It looks like the Board election has poked, prodded and possibly smashed open the hornets nest that is the education establishment in Seattle. The initial charge, before the election, was clearly the Seattle Times but they have been largely mute since the election results.
Now the Alliance for Education has decided to really insert itself and frankly, if I were anyone on the Board (current or new and/or a person with a spine), I would not like it.
Let's get a round-up of voices.
I did look to see what Stand for Children (who supported all the incumbents but Maier and had no endorsement for that district) had to say. Nothing said as is their way. They always talk about community and yet, they have a tightly controlled message that could be from any state.
What does LEV have to say? Well, last week Director Chris Korsmo said voters "rudely" cast out Sundquist and called Marty McLaren "a retired substitute teacher" and did not even mention her by name. She blames the union. (As did Lynne Varner on a Seattle Channel election roundup - it's all in the first 10 minutes and interestingly, Dave Ross seemed confused on her reasoning - there's a surprise.)
If the unions are to blame for Sundquist's defeat, what about Maier? And why did Martin-Morris and Carr win then?
This week Korsmo says "voters got a jump start on silly." She also says:
Two other incumbents were retained, which is good news, but with significant decisions on the horizon – like hiring a permanent Superintendent (which is an oxymoron these days, because urban superintendents have all the staying power of the Seahawks passing game) – losing these two couldn’t be more ill-timed.
Ah, the Superintendent question. Now we are coming to the crux of the situation for this group. (And, again, I guess we all should apologize for running an "ill-timed" democracy that ruined someone's agenda. )
Through public disclosure, an e-mail surfaced this week from Jon Bridge, who is one of the CEOs of the Ben Bridge jewelry stores and an active member of the Alliance. Mr. Bridge is a graduate of Garfield High (but it is unclear if his children attended SPS schools). Like many other people who care about public education in this city, Mr. Bridge appears to give a lot of time and resources to philanthropic causes.
Mr. Bridge wrote to Dr. Enfield on September 12 with the subject title "TFA." He said:
Thinking more about this. If the Seattle Foundation doesn't want to make the donation, we should just reveal the donor and not be afraid of any support of the candidates. They can independently justify the decision to invite TFA. (Remember transparency is essential in Seattle and in your job.)
Melissa and the teachers don't matter at all with the vast majority of voters. We're concerned with providing the absolute best education opportunities for our kids. TFA isn't the answer but is an option to provide our kids and the general populace will support this.
Okay, clearly the issue of the TFA fee was always something murky. As I have said, who was our mystery donor behind door #1? Could it have been Gates? Allen? Bezos?
That he points out she shouldn't worry about the candidates is interesting. Clearly he thought it might have political implications.
Good for him saying that transparency is essential - we were waiting for months for MGJ AND Enfield to be transparent on this matter.
I have no idea why he believes the "general populace" will believe whatever they are told. "Yes, your tax dollars will go to X because we say so and we know for a fact it will work." I'm not taking Mr. Bridge's word for it.
As for whether the "vast majority" of voters would listen to me (or Charlie); probably not. But do the vast majority listen to The Stranger? or any other media outlet?
However, to say that teachers don't matter at all - I'm with several other commenters here who said when they go out doorbelling with a teacher, people listen. I've had the same experience. Teachers have more respect than the ed reform crowd wants the "general populace" to believe. Teachers DO matter and their opinions about what happens in our district matter and well, if they don't know, who does?
Also in this batch of is an e-mail labeled Board Meeting and TFA from Sherry Carr to Noel Treat and Susan Enfield on September 10.
This is a conundrum. I would say the final number is going to be two unless we make the phone call to find someone to be named to pay the fee for the two we have approved.
We are expending too much time and too much political capital on TFA. Even at 30 teachers this wasn't a needle mover so at numbers like 6 or less we aren't taking about much of an impact. You are on the brink of losing my support on this one - I would urge you to figure it out. I'm not willing to engage in much more dialogue on TFA. (bold mine)
Yes, quite a conundrum because according to what Sherry knew, there was no donor (or at least anyone who would put their name on the money).
Yes, the district (and Dr. Enfield) spent WAY too much time and too many resources on TFA. The question is why?
So clearly Mr. Bridge was working the TFA issue and now the Alliance throws down a Memo. This thing is a fun read (take a sip of your cocktail every time they say "we". ) Thanks to Cascade for this alert.
