Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Little Peeved and Getting More So Everyday

Normally, I try (with great effort) to do my research and hold my tongue until I have all my facts straight. But the District stinks like a fish on a hot Seattle day with its highly touted efforts at transparency and frankly, I am losing patience. So what the heck, why not call them out on what I see (and don't see).

This year's budget references (twice) that the Superintendent's office is getting $127,000 for some workers (I phrase it this way for a reason to become evident). Here are the references:

Page 15

Additions to administrative and support staff of 9.0 FTE include: a 1.0 Broad
Resident, a Senior Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent’s Office,

Page 22

Addition to the Superintendent’s office of Broad Resident, and a Senior
Administrative staff position. Cost increase of $127 thousand
.

The administrative position is referenced in different ways ( see above) and the word "addition/additions" in both references would imply new hires.

I wrote and asked for clarification on these positions. So I did finally receive the job descriptions and explanations none of which really answer the question - are there new hires and where is the $127,000 going?

So I wrote to the legal staff again and said, "So again I will ask you (and will hold you and the district to your reply); are there any new hires in the Superintendent's office?"

I was told that both positions already exist but (1) Carol Treat who is the Executive Director of Strategic Planning and Alliances and was getting paid via the Alliance is now going to be paid, entirely, by the Broad Foundation. Why would they do that? Is she a Broad resident? Don't think so because they would only be funding half her salary as a Resident. (What a deal! I guess I'm just being picky and not grateful for their generosity. If you read Harium's blog, this is just swell with him.) Her salary? Carol Treat earns $144,994.01 annually; with benefits the total is $169,034. And, according to the job description, that's for 260 days of work.

The other position is Venetia Harmon, Sr. Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent. Venetia Harmon makes $54,910.94 annually; with benefits the total is $64,015.17.

Both allegedly report directly to the Superintendent even though Ms. Harmon's position has two other supervisors (neither the Superintendent) listed.

So again:
  • where is the $127,000 being used for? It can't be just Ms. Harmon's salary so what is it being used for?
  • why is the Broad Foundation paying for Ms. Treat's salary?
  • who is the Broad Resident referenced in both places in the budget?
And lastly, why the hell won't the district give a straight answer to a direct question?

18 comments:

dan dempsey said...

And lastly, why the hell won't the district give a straight answer to a direct question?

Because they have had so little practice in doing so.

ConcernedSPSParent said...

So Tom Payzant (superintendent in
Residence at the Broad Foundation)
gives Goodloe-Johnson her annual
review and she then funnels $100K jobs their way??. Is it just me
thinking she has a serious conflict of interest issue here?

Josh Hayes said...

I'm with Dan: it's a reflex. If they start giving straight answers, they might suddenly find themselves doing it all the time, and THEN where would they be?

They'd have trouble, that starts with T, that rhymes with, uh, T, and that stands for truthiness. And lord knows, they're not ready for that.

Why yes, I am cynical. District management made me this way.

Sahila said...

Concerned SPS Parent:

we asked Harium about that at the community meeting to discuss Broad at my house this past Sunday... sorry I havent reported back on that... will give a short synopsis over the weekend and details of what we decided to do...

Harium said Payzant didnt evaluate her... that he merely acted as facilitator, helping the Board ask the right questions... Our reaction was pretty much one of incredulity....

Harium did undertake to ask the Super to make it clear that she is a Broad Board member.... and I think he agreed - or at least could see - that that constituted a conflict of interest, though I dont know what really he is prepared to do to make that conflict go away... he said he couldnt force her to make any statements or take any action, such as severing her ties with Broad....

Melissa Westbrook said...

She can have all the ties she wants to Broad - the question is why does the district have them (and increasingly so as evidenced by them paying now paying a full-time staff member)? More and more I see Harium is now drinking the Kool-aid (at least as I read his answers at his blog). Disappointing.

I've asked OSPI and the State Attorney General's office about how - short of going to court - to compel the district to answer public disclosure questions.

Sahila said...

Thanks to a meeting attendee for writing up the bulk of the following for me for posting on the blogs...

Speaking of all things Broad, the meeting with Harium Martin-Morris last weekend (Sunday 19th July) went very well.

We had 13 community members attend and five apologies. The people who attended were parents, teachers and SEA union members, a former assistant principal still with strong ties to the District and a wealth of historical knowledge, several people had links to ESP Vision, several were current or former alternative school parents, grandparents/pioneers, one was a community member with an interest in culturally-appropriate education but with no direct links to SPS schools

Harium was generous with his time and graciously listened to our concerns about Broad and the direction SPS is taking under its influence.

