Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Seattle's Child Part Two: the Challengers Weigh In

 Highlights from the challengers:

Sharon Peaslee:  a bit of a mixed bag on financial issues.  She said she would hold administration "100% accountable" but doesn't say exactly what that would look like.  I do like her idea of a citizen oversight committee to review the district budget.  Fresh eyes are a good idea and I have to wonder if someone new had seen the Small Business program go from $100k to nearly $1M, we have headed this issue off much, much sooner.   I also support putting district documents up for viewing. 

She appears to be in favor of a superintendent search and names being transparent and collaborative as key qualities for a good superintendent for SPS. 

In terms of parent engagement/involvement, she mentions making sure there is some kind of governing body that includes parents at every school.  I can support this because not every school has a PTA but there are likely parents at every school who would be willing to participate in a committee they didn't have to financially support or run. 

She is against using TFA recruits in SPS because of the lack of a shortage of teachers and the turnover rate.

She would tweak the NSAP to include more choice and the ability to go to the school closest to your home. 

Unlike the incumbents who believe the achievement/opportunity gap is the greatest problem, she believe the top-down governance has caused many related problems.  She would flip that with more decisions at the school levels. 


Kate Martin - She has an interesting, if broad, view of finances in SPS.  I thought her first sentence was thought-provoking "Relentless audit of not just money, but mission." 

She is advocating for mentors for all students.

She is not supporting Dr. Enfield for superintendent as she feels Dr. Enfield is unproven as a superintendent.   She points out that Dr. Enfield said the district doesn't fact-check resumes and that an executive director was hired who did not meet the advertised qualifications.  She had a funny line about "puppy mill 'superintendent academies' like Broad."  She said, "We need strong track records of real success in real education."

She said she would support "Assistant Teachers for America" but not TFA as it is now. 

As far as capital projects she says she would "tone down the over-the-top approach to rebuilding our schools" and I can support this.  We can't afford a lot of flourishes and unnecessary elements for one building (like a rotunda in a K-8 school) when we have so many buildings that need attention AND capacity management issues.

She, too, would like to offer more choice to parents in student assignment.

She says the district's problem is that they are "underchallenging nearly 80%of the students."

Michelle Buetow - She points out that parent input on transportation led to the "community stops" plan that the district is trying.   In talking about finances, she points out that after the Olchefske scandal, citizens were promised that new auditing practices would prevent this from happening.  And yet, here we are.  She suggests that "The Board should consider working with local colleges to recruit government affairs interns to further analyze Staff recommendations."  I like this idea as it is would bring in some fresh eyes to Board work.

She is fairly pragmatic about protecting classrooms from cuts - "Sadly, our children cannot be fully shielded from budget cuts. Less really is less."  I think that's a realistic view.  She, of course, is advocating for working with the Legislature and passing the Families and Education levy this November.

On the superintendent search, she says, "However, the “public” piece of public education means this community should have an opportunity to weigh in on the selection of our District’s next leader."

She advocates a new Board committee for community outreach, partnerships and customer service.   She believes the committee meetings should be taped and available prior to Board meetings.  I support this idea as most of the real "work" of the Board gets done at committee meetings.

About maintenance and capital projects - "I would like to see a study commissioned to benchmark, nationally, school district best practices in amounts and priorities Districts use for maintenance spends."  That's an interesting idea and worth considering.

She has a long and nuanced view of the NSAP that I urge you to read and consider. 


She considers Seattle Schools' reputation the district's number one issue.  I recommend reading this section as well for its very carefully considered thoughts and suggestions. 


Marty McLaren - in terms of finances she says, "Refuse to rubber stamp  – make a stink when staff insists on presenting recommendations which have failed to meet legal and policy guidelines."  That will get some attention.

She advocates for a local search for superintendent first rather than nation-wide one. 

She points out that the district seems to allow buildings to "decay" and then want to rebuild.  She said that maintenance needs to be more of a focus.

She supports the use of portables to meet demand for schools. 

She believes the district's number one priority is "the set of obstacles to clear communication within school communities, between schools and the district and between the district and the Board and wider community. The lack of authentic community engagement can be traced to a failure of good faith effort by the district; the culture of intimidation among the district's employees has existed and intensified over recent years."

17 comments:

Montessori in SPS said...

Thank you .I will support all four of these incumbents to Save Seattle Schools.

T said...

I think you meant challengers...

WV says you should undergo the dreaded "flogere" for your mistake. :-)

David said...

Thanks for the summary, Melissa, this should be helpful to many. Good to see a strong showing from the challengers.

