Sunday, November 08, 2009

Public Hearing

Two Public Hearings this week of note.

One is the Public Hearing on the Boundary Maps which is tomorrow, Monday the 9th from 6-8 p.m. at the Stanford Center. This is the LAST public input the Board will take (but e-mail/lobby them all you want privately). I didn't call to get on the list as I felt that it was important for continuing parents to have first dibs. I'll call tomorrow and see if it is full (they have room for 40 speakers). I will note that they will ONLY take 40 speakers; this hearing is a specific legal obligation and I have never seen a variation from even when people ask for time for all those who wish to speak.

I would advise going as your presence, your applause will count with the Board.

The other Public Hearing is on Thursday, the 12th for the BTA III and Operations levies. It is also from 6-8 p.m. I don't know if they have taken sign-ups for this hearing; I'll check tomorrow.

This is also important. I support the idea of both levies and will be voting for certain for the Operations levy. However, I will NOT vote for the $270M BTA III levy if I don't see some good faith measures from the Board in terms of their fiduciary responsibility for the use of capital funds in this district BEFORE the election.

I sincerely recommend you do the same. The hard cold facts:
  • this district is $500M (half-a-billion dollars) in backlogged maintenance. A choice was made long ago to reduce basic maintenance spending and it continues to this day. So this responsibility truly DOES fall onto the Board and the Superintendent.
  • We are not in line with what other districts spend (Hey Meg! Here's your next investigation.) for basic maintenance. The State Auditor has confirmed this to the district. Additionally, we spend a lot more on our renovations than do other districts.
  • The BTA III levy will NOT get us out of this hole - nowhere near it.
  • And, because nearly 20% of the $270M is going to reopen the 5 closed schools, fewer schools are getting what they need.
  • The B in BTA is for Buildings and yet the amount being spend on actual building maintenance has gone down from the first two. Why? Because this "capital" measure is slowly getting hijacked by more technology and academic needs. I don't disagree that the technology is needed but I worry that we are putting technology ahead of safe, decent buildings. I don't agree that any academics should be on BTA (the "A" used to be for athletics but now has morphed to academic needs).
NOTHING will change until the district is put on notice. They won't magically wake up one day and change the basic maintenance funding. Do we wait until the figure gets to three-quarters of a billion? A billion?

It's a losing game. We need change now to help those in poor condition buildings AND protect the multi-millions we have spent on new buildings. If those nice, new, shiny buildings aren't maintained, do we honestly believe they will be decent buildings in 20, 25, 30 years? No.


Joan NE said...


I propose developing a list of demands to the School Board. I would then solicit signitures, with each signature representing a pledge to vote no on the levies if the Board doesn't consent to all the demands.

I am wondering if there is support in the community for this idea?

Of course, if the demands are not highly justified, highly reasonable, and highly significant (and easily recognized as such), then I won't get many signatures.

I feel this might be the best opportunity we may have for a long time to induce the Board to

a) make decisions against regressive corporatist reform and in favor of students and teachers-
b) put the district on a more constructive course of reform (pro alternative schools; pro-authentic achievement and accountability)

c)avoid the deep problems that are typical in Districts that been on the Broad Foundation-sponsored reform path for longer than has Seattle.

I have also written about this proposal earlier today on the "From the SPS School Beat" strand, and to the Alternative Schools Coalition google-group membership.

If anyone feels this is a bad idea, please let me know before the public hearing on Wednesday.

If any one feels this is project is worthwhile, then please do let me know. I won't go forward with this idea if I get little encouragement.

I have already requested to testify on the 18th, and will put the Board on notice that we are developing a list of demands, unless I get good advice to not go forward with this.

I welcome suggestions for what demands would be appropriate on such a list.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Joan, I have heard from many people who are thinking about not voting for the BTA levy. )I don't know if you are talking about that levy or both.) I have actually been quite surprised at the number of people who have expressed their desire to do this; at the last BEX levy, I didn't get much support. I think many people are finally realizing that (1) the capital issues matter and (2) our votes are our only real power.

I realize that for all of us, we have issues we wish would change or be addressed. However, I am focusing on capital issues and that's where I'd like this focus to be.

Asking for too much or non-capital related items would likely negate any possibility of getting the Board to act before the vote.

It is my hope that the Board would take it seriously before the vote and do something so that we can all vote for the BTA in good conscience (in so much as it relates to capital issues).

