Monday, May 24, 2010

Hard to Believe

Checking the Times today, I found that the Times editorial on Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's tenure has certainly taken it on the chin. Several people did write in more than once. Here's part of what Charlie said in his second post:

There are now 63 comments in response to this editorial. (Note: After Charlie posted this, one lone kindergarten parent weighed in to say she was happy.)

Not one of the 63 comments agrees with the Times. The vast majority of them are civil and on topic. Most of them reflect better reasoning, better research, better data, and better writing than the Times editorial.

At what point does the Times editorial board begin to question their perspective? Or don't you ever? Perhaps you think that you are courageous for holding an unpopular view and sticking with it? If so, please consider another possibility: you are completely wrong.

Your dismissal of the CPPS poll compared to your fawning over the Our Schools Coalition poll reflects a deep bias that you need to acknowledge.

This was my favorite comment:

Note: Her ability to turn water into wine was omitted.

So the Times failed in both logic and reasoning in its editorial. But let's what about educational reporting? Oh look, here's a story today, headlined "Roosevelt High School Teacher Gives Her Students a Review in Cursive." Well first, it's about an RHS teacher who brings in another teacher to review for students the basics of cursive. It's a cute story and that's fine.

The problem is there are more stories out there not being covered. Dan Dempsey has pointed that there are several on-going lawsuits against the district (most of which are not personnel matters and so, can be easily covered). And yet, silence from the Times. I would, if I were an editor at the Times, find it interesting that parents and community continue to fight back against district decisions.

Further, what is quite odd and painful to anyone who might have some sensitivity towards a disenfranchised group is the lack of coverage on the issue of the Native American program in our district. (Note: the Times had an editorial on this issue but no coverage which is important to give background to the editorial.)

I wrote a thread about this back in March when I attended an Audit and Finance Committee meeting where it had come out that the program manager of the Native American program had overcounted the number of students by a wide margin. (This is for a federal grant which requires a certain form be filled out by each student's parent or guardian. The district knows - mostly - who is Native American in our district but cannot claim them on the grant without the form being filled out.) This gross error caused the district to have to go back and repay the money to the feds (although I still don't know how much and if there was any penalty for it).

So what now comes out is that even though the original program manager who made this mistake is gone, the new program manager compounded the error by getting the grant in late. He was trying to send it to the feds....15 minutes before the due date and he had a "computer" problem. So the grant was, of course, denied.

So now the Native American program grant is in the second tier of funding which means if there is any money left over. Think that will happen? I doubt it. The district is kicking in money for the program but only a third of what was funded. So they are getting rid of the two teachers who were helping the students academically.

Now, at the time of the Committee meeting, Michael DeBell seemed very upset and he asked who was accountable. What he was told was that the program manager was gone. HOWEVER, the district didn't mention at the meeting that there was a new person in place nor was that person in the room. Now why wouldn't the district bring in the person who is in charge of the program? Probably because it turns out that person had committed the gross error of not getting the grant off in time and district staff KNEW it at the time of the meeting.

There have been a few meetings with parents/community and the district. Apparently at one meeting, there was some tense dialog between one parent and the head of the program, Arlie Neskahi, over whether he had responded to e-mails. The Superintendent was there and yet again, brushed it off as a personality conflict. (See the pattern? She likes to dismiss, on any grounds, parent/community input as too subjective, too personal and basically, not worthy of her time.)

So this past Board meeting, several Native American parents and students came forward to let the Board how upset and concerned that they are. Then, the Superintendent, during her updates, had Dr. Enfield and the head of the program, Arlie N. get up and explain. Did they mention the overcount? No. Did they brush over the late grant? Yup. Did the Board let them off scot-free without even so much as "this is deeply disappointing"? Sure.

