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.