Sahila said...

Listen to the four challengers LIVE here from around 9am THIS MORNING, WEDNESDAY 28TH, and later in the archives:

momocrats - momochat - battle for seattle

RosieReader said...

I wonder how Kate reaches the astonishing conclusion that 80% of our kids are underchallenged. Sounds like hype and overstatement, always a bad sign in a candidate (or an incumbent.)

I wonder how potential applicants would react to Sharon's pretty naive idea that names be "transparent?"

mirmac1 said...

Well, Rosie, wasn't it recently that a superintendent search in Florida released applicants names, and we learned MGJ was one of the many?

Anonymous said...

I love, love, love Marty's comment re: the lack of AUTHENTIC community engagement.

That, in a nutshell, is THE problem in this district, top to bottom. I would add lack of *sincerity* and authentic *transparency* as well.

So much of what is done is all for show, such as Sundquist's PR blitz meetings, in which all he does, time after time, is apologize and defend staff positions, period. I've never seen him take a note at any meeting I've been at. And why would he? His mind is already made up by the time he arrives.

Very, very telling about how he, and other board members view their pro-administration roles. They don't see it as their job to represent their constituents, which is why so many of them simply have to go.

The reason Betty is so popular with her ever-growing constituency is because she is, hands down, the most authentic person on the Board, and that's what people want most. WSDWG

Maureen said...

Thank you for that link Sahila!

Kathy said...

I just read Seattle Child's article.

I'm finding Michelle Buetow strong and thoughtful.

mirmac1 said...

WSDWG

Amen to that! I only had to go to ONE Sundquist meeting to see it was an utter waste of time. As soon as he started talking, he was an apologist for every damn thing staff did. Then, go around the room and pretend to listen without taking notes. He has GOT to GO.

suep. said...

Blogger mirmac1 said...

Well, Rosie, wasn't it recently that a superintendent search in Florida released applicants names, and we learned MGJ was one of the many?


That's true, mirmac1. And each candidate's resume was available online as well, as a downloadable PDF. Seemed like a decent show of transparency.

(MGJ's resume was interesting to read. Nothing but great accomplishments during her Seattle stint, according to her, and no mention of being fired. I know, I know -- she wasn't obliged to state that. But still, an interesting take on reality...)

Melissa Westbrook said...

Interesting, Mirmac.

If I had to pick who I think really is an obstacle, it's Sundquist and Martin-Morris.

Not that I don't want all the challengers to succeed, I do. But I think those two are the worst barriers to transparency and authentic engagement.

dan dempsey said...

"I'm finding Michelle Buetow strong and thoughtful.

BYE BYE - Harium.

The Seattle Child article is starting to publish the comments made.

Anonymous said...

I taught in Seattle Schools and agree with Kate Martin about 80%
of students being underchallenged.

It's simply not possible to meet the needs of individual students with the class sizes in Seattle (which have apparently gotten even worse!). Like many teachers with options, I moved to greener pastures.

Whether you want to call it underchallenged or neglected-as-a- result-of-systemic-dysfunction, the outcome is the same--the vast majority of Seattle students are not reaching their potential--not even close.

What's amazing is that the teachers in Seattle do as well as they do, considering their abysmal working conditions.

--view from the outside the bubble

Anonymous said...

I just read Michelle Buetow's response to the questionnaire and am completely blown away by her thoughtful responses. Her answers were nuanced and right on target. I was already planning on voting for her - but I'm so impressed by her responses, I'm going to email my friends and suggest they vote for her too. Jane

dj said...

Eighty percent? Really? I understand I only have two kids in school right now, but 100% of my kids are getting sufficient challenge, and anecdotally, while I talk to parents who want more challenge for their kids, I don't think anything close to 80% say that their kids aren't challenged enough in school.

Obviously there is no way to settle a debate about this because there is no data. But I am leery of a candidate who has that as a central observation, as many schools work very well for their students, or work well for a lot of their students, and the perception that 80% of students aren't challenged (and that all kids need mentors) suggests that the candidate might want to monkey with the many schools that parents are happy with.

dan dempsey said...

"I don't think anything close to 80% say that their kids aren't challenged enough in school.

Obviously there is no way to settle a debate about this because there is no data."


Yet there is a place where a large number of students graduating from the SPS ... perform very poorly. Check the remediation rates at the collegiate level. Is it lack of challenge ... or perhaps lousy instructional materials and practices during an SPS k-12 career?
-----------
A lot of parents who think their children have had a challenging academic program k-12 .... are dismayed when college reality enters the picture.