They first appear to just be answering the call for input from the Board on the next permanent superintendent's qualities. The Board asked for input from all directions so this is perfectly fine.
They claim that so much progress was made (but admit more needs to happen) and it happened under CAO Enfield. But then they go on to talk about increased enrollment (she had nothing to do with this) and a new collective bargaining agreement (again, not her area) and then this pronouncement:
As a means of continuing and accelerating these gains, we strongly urge the School Board to convert Interim Superintendent Enfield's contract to permanent without delay. (bold theirs)
Then, they explain how SPS has had 5 superintendents in 16 years. That's about the national average of 3 years per superintendent.
Let's see, one died, two got exited for their exceeding poor performances, one retired and one left on his own. I would submit if the Alliance had shown some leadership in demanding better financial oversight of the district and stood in support of the work of CAICEE and Moss-Adams, we wouldn't have this unsightly record. They didn't.
They claim a search would be "unnecessary and counter-productive." They're entitled to their opinion but it is only an opinion.
Then, they go on to lay out their "Expectations of the Superintendent." Who asked for this input? I did love "value the community as the 'owner' of its schools." They also call out for "an unwavering commitment " to the teachers contract." Doesn't every superintendent have to honor a contract that the district signs? What is it they worry will happen?
THEN, they lay out their "Expectations of the School Board." Again, why? Is this to serve notice to the two newest members and to remind current members what the Alliance "expects?" My favorite?
Establish mechanisms to solicit input from representative samples of the public, not only self-selected individuals or subgroups.
First, the district does have a fair amount of meetings open to all. They have been doing more surveys (poorly written but there's an effort made). And self-selected? Doesn't anyone who attends a meeting or write an e-mail "self-selected?" And what makes a "sub-group?" Does it have to have a Chamber of Commerce stamp of approval on it?
In the end, the Board and the Superintendent should to listen to ALL input and give none more weight than any other (unless it is large numbers of parents and/or teachers as they are the front-lines of public education).
They then give two options which are not options at all. One, to consider what a swell job Dr. Enfield has done so far.
Two, "carefully consider the cost of a search." Uh oh, I guess that's the Alliance's way of saying "we won't pay for it." "A search of choice will sap the system of time, attention and resources." Oh, and all the expenditure of time and resources for TFA - that was worth it?
This is the most IMPORTANT job in the district and we need to get it right. Money cannot be the reason to say no to a search.
I know what the Alliance's public engagement looks like. It's not an open dialog. And their continuing claim of creating a community values group to dialog on the teachers contract is galling. They sat in the offices at LEV for months, listening to a REAL coalition of groups work hard on figuring out how to be part of the discussion and then took that knowledge to create their own group. I even called them out on it at a meeting and they kind of looked down at the table.
I am going to quote our reader, Skeptical, here because he/she says it better than I can:
The Alliance fails miserably, absolutely miserably, at being anything other than patrician, paternalistic and blatantly disrespectful to SPS's current teaching staff and to community members who differ from their ideas.
The ideas on this blog threaten The Monied and In Control. Because the insiders can't control the owners and authors on this blog, and they can't minimize the impact of the blog, and the many citizens who read, think and contribute, despite their best efforts. And that's why I love this blog. Truth to Power, Alliance. Truth to Power.
So the Powers That Be have lost their control over the Board (and especially the two members who walked lock-step with them. (Interestingly, they issued their "memo" one day after the election when they thought only lost one position. I'm sure they were doubly glad they wrote it now.) Now they need to have someone else they know they can - choose your word; guide, handle, manipulate, direct - to carry out their vision. I'll have to sit down with Dr. Enfield and ask her about all this.
I don't know exactly what comes next. I would think that if you want a fighting chance for a search, you might want to start e-mailing after November 30th (when we have our new Board). I really have to wonder if these meetings were nothing more than an opportunity to say how well it's going and we're poor and oh, let's just keep Enfield. It's almost as if everyone believes a search can't be done well. Nonsense.
I will put up this blog's credibility and ability to engage and get information out there that people can use over the Alliance's any day. I would like the opportunity to work together but not if you continue to marginalize Charlie and me.
Apparently, my Alliance friends, people ARE listening.