"It's clear to me that there is a high degree of uncomfortableness [in the community] about the perceived or actual undue influence of one organization [on SPS]" -- Harium's concluding comment.

Harium concluded by telling us that he and the board have decided to write a public response to our queries about the Broad Foundation and its influence on SPS. (The superintendent may or may not contribute to this.)

He also said that he and Sherry Carr are working on an idea in which the school board would ask the SPS community to offer solutions to identified problems (using data supplied by the district -- a potentially weak link in this otherwise potentially strong idea).

It was decided to meet again to discuss ideas about solutions to some of the problems in the District, to work to forge alliances with other groups working for change (the idea of finding at least a base value on which we could all agree so that we can establish the necessary critical mass to get parent/children voices heard and acted on), to meet again to begin the mass complaint campaign - perhaps delivering postal bags full of the forms to the District at the next Board meeting, dressed in Santa suits, or suits covered with scripted lesson plans, which should generate substantial media attention....signing up for speaking slots and then people ceding their slots to one speaker who could spend the entire time focusing on one issue...

Anyway... I shall work on getting the next meeting set up in the next week or two.... have to consolidate and implement some income-generating options rather urgently and host a 6th birthday party first! So much to do, so few hours in the day!

gavroche said...

Thanks for the report on the meeting, Sahila. That's great that a School Board member took the time to listen to community concerns and took them seriously.

Meanwhile, here's a pretty troubling article from Susan Ohanian that claims a link between the Broad Foundation and the militarization of public schools. (!!!)

(See: http://www.susanohanian.org/show_nclb_news.html?id=771)

It'll take a couple of posts. But if accurate, it's a disturbing read:

Broad Foundation and Pentagon Link Arms with Microsoft and McGraw-Hill to Boost Skills for 22nd Century Competitiveness

Another item in the news you will read nowhere else, though this one contains plenty of facts you could read somewhere else if you looked hard enough.

There are so many facts about military involvement with schools that our staff could not cope with incorporating them all. You won't want to miss Army Recruiters On a New Mission, which explains that since the Army is "results oriented, the public can be sure there's no fuzzy math with army education enterprises.

None of the quotes attributed to Arne Duncan or Rahm Emanuel or facts about military involvement in Chicago Public Schools are invented. When writing about Chicago public education policy, there's no need to make anything up. And now that policy is moving to Washington, D. C. Hold on to your hats--and watch over your children.

For Immediate Release
January 17, 2009

Los Angeles/Chicago/Washington D. C.

Calling the skill situation dire and worry about the 21st century passe, officials at the Broad (rhymes with 'toad') Center for the Management of School Systems and the Pentagon (rhymes with 'student pawn') have formed a partnership with Microsoft (rhymes with 'pigeon loft') and McGraw-Hill (rhymes with 'thug-law mill') to instill rigorous capitalist values that today's kindergartners will pass on to their great-grandchildren. "Scientific research available on our website show the importance of these skills," said Business Roundtable Chair Terry McGraw III, also CEO of the McGraw-Hill Companies, known for their phonics promotion.

Strengthening competitiveness remains a bipartisan challenge," added McGraw whose company has also provided extraordinary leadership in providing a forum for government and the private sector to come together to help find solutions to the war on terrorism.

Following the recent induction of the largest number of high-ranking military generals in the Broad Superintendents Academy's eight-year history, the Pentagon partnership is positioned as the next logical step, with Microsoft adapting the phenomenally popular America's Army video game and their own Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare to deliver McGraw-Hill's phonemic awareness skills faster than a speeding bullet.


(continued on next post)

gavroche said...

(Susan Ohanian - continued from previous post)

After Eli Broad, ranked 42nd among America's richest billionaires by Forbes in 2006, made his initial fortune in real estate, he set up the Broad Foundation to put his imprint on public schools across the country. He also donated $100 million to MIT and another $100 million to Harvard, and another $400 million to the Broad Institute, which is a joint project of Harvard and MIT. The partnership with the Pentagon to transform kindergarten is the next logical step, say education insiders, noting that this not the first time that Eli Broad and Bill Gates have combined their bankrolls to imprint schools with their vision.

Arne Duncan, soon-to-be U. S. Secretary of Education, whose former chief of staff in Chicago sits with the ex-generals in this year's Broad Academy class, is listed on the Broad Superintendents Academy roster as a guest speaker.

