Thursday, August 27, 2009

Put Them on Notice

There's been a lot of wondering outloud here; what can we do about the influence of foundations, in particular the Broad Foundation, in our district? We read about the disaster that was Broad's influence in Oakland and we know the deafening silence from the Superintendent about what her relationship is with the Foundation. She has expanded her relationship with Broad and now serves as a member of an Advisory Board. We have two current Broad residents (whom the Foundation expects the district to hire at the end of the year). We already have one former Broad resident who works for the district. The district is also paying the full salary for one SPS employee who has no ties to Broad (at least that I know of), apparently out of the goodness of their heart. Not.

So I have told the Board that we need more transparency. I will e-mail all of them soon and see what replies I get. Additionally, I sent an e-mail to David Esselman who is an associate director at Broad's education arm who oversees Broad Academy superintendents (Dr. Goodloe-Johnson being one of them).

So, what the point? The point is PUT THEM ON NOTICE. "Hello there, I'm parent X in SPS and I know of your relationship with our district. I am watching and I have let my district's leadership know I am watching. I am letting reporters in our area know about this relationship so they know about your actions every step of the way. I am still waiting to get an explanation of what the relationship is and what the expectations are on both ends. In short, we will not be rolled. You will get pushback and a fight if you think you can come into our district and make your agenda our agenda. If you think we won't find out...we will. It may take awhile but you are on our radar. "

Are they going to worry about me? Of course not because who the hell am I to them. The point, however, is there is a blog and we exist as thinking parents and as people who will speak up (to our Mayor, to our legislators, etc.). I am a firm believer in letting people know that good people of faith will not just stand by.

Below is most of my letter to Mr. Esselman.

"The state of Washington has not once, not twice but three times turned back charters. Clearly, we see something that other states (and apparently the Broad Foundation) don't. Additionally, in Seattle, as Dr. Goodloe-Johnson could tell you, we have many "alternative" schools. These are schools started by parents with a great idea and focus. Most are very popular and have waitlists. They are fully-funded by Seattle Public Schools. For Seattle, we don't need charters. So I am wary of the relationship between the Broad Foundation and SPS because of the charter issue.

To the second point, corporate models, here is what Mr. Broad had to say,

Earlier, he’d explained his interest in the way school systems are run: “We don’t know anything about how to teach or reading curriculum or any of that. But what we do know about is management and governance.”

Again, we had a corporate guy in SPS as superintendent several years back. He had a financial background and even though he wasn't an educator, we were assure he was so brilliant in management that he was going to move us forward. His vision was principals as CEO and competition between schools for students and site-based management. He ran us into the ground to the tune of $25M. To her credit, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson has pulled back on the site-based management (which ran somewhat amok in some schools) and we are no longer referring to principals as CEOs.

As our own local philanthropist, Bill Gates, has learned, through the education arm of his foundation, education is tough. Very tough. While we need good managment and oversight, education is not a business. We're not selling anything and students are not widgets. So this idea of management and governance being the key to better education might be true somewhat but it is not the answer in its entirety.

So I would like to ask you, frankly, what are Broad's intentions in SPS? Why would the Broad Foundation pay the entire salary (about $145,000) for one SPS employee who isn't even associated with the Foundation? I was not happy to hear about the two Broad residents hired last year. We have closed schools over the last 4 years (including this year) and RIFed many teachers this year. Our State Auditor in an audit of SPS said we have too many staff for headquarters. It seems almost disrespectful then to bring on more adminstrators at a time when the district cries poor to teachers, parents and students. One Board member said to me that we were getting great talent at half price. Half price is no bargain when you have no money. We have no money at SPS (or at least that is what we are told).

Please let me know your thoughts. I would be glad to support the efforts of the Broad Foundation in SPS if I felt I understood the relationship. Any information you have or direction you can send me in to find information would be appreciate."

No answer as of this date.

19 comments:

speducator said...

Melissa,

Great letter! I think you should also send a cc to Randy Dorn.

wseadawg said...

I think its hard to tell someone who's succeeded in the corporate world that the corporate model isn't the best there is. I think its hard to tell someone from the tech industry that tech isn't the be-all-and-end-all solution for everything from turning on a light to educating our kids (I acknowledge my hyperbole). I think its hard to tell anyone who's succeeded in one industry or area or another that their way might not extrapolate or "scale" to all situations, like education.

