Good lineup; for the City, the Mayor, Tim Burgess, Wayne Barnett, Executive Director of SEEC, Robert Mahon, SEEC Chair. For the district, Susan Enfield, Noel Treat and Steve Sundquist. There were folks from all the tv stations as well as print/radio reporters. The two state auditors assigned to SPS were also there.
There were brief remarks from Enfield, the Mayor, Burgess and Sundquist. Enfield stated that the City had "expert" services and their program is highly regarded. She said it was not all they were doing to restore accountability but that it was a "keystone" step. Sundquist said that they wanted to avoid the expense of creating the district's own program and thanked the City for extending the hand of partnership. Mayor McGinn pointed out that the City and the district "serve the same families and communities" and that the City stands ready to be a full partner. Burgess said the City and the district share the same goal of every child in every school in every neighborhood getting a good education.
The signed MOU is detailed in what they will do but not how. Apparently much of that is to come when they have a completed agreement by the end of April.
- I asked Dr. Enfield if senior management was getting a different charge going forward than the rest of the staff since those in management do have power over the lower-level employees. She said yes and she would be reaching out to them personally.
- I asked Mr. Barnett if his office would be informing the district when they had a case before them. He said, "That remains to be seen." He said in cases that may involve upper management, they might not go to the district initially so as to protect the whistleblower. (It was pointed out to me that they also have to iron out the issue of the district promising to hand over any and all information requested without any further information on why. Otherwise, it defeats the independence of the SEEC to investigate if the district gets suspicious on any particular case.)
- The question was asked if Dr. Enfield was receiving any information about issues. She said she had received some candid e-mails and a high volume but nothing specific to any whistle-blower issue.
- Steve was asked if the SEEC would be looking into Pottergate. He said no, both the Board and the State Auditor had completed their investigations and that it had been turned over to the King County prosecutor. (Steve also pointed out that the district is very grateful to Mr. Satterberg for clearing his calendar and seeing district leadership when they called for help.)
- The Mayor was asked if this is a first step for the City to move to take over the district. He said that would be a mischaracterization and that the City was just moving to help the district.
- The Mayor was asked who suggested this idea and the answer was Councilpersons Clark and Burgess.
- A suggestion was made that this was done in protection of blowback from the scandal to the Families and Education levy. The Mayor said no, that the Superintendent and Board had been talking with the City about possible help and none of the discussion was about the F&E levy. He pointed out that it was a City levy and the funds and programs were not directed or controlled by the district. He said he couldn't speculate as to any outcomes to the levy.
- The issue of Pottergate came up again and Mr. Barnett said that if any new information did come forward, they would, of course, investigate.
- Mr. Barnett was asked to speak on work the SEEC has done. He mentioned an incident where the Fire Department had found that funds had been misdirected and a firefighter had lost his job and the money was returned. This was from a whistle-blower incident.
- There will be a liaison between the District and the City but it is not known who it will be.
- The City will have some role in monitoring how SPS ethics policies are being implemented but it was not spelled out how that would happen.
- There's quite the tortured paragraph in the MOU about paying for this. Basically, the City can't lose money on this effort and the district wants to spend as little as possible. Makes sense.
- It is also not clear if the SEEC will get involved with any issues that come in on the SPS hotline (which is the same one used as the Port Commission - it is a clear line that cannot see the phone number the call is coming from).