But there's more! In one of those coincidences that make education policy under the capitalist cronyism what it is, not to mention what it will become with Obama's choice to head the U. S. Department of Education, two of the inductees at the 2009 Broad Superintendents Academy are members of Duncan's Chicago team, the Chief Information Officer and the Chief Financial Officer.

Parents can be assured of public education with a punch!

Working under the thumb of Mayor Daley, Duncan put Chicago on the map as the most militarized public school system in the nation. Middle schoolers have Cadet Corps, over 10,000 students participate in JROTC, and when the Air Force high school opens in September 2009, Chicago will be the only city in the nation to have academies representing all branches of the military. Chicago already has a Marine Military Academy, a Naval Academy, and three Army academies.

"We have to think outside the box, and what existed before simply did not work for far too many students," said Arne Duncan. Redefining schools as stock investments, he said, "I am not a manager of 600 schools. I'm a portfolio manager of 600 schools and I'm trying to improve the portfolio."

Those close to Duncan say the next step is to redefine schools as military breeding grounds--militarized phonics in kindergarten will protect the stock investments.


(continued on next post)

gavroche said...

(Susan Ohanian continued: http://www.susanohanian.org/show_nclb_news.html?id=771)

In October 2007, a press release from U. S. Representative Rahm Emanuel's office noted: Today, the U. S. House of Representatives joined Mayor Daley and CEO of Chicago Public Schools Arne Duncan at the Marine Military Academy, to officially commission the launch of the school. . . .

Emanuel secured $300,000 in federal funding for the Military Academy in the Fiscal Year 2007 Department of Defense Appropriations Act. "Our Nation's success depends on the quality of our children's education. Chicago Public School's Marine Military Academy is a pioneer of educational excellence and will become a model for public education across the country."

With militarization of high schools firmly in place, looking to kindergarten is the next logical step.

Microsoft, the world's largest software company, and maker of the popular Xbox video game system, is no stranger to military motifs in its products. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is a first-person shooter video game breaks away from the World War II setting of previous games in the series and is instead set in modern times.he game's move to modern warfare introduces new weapons and technology to the Call of Duty franchise, including the M4A1 carbine, the M203 grenade launcher, the AN/PEQ-2 Target Pointer for use in conjunction with night vision goggles, the MP5SD submachine gun, and the FGM-148 Javelin portable anti-tank guided missile. The player gains access to these over the course of the game, but may only carry up to two weapons in addition to grenades.

In adapting the war games format to the kindergarten market, Microsoft and McGraw-Hill will maintain the excitement of accumulating experiences points by taking down other players and completing objectives which will be aligned with state standards.

The team promises to deliver "student experiences that tap into brand loyalty through a fully integrated strategic communication approach using multiple user touch-points, television content, digital branding--all immersed in interactive online visibility and attractability."

Christopher Cerf, composer of "Put Down the Duckie" for Sesame Street, has been hired to write a "Blast Away Phuzzy Phonics" theme song for the Broad/Microsoft/Pentagon/McGraw-Hill kindergarten war games product. Metropolitan Opera's Jose Carreras and cultural phenomenon Madonna have been contacted about teaming up to record the song. Staff is waiting to to see if Britney really has her act together before contacting her.


(concluded on next post)

gavroche said...

(Final installment of Susan Ohanian post: http://www.susanohanian.org/show_nclb_news.html?id=771)

"With the Pentagon joining up with Microsoft and McGraw-Hill, we'll have a 'No Excuses' policy with punch," said an officer at Education Trust-West. "Combining the in-the-field experience of the generals with the state-of-the-art war games videos will make phonics acquisition irresistible!"

Education Trust Director Executive Director Kati Haycock is listed at the Broad Superintendents Academy as guest speaker.

As proof os critical timing, the appointment of military generals in January 2009, follows by just a few months the opening of the Army Experience Center, located in the Franklin Mills Mall just north of Philadelphia. This one-of-a-kind, 14,500-square-foot virtual education facility has strings of networked Xbox 360 pods and individual gaming stations. And the crown jewels: a UH-60 Black Hawk, an AH-64 Apache and a Humvee. And more simulators than you can spit at. Children learn that being in the Army means being able to play with big toys. Now schools will teach that phonics is the key to getting access to these toys.

McGraw-Hill and Microsoft staffs are eager to bring this zing to kindergartners' interface with phonics. Combining their expertise with the Pentagon strategies for enlisting youth and the Broad Foundation school leadership thrust, America's competitive future looks bright. The Kindergartners who master phonics bequeath critical competitive skills to their children and their children's children, ensuring the success of capitalism in the 22nd century.