Here's what was said:
  • Dr. Enfield claimed that the staff shares the "urgency" that the community does. She says the program needs a more comprehensive program for both academics and support. She claims they are now in compliance with the grant requirements. (And note, the grant specifies a parent advisory committee which they hadn't done for years.) She says they will do a better job getting Native American parents to fill out the form needed for the grant. She talked about the district "improving our internal systems and processes" and that Arlie "has taken the lead on this". What?!? The same guy who couldn't do the most important task at his job, namely, getting a grant off on time? This is the guy you trust?
  • Then Dr. Enfield said something that should give us all a good laugh. "How do we put into place opportunities for community conversations in an ongoing basis so we are engaging in collective problem solving?" That's the $64,000 question, isn't Dr. Enfield? Go ask your boss, I'm sure that would get filed right in the circular file next to her desk.
  • Then she said the most damning thing of all, "I think we want to get to a place where we are not reacting to things that crop up as perhaps a 'pseudo-crisis'". More on that in a minute.
  • Arlie gave some stats on Native American students in our district. There are 850 above the ship canal, 150 located in Central, 1,000 in the SE and 375 in the SW. They have a goal of getting 700 of the needed 506 forms.
  • When asked about what academic supports will be there for these students now that their teachers are gone, Arlie danced around the question with a lame mumble about tutoring after-school sometimes. Dr. Enfield said that the district has challenging budgets and limited resources. Really? And how is that a comfort to these parents?
I have been communicating with Native American parent and activist, Sarah Sense-Wilson. She and other parents are deeply dismayed with all of this. They have tried to work with the program manager(s) and have largely been held at arm's length. For example, they tried to set up a presentation by the NW Justice Project for parents and students on their legal rights regarding explusions and suspensions. That got blocked by the district. But then, at the Board meeting, Arlie named that very group as one to work with. According to Sarah, the district has tried to exclude or block community engagement.

Look folks, what really burns me is two-fold.

One, this is 2010, not 1910. We, as a country, have treated Native Americans like crap (sorry but that's the word that defines it). And we do it over and over. Educationally, we have really let their children have it. To say that we have to do better and "ask the community" about their needs is more crap. Seriously, how long do these people have to wait? Then people to the right wonder why we need affirmative action and why we need special programs? Well, if the people in power had been doing what they should have been all along, maybe we wouldn't be sitting here discussing it...again. Spike Lee had it right - DO THE RIGHT THING.

Two, the Board. Where is the righteous anger? I know, for personnel reasons, they can't say "you are incompetent" or "fire that person". But they could express disappointment and disapproval to those in leadership. They allowed Dr. Enfield's "pseudo crisis" line to get off without a hitch. The program screws up not once but twice and doesn't have the money to continue the program as is and there is no comment on this?

Michael did, during his Board comments section, say some hearts and flowers comments about "people who came before us". Great Michael, but the problem is staring you right in the face. So do something. Tell the Superintendent, privately, that this is not good enough and that you her "priorities" should include this program. We have an absolute responsibility to these students who have, for a very long time, been waiting.

And we wonder why, generation after generation, these families don't trust or believe in government institutions. Shame on the district and the Board to just let this off with wink and a promise.

10 comments:

seattle citizen said...

Under teh Point White Treaty, the Duwamish were told they would have a reservation. 13 years later, in 1867, the Indian Agent sent papers to Washington DC, asking that the reservation be granted to them.

EVERY citizen of Seattle at the time, including those who had interacted with, helped and been helped by, the local Native Americans, signed a petition to the head of the BIA in DC, asking him NOT to give teh Duwamish the reservation.

In 2000, President Clinton signed the papers recognizing the Duwamish tribe (finally). A few days later, under the incoming Bush administration's BIA, this recognition was withdrawn.

So it goes.

Sahila said...

I wish that all of our respective interest groups would get together and present a united front to the School Board and the Superintendent...

Native people, APP people, ESL people, Spec Ed people, Alt people, Option people, general ed people, latino people, african american people, white people, asian people, students, teacher, parents, community...

Surely we have a solid enough baseline - our dissatisfaction with the Super and the Board - to come together and demand change and to set some criteria for what we will accept in the future... once we rid ourselves of this destructive super and board, and maybe force into being a Community Oversight Committee or an Ombudsman, we can work together to address each group's needs....

Only sheer numbers will make an impact here, will counter the influence of Broad/Gates money via the Alliance etc and its time we used our numbers...

And it would be good if we could get something happening before summer break... otherwise it will take months to get the momentum going again after school goes back in September, and that's what the Super/Board is counting on...

Central Mom said...

So, the district is "kicking in funds" to help offset the cost of missing the grant deadline.

