Thursday, July 10, 2008

Doing Better Than the Governor, State Super and the Mayor (Updated)

(I just wanted to add a link to the Times' article on this issue. I have to say that the Times was pretty bland on the reporting. I think it was worth it, in the PI's story, to report that the superintendent is making more than most top officials in our state and city. The PI also pointed out how rushed this vote was which should trouble anyone given the "community engagement" mantra at the district.)

So the Board passed the Superintendent's raise last night and she's doing pretty well now. According to the article in the PI today, she will be making $264,000 a year (plus $700 a month car allowance and a $20,000 retirement annuity). Here's what Cheryl Chow said at the meeting;

"Dr. Goodloe-Johnson has demonstrated a clear focus on children, effective leadership, professionalism, energy and passion for the work. ... We are pleased, in fact we are very pleased, with her first year of leadership at Seattle Public Schools," she said."

I'll bet if I went back and looked in news reports of the past, I could substitute any other superintendent's name in that sentence and it would say the same thing. What has she done to advance this district besides visiting every school, reviewing programs (and again not even full reviews at least not in Advanced Learning) and setting up a 5-Year plan that is largely about management?

Then there was this:

"The superintendents' evaluation and contract extension were last-minute additions to the board meeting agenda, and Seattle parent and blogger Charlie Mas asked the board why it hadn't provided more notice to give the public time to review and comment on it.

He also criticized the board's summary performance review of Goodloe-Johnson, noting that it lacked detail, measurements or goals, and pointed out that the Web link to the document hadn't worked until less than two hours before the meeting started.

"Basically you completely shut the public out of this," he said.

Michael DeBell, the board's vice president, countered that the review had been in the works, and that board members wanted to get it wrapped up and not wait until their next meeting in August.

"We felt like there was some need for expediency," he said."

I like Michael de Bell but that's a lame answer. I think, as Denise Gonzalez-Walker pointed out in a previous thread, that there may have been something more going on here. Will we ever know for sure? Well, there can sometimes be loose lips at the district so we might.

But PI reporter Jessica Blanchard is right; it was a last-minute addition and the Board knew about this months ahead and yet they still had to rush it. And the Board wonders why people are so suspicious.

The irony is that last part of the article where it is reported that the Board unanimously approved the budget but Don Kennedy, COO, says not enough revenue is coming in to support it and Steve Sundquist points out that they had to take $12.6 M from the reserves and that the next budget will be very tight. As Charlie pointed out, the Summary contained no Fiscal Impact statement which most action items generally do. Also, as Charlie points out, it's a summary; does that mean there is a longer, more detailed document and if so, where is it?

The pressure is now on Dr. Goodloe-Johnson. Just as there is no crying in baseball, there is no whining later about the difficulties in this district. We are paying her well, very well for a district our size, so we have the right to have expectations of major progress. We were told that our last Board was too contentious and lacked focus; well, here's a new Board that's all united.

Okay, District Leadership, this next year to 18 months, we want results. The Board as well as Dr. G-J have set up huge expectations from this superintendent because of this glowing review and nice raise. Let's go.

(One aside, I had phoned Jessica about this item on the agenda but she wasn't in. She monitors these things quite closely so I'm sure she already knew about it. I had wanted to let the Times' know but I think they may have changed education reporters. My point is that I have learned that being an education reporter is a fleeting job They change reporters with regular frequency so you have to try to keep up.)

22 comments:

Charlie Mas said...

I have made a public records request of the full, original Superintendent's Evaluation.

I have written to the Board chiding them on this action.

I have written to the Executive Committee, singling them out for special blame.

I have posted my perspective on a variety of discussion boards.

That's about it. There is little or no other action that I can take, so it's time for me to stop. It's time for me to turn the page and face forward. This is done - it is water under the bridge. There is nothing to be gained from gnawing this bone anymore.

Unless... someone wants to investigate whether this raise for the superintendent when she is already under contract constitutes an unconstitutional gift of tax dollars to a private party.

Charlie Mas said...