I think that's the rub with corporatists like Broad and tech billionaires like Gates, although I don't believe Gates, while an ally of Broad, is as corporate in his thinking and motivation as Broad and his ilk. I think Gates really wants to make a difference in education, but like many, doesn't see a problem with making a decent return on an investment earned by "helping" people. But Gates is a poker player and has gone "all in" in the reform effort, even hawking Jay Matthews (WA Post Ed Reptr)'s book "Work Hard, Be Nice," a fawning love affair novel about KIPP Charter Schools if ever there's been one.

I'm not so sanguine about Broad's intentions. NCLB has spawned many cottage industries and hacks, like 9/11 spawned everything from the Iraqi invastion to Duct Tape shortages. It appears to be the dream legislative act that only a corporate privatizing advocate could love, setting most public schools up to fail AYP and be declared disasters and failures, greasing the skids for White Knights like Broad & Gates to ride to the rescue, along with corporate profiteers like Neil Bush and Bill Bennet to rake in millions of tax dollars selling their wares to Charter Schools or online (Bennett), all without the oversight of School Boards.

Things look very bad for public education as we know it right now, and like the WTO protests, Seattle is looking like a potential front for a stand-down between those who seek to turn public education into a profit making machine for those who truly do NOT support public education, like former voucher advocates who, since they couldn't kill public ed, will instead bleed as much tax payer money from it as they can, and those who have experienced and received great public educations and are willing to stand up and fight to preserve it for our children and theirs.

I want Broad, Bennett, Neal Bush, and the rest to know we're on to them before they wrestle one dollar away from our schools, and I want every parent in this district to know exactly what's going on in our district and nationwide. If a fully-informed public decides Broad is okay, then fine. But I cannot see how, knowing all the facts, people would support corporate world ideals being forced down the throats of our children, particularly in light of where the advocates of unbridled "business knows best" philosophy have brought our nation to at this time.

Truly Scrumptious said...

Great idea. I'll write a letter soon, too.

gavroche said...

I will too.

seattle citizen said...

With "Race for the Top," we now have an additional push towards enacting agendas other than our own. NCLB put into place the methodology that wseadawg explains: AYP allows the feds to nonsensically declare schools "failing," thereby enabling enabling sanctions.
With the "race for the top" we now have the feds demanding that we put into place a federalized system that is unproven (and, indeed, appears with recent research to be ineffectual)

We have our work cut out for us: The nation has come to believe that the sole purpose of education is to feed the economy. Education has been reduced to Reading, Writing and Math, to the exclusion of art, music, and, most importantly, citizenship.

Will the economy be able to support all these students in jobs that utilize Reading, Writing and Math? No. But by eliminiating citizenship, ethics, and the valuing of something other than mammon, we are in danger of making our children into docile (unaware) worker units only interested in that which makes money.

I guess if we agree that government and citizenship now revolves around the dollar, job preparation is the proper task of education: Students must learn to pursue only that which has a monetary value, as that is what gets attention. They should learn how to lobby, how to work the system to further their personal monetary goals, how to measure worth purely on its ability to facilitate job placement ("everyone ready for college and work") and to ignore social justice (unless there's a dollar to be made..."our charter company is going to elevate your poor!...as we profit from them!"), to ignore critical thinking, to ignore diversity and favor standardization, ignore art and favor productivity...ignore the reality that not everyone can be employed as engineers, not everyone can be employed as middle managers: we NEED a huge variety of labor, much of which is not predicated on college degrees.

The elephant in the room is that the economy, as it stands, necessitates some poorly paid jobs. Many of those who are prepared for "college and work" will, of necessity, end up pumping gas for $8.70 and hour.

The eduational system, as it is currently being reformatted, will result in many people being relegated to these jobs, as they were before, but without the wider knowledge of the bigger system: goverenment (do you see history or government being tested in the WASL?), ethics (what are they, our Readers, Writers and Mathematicans ask), citizenship (of course, even now only %20 of our city voted in the primary...)

