Thursday, November 05, 2009

School Board Elections

I dithered on whether to post a link to this editorial about the Seattle School Board elections results. That's because the first two paragraphs are, to me, breathtaking in the unkind words directed at Director Mary Bass. The editorial is completely silent on Cheryl Chow (which could be a ding at her because they didn't even thank her for all her years of service - I did even if I disagreed with her).

Okay Times - we - get - it. You don't like Mary Bass. Maybe they are feeling the sting of so many of their editorial endorsements going down with this election so pointing out that the ones they got right makes them feel better.

This editorial should have started with the third paragraph which is far more accurate and rational. That the editors at the Times read this and thought it fair to run is appalling.


emeraldkity said...

The Times doesn't care if it is accurate ( and notice there isn't a name attached- if you are going to write something to be published have the guts to sign your name), they just want people to read it.

I am very saddened to read of the dedication, experience and ethics of Mary Bass dismissed in that manner.

I would agree Smith-Blum has energy, but her years of involvement with the private school sector is not what she needs to prepare her to be effective as a SPS director.

adhoc said...

I'm sad to see Mary go. I often felt she was not very effective, but her intentions were good and her heart was in the right place. And, most importantly, she wasn't afraid to ask staff the hard questions, say no to them when necessary, and vote no when she felt she should (even when unpopular). She earned my respect for that.

As for Cheryl Chow, I feel like Melissa does. I didn't think she was effective as a board member, and I think we needed change, but she does deserve a huge thank you for her (volunteer) time and service. Being a board member is difficult. It's very time consuming, and is often thankless.

Thank you Mary and Cheryl both for all you have done!

And, while I'm at it, thank you Melissa and Charlie too. You both do a fantastic job with this blog. I recognize and appreciate that you are volunteers, with your own families, and jobs, and responsibilities. Thanks for taking time out of your lives to work for the good of the whole. I do appreciate it.

Fiona Cohen said...

Editorials are written by the Seattle Times 10-member editorial board. In the print version, the names are right under the piece.
The names are: Ryan Blethen, Frank A. Blethen, William K. Blethen, Robert C. Blethen, Carolyn S. Kelly, Joni Balter, Lance Dickie, Bruce Ramsey, Kate Riley and Lynne K. Varner.

Bruce Taylor said...

Mary must have expressed support for the estate tax during their endorsement interview.

Robert said...

emeraldkity, aren't you discounting the fact that Kay had two kids go through PS and that she raised tens of thousands of dollars for PS programs?

emeraldkity said...

Smith Blum had kids in private school- I know because we were both on the parent board at the same time ( this was SAAS)

Patrick said...

Fundraising is great. But the board's role (as I see it) isn't fundraising, it's directing the policies of the district and holding district staff accountable for following them. There are numerous other bodies whose role is fundraising.

emeraldkity said...

I do agree that raising money is important- but unlike what some would profess I don't think getting money is SPS biggest problem-I wanna see what they do with it

SPSMom said...

I really hope people didn't vote for Smith-Blum because of her fundraising abilities.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Kay had her children in both public and private school. She made the best decision for her family and has been a huge supporter and advocate for public schools. I certainly would not sell her short on this point.

I was musing with someone at the district yesterday that she would be a perfect person to get more public/private partnerships to get the STEM program at Cleveland on track. Aligning with UW, Fred Hutchinson Research Cancer Center, the biotech in Allentown. You need someone who knows how to persuade and that could be a big contribution.

I still have my doubts about her but maybe she's a fast learner.

Robert said...

Yeah Melissa I believe her two youngest boys went from Montlake to GHS.

My biggest hope is that Kay wrestles the district back from the central office staff to a program dedicated to meeting SPS families' needs.

Dorothy said...

"My biggest hope is that Kay wrestles the district back from the central office staff to a program dedicated to meeting SPS families' needs."

Singlehandedly! Yes she can!

First proof that she is up to this task will be when she shows up at today's Audit and Finance Committee meeting fluent in the Diaz report, ready to take notes and hit the ground running.

