Thursday, February 09, 2012

Lowell; Sadly, the Plot Thickens

According to the News Tribune in Tacoma, their district has withdrawn its offer of employment to Greg King, currently principal at Lowell.

I don't know what that means to Lowell. Will he stay? Still leave? It seems he submitted his resignation.

Unfortunately, this is a messy situation.

There was an original allegation that was brought to Principal King's attention about a staff member (not a teacher). The other principal, Rina Geoghangan, also knew of this allegation. As well, the Executive Director was brought into the loop.

So there are two issues that will eventually come out.

One is the allegation of concern over the behavior of a staff member towards students. It was reported to multiple leaders. What was the outcome of that investigation?

Two, is the handling of the reports of concern brought by at least two staff members (and possibly a third person) to building leadership. It appears that instead of following protocol about investigating any type of allegation about a member of staff and students, some of those in leadership may have decided to chart their own course. In doing so, they affected many lives.

It is baffling. I know that there is a protocol for leadership to follow whenever there are reports of concern over behavior of any staff member towards students. This is in place to protect the accused, the students and the person bringing the allegation. No principal should go off-script. This is NOT the time for principals to use their judgment; you follow protocol for legal reasons that protect all involved (including the district).

This calls to mind the recent case out in California of two teachers at an elementary school who were arrested on child molestation charges. This is a terrible story and again, those in leadership seemed to not be aware in the slightest about these individuals.

But what did the district there do? They got rid of the entire teaching staff. What a devastating outcome for both students and teachers. Was the district there trying to indict the entire teaching staff? It seems like it. If you were a teacher in that building, you might feel like your world has gone upside down. You've lost your school, your classroom, your children and what have you done? For the children, more confusion. I can't imagine being a child trying to understand why your school is suddenly totally changed.

But that's how serious is the charge of inappropriate behavior between a staff member and a child (or children). That's why leadership follows protocol the minute an incident is brought to their attention.

It protects everyone.

65 comments:

NLM said...

Official word that Mr. King will not be working in Tacoma.

http://www.thenewstribune.com/2012/02/09/2019600/principal-criticized-by-seattle.html

That was fast.

joanna said...

The Times has it now.
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/education/2017470406_lowell10m.html

Ed said...

The culture inside Lowell has been allowed to fester for a number of years before King ever got there.

The "Culture Survey" conducted by the District during Patrick Johnson's years as an "Education Director" was hushed up to protect another principal who was transfered out two years ago.

She's fine and now polluting another elementary in the valley.

So it goes.

No one is "watching the watchers" and if they are, they are pledged to silence.

David said...

Great point, Ed, that there is a culture of silence.

You see it in the calls to channel all discussion and complaints through your PTA where your thoughts can be promptly ignored. You see it in the claims that we shouldn't talk openly about bad teachers, principals, and staff because it is unfair or impolite to the adults, nevermind the children. And you see it in the attempts to silence this and other blogs.

That is why, despite their flaws, I like this blog and blogs like the West Seattle Blog so much. It bypasses those trying to control the discussion and provides at least a little more transparency. The more sunlight we can shine on the operations of this district, the better.

dw said...

Ed said: The culture inside Lowell has been allowed to fester for a number of years before King ever got there.

What on earth are you talking about?

No school is perfect in every way. There are always problems to deal with and an occasional ineffective teacher. Lowell is no exception to that. But for at least several years prior to Greg King's arrival the school was, in general, exemplary (and to be fair, as I and others have said, Greg did a great job dealing with a very difficult situation his first year). Prior to that, Julie Breidenbach ran a tight ship, looked after her teachers, paid attention to many individual students' needs (more than most of you know), and kept the building operating as well as any other.

She may have seemed curt to many parents, but it's just her personality to get right to business and not waste time. After a while I actually become thankful for that because it allowed her to stay focused on the important aspects of running the school and not get dragged into every last bit of minutiae.

If you have some complaint Ed, let's hear about it, rather than just beating around the bush. My guess is you're letting something personal get in the way of a realistic overall assessment.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

You want to write about administrators operating outside of a given protocol? Do it! Please! We must bring to light the ways in which this District fails us. And there are countless stories to use as a reference point. There are countless examples of administrative corruption, bullying and incompetence from which to pick.

But that is not what you did here. You are intelligent enough to know the simple choice to associate two completely separate events in one post - to lay them side-by-side - is enough to create a connection between the two in many people's minds. You chose THAT story as a reference point? You cannot possible have chosen that story without considering the potential ramifications. Really. It's just not possible. If you truly wanted to make a point about administrative incompetence, then you would have done so without bringing the specter of molestation into the mix. You must know how harmful such associations are to a staff and school.

As an educator, I've had enough experience within SPS to have experienced the best and worst it could possibly muster. It fails us in so…many…ways. We really must fight each and every student's right to an exceptional education and demand the District deliver. As an educator I do so on every single day…much to my own professional detriment. When one sticks her or his neck out there will always be someone waiting to take a swipe at it. As educators and staff members, we are both employees and advocates and this tension creates some challenges when forced to challenge those in positions of power.

