Wednesday, September 28, 2011

CPPS Looking for Input from SE Parents

Communities and Parents for Public Schools has really been doing yeoman's work on outreach to different communities.  I wanted to pass on this info I recently received from Stephanie Jones who is the Director of CPPS Seattle.

An incredible group of south end parents has been drafting a SE Parents’ Bill of Rights for Quality Neighborhood Schools.  We have had about 20 parent leadership graduates from Community & Parents for Public Schools to get the ball rolling on this, and they are ready to share it for more input and buy-in.  

Next week we’ll be sharing it in a formative way (for advance notice, input, support) with School Board Director Betty Patu, and district Executive Directors Michael Tolley and Bree Dusseault.  Ultimately, we’ll have parents bringing their statement to the school board, to board candidates, to the Superintendent.  And, we’d like to get principals and teachers and PTAs to buy in as well – the idea is that this might become a tool for parents to refer to in asking for the changes they’d like to see and in working with the school system to improve quality across the board in SE.

So…first opportunity to give feedback is this Thursday evening – 6-7:30pm at the Rainier Beach branch public library.  Come with your friends and neighbors.  Please spread the word!!

Other dates include:
Sat. 10/8, 10am – RB Library branch
Wed. 10/12, 4pm – Beacon Hill Library branch
Sat. 10/22, 2pm – Columbia City Library branch

This sounds like a parent empowerment going on and good for those parents.  If you live in the SE, please make plans to attend one of these meetings.  There is strength in numbers.  
Also, CPPS is having a "Parent Friendly" School Board Candidate Forum on Monday, October 10th at Washington Middle School, from 7-8:30 p.m.  It sounds really interesting and will include:
  • "grab bag" rounds with parent-generated questions
  • informal candidate interviews between rounds
  • open format for parents to drop in and still participate at any point
  • chance to talk with other parents
  • activity tables for school-aged kids

29 comments:

Sahila said...

My "offering" on this is, be careful its not the beginnings of a Ben Austin/Green Dot-style "parent trigger" action in disguise, pushed by ed deformers behind the scenes...

Anonymous said...

Sahila-

I personally know Stephanie Jones, and wouldn't call her an "ed deformer" in any sense of the word. She also is very smart and can think for herself (lest you think she is being "manipulated" by a higher "power").

She has three kids in three different schools in the Central District - her passion is advocating for equal opportunities for all kids - advantaged and not so much.

-"Give it a rest"

Anonymous said...

Melissa: Can you please elaborate more on what you said in this morning's King 5 interview, "A breath of fresh air".

http://www.king5.com/news/education/Education-Nation-Melissa-Westbrook-130718773.html

A friend of Seattle

anonymous said...

Geez Sahila, even when PARENTS get together and try to help themselves, which is what you are constantly advocating for, you still find a way to spin it into a conspiracy theory, reform takeover, and find something unflattering to say. How about supporting their effort instead or badmouthing it? Stephanie Jones is one of the most involved, saavy, and well educated parents I know. Don't insult her (or CPPS) by insinuating that she is a shell for, or will be easily manipulated by a corporate reformer.

homegrown

Sahila said...

"Give It A Rest"... CPPS was not smart enough to stop itself being co-opted by the "Our Schools Coalition", if I remember rightly....

Melissa Westbrook said...

Friend, gawk, that was not good. To be honest, I felt a little caught off guard because I had been told the interview was about parents and ed policy and being aware and active.

Joyce Taylor asks me two questions about me and my work and being live I couldn't say "no, I want to talk about policy."

She kind of got to the policy issue late and I didn't get to say what I might have said. I would have said that parents need to be involved at their own child's school simply to model community involvement. Even if it's only reading the PTA newsletter and volunteering 3-4 hours the whole school year, it keeps you closer to your child's school.

In a larger sense, public education policy is moving faster and faster nationally and is spreading far and wide. Parents need to keep up because these national trends are trickling down and I believe in 5 years or so we may have a very different sense of what we do in our classrooms.

Like the NSAP, you'll have parents who say, "When did this get decided?" "Why wasn't I told?" and the neighborhood plan had been discussed for many, many years. Keeping up now means you won't get caught off guard later and can at least try to voice your opinion (even if changes happen that you don't like).