Power Up Your Phonics!
— staff
The Eggplant

2009-01-17

wseadawg said...

Fortunately, the cheap, unreliable P.O.S. XBOX 360 crashes and burns enough to turn off large segments of the population, many of whom turn to old fashioned educational ideas, like reading books, building things, and growing food in gardens.

The Vulcans got is into Iraq. Do we want them in our schools too?

MS & Gates have made alot of money for alot of folks. But have they built anything that wasn't insecure, unreliable, bloated, inefficient...wait a minute...they're a perfect fit for SPS!

dan dempsey said...

Sahila,

In regard to your plan to having a speaker speak more than 3 minutes = NO. A speaker at a school board meeting may speak for a maximum of 3 minutes.
Time may not be ceded to have any speaker speak beyond three minutes.
Marty McLaren and I delivered a six minute testimony by co-writing it and then handing off at the three minute mark. I took the first three and Marty finished.
---------------------
---------------------
Thanks for your efforts to STOP "THE BROAD".

I want MG-J's managed instruction plan stopped ..... which I am not even sure comes from Broad. Just plain crazy .... like a lot of stuff that comes from the MG-J admin.

Sahila said...

Dan - we were suggesting that 20 people sign up for speaking slots, but they just keep ceding their space at every 3 minute break to the person nominated to present the one, single idea.... arent you allowed to do that?

kellie said...

Sahila, 20 folks can not cede to the same person. Every individual gets one slot total - either ceded or requested. You will need 20 different people to take the entire night. Additionally, if 20 folks sign up with the same topic, they can be "bumped" by a person signing up to testify on scheduled item.

Charlie Mas said...

Each person is allowed to speak only once, even if multiple people want to cede their time to that person.

Those are the rules.

Sahila said...

OK - well, we'll just need 20 people to talk about 20 different aspects of the same core issue...

Not so hard....

Or push to have some of our core issues added to the Board's agenda... surely there is a mechanism to have the public ask for subjects to be included on the agenda?

ConcernedSPSParent said...

Looks like Maria has a little time to spare...
Broad Center Announcement

Sahila said...

Hi all,

I often spend time thinking about how we can have a greater impact in those areas where organisations and bureaucracies are moving in directions we dont necessarily think are healthy. So I subscribe to various change and monitoring groups who have similar philosophical perspectives... such as Bang the Table - see link...

http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/pages/Bang-the-Table/64441783879?ref=nf

Lots and lots of information about social change and community engagement and the use of social media...

In one of its latest postings

http://www.facebook.com/ext/share.php?sid=238818205656&h=tqa_R&u=Cbipu&ref=mf

about organisations not being able to 'spin' bad stuff anymore, there was a link to a website where citizens reported things they were unhappy about in their communities and it had so much credibility and clout that the local authorities involved actually responded to and acted on postings:

http://councilgripe.com/

Harium tries to do something similar with his blog.... but he's just one member of the board and the District sure isnt showing signs of being as interested in responding to community concerns...

I was wondering what might happen if we started a website and also started posting fun, interesting stuff on YouTube? Maybe some of our older students would like to be involved in this - poetry, dance, singing, farce, stand up comedy, heart felt speeches - all with a message. Keep the spotlight on, keep the pressure up, interrupt the insidious whisperings of Broad et al with some fun, interesting, spirited, pointed information delivery? And we kept it up, showed them we werent just a flash in the pan and werent going away... I think this could generate a lot of publicity and discussion and dialogue and would leave SPS (and the education system in this country as a whole) no choice but to reconsider where its at and make some changes... its so easy for the District to focus on its Broad-driven agenda and ignore/downplay community opposition when that opposition is confined to being expressed in 3-minute speaking slots within Board meetings, confined to the blogs and confined to emails and individual conversations. So much harder to ignore when the arena becomes the size of the internet, with so many more eyes watching and ears hearing, and, hopefully, voices expressing ...

IMO, at a certain point, its counterproductive to deal with organisations only in the old way, on their terms... we have to mix it up...

I think it could be a very effective mechanism in turning around where education is going - it could even be the beginning of a true revolution....

What do you think?

Sahila

PS - if you want to really 'get' what I am hoping to help achieve in this area, why I think its imperative that we change our basic premise about education and growing our children, and what drives me in terms of my own journey and the perspective/experience I come from, I would so recommend you read Peter Senge's "Presence"...