I would also point out that if Mike McGinn is elected, we are likely to have someone in our corner who wants to see real results from our district.

mayvoxwork said...


It's late and I've tried to make sense of the proposed boundary changes for Roxhill Elem. and I can't see any benefit at all to our little school. The old boundary for Roxhill was already a small dense area. Now with the recommended boundary, one that I got a direct comment on from Mr. DeBell was "too small", is now even smaller that the first proposed boundary.

I live within .2 miles of the school. With the changes, I would be over 1 mile from the other school, and not in my neighborhood. Our enrollment was up considerably this year. And we are working hard to build our parent involvement and our child is thriving at Roxhill. WE love our school. I am concerned that this push to make our area smaller, denser, greater free-reduced lunch, will negatively impact our school, families and staff. All these changes seem to benefit other schools - that have the ear of certain board members. Someone once told me, we - Roxhill parents - are not their constituents. I am beginning to think that that person was right. And that none of our comments during the public hearing were considered at all.

I have asked to speak at tonight's public hearing. If you have insight on what is going on here in West Seattle's south side, let me know. We could uee your help.

Joan NE said...


I believe that demands that I view as essential and imperative if we are to save the demise of SPS will address the bulding maintenence problem.

To me the diversion of BEX funds away from building maintenence is just one example of the damage that the Broad & Gates Foundation-sponsored reform of SPS will do.

One need only look at the what has happened to school districts in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphi, NW, Wa Dc, and many other reformed districts across the nation to see the what lies ahead for Seattle if we continue on this path. (In nearly all of such cases the Broad Foundation has suceeded in placing one of its own as Superintendent)

The Board is a central enabler of this destructive reform, in part by willfully adopting a revised policy in Jan 2008 that relieves the Superintendent of the responsibility to uphold Board Policy.

There is a majority caucus on the Board that is fine with the Broad Foundation's influence in SPS.
If the Broad Foundation has its way, the Superintendent will become the President of the Board, the directors will be appointed by the Mayor, and the Board policies will all align with the corporatist (privatization of public schools) reform agenda.

I would favor demanding that the Board ammend the Seattle Public Schools Articles of Incorporation with an irrevocable clause that

a) requires the Superintendent to uphold Board Policy,

b) prohibits the Superintendent from serving on the Board

c) makes the annual evaluation of the Superintendent and consideration of retention, pay raises, and bonuses contingent entirely upon the degree to which the Superintendent succeeded in fulfilling and upholding all Board policies, complying with applicable Federal and state laws and regulations, showing good moral judgment, and being appropriately responsive to concerns of students, parents, teachers, and staff.

d) prohibits the board from adopting new policies en mass [it appears that this is just want the current board is in the process of doing], and establishes some procedure for the Board to solicity public input and give such input due consideration in its deliberation over policy proposals.

Joan NE said...


I would be inclined to demand that all the Broad Residents be laid off; the Board commit to not highering any more Broad Residents; the Board seek a replacement for MGJ who has no connection to and sypmathy with the Broad Foundation; the Board actively oppose mayoral appointment of school board directors; the Board actively support an initiative to limit contributions to SPS Director campaigns to some modest amount ($500 seems good to me).

I would favor demanding that the Board define student achievement more broadly than standardized test scores, adopt a policy that prohibits merit pay, and demand from the Superintendent a new comprehensive accountability program proposal that is genuinely constructive and fair to students and teachers.

The first demand alone is sufficent to address the problem that Alternative Schools are in jeapordy because the Board refuses to require MGJ to honor Policy C54.

I doubt many people are aware that the current Board is having the ENTIRE 700-some page policy manual rewritten. I presume this is to bring it in line with the reform goals of MGJ and her sponsor, the Broad Foundation. This rewrite is happening without any public input.
There is concern that the Board is having a Broad Resident or a Broad-connected consultant write the draft revised manual. The demands that I have listed here would address this.

Did you know that Mike McGinn favors mayoral appointment of school board directors? Here is a quote from the Municipal League Candidate Questionaire:

"As mayor I will refocus our efforts and create working partnerships to improve our school
system. And if, after two years, there has been no improvement I will move to have the
mayor’s office take direct responsibility for the school district as recommended by Obama’s
Education Secretary." The quote can be found at this URL:

For this reason, I think it is really important for us to find out how the mayor can take control, and to take action to prevent that from happening.

Anonymous said...