Anonymous said...

@Melissa,

Thank you. I was wondered you were thinking when you answered the question about how you think things are going [at the District], have you noticed a change and you opened your response with, "Oh, Dr. Enfield is definitely a breath of fresh air.....".

A friend of Seattle

seattle citizen said...

Like Sahila, I also thought of the "parent trigger" movement spreading around the country: Get 50% of parent/guardians to not like a school, get school restructured, basically.

But I don't know if CPPS is quite the pawn some others might be. I'm on the fence. I did some quick research:

2007 CPPS bulletin or newsletter or webpage or something:
"Partnerships: The district, political leaders, and educational organizations are all eager to work with us. Thanks to CPPS members' presence at Board meetings, press coverage, and effective outreach, CPPS is well known throughout the city. Superintendent Manhas, Board President Butler-Wall, Mayor Nickels and many others have met with us and expressed eagerness to work with our organization. CPPS members have met with League of Education Voters, the teachers’ union, Alliance for Education, Gates Foundation, and more. When we meet with these groups, we are not pushing specific solutions but a process that includes community and parent input from the start. We are introducing them to CPPS and CPPS's mission and goals. We are discussing their role in the education arena and we are advocating for building collaborative relationships. Our primary objective is to build a process that includes community and parent input at all levels of discussion. Any one of us alone cannot easily reach all of these groups, but together we are establishing a clear line of communication so all of our members can be heard."

Sounds good..except for that LEV, A4E and Gates mention...

Yet keep in mind this, also 2007:
Staff: "Charles Rolland...former Deputy Chief of Staff for Mayor Norm Rice...currently a community organizer and has a public affairs consulting practice."

Don't forget that Norm Rice has lately become cause celebre for some in the "reform" camp.

I'll take a wait-and-see on this, for now.

Sahila said...

@SeattleCitizen.... I may be a suspicious, paranoid, "dome-saying" conspiracy theorist with a terrible memory (whose being "right" 95% of the time is just a lucky fluke/sheer, amazing, incredible coincidence), but ....

wasnt there some kind of kerfuffle a year or so ago, when A4E's secret love child Our Schools Coalition (OSC)- born out of A4E's clandestine affair with the Strategies 360 marketing firm, which also stole SPS teacher/family personal information to use for a push poll - chummied up to CPPS, who had started on some sort of community-building/vision-mission statement-creation process, which OSC promptly stole and claimed for its own?...

And yes, things in this district, are that sordid...

Just remember where all the money for this BS comes from....

StepJ said...

What a libelous, untenable, uninformed thing to say about Stephanie Jones.

It would be easier to believe Elvis lives in her basement.

If you even spent ten minutes with Stephanie during any of her many unpaid days, late nights and weekends working to aid the parents and their students within SPS you would ashamed of what you just vomited in print

Sahila said...

No I wouldnt, StepJ....

the people of CPPS who allowed themselves to be co-opted by OCS appear to be naive do-gooders who have no clue about the real politics/agenda being played out across this country...

If they do have a clue, and still choose to participate, then they have no conscience...

at this point in the game, its very black and white...

we already have TFA settling in, we have VAM and merit-pay for teachers....

charter schools are coming (thanks to the co-opted PTSA working with the ed deformers) under the guise/title of Innovation Schools with the legislation for that written by ALEC ...

you really ought to poke your head out from under the covers sometime...

Anonymous said...

Who is CPPS anyway? Are they part of SPS?

I have not heard Sahila or Seattle Citizen use this woman's name, much less libel her. They have raised questions about connections of this group, which is not only legitimate but helpful (especially if they are involved in Our Schools--see Seattle Education blog coverage of this group). I have yet to hear a response to this question of connection to Our Schools, only impassioned defenses of a woman named Stephanie, which I find diverting and odd.

One thing I do know, however, is that I pay attention to what Sahila says.

--learned the hard way

seattle citizen said...

"Libelous," StepJ?

I guess one can't step back and look at the bigger picture (CPPS: Good people, well funded by "reform" groups...maybe...?) without threat of suit?

hmmm...