We're being sold a bill of goods. And that's not even taking into account the money that is to be made by privatizing education.

Those business groups that are selling the idea that we need the basic, standardized curriculums are selling an easier future for business: Shallowly educated workforce that has not the knowledge to talk back, that has not the means to question an economy that is oriented purely around competition ("race for the top!") has not the cojones to risk poverty in an effort to bring justice and economic security to the masses.

Dora Taylor said...

I agree about letting the Broad know that they will not be able to hoodwink us in Seattle and I take great pride in that.

There will also be a letter writing campaign to the governor, Randy Dorn, our school board members and superintendent regarding our alternative programs, including SBOC, APP and our alternative schools. Recently these programs have been marginalized or dismantled and instead need to be supported and celebrated. Seattle's alternative programs have been successful and are in place. Because of these programs, there is no need for charter schools which is the Broad's agenda (see http://seattle-ed.blogspot.com/ for additional information) and on that we need to be very clear.

Details on that letter writing campaign will follow in another post.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"We have our work cut out for us: The nation has come to believe that the sole purpose of education is to feed the economy."

Seattle Citizen,this statement is so true.

We are drowning in public and private debt in this country. And what is bearing down like a freight train on our children? The Baby Boomers. All 70M+ of them and they are starting to retire. When Social Security started, there was something like 14 workers to every retiree. Now, it's something like 3-1 and closing in on 2-1. And, we will have millions more AND they are living longer.

This is not crying foul on anyone. These are the basic real facts in our country and we need to educate (or rather train) new workers as fast as we can. There isn't a lot of time left over for PE, arts, civics, etc. when you need to get workers trained.

I think that may be some of what is driving what we are seeing as education "reform" today.

gavroche said...

"We have our work cut out for us" is true.

But we do have some leverage and power to influence our own district and state and to get SPS and Randy Dorn to pay attention to our valid concerns and demands:

District-wide WASL* boycott anyone?

That would be hard for SPS and Dorn -- and Duncan and Obama -- to ignore.

wseadawg invokes the WTO protests. Indeed, why not? "Battle in Seattle" 2.0: The Fight to Save our Public Schools (from Death by Privatization and Corporations).

(*or whatever the new name will be.)

seattle citizen said...

gavroche,
I fear that it is not merely a matter of petitioning and protesting the government (like dear Maude with her umbrella) but of changing the very way the larger society around schools functions and thinks.
My point (slightly muddled or weakly made, perhaps) in my earlier post, still riffing off that Harper's article I referenced the other day, was that all education is focused, now, on what society believes to be the sole goal of life: Money [read "jobs"] We, not just the movers and shakers, have been nhoisted by our own petards, our own willingness to relax into a selfishly centered view that "ya gotta compete, ya gotta win, ya gotta $uck-$ede...$ucce$$ = $$$

So not only do we have to petition the government but we have to petition the governed who are themselves (hypothetically) the governors: Only the citizenry can effect the sea change required to alter the course of the ship of state.

Walt Kelly' Pogo said, about our environmental disaster 39 years ago, that we have met the enemy and he is us. I'm afraid that the environment is still polluted by the industrial machines, and that these machines are now, by their very structures (both physical and human) polluting our minds, now, too.

So on your way with your signs and bullhorns to JSCEE, OSPI and NCLB, you might swing by the offices of your neighborhood garage, your nieghborhood supermarket, Nordstroms, Paccar and Microsoft and inquire how they intend to make education include governance, citizenship, morality, and critical thinking about economic systems and one's place in them.

gavroche said...

I agree, Seattle Citizen, that this is a national story that needs to be seen and addressed on a broad perspective.

But I've also noticed that we can point to case studies of individual school districts that have had differing outcomes:

Antioch, CA, made Broad-trained Superintendent decide to leave. School community said good riddance.

L.A. School District hands over 240 of its public schools to private interests, thanks to a capitulating School Board, apparently, and likely influence of L.A.-based pro-privatizer billionaire Eli Broad.

Chicago teachers in private charters decide to fight back and unionize.

Chicago School District as a whole does NOT show great improvement under Duncan, with or without charters.