And on that note, I posted on Harium's blog yesterday information regarding our superintendent and her position on the Board of Directors for NWEA as well as her position on the Board of Directors for the Broad Fundation.

The post is taken from a post that I made at:

and it goes as follows:

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Conflict of Interest for Our Superintendent?

As per an update on this blog, we discovered how the Gates' $9M grant money was being used to do MAP testing of students at least in one location, Lowell Elementary School. The testing starts at the kindergarten level and continues to the 8th grade. The test is administered three times each year to each student on a computer. We will save the discussion regarding the testing of students, the rationale behind testing children in kindergarten, the number of times a child is tested and the wisdom of having a child as young as five years old using a computer for testing of their knowledge, in a future post.

What we find most egregious at this time is the discovery that we have made that our superintendent is on the Board of Directors for the NWEA, the Northwest Evaluation Association. This is the organization that handles the administration of the MAP tests. MAP is trademarked and was created and is sold by NWEA. Our next question would be, is the software that is used in this assessment provided by Microsoft? This could be quite an industry managed by just a few players considering that this test is used across the country by millions of students per NWEA's own claims.

It is also of great concern that this test is given along with the WASL. Isn't taking the WASL enough testing for a student within a year's time? It is also starting to look like the beginning of high stakes testing where teachers will be evaluated by how well their students do on a test. This is the next step to merit pay and more emphasis on teaching to a test.

Other questions also come to mind. How objective can our superintendent be in regards to the accuracy and analysis of the testing as well as the validity of such testing? We have heard that some students have figured out that if you don't answer the questions correctly at first, the questions get easier. Sounds like the kids are smarter than the creators of these tests.

Was there a competitive bid when deciding to use NWEA's product?

Does the superintendent profit from this relationship with NWEA in any way? Why is she associated with this organization at all? Didn't she think that there might be a potential conflict of interest when accepting a position on the NWEA Board of Directors?

And that brings us to another potential conflict of interest and that is the fact that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson is also on the Board of Directors of the Broad Foundation. Many people in the educational community here in Seattle have posed the question directly to our superintendent in School Board meetings regarding her relationship with the Broad Foundation and their interest in establishing charter schools throughout the country. There has not been a response to those questions. A request has been made by one of our school board members to the superintendent to provide a white paper regarding the Broad's involvement in SPS and that foundation's agenda of establishing charter schools in urban areas. The request for a white paper was made this summer and no response has been provided as of this date.

We need answers to these questions and they need to be addressed now.

Chris said...

What I would like to see is an explicit assurance that we still
have some balance of powers. Right now it looks like there are NO checks and balances and MGJ can do whatever the heck she wants with the district. With the loss of Mary Bass there's no guarantee we will even have the minimal discussion of opposing viewpoints we had previously (I hope I'm wrong!)

I don't know what such explicit assurancewould look like, but Joan's a-d points are a good start. Any capital issues Melissa would ask the board for are useless coming from a board with no teeth. I would keep it simple and not ask for too much. Theoretically, if the board gets its balls back/ can no longer hide behind the excuse that they don't have any authority or responsibility, the current avenues for public input might actually work.

We could, however, compile a long list of policy violations & broken

Melissa Westbrook said...

Great. This is just what I thought would happen. And it's just what the district wants. They want us to not have a focused argument about the BTA levy (and again, I say, I will not campaign against the Operations levy).

This is a capital measure, let's make it about that. I would gently suggest that the long laundry list that has been put forth here is too much. You can't get all this in one shot.

Joan, I have posted previously about Mike McGinn and how I am not worried about him. He would have to go to the Legislature to get control but yes, they can vote in control for just one city. I don't know if you have considered that if the Mayor was in charge, we likely could get more change. The reason any mayor would want to take charge is precisely because he/she does not like how the district is going.

The Board COULD put teeth in what I want because they vote the budget in. They could tell the Superintendent they want the basic maintenance money upped and she'll just have to rearrange the money. Period or they don't vote it in.

You forget - they have the power of their vote as well.

We could all run separate campaigns against the levy. It certainly would show a large level of discontent but one campaign with a focused message would likely prove stronger.

gavroche said...
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gavroche said...

I think Joan NE, Dora T., Chris and others on this blog are bringing up the bigger picture of what's going wrong with our school district, and they are absolutely correct to be concerned.

So many of the decisions and changes imposed on our kids, their teachers and schools in just this past year under Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson have been rushed, questionable, destructive and without community input. Some have even involved the Superintendent RESCINDING board policy.