Like I said, I'm on the fence: I don't see CPPS as being quite as deeply in the pocket of Gates, et al, as some of the other "coalitions" or "alliances"; knowing the roster of staff, it seems to me...just me...my opinion...that they are, generally, a good-hearted bunch trying to rally citizens.
Bravo!
But they DID get a big grant from Gates in 2006, maybe more later (Notice that on their "supporters" link there is no mention of names, only a general thank you to supporters, including foundations..."

If Gates or any of the other usual suspects is pouring any largish amount of money into CPPS, I'd be damned concerned, because Gates buys what it wants, and what it wants it not, usually, what I want at ALL.

I don't know that CPPS was connected to OSC, let's see:
(refer to long-dormant, only-used-once-to-diss-teachers-before-contract-negotiations-in-2010, product of Gate's Stratagies 360 Our Schools "Coalition" website....No, I don't see CPPS there at all.

CPPS: Good people, somewhat funded by Gates, producing a new initiative that bears striking language similarities to "Parent Trigger." I'll wait and see.

seattle citizen said...

Here is a link to Parent Trigger'

It IS something to discuss...How much control should parent/guardians have over the schools in their neighborhoods?

I don't think the Parent Trigger is a good idea, but how much of a school should be neighborhood directed and how much district, state, feds? Common Core is here: The Feds are lining up the states to all teach the same standards. What else should be federal, what should be handled at state and district levels, and what should the communities contribute?

WV goes to ParsU, where students study every word...

StepJ said...

SC,
I don't know how much of the history of CPPS here in Seattle is online.

Stephanie Jones was not leading the local branch back in 2006.

She has changed the direction of the local organization and is the one in Melissa's terms - doing Yeoman's work - to help parents connect with their local schools.

Her firm belief is that parent involvement is the key component in the success of a student and a school.

The classes Seattle CPPS offers to parents is to help them learn how to best navigate the bureaucracy of SPS to better advocate for their kids and their school - like, hey, our school counselor does a lot of great work for our school - how can we keep them? Or, some textbooks with examples would really help me help my kid with their homework. Or even something so tinfoil hat as offering advice to parents on how to submit grant applications to upgrade the playground at their school.

To have this type of dedication/hard work maligned immediately following Melissa’s post is beyond infuriating. It is a direct attack on Stephanie.

Like I mentioned earlier, adding a little extra scuff to your soles and actually spending time with Stephanie will make you nauseous to have even read the insinuated untruths about her or her motivation.

Jan said...

StepJ: It is wonderful to hear about the good work being done by Stephanie. In fact -- it is probably the best news I have had all week particularly as I don't know Stephanie at all, and thus could have no informed opinions to add here on her leadership or capabilities.

In defense of Sahila (not that she isn't capable of defending herself quite adequately), I will say that I read her comment NOT as a personal attack on either Stephanie (whom she certainly didn't mention by name) or even CPPS -- but as a caution for ANY parent-led or community group. When actions at the community level align -- in ANY way -- with the national, monied Ed Reform agenda, it is prudent, I think, to be watchful for signs that the local effort is being co-opted, to its detriment, by the national movement. That is not to say it WILL be -- and certainly does not imply that the local organizers are in favor of the national agenda, or are incapable of defending their turf. I read Sahila's comment simply as a "hooh boy, watch out! If Big Ed can take this over, they will!"

We KNOW for-profit Ed Reform looks for opportunities like this to gain influence and footholds. My personal belief is that Seattle already got "rolled" once -- in 2007, when Seattle tried to get a less "disfunctional" board. Monied interests used Seattle's problems to pour money into the election of board members who were willing to be led around by the nose by a Broad Academy-trained superintendent who had no interest in being, and no intent to be, "supervised" by the Board, and who arrived with a preset agenda for "reform" that had little to do with Seattle's issues or concerns.

While I might not have used Sahila's words (and was unaware of what many of you believe -- that CPPS is in VERY capable hands), I also had the worry, after reading Melissa's post, that CPPS not allow TRUE grass roots efforts to be subverted by a FAUX grass roots campaign by the Ed Reform folks.

anonymous said...