ArchStanton said...

First proof that she is up to this task will be when she shows up at today's Audit and Finance Committee meeting fluent in the Diaz report, ready to take notes and hit the ground running.

I really wish I could make that meeting. I look forward to hearing the reports tonight - and if KSB and MP show up.

Dorothy said...

Did you see that they've already moved this committee meeting to the auditorium in anticipation of larger crowds!

I really hope Meg Coyle of KING5 shows up too.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Interesting because I had asked if they had a backup plan if the small conference room got too crowded and they were going to send the meeting upstairs.

Charlie Mas said...

There is no one on the Board who is looking to make a stink over this Meg Diaz analysis. They see it as a PR obstacle and are ready to give the official approval to whatever explanation the staff offers. It will get brushed off as a tempest in a teapot because the bottom line and all of the line items are the same on the report to the Board and on the report to the state.

They will pretend that's the issue instead of the grotesque growth of the central staff or the absurdly oversized administration.

seattle citizen said...

And of course Lynn Varner had to pile on the slime-Mary bandwagon with her blog

All the people who demean director Bass base it on the idea that she is "ineffective." If you mean by that she voted against the rest of the Board often, casting "no" votes on issues she felt deserved a "no," then yes, she was ineffective. She didn't drink the Koolaide.

If other board members had shown some mettle and voted against the party line occasionally, maybe Mary would get her props.

Note the Times says, "The achievements of the current board — reopening buildings...[etc] must continue smoothly." Uh, hello, Mary voted against much of the school closure fiasco because it was ill-conceived. Now the Times is celebrating the "success," a mere two years later, in reopening schools?! So why aren't they writing, "Director Bass was right: School closures shouldn't have happened like they did, without planning." Two years ago the Times celebrated the tough work of closing schools, now it celebrates the tough work of reopening them?!
They have no credibility.

ArchStanton said...

"There is no one on the Board who is looking to make a stink over this Meg Diaz analysis. They see it as a PR obstacle and are ready to give the official approval to whatever explanation the staff offers. It will get brushed off as a tempest in a teapot..."

I don't doubt any of that. I'm just curious how much of a song and dance they will put on, whether much of the local media will cover it and how they will treat it.

Dorothy said...

Well, it matters a lot to me and I suspect to other voters as well. I will do my part and let the board know that my decision on the levy vote will be directly related to this issue.

dan dempsey said...

The Diaz situation to me lines up like this.....

The Superintendent needs lots of $$$ for her centralization plan.

The problem is there is NO evidence that centralization works. In fact the opposite is true. Decentralization works but it is difficult to implement (these folks do not seem capable of implementing much).

There is so much this Superintendent and Board are wrong about that it is no accident the improvement plans for SE high schools are a total joke. The Strategic Plan is only lightly monitored and clearly results are viewed as unimportant. WASL scores are ignored when they do not match with planned results.

Where are those Fall 2008 PSAT results? These folks are simply an embarrassment. They should be choking every time they attempt to say transparency or accountability.

LynneC said...

Bruce, very funny. That actually made me LOL!

TechyMom said...

I had a hard time deciding between the two. Mary prevented bad things from happening. Kay want to try to make new good things happen. In the end, I decided to take a risk on the new good things, and hope that Betty Patu would take up the role of stopping bad things. It is a risk. I hope I was right. I wish I could have both of them.

I also think that having experience with both public and private school is a *good* thing in a school board director. One of the things Seattle does really badly is making the public schools appealing to people who can choose between public and private. If a free product can't compete with a $20,000 product, there's a problem. There's nothing wrong with understanding the competition.

dave said...

During the closure process, I met with Mary on several different occasions. She always had a smile on her face and knowing glint in her eye, and offered whatever platitude she thought I wanted to hear.

She also said I should hold her feet to the fire, so I did. I told the rest of the parent group the things she had been telling me and was then contradicting. That was her game, from what I could tell. Be on your side until it came time for action, then say she was sorry she couldn't help you.