The obvious point is that now the mistake not only hurts the Native American program, but also whatever other programs are being shorted the dollars needed to move over to the Native American program.

Not that it shouldn't be done. It should. But let's be clear about the District's ever-spreading mistake. What dollar amount are we talking about (must be at least 5 figures, maybe 6?) and what pot of money is it coming from?

dan dempsey said...

Wish it was hard to believe. It now seems normal.

artemis said...

Sahila "I wish that all of our respective interest groups would get together and present a united front to the School Board and the Superintendent..."

Let's do it. And let's have this issue of the pathetic treatment of Native students be at the forefront. This recent mess, total disservice to Native students and families is just salt on a wound. It's not like they have much support even when these programs are in place. It's crumbs and it's sickening.

SPS (one of GJ's early moves) got rid of Caprice Hollins, the Director of Race and Equity a few years ago. Do you remember when she was on the hot seat for merely pointing out through a district wide letter, that Thanksgiving holiday can be a painful time for Native students? Can't point that out yet...

the powers that be in this country forcibly removed Native children from their families and kept them in abusive boarding schools for generations of trauma. And to top it off these crimes were committed on land that was stolen from them. And the criminal treatment continues with SPS.

Take the money from GJ's salary and "cabinet" and cover the cost of these programs and then some. Enough is enough! Justice for Native students and families now!

MW, thanks for this post. I heard somewhere (King 5 news, before the last board meeting?) that it's about $300,000 that needs to be repayed. It's always so predictable who will suffer most.

emeraldkity said...

I am so angry that I had to put this issue aside for a while.


If I am responsible for filing papers to receive funding for my business- and this grant is critical for the local population to receive daily needed services- then it seems that legally or certainly ethically, I am required to insure that the local population gets what they are entitled to-
if I fail to do so- and if I fail to seek out funding from another source and if my immediate supervisor just shrugs- then we should both have the budget taken from our salary- for however long it takes- or we should burn- which ever comes first.

Maria is thinking of forcing the Native American students to fill up empty seats, me thinks.

This district reminds me of stories Don used to tell about collecting tariffs in Chicago .

Where does the buck stop I wonder?

emeraldkity said...

I almost wonder if this was a deliberate attempt to pave the way for charter schools- as Native Americans in other areas have found that path an alternative to being overlooked.

Charlie Mas said...

I have exchanged email with a member of the Times editorial board about their hagiographic piece on the superintendent. It's not off to a good start.

Words I never said or wrote were put into my mouth. Strawmen were assembled and slaughtered. I've had to return the discussion to the real questions.

These people really, really don't like being told that they're wrong. They are deeply invested in being right.

I can only hope that they remain engaged enough to consider the possibility.

I've already gotten the "You just like to complain" brush off. I addressed it forthrightly. I don't complain unless I have a solution, and I give credit where it is due. The next brush off that's likely is "We just see it differently. We'll have to agree to disagree." I'll try not to allow that anymore than I allowed the strawmen or the misdirection.

On the whole, however, I'm not hopeful.

Sahila said...

Artemis... if you are interested in helping make something happen and you have connections into one or more of these individual education communities I mentioned(especially the native community), let me know at metamind_universal@yahoo.com or 206 679 1738... no guarantees but some of the people I'm connected with might be interested in making something happen before school finishes also... we have talked about it but not yet made any commitments...

spedParent said...

This situation with funding for Native American grants is very analogous to the situation with special education safety net funding a few years back. We had at least 50 people working in the central office for special education, yet not one of them could file for the state's mandated method of funding high-cost students: the special educatin safety net. For nearly 10 years, Seattle Public Schools never filed one application for safety net funds... losing the district millions, probably 10's of millions of dollars. And instead of blaming the bloated central staff, who lost the millions by failing to file, they blamed the kids... for being disabled in the first place.. and depriving others. Then, the department got the PI and the Times to run articles on that "deprivation". Here, and they never even got consent from families to use these names or anything. They never mention the availability of special safety net. They never mentioned the siphoning of funds away from special ed.

Not sure what the situation with the special ed safety net funds are now.

Not really trying to move the topic... but the failure to procure the money is pretty common. Nobody seems responsible for anything.