Let's not compare the Superintendent's salary to that of the Governor, the Mayor or the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Instead, let's do what the School Board Action Report suggests and compare it to the salaries of other superintendents in urban school districts.

From the School Board Action Report:
"It is in the best interest of Seattle Public Schools to have an employment agreement with the Superintendent that is commensurate with that of her peers... ". Only the district doesn't reveal any data about the salaries of other urban school district superitendents.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Okay so here's some stats I found:

Median salary in the US for less than 1 year - $83,000, 1-4 years $95,000 and so on up to $110,000 for up to 20 years.

The median salary in Atlanta is $81,000 (but the Atlanta superintendent, with 49,000 students, makes $328,000.)

The median salary in NY is $140,000 (except in Westchester where it is $288,000).

In Chicago, the superintendent makes $329,000...and oversees 408,000 students and a $2.5B (that's billion) dollar budget.

(One superintendent in Thorton, IL oversees ONE school and makes $100,000 and has the best quote, "If I wanted to be making real money, I wouldn't be doing this." Bless his self-sacrificing heart.)

Charlie is right on the issue of urban school districts and pay. Reading through the material when you put in "US school superintendent pay", it sounds like there is a lot of rock star mentality out there. It is this competition between URBAN superintendents that drives the pay.

I'm not quibbling about the pay but for what we pay, we have to right to expect big results.

One interesting comparison I found was between the number of employees a CEO "manages" versus the number of employees that - technically - a superintendent manages. Even with huge CEO salaries, superintendents come out ahead on their per employee managed scale.

Charlie Mas said...

There is one more thing to take away from this.

A number of the members of this Board, when candidates, promised a more "professional" Board. Expediting this action without reason is not professional behavior. They promised enhanced community engagement (as nearly all Board candidates do - Cheryl Chow being a notable exception). They short-circuited it here. They promised transparency. Transparency means, in part, that decisions are made in the open, but this decision was kept from view until, literally, the final hour. Transparency also means that the same rules apply to everyone - but this action item was expedited without meeting the criteria for such treatment.

So why did they expedite this action item when there was absolutely no legitimate reason for their urgency? I can't speak to their motivations, but it looks like they were intentionally avoiding public scrutiny.

Director DeBell, in his feeble explanation for the simultaneous introduction and action described the long time the Board worked on this item and discussed it. Hey, Director DeBell, if you had a lot to discuss about this, don't you think that other people would have something to say about it too?

I believe it was at a Board meeting in May that Director Sundquist explained why it was necessary to do introduction and action of some construction contracts at the same meeting. In that explanation he described how the Board would only do this when it was absolutely necessary and how reluctant they are to do it. His choice to take unnecessarily expeditious action on this matter make those statements now appear less than honest.

Director Maier, in the discussion of the Denny/Sealth construction project claimed that they had learned their lesson about the need for community engagement. Maybe he didn't really learn that lesson very well at all.

Director Carr ran against an incumbent promising more community engagement and responsiveness than her predecessor. Hmmm. Right.

x said...

The raise is the height of absurdity. But, let's not stop at the superintendent.

Here's a reported
source
for salaries and benefits of our district employees over the last few years. The district makes this information almost impossible to get.

It takes a minute to download the spreadsheet, but then you can lookup your favorite district employee. The principal in my child's school got more than a 26% raise. Not sure why. Good, but 26%??? According to this, Carla Santorno went from $156,000 to $175,000... a more than 12% raise. And at that level, it's not exactly chump change either. So, with all the administrators getting raises like this, why would we expect less for the superintendent?

Michael said...

Charlie,

"Unless... someone wants to investigate whether this raise for the superintendent when she is already under contract constitutes an unconstitutional gift of tax dollars to a private party."

I would suggest referring also to the Superintendent's contract or some other document that outlines the possibility for raises, the limitations on those raises, and the criteria for raises for the Super. Past cases in other governmental entities with executives that have contracts (and who received raises) indicates that it is not illegal to give the raise if there are clear, objective, measurable performance outcomes. And giving a raise to an employee, if the measurable objectives are spelled out, is not a gifting of public funds. Besides, the Board has the authority to give raises to employees.