Consequently there are many reasons to say NO, we will NOT give this school district under this current leadership any more levy funding until our concerns are addressed and the questionable practices stopped.

Those of us who feel this way have not come to these conclusions casually.

All the readers on this blog should ask themselves this one simple question: Have all the changes imposed on our kids and their schools this past year made our schools stronger and better?

I know for a fact that the answer is a resounding NO for the various schools that I know about.

There is a lot of funny business going on in this district coming from the John Stanford Central Office.

As Meg Diaz's report showed, as the many questionable affiliations and conflicts of interest of Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson also imply, something is foul in Denmark.

Should we distill our list of grievances? Perhaps. But we should also be aware of the bigger picture and our current Superintendent's connections to "education reformers" with a corporate, privatizing agenda who have a vested interest in WEAK public schools.

Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson's ties to the enterprise that manufactures and sells the MAP(tm) tests that SPS has bought on her watch for who knows how much money and for what true purpose, also raises serious concerns.

Chris said...

Melissa, if you can get the board to show their teeth, I'm all for it. They did it for the D-average; will they do it for something of real significance? (not to disparage the supporters of the c-average, but "indefinitely delaying" that decision was hardly a impressive show of fangs...)

gavroche said...

Melissa -- Would you consider starting a separate thread on the MAP test? I'd like to know who decided to buy it, when and why. Was there any public input on this district choice and expenditure? How much did it cost? Was this the best use of district money when there are so many other more immediate needs? Are standardized, computerized tests appropriate for kids as young as 5 in kindergarten who aren't even reading yet? Have some kids indeed figured out how to outsmart the adjustable mechanism of the tests, thus skewing the results? Do we really want precious class time spent on even more testing? What are the tests really going to be used for -- to evaluate kids or to evaluate teachers? What have the first round of tests shown so far? I heard from one teacher that no one seems to know how to make sense of the results. Is that true district-wide? I and others would also like to know, why in Sept. 2008 did Supt. Goodloe-Johnson join the board of directors of the Northwest Evaluation Association which manufactures and sells the MAP(tm) test? Was this before or after the district decided to buy NWEA's product? Were any other companies or products considered? Did the Superintendent's position on the NWEA board influence the school district's decision to purchase that company's product? Does Supt. Goodloe-Johnson stand to profit financially from this association? Isn't this a conflict of interest?


Joan NE said...

Melissa, could you please start a threed on the MAP.

It seems to me that the mother of all conlicts of interest is the fact that MGJ gets career support from the Broad. She can afford to risk being run out of town, or leaving Seattle in disrepute, since the Broad Foundation will make sure she has a job for the rest of her career, whether that be as educational consultant, a member of the Broad Academy Faculty, or as superintendent in other districts.

The Broad has done a great job rehabiliting Arlene Ackerman and other "Fellows" who have ruined school districts.

Maybe you could start a strand on this source of competing interest, too.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

Melissa said: "It certainly would show a large level of discontent but one campaign with a focused message would likely prove stronger."

I completely agree. There are tons of people in Seattle who do NOT read this blog or even concern themselves with the inner workings of the District. They like their child's school/teacher/principal or they have no children in public school and have no idea how mismanaged the District is on any level.

The NO vote on the BEX needs to be about PROPERTY MANAGEMENT and that's it—for now. If we try throwing out the baby and the bath water, too many people will be overwhelmed, or become defensive. There are definite numbers and facts that can be outlined to demonstrate why we should vote no on this one levy (can Meg come up with some simple charts?).

The other battles need to be fought, but I believe that if we show OUR teeth on this one levy, the District might begin taking notice of our concerns about all of the other issues. Let's not try for too long a reach right now as I believe we will fall short.

SPS mom said...

From what I understand, the MAP testing for this year and next is being funded through the Gates Foundation grant (there was a grant introduced for approval in April 2009). If the District decides to continue with MAP testing in subsequent years, the District will have to pick up the tab. I believe the grant is also funding some positions in terms of overseeing the testing.

I can't find the reference to the Board meeting in which the MAP was presented to the Board, but I remember some dancing around the issue of whether scores would be released to parents.

I'm glad to see some nationally normed data that teachers can use to help their current students. But testing 3x per year, on top of the WASL? And not using it to allow students to access higher level classes? Well, I'm starting to question whether the promised benefits justify the lost class time for my children.

Charlie Mas said...