San Francisco School Board challenges School Superintendent who ultimately leaves (with a huge golden parachute, btw) and joins the Broad Foundation.

New Orleans, devastated by Hurricane Katrina, is exploited by the privatizers who fire all teachers and bring in privately run charter schools (at least one of which has since failed and closed).

Oakland, CA, School District is taken over by the state, run into the ground by Broad trained admin people and then abandoned by them. Has recently been returned to local community.

Seattle Public Schools hires a Broad-trained Superintendent who is also on the board of directors of the Broad Foundation, and without public input allows various "Broad Residents" to be hired to the already over-staff admin offices. After a poorly justified and executed and costly round of school closures, splits and mergers affecting thousands of children, and a year of disruptive and irrational changes, Seattle parents rise up and...

-- you get the picture.

Yes, the hidden agendas and power players of "education reform" are a national issue. But each school district can write its own story and its own ending.

Seattle Public Schools is NOT a failing School District. It is worth fighting for. We the parents and teachers should fight to preserve it and not allow our elected or non-elected officials to destroy our schools or hand our district over to profiteers.

I agree with Melissa that those of us who have concerns about the direction and clandestine operations and motives of the Seattle School District have every right and a responsibility to put all those involved on notice every way we can.

Meg said...

I've been trying to get my head around some of this, but less about Broad in particular than the district's seeming attitude towards foundation money in general as well as their attitude towards PTAs.

The New School Foundation has pricey, new building. The Sloan/New School foundation has not, as far as I understand, put a penny into the construction. However (as an example) in 2007-2008, the New School Foundation put $1.3M into the school. In return (although it was not spelled out as quid pro quo), having already vaulted the New School to the top of the BEX list, SPS poured $27M of capital money into the building (it looks like the rough total for the building is around $70M?), not to mention the regular school operating budget. How is this free money? It's like saying, "hey, buddy, if you do what I want, I'll give you 100 pennies, and you can just give me one $20." It's jaw-droppingly foolish.

I know I'm droning/ranting, but one more example- less to point crud out to anyone else, and more so maybe someone can explain to me where my thinking may have wandered off the rails. In 2005-2006 the Gates foundation kicked just shy of $2M into SPS. "Self-help" (which includes PTAs and other community efforts) donations totalled $6.1M. My understanding on self-help is that often, the community sees an immediate need at a school but that there isn't SPS funding for and finds a way, with money and elbow grease, to fill it. I'm struggling to get my mind around the way that the district treats PTAs and school communities ("like dirt" comes to mind) and the way it gushes about foundation money. Is it that the peers on the national stage that will not admire PTA monies, but have loads of praise for snagging big-name foundations?

Am I missing something? Why, Melissa, when you bring all this up, is it so completely ignored? How could Harium possibly say that it's free money? How could anyone?

Oh, wait. Maybe they learned to do math using their reform math curriculum.

Charlie Mas said...

What would it be like if PTAs made the same sort of demands that the Broad Foundation or the Gates Foundation made? What if PTAs demanded MOUs and accountability and matching funds?

And why the heck don't they?

dan dempsey said...

PTAs making demands; now that is a good idea. How about demanding a decent k-5 math program for openers.

Or perhaps demanding a response to what is going to be done k-5 in math that will be substantially different than the past two years of failure.
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Imagine our financial and psychological savings if the time SPS admin puts into empty words and excuses were directed toward solutions.

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Scott Oki is taking "Outrageous Learning" on the road.

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FROM:
Ed Policy

A web log on K-12 education policy -- with emphasis on teaching practices, curriculum, testing, accountability, school finance, and the federal, state, and local roles in public education.
by
Bill Evers a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution; a member of the Hoover Institution's Koret Task Force on K-12 Education; a member of the editorial board of Education Next magazine; and a former assistant secretary for policy in the U.S. Department of Education.

Try looking at this:
The influence of Economists in Education

"Wilson reminds his readers that economics was called "the dismal science” by 19th century historian Thomas Carlyle. What Wilson neglects to tell his readers is that Carlyle was an admirer of feudalism. He was a proponent of returning recently emancipated black Africans to servitude and supported brutal suppression of an uprising in Jamaica. Carlyle disliked the fact that economists often opposed slavery on moral principle and as economists they pointed to the lessened productivity of slave labor."