One of the other parents then sent that to the other board members (Along with the things the *other* board members had to say in support of Summit). Mary went balistic. This was the day before the final vote on closure.

Those of you who remember will note that Harrium made a proposal to save Summit. Mary seconded it ONLY after the time almost expired and Debell was actually speaking to close the proposal down. Of all of the board members I talked to during that process, only 3 were truly honest with me. Debell, Harium, and Peter... Sure, I didn't like what Peter had to say, but he was honest with me about what he felt and why.

Given the bitter taste in my mouth after watching Mary grandstand the rest of that evening, I, for one, was glad to see her go.

She may have had a great record, but I think she allowed herself to fall into a pattern of obstructionism and political expediency. Her replacement may not be the right person for the job, but I don't think Mary was, either.

Bruce Taylor said...

LynneC, I'm glad somebody got the joke about the Seattle Times' obsession with the estate tax.

Joan NE said...

Dorothy wrote "I will do my part and let the board know that my decision on the levy vote will be directly related to this issue."

Dorothy's comment has inspired me to suggest the following:

Tell the board that we will organize to raise strong public opposition to the upcoming levy UNLESS the Board agrees to adopt John Carver Policy Governance Model.

The John Carver Policy Governance Model is a brilliant strong-board model. It eliminates micro-managing by the Board (if it is implemented with high fidelity), and holds the chief executive officer (that would be MGJ in SPS) accountable for upholding Board policy.

I think many of the problems in SPS are related to our having as of Nov 2007 a majority on the Board that favors a weak School Board. A weak school board does not enforce policy, rubberstamps the Superintendent's actions and decisions, and acts as a buffer between the Superintendent and the Public. In the weak board construct, the main purposes of the Board are to promote the superintendent's policies, act as the community-engagement intermediary, and take the heat for unpopular actions of the superintendent. THe Broad Foundation and Gates Foundation are paying for our Directors to attend trainings that are designed to get the Board to put more and more weak policies in place, and to teach the board how better serve the promotional and buffering purposes of a weak school board.

I talked to Sally Soriano today. I understand from her that prior to 2007 policy was quite important to the Board. That certainly isn't the case now.

Did you know that as of a policy revision in Jan 2008, the board no longer requires the Sup. to uphold Board policy?

Did you know that the Broad Foundation (and Gates,too, no doubt) favors the superintendent to have more authority than the Board, and to be the chairman of the board: the evidence for this is at on the heading "Setting and Implementing Board Policy", read the brief text there, and then look at just the first several clauses of the downloadable pdf of the NY district bylaws.)

Did you know that currently there is no limit on the amount that individuals may contribute to school board campaigns, and a few wealthy individuals account for most of the extraordinary funding that Carr, Maier, Martin-Morris, and Sundquist received in 2007?

If we had a Board that believed in enforcing policy, then the problem for Alt Schools would be limited to making sure that the Board doesn't rescind or significantly weaken Board Policy C54, and calling to the Board's attention the Superintendent's violation or lack of attention to Policy C54.

Joan NE said...

I include Harium Martin Moriss in the group that favors a weak Board, I am happy to explain my reasoning if any one cares to ask. Furthermore, Michael DeBell seems to me to be the strongest advocate for a weak school board.


Joan NE said...

I forgot to mention the following in my earlier long post:

Did you know that the Broad Foundation (and Gates,too, no doubt) favors mayoral appointment of school district directors?

Did you know that Mayoral Candidate Mike McGann favors mayoral appointment of school district directors? (A McGinn victory could be disastrous.)

Melissa Westbrook said...

Joan, I had a long talk with Mike McGinn before the primary. And I found his reasoning about taking over the district (IF, and that's a huge if, it came to that)quite sound. I think mayoral control depends on the mayor so yes, there is that issue. For McGinn, I don't believe it's about charters or control but about better public education and accountability.

We have had discussions here about voting against the BTA levy and what reasoning we would use. I have more capital related reasons to be against the levy but we could use many reasons (and possible solutions).

My ultimate goal is to get change BEFORE the levy so that we can all vote yes on the BTA and do so happily.