The BEX capital levies (or bond issues) have an oversight committee. Now, I know that this oversight committee doesn't offer much in the way of authentic oversight, but I think it could. I think it is the vehicle for oversight and accountability that the District will accept.

So I propose that the BTA levy be amended to include an oversight committee as well.

A BTA oversight committee could demand a few valuable things.

1. It could demand that the District adhere to their stated priorities when making up the job list.

2. It could demand that the District commit funds to basic maintenance to keep items off the BTA list.

3. It could demand that the District fulfill capital commitments to students and families (such as making schools K-8 ready or high school ready).

4. It could keep the District from doing BTA work that will get demolished soon thereafter by BEX work (millions in BTA improvements at Sealth were destroyed by BEX work within two years of completion).

5. It could demand that the District do an appropriate amount of community engagment prior to taking action on capital projects.

A BTA Oversight Committee is the first step. Inserting a spine into them might have to be a second step.

Joan NE said...

I met a person recently who is on this committee. He told me that he has gotten the feeling that there is some undercurrent that he isn't privy to, but which he senses has to do with charter schools. He didn't know anything about the Broad Foundation, etc., so I filled him in a bit.

Charlie. It seems from you writings that you are familiar with the John Carver Policy Governance Model. If so, then you will recognized that my first proposed "demand" has to do with that "strong board" model.

Would you please explain whether you support my idea or not, and why or why not?


Melissa Westbrook said...

Okay, for the last time, those of you who want to fight on broader issues, are you talking about not voting for both levies or just the BTA?

Chris said...

I am OK opposing only the BTA levy. The lack of accountability is a problem with both pots of money, but this is about flexing parent muscle, for me anyway. Although we have a broad set of grievances, if we can come together in a focused action, maybe we can get a little more respect the next time around about other stuff. Limiting it also serves as a bit of a compromise to those who will say "You're hurting the children!)

Someone has said, I don't remember who or where, that advocating voting for one and not the other would just confuse people. Which is just insulting to each and every voter...

Anonymous said...

I was corrected. All of our students in all of our schools are taking this test, K-9.

Yes, it would be nice to see where our students fit in to the big national picture but that is not what this testing is a prelude to. I could stand corrected again, but I would imagine that the WASL in some way can be compared nationally to how well our students are doing.

This testing, paid for apparently by the Gates Foundation, is about setting a marker so that teachers in the near future are evaluated by how well your student does on one test in a year. That is called high-stakes testing. From there, it goes into the subject of merit pay. Your student's teacher's pay would be based on how well their students did on one test in one year.

That's where this is going.

It would seem that a teacher is capable of evaluating how well a student is doing compared to others at their class level. You, as a parent, have probably had meetings with your child's teachers and had a clear idea of how your child is doing based on those meetings. Between that, the tests that are taken in class, the quality of the school work that is done gives you an indicator of your child's educational development.

This inordinate amount of testing is an easy to use indicator that some people think will eliminate all of the "bad" teachers. The basis for that thinking is flimsy but it is how students in other states are being evaluated. Much of this testing has been funded by Gates around the country.

The other way that this testing is used is to make evaluations on how well charter schools are doing. So far, the results are mixed and in fact, there seems to be no magic bullet to improving the education of our children, charter school included. It will take more money from our Federal government, money with no strings attached ala Arne Duncan, to make a difference in our schools. In fact, the money that Mr. Duncan is waving in front of everyone's noses wouldn't make a dent in our states education budget.

And as far as the levy is concerned, two things:

You will not be able to get voters outside of this tight realm of parents and educators to understand that they should vote for one levy and not the other.

Secondly, many of our children are at risk right now if we were to have an earthquake. Many of our schools would crumble because they have not been upgraded to meet state and national seismic codes.

Some of this levy money is earmarked for upgrading many of these school buildings to make them safe for our children to be in. It would be a shame to stop the retrofitting of these buildings because we want to make a point to our school board or the superintendent.

Let's do that another way.

I have been looking into the structural issues of all of the school buildings in our Seattle public school system in regards to earthquake safety and I will present my findings to the board in testimony this week and will offer the results online in the next few days.

Joan NE said...

I don't care which levy we oppose. Opposing just one if fine to me. I just want to have the vote on a levy as leverage to get some critically important concessions.

This won't work unless we collect signatures. I saw that in early october andrew ste up an online petition - I never saw it myself (the link is now broken) - but maybe we could also utilize a site like that to collect signatures.

