Yet another honeymoon comes to an end.
The Seattle Times Editorial Board was in love, Love, LOVE with the new Seattle School Board and I think they wanted to have Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson's baby.
Yeah, well, that may be over.
I don't know why, maybe it was because they crossed the Mayor (the Times's One True Love), or maybe the beer goggles wore off and the Times just woke up and discovered who they were in bed with. Either way, the Times just kicked the Board and the Superintendent out of bed with an editorial in today's paper.
With today's editorial, the Times acknowledges what everyone else in Seattle has long known: Seattle Public Schools - from the bottom to the top - holds public input in utter contempt. They will squash it, suppress it, evade it, ignore it, and reject it at every possible opportunity.
Let's consider the various episodes in reverse chronological order:
The District tried to subvert the legal process through a swift little trick, but they didn't get away with it. While a hearing on the trees was scheduled for next week, the District withdrew their applications for building permits. By doing so, they removed the City's regulatory authority over the tree cutting. Their plan was to quickly move forward with the tree cutting and then re-instate the applications without the tree cutting element. Of course there would be no point to actually convene the scheduled hearing since the trees would be down and the discussion would be moot. Fortunately, Save the Trees caught the move and countered nicely with a temporary restraining order.
The tree issue is drawing out some really Orwellian stuff. The District claims that there were a series of public meetings about the Ingraham plan. That is technically true. But the District never told anyone about the public meetings - never said when and where they would be, never said what would be on the agenda, never released any plans. So just how public is a meeting like that? The meetings were only announced long after they were over.
Let's be really clear about a few things here. First, for a local government entity to try an end-run around the legal system in this way is unconscionable. We expect our local government entities to follow the law and comply with regulation - not dodge it. Second, this move was executed following a closed-door meeting with the Board on this subject. That means that the maneuver was done with either the Board's explicit or tacit approval. For our elected representatives to work against the public process in this way is reprehensible. Every one of them is going to have to answer for this someday. It is enough for keep some of them from re-election. Third, there is someone in the Facilities Department who wrote the application for the building permit and included the tree removal as part of it. That guy is NEVER going to do that again. The next time the District wants to cut down a forest and pave over it they are just going to do it before anyone can complain about the plan.
Here's the weird thing. The District may actually be right. Their plan may actually be environmentally sensitive, it may actually provide better habitat, better soil and water conservation, more greenery, and more canopy cover. It may actually be an excellent solution all the way around the track. But that doesn't matter because they have demonstrated such little confidence in the merit of their decision that we cannot have confidence in the merit of their decision.
THE SUPERINTENDENT'S EVALUATION
The Board conspired to preclude public scrutiny and public discussion of the Superintendent's Evaluation. They did everything they could do to prevent anyone from asking questions about it or looking into it. It was held off the agenda until the last minute, they violated their Policy, their Bylaws, and their Affirmation of Responsibility by presenting it for introduction and action at the same Board meeting. They have withheld the supporting documents and continue to withhold supporting data. They refused to discuss the motion at all prior to voting and they have continued to refuse to discuss the motion to this day.
DENNY / SEALTH
Even after every stakeholder group came out in opposition to the relocation of the Denny Middle School on the Chief Sealth high school campus, the staff continued to push forward with the plan and the Board approved it. The inadequacy of the community engagement was universally acknowledged, yet they went forward with it. There are no academic benefits anticipated from this co-location. There are no cost savings to be had from this co-location. There was no consideration of public input in this process.
What happens to public testimony at Board meetings? Is it tracked? Does anyone respond to it? I don't think so. The Superintendent, at her first Board meeting said that all public testimony would be tracked. She said that even people who signed up to speak but didn't get on the list would be tracked. She said that customer service staff would be at Board meetings to address complaints. She said that there would be a response from the staff for every person's testimony. None of these things are happening. How can the Board expect the staff to listen to public input, seriously consider public input, and respond to public input when they don't do it themselves? I thought the Board was supposed to model the behavior for the staff. I guess they do.
Does the superintendent respond to her public input? Is there any evidence that she seriously considers it? Isn't she also supposed to model behavior, accountability, culture, and customer service for the staff? And the same for her "C" level executives. When was the last time you got a response to a question or a concern from Ms Santorno or Mr. Kennedy?
There are other examples. Please remember that this Board has been impaneled for only nine months and the Superintendent has been in office for only about a year. They have racked up some big ones very quickly.