The Olympic View forum, held last night, was a small and quiet affair. (I recall a comment that Bryant's was small as well - maybe schools in each region should join together and just do one for each region.)
Before the forum, I debated Paul Guppy of the Washington Policy Center about the Families& Education levy. (Poor guy, I feel for him because I know what it's like to be on the "no side of a school levy. He did make some good points, though, about the district not using money wisely.)
All the candidates showed up and there were about 30 people in the audience. Each gave a one-minute statement and then they were given a question and answered in twos from their district.
What I heard was the incumbents talking about accomplishments and the challengers stating the issues/concerns they saw and what they would address. A couple of these one-minute statements stood out to me.
Michelle Buetow made the point that despite all the changes, what hadn't changed was the district's reputation. I think those of us involved with the district see things from our perspective and forget that most people in this city don't have kids and don't keep up at all except for what they read in the paper. How the public perceives the district is important. (I think Seattle passes a lot of school levies and bonds because it cares about education and not that people necessarily believe in this district. I think we get hurt in the Legislature by the reputation for crisis and chaos that seem to follow this district.)
Harium Martin-Morris, who was under the weather from the flu, said something about "preparing in a positive way" for education. I thought it interesting but I didn't know what he meant.
I did like Marty McLaren's call for "truth, trust and transparency." Pretty much what you need from a district.
Steve Sunquist's statement was going along as you might expect but then he mentioned how Danny Westneat (that noted education expert) said how much better the district is doing academically. He then said that one-issue activists had no governance experience. (Not one of the incumbents had ever been elected to anything before either so where was their governance experience?) Then he went on to castigate the previous Board and how the current incumbents had come in and settled things down. (How come these business types always seem to come in and a financial crisis follows them? Maybe the previous Board was more noisy but at least they didn't run the place into the ditch.)
One question was about power and what the Board does versus the Super/staff. Peter said that the Board sets policy and direction and the Superintendent carries it out. He said the Board is the eyes/ears for the community. Sharon said that adjustments need to be made and the process needs to be more transparent and collaborative with accurate information.
One guy got up and said he was hearing cliches and that he didn't follow the Board from year to year. He challenged Sherry and Kate to state one thing they did in their lives to help education. Sherry talked about how Bagley, her neighborhood school, had been rundown and unpopular and that she and other parents worked hard, got a Montessori program and, over time, the school became popular and full. (This is true.) Kate said she had a bigger perspective and had worked with the City to develop a skate park program across the city and helped find funding to make it happen. I thought both candidates were very effective here.
Another question was about connecting with people who traditionally don't come into the school and outreach to them. Steve said it was a challenging problem and he found it a tough one. He said there is a large Somali population in one part of West Seattle and large Spanish-speaking one in another. He said he had found organizations and individuals to help with language barriers. He singled out Stand for Children as helping him with Spanish translation.
Marty said these aren't recent developments in West Seattle and that her years of teaching had helped her make connections to these groups. She said Board members have to reach out "intentionally" and she had already had that experience.
There was a question about using standardized tests for teacher assessments. It was interesting because both Sherry and Kate said they thought other input should be part of the assessment and both mentioned peer and parent/student input. I hadn't heard anyone of the Board previously advocate for parents or students to be giving input. I wonder if this will go anywhere.
I asked about the Source (it popped into my head) and why it hadn't been put into the teachers' new contract. Marty, the former teacher, was pragmatic and said it was a challenge for teachers. She said good supervision by principals to help organize a teacher's day so that he/she might find the time to use it would help. (I thought it a good point because I hadn't thought about it that way.) Steve was on my side on this issue and said it had been a matter of priorities during the bargaining but that he, too, thought the Source an important tool for parents and understood my frustration.
Then there was a question about the high school math curriclum. Peter said he voted for the high school math curriculum but not the middle/elementary ones (he wasn't on the Board then). He said he wasn't a "fan" of those and that there is a national debate on the high school math. He said the district has Walk to Math at some schools. Sharon said she had been involved at the state level with this issue and that the book the Board approved had been found by the state to be "mathematically unsound." She had recommended Holt (instead of Discovery) and that's what was being used over in Bellevue.
I left before the last few questions so if anyone stayed until the end, please let us know what else was said.