I don't see anything at all wrong with the parent trigger. If more than 50% of families are dissatisfied with a school it should be restructured. Wish Seattle did have something like the parent trigger - it might be one of the only things left that can light a fire under some downtown behinds.

homegrown

StepJ said...

Jan,

I appreciate your reasoned words. I personally think you use a lot of reason/thought in your posts.

I took it as a personal attack on Stephanie as Melissa's post very rightly and in recognition called out Stephanie's genuine and selfless efforts which were immediately attacked.

I have personally been involved in parent led efforts to give voice and volume to parent voices in hopes that the District might listen. Our efforts were predominately coordinated online. One area where we were not able to make a great many contacts was the SE.

In the SE many parents were not available online because of lack of internet access, simple lack of time (working incredibly long hours to provide the basics of food and shelter), or language barriers. I only speak English so was not able to overcome that last one.

Stephanie Jones actually walks into the communities and actually talks to people to find out what they value. In turn she lends her education and knowledge of the inner workings of SPS to the people she meets - face to face - to not fear SPS, and to lend her understanding so that a parent not feeling totally comfortable with their child's experience with SPS - be able to express their concerns.

Stephanie Jones walks her talk. To attack her without knowing her personally, based only on chair/butt internet searches is arrogant folly.

I thank you Jan and SC for expressing reasoned questions to find out the truth vs. just outright condemnation.

I am distressed that the efforts of Stephanie and her current co-horts at CPPS will be dismissed, not from personal contact with the communities in the SE, or personal contact with Stephanie Jones and CPPS, but rather generalized internet searches and lack of knowledge of current CPPS efforts.

I can understand reasoned questioning of the motives of CPPS. But I do not understand unreasoned attacks.

To the doubters -- Listen to Melissa who originally heralded the genuine intentions in action. Or, listen to yourself - volunteer some of your own personal time to a CPPS effort and after you have invested some of your own sole scuffing time make a judgment.

Report back here and let us all know what you found out.

Anonymous said...

I would be very interested to know from CPPSS how it can help to address the situation in SE for children with disabilities. CPPS has not struck me connected to the isolation of and grievous low standards for these children.

Active parent, SE

uxolo said...

CPPS history and funding is worth a look. There is no mention of how their staff is funded. Current Board member and founder Andrew Kwatinetz was one of the first reformers to be published in the Seattle Times and supports the Gates policy of measuring a teacher and questioning union contracts.

What's odd about tonight's meeting is that the Superintendent is scheduled for a Coffee Chat at Rainier Beach High School on the very same night as this CPPS meeting. That really doesn't seem like CPPS is connected to the neighborhood.

CPPS hosts a yahoo listserv, but never has any discussion. The "posts" are the same Seattle Public School events that any of the district's Key Communicators receive by email.

Chris S. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris S. said...

An honest question: Who was in charge of CPPS when they signed on Our Schools Coalition?

And BTW I loved Sahila's clandestine affair/love child analogy - it was perfect.

Not that I would blame whoever got duped too much; many smart people got suckered into that, including most PTA delegates, some blog moderaters, minority leaders etc. It was a very innocent-looking love child.

It just goes to show how you have to look way beyond the reasonable-sounding words. Sahila has good advice: follow the money. If Steph J. is really doing this on her own and w/o funding, good for her.

Dorothy Neville said...

Last year about this time, I was discouraged by the national rhetoric and the local issues. The CBA with evaluation via test scores and other disappointments, the supplemental levy that would further national ed-reform philosophy, Rhee's big "no one helps kids! But my new org will!!!!" media blitz.

So I went to the Community Center for Education Results conference on their Road Map and expected more of the same. I expected to spend the day surrounded by the same rhetoric that is pushing this country in the wrong direction. I was pleasantly surprised in that the national ed-reform agenda took a distinct back seat to a solid day of people who ARE working for kids discussing their work. The actual boots on the ground getting things done and without 6 figure salaries. It gave me needed perspective. Sure, very likely there is Gates money in many of those organizations. I cannot damn them for that. Gates has money and funds things, both good and bad. We cannot stop him funding things.