It certainly sounds fishy that the Board would introduce a measure and take final action in the same meeting. I agree with Charlie: it looks as though they were intentionally avoiding public scrutiny.

It is also a possibility that the Super realizes what a cultural, institutional mess she has inherited and maybe wanted out, so they offered her the raise. That would be improper, of course.

I mention the institutional culture because to get big results (I presume, Melissa, you mean in a short amount of time) in an organization with the type of culture present in the Seattle School District is nigh-on impossible unless you rule with an iron hand. One of the news articles quotes her as saying she is frustrated with the "Seattle way" - the endless debating of an issue and never deciding upon a resolution. But she knows she cannot change the culture overnight. So, a steady, consistent approach to establishing standards and holding every District employee accountable to those established standards is the best way to go. Reigning-in some of these administrators who treat their areas of responsibility as their own little fiefdoms is, I believe, a big challenge, one fraught with political land-mines.

Charlie says another thing of interest: "Director DeBell, in his feeble explanation for the simultaneous introduction and action described the long time the Board worked on this item and discussed it" Did Director DeBell just admit to the Board holding discussions with a constituted quorum without holding a public hearing? Of course, they have to have a public hearing to take final action, but when they gather in such a way that a quorum is constituted they must also give public notice. I believe it has been ruled that a quorum can be constituted even if discussions and action occur via email! Since this is my understanding of some of the requirements of the Open Public Meeting Act, I could be wrong (wouldn't be the first time).

Some interesting times ahead.

Charlie Mas said...

If Dr. Goodloe-Johnson was already under contract to perform the duties of Seattle School District Superintendent for 2008-2009 at a salary of $240,000 per year - and she was - and the Board voted to pay her more than that, that action could be seen as a gift.

For example, if I agree to sell you a widget for $50 and you agree to buy it for $50 but then, after we exchange money and product, you just give me another $5, how is that not a gift? It certainly isn't part of the agreement.

You might think that the Superintendent's current employment agreement allows for raises - that this is, in fact, part of the agreement. But if that were the case, then why does the motion include an amendment to the Superintendent's contract to provide for the opportunity for raises? Why would that be necessary if the agreement already included such a possibility?

dan dempsey said...

The Seattle Times due to declining revenue recently reduced the number of reporters. I do not believe they have an education reporter regularly covering the Seattle School district.

Jessica Blanchard of the PI is a great asset to the community.

Michael said...

I'm not saying it's right, and I'm not saying I have read the Super's employment agreement. I'm just saying that legally it might be OK. I agree that it looks like a gift, and that passing a amendment to the contract, and then giving a raise based on that immediately passed amendment does look wrong.

I agree with you on this. Sheesh......

reader said...

One of the news articles quotes her as saying she is frustrated with the "Seattle way" - the endless debating of an issue and never deciding upon a resolution. But she knows she cannot change the culture overnight.

She is complaining about transparency when she complains about debating the issues... or the desire for transparency on the part of the stakeholders. She'd rather just make all the decisions, and tell us all what they were.

dan dempsey said...

Consider this.....

Melissa wrote:
Then there was this:

"The superintendents' evaluation and contract extension were last-minute additions to the board meeting agenda, and Seattle parent and blogger Charlie Mas asked the board why it hadn't provided more notice to give the public time to review and comment on it.


I was looking at Tacoma News about Superintendent Art Jarvis, who moved from interim Superintendent. The article was about one month ago and in the article it mentioned that MG-J's salary was $240,000 but it was likely to be increased soon.
I guess only those of us who regularly follow SPS board activities were in the dark on this.

Cheryl Chow is the president of the Board and has little use for public involvement.

She should be recalled. This is so far out of bounds to continue to sit back and do nothing is to support the continuance of this board's bizarre decisions and decision making processes. It is time to cease tacit support of on-going poor decisions.

Take a look at the last 12 months in this district. This was clearly a gift of public funds to a private individual.

