So it is Tuesday and the Times had promised to reveal their endorsements for School Board and I finished my candidate interviews yesterday. I had decided to sleep on my endorsements (and read that these are not Save Seattle Schools endorsements- I haven't consulted with Beth or any of the other writers here). I open the paper this morning and there the Times has pretty much laid out what I think (with one exception). (The online version has a fleshed out editorial by Lynne Varner of the Times.
The Times endorses, in District 5:
Andre Helmstetter and Kay Smith-Blum (with more of a nod to Andre which is also in agreement with me).
They praise Helmstetter as someone who knows firsthand the struggles of working to get a good education. I spoke with Andre for two (!) hours yesterday and it flew by. (Keep in mind, he had his two little girls with him who were polite and well-behaved the entire two hours with no whining. Not sure if my boys at those ages could have done it.) Andre doesn't know the district as well as I hoped but he certainly is putting in the time. What he does understand is how the district works and that is just as valuable. He puts working towards consensus ahead of agenda (which is a big difference between he and Kay Smith-Blum). He knows that the Board is there for governance and policy. He has already made the effort to go to a Washington State Board Directors training (not even waiting to see if he will advance in the primary). He has already done research about the Portland Foundation which, if enacted here, would balance out the PTA fundraising (more on that in another thread). He, like Wilson Chin, wants to work towards helping minority families in achieving the best for their students and finding new avenues for interaction as well as finding more ways to bring all parents to the table. (Like, for example, having Town Halls a la the City Council.)
Smith-Blum was praised (and I praise her) for her high energy and enthusiasm. But the Times rightly pointed out that she may be naive about what can be done. She would be one of seven and that doesn't seem to get reflected in her remarks (I listened to one of the district Dems interviews yesterday and I never heard her talk about working with others on the Board.) Also, it is one thing to not know the district (and to admit it) but Kay is continuing to make some mistakes that are not good. She continues to call JSIS and Beacon Hill IB schools (they're not) and call for more IB (but I'm not sure if she means IB or foreign language immersion). She also continues to talk about the Weighted Student Formula which is no more.
For District 7:
Charlie Mas got the bigger nod with Wilson Chin also on their list. This is (unbelievably) what I think as well.
(For the record, Charlie didn't ask for me for an endorsement. Despite our passion for public education, Charlie and I really don't cross paths all that much and we don't socialize at all (not that I wouldn't but our lives don't intersect in that way). So my endorsement is based on seeing Charlie working towards a better SPS for years. I have seen him in action and I know that he can listen, he can learn and he can work with other people. He knows this district very well. It's interesting that Charlie is virtually the only candidate working for accountability when, in fact, that seems to be a source of frustration for many parents.)
Charlie used to be a lot more brash but he has learned and now, besides knowing this district and knowing how to find and use data, he has become a good, solid communicator. His presence on the Board would make it a more dynamic, well-rounded and solid group.
Wilson Chin is a soft-spoken, thoughtful person with a great background as a research scientist. He has children in SPS and has been an advocate in their schools. I'm not sure I believe he knows the district or its processes well enough at this point but he is very bright. I was very surprised to hear him say during our conversation that one of his top priorities would be to help failing students of color and addressing the issue in a historical context. Not since Darlene Flynn, have candidates (Helmstetter and Chin) stepped up to say this outloud. There is always the "achievement gap" talk but not about how to give these students some real tools to help them. I was also impressed with his ideas about community outreach; to have an inclusion model where you go out to community groups (not waiting for them to show up at district meetings) and identifying key people in those communities to help that outreach. (I'm not saying the district hasn't done this but I haven't seen in a systemic fashion from a Board member.)
Those are my thoughts based on interviews, listening to interviews on-line, going to a forum and reading from websites.
I endorse Charlie Mas in District 7 (with a strong nod to Wilson Chin) and Andre Helmstetter in District 5 (Kay Smith-Blum is smart but has too large of an agenda and not enough understanding about being one of seven Board members.)