After reading all of the above Evers article and thinking about Broad in Oakland as well as over a decade of SPS math failure and lots lots more... It is way past time to Put them on Notice

Education needs to be an evidenced based profession. It currently is NOT. It clearly is NOT on the way to being an evidenced based profession. Massive public pressure is needed. Put Them on Notice.

seattle citizen said...

Charlie, that is a fascinating question (and a proposal? A challenge?): Why DON'T PTAs demand public and detailed reports on the efficacy of the funds they provide, the necessity of those funds (if they are filling holes in buildings, staffs, or opportunity) if they might typically be considered the duty of the district, and an ongoing accounting of ALL monies that come in from outside the district: Grants, corporate support, pro bono staffing, social services offered in or through schools but not funded by them, police staffing...
In other words, the PTAs could (should?) demand to know how their hard-earned dollars fit into the bigger picture of non-district funding to ensure the success of students.

This serves two excellent purposes: a) It opens up another avenue of accountability - "transparent" and complete documentation of non-district expenditures towards schools and why those expenditures are necessary; and b) a reversal of the focus on who manages schools - it should not be national policy or corporate benefactors but rather the communities around the schools.

If all who donate have to be reviewed by others in the common pool of community givers, perhaps the power would be brought back a little closer to the community that is served, rather than residing in the hands of failed Chicagoans (Chicagins? Chicagites?) and bankrupt CEOs.

Melissa Westbrook said...

My e-mail to Ramona Hattendorf, Seattle Council PTA president:

Dear Ramona,

We've been having a discussion over at the blog I write for , Save Seattle Schools, about the increasing influence of foundations in our district. Below are two posts that raised some questions about PTA. (I put in Charlie and Meg's post.) What would be your reply or thoughts on these?

The district doesn't, to my mind, give credit or recognition to the role that PTAs play in this district. Increasingly, PTAs are not doing just enhancement but paying for teachers, carpeting, portables, etc. This is wrong. It lets the district off the hook for what they should provide. As Meg indicates, the PTA puts more money into this district for self-help than the Gates Foundation.

We, as PTAs, have some muscle to flex. Why don't we?

owlhouse said...

O/T...
Dr Goodloe Johnson is all smiles on the cover of the Sept issue of Seattle Woman, the free monthly magazine. The article includes a bit of family history, recounts some of the challenge and "vision" for our district, and in a disturbingly under informed way- author Karen Rathe offers a parenthetical about how "affirming" it must have been to have the Gates and other monies offered to the district after the difficult closure process.

It's not on line yet, but pick it up at a coffee shop and read brief bits on CAO Susan Enfield, Exec Dir of C and I Cathy Thompson, and Tracy Libros, manager of enrollment and planning.

Should be online soon.
http://www.seattlewomanmagazine.com/

Charlie Mas said...

Can we get a copy of the MOU the District has with The New School Foundation? I'll bet it would provide a better model for each school PTA than the agreements that the District has with the Broad Foundation, the Gates Foundation, or any of those others.

The New School Foundation's MOU spells out the Foundation's role in the hiring process at the school. I think it also spells out the ownership of donated property and the District's obligation to provide a high quality building.

Every PTA should do something of the kind.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I do have a hard copy of the MOU. I don't recall (I'll have to look for it) that it mentions teacher hiring but for the principal, the Foundation has an absolute say in who the principal is. This, of course, is contrary to what every other school gets.

As far as the building, I recall it to be somewhat nebulous. Again, I am going to write about New School because in light of the district's latest "we need more money for basic maintenance", well they did get the sweetheart deal.

ConcernedSPSParent said...

I sent an email to the superintendent many weeks ago seeking
clarification of aspects of her
relationship with the Broad Foundation. No response. I emailed again and was informed she was on vacation and reply on her return. No reply after a couple of weeks. My understanding is she is a director of the Broad Center (I found a March 2009 press release), she had Tom Payzant (Broad Foundation) involved in her yearly review (why is beyond me) and is involved in the channeling tax payers money to the Foundation - conflict of interest?.

I find it very disappointing superintendent apparently has no interest in clarifying the above.