization?
- Going forward, can we put the district's (and therefore the children's) best interests before our own? When and how will we involve the mayor and other city leaders who have criticized us in the superintendent hiring process? Should it be before we make and announce a final hiring decision? Would choosing Carla Santorno as the interim superintendent and delaying the hiring decision until after the School Board elections in the fall better serve Seattle Public Schools in the long run?