For me, the primary issue in Seattle Public Schools continues to be the District's structural and cultural inability to respond to the needs of the community.
So what could a Board member do to fix that?
I think the Board could direct the Superintendent to do surveys and other forms of market research. For example, why hasn't the Board asked the Superintendent to make an assessment of the demand for public school services broken down by program and location? How can we even begin to form either a student assignment plan or a facilities plan without that data? There are a number of other surveys that would be helpful, I'm sure.
The Board could ask for a public input column on every Board action like they now require a fiscal note. The staff would have to disclose how and when they solicited public input, and the volume and content of what they received. This would create a structural element to support the cultural shift towards gathering public input and getting it early. If the public input is inadequate, the Board could defer action until that situation is remedied - just as they would do now if the fiscal note were too vague or incomplete.
Members of the Board could call on an involved and knowledgable member of the community to answer questions or perhaps even to ask questions of staff members at committee meetings, work sessions, and legislative meetings. For people who claim to want dialog, they never initiate any, they never even allow it. All they would have to do is call on someone and ask "What is your perspective?". Can you imagine that - if Jane Fellner or Chris Jackins were called to answer questions from the podium at a legislative meeting? Wouldn't that be exactly the kind of meaningful communication and dialog that everyone claims they want, but nobody does?
To improve accountability, the Board could have each Board Action item to list the names and positions of all of the participants in the recommendations, perhaps even with some details about the nature and extent of their contributions. This would enable the Board to ask why other stakeholders (such as community members, but also staff from other departments) were not represented. This could break down some silos. It would also justify the Board's asking those stakeholders to offer their input at the either the Committee meeting or the legislative meeting during the discussion of the Action Item.
Finally, every program and initiative should have a sunset provision so that it is automatically revoked unless renewed. First, this would enforce the annual program review requirement. Second, at the renewal vote, the program's outcome would be reported so the decision to continue a program can be based on data and only the programs that hold the promise of effectiveness are renewed.
These are the sort of real reforms that a Board member could implement to bring about the sort of changes that we want.