When I take a stand, when I choose to fight for something I believe in I always measure the amount of force necessary and, importantly, identify the specific place to apply it. If I choose to go and to start swinging away at someone or some issue, I make damn certain I know where the punches will land. Identify the issue and apply your force there.

To do otherwise is dangerous since you may miss your mark as you've done here. If you want to speak truth to power and hold those in positions of power responsible, then do so directly.

This post has created collateral damage upon those who have the most to lose: the dedicate teachers and staff, students and families for whom we care deeply. You have purposely connected a horrible, despicable event to our school without warrant. Your efforts here are hurting the reputation of every individual associated with Lowell, not simply the administration you so clearly seem to be targeting. Please consider more fully your choices and don't make our job any harder than they already are.

This blog is often a means of bringing to light the hidden, of shining a public light upon those areas of our schools that many would rather remain hidden. This blog is also, at times, a source of vitriol, libel and character assassination. I dearly hope it returns to the former pronto.

Shame on you for this one.

- YAS

Dorothy Neville said...

Dear YAS.

Do you know what happened at Lowell? Do you know the events and investigations of which Melissa speaks? Something tells me the answer to those questions is no.

Yes, the scope of what happened in LA is bigger. Yes, the scope of what has happened in other SPS schools has also been bigger, but the underlying theme? The same. And it was allowed to get bigger in LA and Broadview Thompson because reports of troubling behavior were ignored.

Dorothy Neville said...

Let me be a bit more clear. I don't want folks to get the impression that there are allegations against King of inappropriate behavior toward a student. Not that I am aware of. The issue is when some staff brought concerns about another staff member's behavior to the administrators, were their concerns handled appropriately? That's what the investigation is about. At least, this is where the investigation started. Digging deeper into Lowell and the abysmal staff climate surveys might show some additional context, but I am not sure that that is even part of the investigation.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

This is the first time that I have read any comments on the Seattle Public Schools blog , but I have been waiting to hear the outcome of the investigation for many months now.

I am a former staff member from last year. There were thirteen staff members who are no longer at Lowell/Hamilton or Lowell from last year's staff. I am including IA's, Speech and other specialities, along with teachers. APP is a program that has a history of very little turnover, because people loved their jobs.

The bullying, threatening, hostile atmosphere created by Mr. King toward the staff was a nightmare. I feel fortunate to have gotten away from it. Staff, opting to leave Lowell for a safe climate, needed to have recommendations from Mr. King and Rina G. They could not give their reason for leaving as having anything to do with the atmosphere at Lowell without endangering their next job possibility. Many of us saw that there was no protection for staff from Seattle Public School administrators who were aware of the bullying, or the SEA. There were teachers who retired unexpectedly. The bullying that I saw my colleagues undergo was tragic to watch.

Gregory King also took much of the creativity out of the curriculum. He did not appear to understand what really matters for an excellent gifted curriculum. He didn't just sell gifted out, he simply does not "get what it is."
He took the joy out of teaching for many.

Sincerely,
A former Lowell Staff person

Much more could be said. Gregory King should not be an administrator for any school.

Sincerely,
Former staff member of Lowell

dw said...

Sigh. I'll salvage this post, but why can't people read the instructions? Melissa, it looks like you can use at least some markup in the "Leave your comment" text, since "Name" and "Anonymous" are in bold. How about using a little red? I bet it would help, it's a constant problem.
---------------
Anonymous said...
Over ten dedicated Lowell staff members have suffered harassment, retaliation, and intimidation over the past year and a half. Other staff members left last June to escape the hostility that all have experienced first-hand, whether targeted or not.

There is much speculation on the blogs - and it hurts greatly when the hostility this staff has - and still is - subjected to - is dismissed. All of the truth has never been posted. Staff must still contend with an atmosphere where a few "favored" staff members literally watch and follow others staff members and participate with the Lowell administration - and on up "downtown" - in the accusations and lies, used to bring up yet more "charges" against staff.

That the majority of you have not known about this investigation which started in early fall, speaks to the integrity of all those who have suffered irreparable damage - to physical and emotional health, reputation, and career. This situation is tragic and should have never been allowed to continue.So many have been waiting patiently for months to, hopefully, have all that has gone on finally exposed honestly.

Bullying is perpetuated by silence, isolation, and favoritism. Thanks to those who have brought forth pieces of this very tragic and complex situation that has hurt so very many people.

Anonymous said...

Important: Lowell Community Meeting this Thurday night.
Do you have questions and concerns about Lowell Elementary’s future?
Please come to a community meeting with Nancy Coogan, executive director of schools for the Seattle Public Schools’ central region, which includes Lowell. She wants to hear and address our concerns about Lowell’s present and its future.
The meeting will be Thursday, Feb. 16, starting at 6:30 p.m. in the Lowell lunchroom.
This is a great opportunity to ask questions and get answers. To all parents, staff and other members of the Lowell community.
signed - pp

Anonymous said...

