Tuesday, May 29, 2007

One idea at a time: contributor column

No one, not even Mr. Manhas, is blind to the dysfunction in Seattle Public Schools. Unfortunately, no one, particularly Mr. Manhas, has done much to address it. Perhaps they don't have any ideas about how to address it.

Well, I'm all about solutions. It's not enough to complain; one must also offer remedies. You may not think these remedies are any good; in which case I welcome opportunities for improvement. I don't know if anyone in a position to do so can or will take these ideas forward, but I will offer them anyway. Let no one suggest that these problems can never be solved.

IDEA #1 Contributor Column.
If you take a look at any Board Action, such as the sample shown here, you will see that the format includes a three-column table with the headings: Options, Pros & Cons of Each, and Fiscal Impact & Revenue Source. I propose that we add another column called "Contributors". In the contributors column, the person writing the School Board Action Report will list the names of those who contributed to the action item. If they are District staff, they should be listed by name and department (or school). Moreover, there should be some description of the nature and extent of each person's contribution.

This would directly address several of the District's fundamental dysfunctions.

It would disclose the collaboration - or lack of collaboration between departments, thereby contributing to the breakdown of the notorious "silos" within the JSCEE - a known area of dysfunction in the District.

It would disclose the collaboration - or lack of collaboration with the community and student families, thereby contributing to meaningful community engagement - a known area of dysfunction in the District.

It would name the names of the people responsible for District decisions, thereby contributing to increased accountability - a known area of dysfunction in the District.

When this information is present, the Board can use it to ask: were the people in this affected school or department consulted? And if the Board doesn't believe that the action item reflects sufficient collaboration between departments or with the public, or doesn't adequately disclose the people who are driving the idea, they can ask for that prior to the vote. Moreover, the Board can directly their questions to the people involved in the decision, included those who prefer alternatives.

So, what do you think? Would this innovation result in improved collaboration, improved community engagement and improved accountability? Would it be worth the time, cost and effort? Could this idea be improved? Is there a better way to accomplish the same ends?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

That seems like a reasonable and simple request Charlie. If the district did not agree, it would show an unwillingness to become more accountable. I would support your suggestion, I think you should formally propose it to the board.

Beth Bakeman said...

Agreed. Small, concrete, productive steps can make a difference in the long run as they accumulate.

Have you e-mailed the suggestion to the Board?

Charlie Mas said...

I have read the Board piece on how to advance an idea (sorry I can't provide a link to it; I can't find it on the District's web site right now), but I have never been able to interpret it into action.

I think I'm supposed to find a Board member or member of the senior staff who will champion it and bring it to a Committee for discussion. Of course, if I knew how to do that, I wouldn't need their flyer telling me how to advance an idea, now would I?

Beth has me exactly right. I'm trying to put forward small, concrete actions that will make a difference.

Charlie Mas said...

Let me add just this bit more.

The School Board candidate who takes these ideas and runs with them will have something more than the platitudes that I've seen them put forward to date.

So far, no one has put forward anything more than the flag, mom, baseball and apple pie.

I think a candidate who brings forward real, concrete, actionable ideas will appear as an active leader, win endorsements, and ultimately win votes.

As mentioned in the Anniversary post, there are movers and shakers who read this blog. I won't put them on the spot by mentioning their names, but they must realize that I'm just a shaker - not a mover. I can tee them up, but I can't drive them.

These things need a mover. There are some big, quick points to be scored by converting these things, one idea at a time. I'm not sure how much easier I can make it. If a Board member or a candidate, or a member of the senior staff will just take action on any of these all of the credit will go to them.

In fact, anyone living in the Northeast part of the city could take these ideas - there are more - and enter what is now a one-man the race with instant viability.

Seriously. It is not at all too late for someone - anyone - to come out of nowhere, announce for that seat, put forward a program of discrete actionable ideas, and win the thing. No matter how you feel about the current sole candidate, democracy almost demands that someone step forward to run against him.