Over the past four years, the Seattle Times has published a steady stream of negative editorials disparaging the current Seattle School Board. This is the same Seattle Times that provided unstinting support for the previous Board. The Times has dismissed the Board members as "a barrier to progress", "ineffective", "misguided", "myopic", "incompetent", and "divisive". The Times called for five of the seven to resign. But what is the Board’s actual record?
The District’s finances are much better today than they were four years ago. This Board has turned the $35 million deficit left by the previous Board (the one the Times supported) into a $25 million surplus. For the first time, the District’s operating budget reflects the District’s academic priorities. This Board is moving the District away from the Weighted Student Formula, which was overly complicated and ineffective in its stated purpose, to a Weighted Staffing Formula that assures each school has the necessary resources. This Board is redirecting money into classrooms by moving high school students from yellow bus service to METRO. This Board redirected money into classrooms through the painful exercise of closing schools.
Under this Board, Seattle voters have passed every District levy and bond issue before them. The state legislature has increased funding for public schools and has put the simple majority vote on the ballot.
The District’s academics are notably improved over four years ago. Test scores are up and they are above the state averages – quite a boast for an urban district with language, diversity, and special education challenges unlike those at any other district in the State. This Board increased funding for high schools to six periods per day. Under this Board the District staff will intervene at failing schools earlier and more aggressively than ever before.
This Board has successfully conducted a national search and has hired a qualified Superintendent, something the previous Board proved unable to do. The District senior staff is more qualified and professional than any in recent memory. The District has enjoyed and benefited from excellent labor relations under this Board.
The Board is revising the Student Assignment Plan in a way that will strike a better balance between the call for reliable assignment to a nearby school with equitable access to desirable programs. The work they have done so far on this effort is outstanding and may bring a lot of families back to our public schools. The Board is revising and updating obsolete policies and writing new policies where they are needed.
More than anything else, this Board is leading the District through a change in culture to one which is more open, honest, transparent, engaged, and accountable. Communication with the public has never been better. Culture change is hard and slow, but this one is absolutely necessary.
The Board has a duty to guide and oversee the District. They have fulfilled that role much better than the rubber-stamp Board the Times supported four years ago. The Seattle Times can complain about the personal style of some of the Board members, but there can be no disputing their record of achievement. Seattle Public Schools is significantly better off today than it was four years ago. All of that improvement has come with this Board.