I wanted to report back on the press conference. I attended with Dorothy Neville and I think we were possibly the only real members of the public there.
I asked again if I could have a press credential because I asked why Tracy Record of the West Seattle blog (who wasn't there but sometimes is) gets a press pass. I was told that (1) I'm not a real journalist and (2) I don't write more broadly (meaning, I only write about public education). Also, I write for a blog which is commentary and not reporting. More on this in a minute.
There was a grand total of ONE news organization (there might have been more but no one I recognized). It was a guy from KING-TV shooting B roll footage for the station. So basically, I will be the only person in all of Seattle reporting what happened at the press conference that the district put together because they wanted the world to know about the teacher contract that got negotiated between SPS and the SEA. (I hope everyone who attended got a lot out of it. No one else will because it got no media coverage.)
So what happened? Not much. There were 6 speakers. Steve Sundquist got up and spoke as the Board's rep on the contract negotiations. Then Dr. Goodloe-Johnson. Then Councilman Tim Burgess followed by Estela Ortega of El Centro de la Raza. She was followed by George Griffin, III, the chair for the Alliance for Education and finally Chris Korsmo of the League of Education Voters.
I know - where's someone from the SEA? or the PTSA? As it turns out, the president of the SEA, Olga Addae, was there but had declined to speak. Apparently, there were communications issues (as she tactfully put it) and the very good point that the district was having a press conference about a contract that WAS ratified by the SEA but not yet by the Seattle School Board. (The vote is at tonight's Board meeting.) Why the district didn't wait until tomorrow after the vote was taken is a mystery.
The president of the PTSA, Ramona Hattendorf, was not there but there was a letter from her in the press packet (yes, I got that even though I'm not press). The PTSA was not acknowledged in any speaker's remarks.
Steve - blah, blah, student learning is central to all. Did ask, as a private citizen, for support for the levy to carry out the contract.
Dr. G-J - She thanked a lot of people involved in the negotiations. Acknowledged Olga Addae. Referenced this national trend of teacher assessment based on student "growth." She said one interesting thing - she said there was a "real culture shift that student achievement will drive all decisions at our schools." That is a cultural shift in SPS? I would have thought that student achievement was always the driver for decisions but apparently not. She acknowledged the Alliance and their "Our Schools" coalition which was interesting because the original coalition - the Seattle Organizers that I was a part of with LEV, Stand for Children, CPPS, League of Women Voters, PTSA, etc. - met with the Superintendent and SEA long before Our Schools did.
Tim Burgess - good day for children and teachers. "This contract places SEA and SPS at the front of ed reform movement."
Estela Ortega - said that good education is a social justice issue and this contract "puts us on the map." She also said that the Times' editorial on the SAT scores in Washington State did not mention how Latinos fared.
George Griffin - A bit of a meandering speech that I didn't follow. He did say the superintendent was very courageous and that she has his confidence and that of the Alliance. He said it was one thing to put together a coalition and another to mobilize it and that the Alliance had with Our Schools. (I'm still mystified at what they actually did besides all agree to put their names on the same sheet of paper.)
Chris Korsmo - She said that education had been a front-burner issue for the last year and a half in the country but not here. What?!? She said job one is to help low-performing schools have high performing teachers. (I would love to hear comments on that statement so I will withhold any of my own.) I asked her later why, in her remarks, she did not acknowledge the Seattle Organizers group despite the fact that (1) we meet in LEV's offices, there are no less than 3 LEV staffers in the group and (3) we organized and met with district and SEA leaders long before anyone else. She said she did thank the community groups. Oh.
The press conference ended on a lame note with the head of Communications sorry, the "executive director of Communications") saying that people could ask individual questions of the speakers but the press conference was over. Tim Burgess made a beeline for the door and people drifted off to chat each other up.
I guess after writing this I have to ask again, why can't I have asked a question? We are supposed to take, at face value, that this teachers contract is the best thing for our children since sliced bread without one single question asked.
Luckily, Publicola got wind of this and wrote about it (see below). Please do comment on it at their website if you feel so moved.
Today’s Loser: Bloggers
Blogger Melissa Westbrook was all geared up today to cover a Seattle Public Schools press conference on the new union contract for her site, Save Our Schools. When she called up to confirm she was on the press list, SPS communications people told her she wouldn’t be allowed to ask any questions (Westbrook says the Mayor’s office lets her ask questions at press conferences all the time).
SPS spokesperson Teresa Wippel told us Westbrook isn’t allowed to ask questions because of the organization she represents—a “watchdog” that provides critical commentary on the school district. By way of example, Wippel says SPS would allow a Seattle Times columnist to as questions because, as Wippel says, “[the Times] is a news organization, and provides news as well as opinion.”
Sounds like a slippery slope to us—one little question couldn’t hurt, could it?