Cheryl Chow is spending $24,000 to prove she made a great decision in hiring MG-J. It should come out of Cheryl's pocket not ours but it is all over and done with now.

RECALL ... Please.

dan dempsey said...

Reader said:
"She'd rather just make all the decisions, and tell us all what they were."

But they would all be data driven.... we just never get to see the data.

dan dempsey said...

From 2007.....
Saturday, February 3, 2007

Judge rejects petitions to recall five School Board members

By JESSICA BLANCHARD
P-I REPORTER

Seattle Public Schools parent Eric Dawson and members of the Committee to Stop All School Closures filed petitions last month that sought to remove Cheryl Chow, Brita Butler-Wall, Darlene Flynn, Michael DeBell and Irene Stewart from their School Board seats for "acts of malfeasance, misfeasance or violation of the oath of office."

Those board members voted last year to shutter seven school buildings this fall.

But Superior Court Judge William Downing ruled Friday that the recall petitions failed to pass legal muster because there was insufficient evidence of wrongdoing.

So the question is with Board President Cheryl Chow's actions is there evidence of wrong doing?

I believe there is ... I sure would like to have a Judge decide.

dan dempsey said...

Sure looks like Misfeasance to me.

Misfeasance is determined in relation to privity of contract. When a contract creates a duty that does not exist at common law, the parties can do one of three things: (1) perform the duty fully; (2) perform the duty inadequately or poorly; or (3) fail to perform the duty at all. When a party fails to perform at all, it is nonfeasance. When a party performs the duty inadequately or poorly, it is misfeasance. Malfeasance is used to denote outright sabotage which causes intentional damage.

....
... I sure would like to have a Judge decide.

dan dempsey said...

Misfeasance

Performing a legal action in an improper way. This term is frequently used when a professional or public official does his job in a way that is not technically illegal, but is nevertheless mistaken or wrong.
Here are some examples of misfeasance in a professional context: a lawyer who is mistaken about a deadline and files an important legal document too late, an accountant who makes unintentional errors on a client's tax return or a doctor who writes a prescription and accidentally includes the wrong dosage.

Michael said...

Dan says,"This was clearly a gift of public funds to a private individual."

Then report it as such to Brian Sonntag's office.

https://www.sao.wa.gov/applications/hotline/default.aspx

Michael said...

No matter how it looks, IF it was legal then it was not a gifting of public funds.

dan dempsey said...

Michael,
I agree the fact that a contract extension was involved likely means no Malfeasance.

The fact this was the rushed typical railroad job engineered to exclude the public makes this misfeasance.

Charlie -- it seems we should compile a salary list along with a correlation to academic gains for the 50 largest school districts in America.

I am not convinced that Bonuses for CAOs and Superintendents improve academic standing of students.

Perhaps we are in need of performance bonuses for school board members .... follow your own policies and get a bonus.

Steve Zemke said...

Arrogance follows this school board in their actions. We have been fighting the school district's plan to cut down 90 trees at Ingraham High School as part of their renovation project under BEX III including 62 large evergreen trees in a grove on the West side of the school.

The grove of trees is comprised of 75 year old, 100 foot tall Douglas fir trees and some western red cedar and madrone trees. It is a unique urban asset and park like area for both the school and the neighborhood.

The District picked the site and the design without involving or informing the public and neighbors about their proposal or seeking any public input.

School Board members were voting on various aspects of the project but some even admitted that they had never even gone to visit the site of the proposed construction. These included Peter Maier and Steve Sundquist.

Eight of Seattle 's nine City Council members wrote a letter to the Seattle School District urging them to build the addition in a different location. The School Board's response was that they had made up their mind. The public was never given a chance to express their concerns about the significant loss of urban forest habitat or discuss alternative sites.

The District even produced, after much delay and a public records request, an architectural drawing of a possible addition on the North side on an open lawn area that would not require that any large trees be cut down.

In addition, a Master Plan drawn up for Ingraham High School, shows a possible addition on the North side of the school.