If it could be effectively done via web, that would save a lot of money on printing costs and time.

School pta's may be willing to send out info about the on-line petition to all of their membership.

For each demand, we need to have a link that explains thoroughly the rationale.

It costs only about $20/year for a bonafide websites. There are free website templates that we can use in case none of us knows how to set up a unique site.


Joan NE said...

Dora - if not using a levy vote to get leverage, what do you suggest? I don't know of any other way right now.

If people can't keep straight what to vote no/yes on, then I would argure for no vote on ALL THREE!!

All or none!

So far I can't think of any better idea.

I agree with you that MAP is preparing the ground for merit pay, and is not a constructive way to measure authentic achievement on any time-scale.


Charlie Mas said...

I have heard people speak of the Carver governance model, but I have yet to hear anyone describe how it works.

I'll tell you this: I am all in favor of any model in which Policy is enforced. We can talk about the separate areas of authority, with the Board writing Policy but staying out of the day-to-day administration of the District, but that requires that the Superintendent actually conforms with the Policies, which is not the way things are working right now.

Joan NE said...

Charlie - there is a nonprofit in seattle called the Executive Services Corporation of Washington that helps nonprofits to develop strong boards. Their lawyers are trained in the Policy Governance Model by John Carver. URL:

I have read a whole book by John Carver, describing the model for nonprofits. I found the book at Barnes and Noble, and at the public library. JC comments that this model is particularly suitable for school boards. This book should be required reading for every member of the School Board.

[I have been noticing that many school board associations are headed up by pro-reformists. (Arlene Ackerman was president of the National Assoc. of School Boards for four years.) The Broad's tentacles go amazingly deep.]

This board doesn't believe in micromanaging, but neither does it believe in governing. This book is for boards that want to govern while staying completely out of managing and micromanaging, that want CEO's that do not make policy, and want to hold the CEO accountable for implementing and upholding the will of the Board, as expressed in policy.

Sally Soriano told me that when she was on the Board, most of what they discussed was policy, policy, policy. This suggests to me that prior to the Jan 23 2008 policy revisions, the Board Policy did call for the Superintendent to uphold Board Policy.

I intend to get copies of pre-revision policy, so I can find out when the Board freed the sup of the accountability to the board. I suspect it was Jan 2008. Does anyone know how to get these documents?

Were you aware that Mike McGinn wants to take control of the Board in two years if the schools don't turnaround? I wonder what he would consider sufficient progress. I read this to mean that he intends to try to take control, no matter what. He can say that SPS has failed no matter what happens in the next two years.

Does anyone reading this blog know what Mike would have to do to get this power, and, more importantly, what we can do to prevent him from getting this power?

It is this possibility that worries me more than anything else right now.

The Broad F. says in their 2008 annual report that they have found that they can more easily reform a district if the mayor has this power. Makes me wonder if the Broad secretly have recruited Mike McGinn. I am pretty sure I read that The Broad does say that recruiting school board candidates is one of their activities.

Joan NE said...

I found out recently that the a church near my house adopted the Policy Governance model a couple of years ago. I personally asked the the president of the Church Board how he liked it. He praised it highly. He said it really freed up the Board to be more effective, and freed up the staff to be more effective and creative and made the whole organization stronger.
I attended one of the churches annual meetings. Robert's rules of order was strictly adhered to, and the meeting was very effective and democratic. The president said that implementing the model was a several year process.

Joan NE said...

Dora - I was just reading your comment again, and see that I missed the important point you made. I don't want to oppose the levies if that means the buildings will be less safe.

Charlie - is there any way the parents can participate in choosing the members of a new oversight committee - so that we don't end up with a bunch of pro-reform pro-charter ecomomic elites?

Joan NE said...

Melissas - have you seen what has happened in the districts in which the mayor appoints the school board? I haven't done an systematic survey, but my impression is that this arrangement bodes will for charters (pseudo charters in Seattle's case), and not well for non-charter public schools.

Why sort of improvements in SPS do you anticipate coming from Mike if he gains the power to appoint the board members? Does he have any clear notion of what is genuinely good for students and teachers and what is not?

I wish I could be as optimistic as you that Mike McGinn would put a stop to the privatization and demise of SPS, and would put us on a path of constructive reform with authentic and fair accountability and that is pro=Alternative schools, and anti-charter/contract schools.

I'd rather try to prevent this than have to find out by experience what he would do for SPS.