So how does this relate to CPPS? I also was confused at the early CPPS mission and organization. Was it astroturf? What did it want, who did it support? The Yahoo group is moribund and does not seem to want discussion. So last Spring I went to the CPPS annual meeting summarizing their work. I went prepared to be suspicious. I was instead blown away by a group that is working to increasing parent knowledge and advocacy among low income and immigrant families. Old-school boots-on-the-ground training parents in advocacy and training parents in how to train other parents. I spoke briefly with Stephanie Jones (had not met her before) and she struck me as the real deal.

Parent-trigger? No way. Not even close. Much more aligned with "Beyond the Bake Sale" by Anne Henderson. Things such as in some countries, it is considered completely offensively inappropriate for a parent to approach a teacher. In US, it is completely expected that parents and teachers work together. So, CPPS has trained immigrant parents in how to work with teachers, to understand the cultural norm here AND in being role models for other parents from their communities in how to do so.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Dorothy said it better than I could.

CPPS did start up with a grant from Gates. Hell, if I were starting a group, I'd ask Gates for money (as long as there were no directions attached).

But CPPS is quite a different place than where it started and that happens with new groups that find their focus and footing.

I can't say enough about Stephanie and the work her group is doing. SPS and the Board could use some training from them about true community engagement and outreach.

Stephanie Jones said...

I guess this is my opportunity to introduce myself as the "yeoman" -- many thanks to those of you who have been my champions in this discussion. I am basically your over-educated harried mom (yes, my husband has been out of town all week; no, I'm not being optimally productive) with a teaching/ed policy background and an interest is furthering the "beyond the bake sale" ideal of parent leadership and engagement in things beyond fundraising -- in things that impact the improvement of our kids and our schools. As Exec. Dir. of CPPS, I am working with a passionate, diverse board of SPS parents from around the city, and as a chapter of national Parents for Public Schools, which is not a shill in any of the national reform debates, we are about building capacity for parent engagement and parent voice for collaborative education improvement. We believe it's important to acknowledge that parents sit all along the reform spectrum, and so we have been careful not to take positions so much as equip the community to exercise their own beliefs. We did NOT join the Our Schools Coalition last year for that very reason, but we are realists and stay informed about and engaged with as many of the education actions going on in Seattle as we can. We will collaborate when it makes sense, as we do not yet have the dollars to lead large scale initiatives, and we do respect much of the work of the other education organizations in town, from PTAs to nonprofits to funders. We represent a different approach, and as such, we will not accept money or engage in alliances that fundamentally seek to change who we are: an organization that equips parents to be engaged, not one that tells them what to think.

CPPS is very grassroots (not astroturf), and operates on a shoestring. We would love to include all the doubters, skeptics and challengers in our membership -- especially if you have web, data, communications skills, etc. Right now, most of those functions are volunteer-managed, on volunteer timelines, so we do as much as we can. We really want to engage more parents across the city in working together for quality neighborhood schools for all children. And our southeast parents are on fire -- come out to see what they're up to!
Stephanie

seattle citizen said...

@Stephanie,
Thank you for contributing your overview of CPPS's work here. It gave me a good run-down about an organization I have seen running quietly in the background (compared to some of the other "coalitions," et al, that are loud and proud)

My gut feeling has been that CPPS IS community driven and is more the sort of support that the community needs. This speaks to the local nature of education, and from what you write and what others have said, you should be proud of your organization's work. I apologize if I saw the first post and thought "Parent Trigger! Oh no!" Given the onslaught of foundation-supported mega-reform, I guess I can be excused about being jumpy, but it appears that I might have spoken without a basis in more knowledge.

Still, the warnings about being watchful for "reform" from outside sneaking in under the door is valid. I appreciate your efforts at maintaining your own path regardless of what Gates wants, even as Gates assists your organization financially. THIS is what I like: Foundations and such that have some money giving that money without demanding adherence to THEIR agenda. It appears to be a rare thing, but a thing that you are somehow managing. Yay!
Keep up the good work, and please try not to let grants sway your direction.

Charlie Mas said...

Sorry to be late to this.