The School District posted in March on their website for Ingraham High School, the minutes of the Ingraham High School Design Team meetings going back to August of last year, without noting the date they first posted these minutes. It gives the false impression that the public knew of these meetings when this was the first that neighbors even heard of them.

Several school design meetings have been held since then but notice was not posted on the school website or given to neighbors. Even though they are supposedly open to the public, the school district does not feel it needs to provide notice to the public that these meetings are being held. The first time neighbors knew of these new meetings was when they were introduced by the school district at our appeal of the environmental checklist.

The one and only public meeting held on the first Environmental checklist took place the day before the comments were due. The school district failed to notify most neighbors, even ones right across the street from the project, because of mailing mistakes, including not mailing to odd numbered addresses and sending others more than 20 copies.

The school district is more than willing to appeal to the public for tax dollars for their projects but once they have it, they have no desire to listen to the public on how they spend it.

I know for certain that if the school district had told the public that the Ingraham High School renovation project would clearcut half of the trees in the wooded area west of the high school that there would have been a public outcry and opposition to the project.

We are now told in the environmental checklist appeal that we can not discuss alternatives. The Seattle School District and Seattle School Board's arrogance in this whole process is certainly going to have many Seattle voter's think twice before approving future funding for Seattle Schools.

The Seattle School District and the Seattle School Board both need to allow for real public involvement. The public paying the bills through their tax dollars are shareholders in the process of running Seattle Schools.

So it doesn't surprise me that the Seattle School Board would vote for a pay increase for Dr.Goodloe-Johnson without feeling the need for getting public input. It does however point to their continued arrogance and lack of respect for the Seattle taxpayers paying the bills. It only serves to undercut confidence in Seattle Schools and diminishes public support for the District in future actions.

Charlie Mas said...

After the fiasco of woefully inadequate public engagement around the Denny/Sealth co-location, Peter Maier (who voted to move forward with the project anyway) said that he had learned his lesson and would make sure that there was adequate public engagement on the Nathan Hale project. I guess he forgot the lesson when it came to the Ingraham project.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Steve,

What does the Mayor say?

Marlene said...

Steve,

I can totally sympathize with your frustration at the lack of transparency from the District. As a teacher from Chief Sealth, I can tell you that 93% of our staff voted against the District proposal to have a merged campus with Denny Middle School.

A former Board member, Irene Stewart, allegedly approached Raj Manhas about having a Denny-Sealth co-location in early July, 2006. (This was according to Don Gillmore at a meeting at District Headquarters that I attended) Irene Stewart later denied this, I believe on this blog.)

The staff was told in late August. By this time it was already a done deal. We were promised transparency and an opportunity to be on the design team. This design team was comprised of individuals who were friendly to the merger. Several staff members asked to be on the design team, but were rejected.

We were told that his co-location would enhance academic achievement. The District supplied irrelevant research to substantiate this. The District later said that the academic plan would have to come later.

The truth is, this BEX III project is all about cost, and has been from the beginning. They did not want to hear from staff, students, or the community. They had their little dog and pony shows to give the illusion that they were providing transparency.

The District will save money by co-locating these two schools. It has nothing to do with academic achievement, team building, or community connections.

Steve, I'm sure you've figured out by now that the District will say one thing to pacify it's audience, and then do what it wants to do.

I'm sorry you are going through this right now. One of the unfortunate aspects of the district's inability to provide consistent transparency is that people lose trust. When that happens, the entire community loses the desire to believe anything that comes from the District.

The School Board and the Superintendent will protect each other so that they can continuing pursuing their individual agendas, but they will not listen to their constituents.

The unfortunate thing about not supporting levies, is that it hurts the kids, not the board members or Superintendent.

I think a direct approach is much more effective. In the last few days, I've seen at least 100 posts from blogs and newspapers from disgruntled community members who are probably upset enough to begin a recall effort.

The new Board promised better stakeholder engagement almost a year ago. I haven't seen a change. The only thing I've learned that's new is that it's more important for the sup to earn $264,000 per year, than it is to save precious, beautiful, native trees.