Am I the only person who is worried about this?

h2o girl said...

I'm not worried about McGinn. At least not right now. He had pretty much an all-volunteer staff, and his kids go to Salmon Bay. I can't see him in bed with the Broad Foundation. I admit I have no hard data on that, but I'm not worried about him charging in and trying to take over the school board. I think he'll have more than enough on his plate.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Joan, I have written more than once about this issue with Mike McGinn, here and in other posts. For whatever reason, you seem to NOT be reading what others write. I'm not going to write it again but no, he has NO timetable (where did you see or hear him say 2 years?).

As I have said previously, mayoral control does depend a lot on who is mayor (and thus the rub). However, it could be seen as a way to get real reform sooner.

I am not advocating that this happen but I'm not totally against it either.

Charlie Mas said...

When there are oversight committees appointed they usually have a period when they are seeking volunteers. During that period they advertise the available positions and invite people to apply.

Just as they are now seeking applicants to the School-Family Partnership Advisory Committee.

ArchStanton said...

Melissa Westbrook said: "Great. This is just what I thought would happen. And it's just what the district wants. They want us to not have a focused argument about the BTA levy (and again, I say, I will not campaign against the Operations levy). [...] We could all run separate campaigns against the levy. It certainly would show a large level of discontent but one campaign with a focused message would likely prove stronger."

I won't begin to claim to know the intricacies of the different levies and what monies go where, but I will offer this:

The action we take should be the one most likely to succeed. A failure on our part will only demonstrate to MGJ & Co. that we are powerless to change the course of this ship.

I'm guessing that it will be easier to garner support if we limit ourselves to one levy and a clear, short list of demands that most can agree on.

While I agree that the distinction between two levies might confuse some voters; we are going to have to educate voters as to why a group of parents that generally support schools would try to block one levy - it seems a small step to educate them about the other. It may even help our cause to not look like we're opposed to everything.

Also, IIRC, they will likely come back with another levy if one fails, so saying no the first time doesn't mean they will never get the money for retrofits.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Exactly so, Arch. My thinking as well.

Maureen said...

Charlie, Just as they are now seeking applicants to the School-Family Partnership Advisory Committee

Still? I thought the deadline was in September?

joanna said...

While the some partnerships with the city are desirable, especially in terms of neighborhoods and safety, the city has many problems that it has not solved. In fact the city budget is probably more of a mess that the School District budget.

Let the Mayor solve the Mercer mess before taking on the schools.

Joan NE said...

Melissa, Here is the quote from Mike McGinn - in which he pledges to take over the school board in two years if...---and the URL where I found this quote:

"As mayor I will refocus our efforts and create working partnerships to improve our school
system. And if, after two years, there has been no improvement I will move to have the
mayor’s office take direct responsibility for the school district as recommended by Obama’s
Education Secretary." The quote can be found at this URL:

The above quote and link is copied from one of my earlier posts to this strand.

I did put in McGinn as a search term within this blog, in order to find your earlier comments, but I didn't find much. BTW, I only started reading this blog actively in the last two months.


Joan NE said...

"Are elected school boards equal to
the challenges of twenty-first century school governance? Eli Broad, a leading educational philanthropist and founder of the Broad Prize for Urban Education, has argued, “I believe in mayoral control of school boards or having no school board at all. We have seen many children benefit from this type of crisis intervention…You should craft legislation that enables school board members to be appointed by the mayor…[and] limit the authority of school boards.”1 Chester Finn, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, has
written, “School boards are an aberration, an anachronism, an educational sinkhole... Put this dysfunctional arrangement out ofits misery.”2 The most popular alternative is the call to disband elected boards and give their authorities to school boards appointed by the mayor."

I found the above quote in this pdf:

This same article goes on to cite Boston (under Tom Payzant - maybe a familiar name to some blog readers) and New York (with Mayor Bloomberg at the helm) as success stories for mayoral control. "Mayoral control smoothed and sped enactment of Payzant’s reform strategy, including the 1996 adoption of Focus on the Children, a comprehensive five-year reform strategy for the schools (which was renewed in 2001); and efforts to reorganize the bureaucratic structure of the school department, promote technology initiatives, and establish citywide learning standards aligned to state standards.18"

(T-Payzant is a Broad Faculty member, and an advisor to MGJ.)