I am a member of CPPS; I have been from the start. I have spoken at their events. I was at the annual meeting and I have donated money to them.

They are genuine.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a good discussion. I've met Stephanie and will vouch for her sincerity. That said, some stuff CPPS has done has been clumsy and ill-timed IMHO, which caused great suspicion and fair scrutiny in the community.

It cannot be denied that CPPS, did it's "awesome young teachers shouldn't be rif'd first" campaign during a very sensitive time for teachers, with an upcoming contract negotiation and a wolf guarding the hen-house in MGJ. I felt that was a big mistake. Maybe they thought the timing was right to bring up the seniority issue, but I didn't think so, given that I felt that kind of "momentum" was like handing a loaded gun aimed at teachers to MGJ. I still feel that was a clumsy, naive campaign in many respects.

That, and other conduct, like the work to bring the NCTQ (the self-annointed "National Commission on Teacher Quality") to town, caused an otherwise grass-roots group to get caught behind the reformers' banner for awhile, perhaps unwillingly or unwittingly.

And like Sahila, I advised and challenged many CPPS folk to be careful and guard against co-opting forces, because the air was thick with them at that time.

Since that time, Stephanie and others have done a much better job of defining themselves as more pro-parent/pro-community and less a stepchild of Gates & Co, or Ed Reform groups, but caution is still warranted. I do believe CPPS's real intent is to empower communities, but borrowing labels and ideas associated with national, pro-privatization forces like a "parent trigger," which has been used by Greendot Charters in California to dupe many parents into turning their public schools over to a private company, via paid & deceptive signature gatherers, amongst other sneaky tactics, will only create suspicion in those of us who watch what's going on with national ed reform everyday.

Not all ed reform is bad, but not all of it is good either.

Between those end points, however, a lot of people are being deceived, and a lot of money is being grafted from our public school systems and put into the pockets of the wrong people, while continuously being diverted from classrooms.

Jan is dead on to characterize Sahila's comments as primarily warnings to "watch out" for co-option, all the time. Does anyone see how valuable CPPS's mailing list would be to a private company wanting to profit from the Ed Reform industry, for example?

I'm all for what CPPS is doing to help people at the grass roots level. But as we've seen nationwide, there are groups like ALEC (check them out) who have model legislation in the barrel and ready to be fired that is geared to wrestle public control of the schools away from the public and into private hands. That's what NCLB was aiming to do at the national level, and thank God Obama finally woke up and killed that disastrous legislation (for all intents and purposes), which would have been the final nail in public ed's coffin.

But we really need to watch what's going on in the mid-western states where the new governor's are passing think-tank (ALEC again) birthed legislation that will crush public education at the state level.

I watch what Stand for Children is up to and I see the same tactics being used. It is not all about the kids, folks. Not at all. An awful lot of it is about plain old money and power.

Thankfully, I don't believe that is what CPPS is about. But in recent years, they could have done a much better job of demonstrating their ostensible "take no sides" positions. Going forward, I expect they will. WSDWG

Sahila said...

will post here, cos I brought up the subject of "innovation schools" (read charters) and ALEC...

from another discussion:

"Guess what about House Bill 1546, the innovation schools bill?
Submitted by ALEC legislators.

Here is the ALEC model bill:

http://alecexposed.org/w/images/5/53/2D12-THE_INNOVATION_SCHOOLS_AND_SCHOOL_DISTRICTS_ACT_Exposed.pdf

1546 as initially proposed:

http://apps.leg.wa.gov/documents/billdocs/2011-12/Pdf/Bills/House%20Bills/1546.pdf


One of the proposers in the House, Jan Angel, is an ALEC legislator.

The proposer in the Senate, Doug Ericson, is also an ALEC legislator.

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=ALEC_Politicians#Washington_Legislators_with_ALEC_Ties

Welcome to the 21st century, where corporations WRITE OUR LAWS."

sorry, not time to make links live... but if you go check, you'll see that many, many parts of the Innovation Bill are identical to the ALEC template....


And really, its welcome to the 21st Century where CORPORATIONS RUN OUR WORLD...


Am I the only one here who sees that as a problem?