He starts out with this:
"She just published a five-year plan that has been developed with the input of citizens and many of this country's leading education and management experts. It is a blueprint for the transformation of Seattle schools, but there is a high probability she will fail."
Charlie, would you call the Strategic Plan "a blueprint for transformation"? Nope, me neither. Well, as Charlie has pointed out it is a good management plan but I thought we were talking about educational transformation.
His basis premise of why it will fail? She's talented, driven and bright but her hands are tied. How?
- Governance - he claims that every two years her bosses change (the Board). He adds his own twist by saying, "History has shown that elected school boards create instability in governance. She has no assurance that the people to whom she reports will be qualified for the positions they hold." Whose history? SPS? State? Nationally? And what a nice slam for an office he once held (but I'm thinking he believes the quality of Board member has gone down since he left).
- Personnel - this issue is one I won't touch because I don't know the ins and outs of it. I do know it is fairly hard to get rid of principals/teachers who are not doing their jobs well.
- Rewards - this is tough one because teachers are so against it. It does seem weird that most jobs do have some kind of ladder (although I think if you get national certification as a teacher you get more money) but not teaching. It almost makes for less incentive to do well.
- Performance - almost the same as personnel so why he had two categories, I don't know.
- Flexibility - well there's a reason she can't determine the workday or calendar; some of that is union and yes, some of that is determined by the State Superintendent's office. We do have our own ability to have late start/early release days. He also states: "She has limited flexibility in serving her students." That's a bit of a reach.
- Control - he says, "She can recommend a standard curriculum, but is virtually prohibited from enforcing it. The latitude of teachers is such that gaining coherence in what is taught is almost impossible." What? Yes, she can select curriculum and books but yes, teachers do have some latitude in how they present it. But, again, she's tightening up on that as well with a more central office oversight and less site-based management. He also said, "She has limited control over her schools and what is taught in those schools." If she has limited control over her schools, that's inherent in her abilities as well as determined at a state level and not in her authority as superintendent.
- Money- He says, "She is given money, but virtually every dollar comes with strings attached. Almost all money must be spent in a prescribed manner regardless of the real needs of the district, school or student. She is limited in her ability to direct dollars where needed." This is partly true but that's because the money is directed towards specific students' needs. I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle but "virtually every dollar" is tied up?
- Planning - Again, another category that goes with another (money). He says, "Her sources of money (state and federal governments) operate on two-year (state) or one-year (federal) budgets, making long-range planning virtually impossible. Her five-year plan may well be unachievable simply because expected funding may not materialize. She has no control over the funding she receives and little control over how it must be spent." Well, the state and feds control the funding but that's true at every district. I'd like to know where that isn't true. If she is budgeting the Strategic Plan with dollars she doesn't have, then that's in direct opposition to what it actually says which is the district isn't funding any initiative without money already attached. Did he read the plan?
- Direct costs - This one is a bit of a whopper for some of his wording. He says, "She must serve every child who applies, but receives little extra funding for the very difficult-to-serve students. The more special needs children the district serves, the greater the financial burden on the district and the less money available for other students. She must serve everyone, regardless of costs." Where to start? "Very difficult-to serve students"? "More special needs are a greater financial burden? And the last one "she must serve everyone". Hey Don, it's not called public school for nothing. That's why private schools can do better and that's why some charter schools do better - they don't have to take all comers.
- Other costs - He says, "Contracting out noneducational functions such as leaning [sic], maintenance, information technology, food service, etc., which may be better or more cost effective than doing it in-house, is prohibited. She is constrained in her ability to cut costs and/or improve efficiency." Hey, something we can agree on. Charlie has talked about the city managing district properties as a cost savings and I suspect we might be able to save some in food service, etc.
Well, that means having someone else (who would Don suggest?) appoint the School Board, fighting the union, fighting the Legislature, fighting the State Superintendent. Where to start and who would lead this charge? Frankly, I'd rather Dr. Goodloe-Johnson be doing her job than spending a lot of time arguing why she can't.