The report acknowledges that there have been ''...controversy and concerns about the adverse impact of mayoral
control. Sol Stern, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, has charged that NAEP results show that New York City’s performance did not improve from
2003 to 2005, that barely one in five fourth-graders are proficient in reading according to NAEP (compared to the 60 percent figure reported on the state test), and that “New York education officials – city and state – have indulged in unwarranted self-congratulation about student achievement.”25 Other critics have warned that mayoral control has reduced transparency and made it harder for the community to assess or monitor district activity. Education historian Diane Ravitch and United Federation of Teachers
president Randi Weingarten have
argued, “The Department of Education now operates in a secretive manner that denies the right of the public to have a say in important decisions or even to know what policy is being considered. Even the once customary practice of
announcing contracts at regular public hearings has stopped…It has also now become routine for journalists and other public officials to have to file Freedom of Information demands to obtain the most basic information about the [Wa D.C. city] Department of
Education’s decisions and practices.”26''

The authors go on to say:For all the optimism that developments in New York City and Boston have generated, there is
remarkably little evidence that mayorally appointed boards are more effective [at bringing about the kind of reform that the Broad Foundation favors] than are elected boards. Existing evidence is only modestly illuminating, recommending caution when making strong claims about the merits of appointed boards."

This report does not help us to know whether elected or appointed boards are more effective at bringing about the kind of reform that I personally would favor -- constructive, humane, fair reform that closes the racial gap in authentic measures of student and highschool graduate achievement.

I think I'd rather have an elected board, since otherwise it is up to a succession of mayors as to what kind of reform the board will try to enact.

Furthermore, this report holds up Chicago, Boston, and New York as success stories. I have read some about these school districts, and I certainly wouldn't call these success stories.

Jan said...

I have to say -- the idea of having the mayor (who has SO many things OTHER than schools on his plate) take over the school system alarms me -- and from what I have read here, it doesn't sound like mayoral control in other cities is leading to the kind of decentralized, "community controlled," parent-responsive boards -- operating at a school level, but overseen by the "big" school board -- that I would like to see, and that I think might actually lead to school improvement -- a whole city of "alts" under an expanded version of the now-neglected (by Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, at least) Seattle alt school policy.

BUT -- it might be possible to get Mike McGinn to join with parents in pressuring the board to become more accountable -- in shining a light in the dark places where accountability currently seems to go to die. He has a HUGE pulpit from which to speak on behalf of Seattle's children. Big gob of something in the District's PR machine, if someone from the mayor's office (or the mayor himself) starts showing up at Board meetings (ha! I would like to see Dr. G-J blackberry through a meeting with the mayor sitting in the front row!).
One problem I think we now have is that the current board (or much of it) is responsible for Dr. G-J's hiring (in what seemed like a very weak process). They "signed on" for the top-down, "weak board," standardization/centralization program that she brought with her. MAYBE the two new members, who were not responsible for her hiring, can break away and shake things up a little -- but who knows if they will. That certainly isn't the platform either of them seemed to run on. The new mayor, on the other hand, is a true outsider on this. If he added his weight to parents' pressure, it might be a great help.

joanna said...

I agree with Melissa regarding the BTA levy. I'm not sure that she and I have all the exact same reasons, but the Superintendent and the Board need a little tough love here for a number of reasons.

Show them that we will hold them accountable by not letting them take the public support that they usually enjoy for granted, especially when they are not taking their accountability seriously.

The BTA Levy vote can be our report card on the Superintendent and Board. I have been a long time advocate for Public Schools and this is not easy to say.

Joan NE said...

I am feeling encouraged by the comments on this strand to try to go forward with putting together a levy vote pledge together, which has a list of demands.

But I ask readers of this strand, what about Dora's concern that to organize potential opposition to one of the levies is to deny students potentially more earthquake safe buildings?

My argument is that if we get enough signees, then the Board will be compelled to address the demands, so as to ensure that the levies do not fail. If we don't get an significant numbers of signees, and the Board does not fulfill the demands, then the levy will pass with no harm to the students.

My hope is that the levey will pass in either case. I do not wish to see the any of the levies fail, but I do wish to get some advantage for SPS students and teachers out of this high stakes levy vote.

I like Jan's suggestions to try to engage Mayor McGinn, and the two new school board members. Already I know of a person who is exchanging emails with KSB about alt schools. Let's more of us do this with McGinn, KSB, and Patu.

We should at least interview McGinn to get more specifics on what would have to happen in SPS for him to not seek the power to appoint directors.

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