Bullying Lowell Staff part 1

The system for bullying school staff members seems foolproof as it has the sanction of being legal.

Higher salaries, for teachers with a number of years of teaching experience, and the cost for the district of contributing toward a teacher’s retirement once they have fourteen years of experience, has made it cost effective to eliminate teachers prior to the retirement age of sixty-five. School districts with fiscal woes, have walked the walk for legally getting rid of senior teachers. School systems can save money through hiring teachers new to public school teaching. If a teacher has less than fourteen years of teaching, the school district will not have to pay into retirement. Now teachers nearing fourteen years can well expect that targeting practices may soon come their way. Over the past decade, many school systems have found ways that could stand up in court, that would get rid of anyone in a fairly short period of time. I witnessed bullying and harassment at the hands of Gregory King toward Lowell staff.

There was constant bullying toward many Lowell staff members during the last school year, and I understand that these tactics are still operating. I will speak to only a few of the targeting practices that I saw colleagues undergo. Within about two weeks time, a staff person finds themselves in a situation where they can not extricate themselves.

Signed,

Observer

Anonymous said...

Lowell Bullying part 2


The principal need only raise a point of concern about a teacher in “writing.” It does not have to have been truthful or accurate. The staff person’s answer or reply gets attached to the “concern” filed, but is given no weight. It is completely legal for the complaint, mis represented or fabricated, to have been written, and the principal’s word on this is actually the “last word” that holds. SEA personnel representing the staff person don’t even listen to the teacher’s/staff’s story much of the time, as they know it won’t make any difference in the end. They are there to represent the staff person, but they always say to you privately, that what has been said has been perfectly legal and has followed the stated protocol. Having the SEA person there at the meeting, doing nothing to represent the truth about the issue, gives the administrators the clear message that SEA realizes that what ever was alleged will stand. Each day the principal or vice principal writes up another complaint. Staff are demanded to have a meeting where the complaint is presented. It really doesn’t matter what the staff person has to say, this procedure is just a step in the process.

I would like to say, that staff were called in day after day during their planning times, a tactic that made it harder for them to get things ready between lessons. Staff came out feeling shattered and undercut, and were expected to go back to their class and teach as if they had no emotional fallout. Fall out and break down were the goals for their “future.” Each day the staff member would have a short period of time to respond in writing , which would get attached to the “complaint.” These responses always took an emotional toll on the staff person, but were encouraged by the union and other staff. Responding was a way to stand up for the “truth,“ even though what the staff person had to say would not matter. I saw on a regular basis beleaguered staff sobbing after the school day. Staff who had to go home, try to regroup themselves emotionally, write up a response to what had been raised at the meeting, and then grade papers and prepare for the next day, only to experience the same attacks day after day. This is phase I.

Signed,

Lowell supporter

Anonymous said...

Lowell Bullying part 3

After about two weeks of this, Phase II begins. The teacher is put on an improvement plan, which gives the principal open reign to harass the teacher. Goals assigned to the teacher provide the inroad. All teachers need to self select two or three goals, taken from the list of highly effective teachers. These goal lists, selected by the school district, have many goals, with many subdivisions for each goal. A teacher need only select three goals, with a few of the subdivisions, to focus on for the year. The teacher put on an improvement plan is virtually given the entire list with all the subdivisions. When I saw copies that my colleagues had been given, I was horrified. All teacher’s shown these lists were blown away. “Who could do all of this?“ was the shocked response. Everyone one of us was grateful that we were not faced with such a list, and knew that if we were, we could not hope to be successful in following through with the expectations listed. These lists were more than unfair, they were not possible.

The phase of the improvement plan went on for months, with no stopping on how impossible the daily demands were. It would be easy to find an area mentioned where the staff member had fallen short. It would be easy to make the next write up of ‘documentation’ or increased demands , which continued day after day, week after week. For staff members who saw these continued harassments on colleagues, we felt out hearts breaking, along with notifying us that this could be our fate. There was nothing that we could do to stand up to the unfairness of these tactics without being seen as unprofessional.

Then we pass to stage III, as seen by observant staff. We saw colleagues put on probation. Here the demands, attacks and harassment continue, but the staff member is not allowed to apply to a new school the following year. They are required to stay where they will be “finished off” by the principal who is “pushing them out“ of the school district.

Signed,
Lowell Supporter

Anonymous said...

Lowell Bullying part 4

All of this takes time on the part of administration. Increased administrative staff are needed to be on top of filing all these unreasonable and often falsely skewed charges. Rina Goghegan was given the responsibility of observing teachers until she could find an aspect of fault, usually completely misrepresenting the truth. She oversaw much of the harassment going on. She could represent in meetings with a level of verbal fluency that Mr. King does not display. She preformed her role flawlessly. Mr. King should not be seen as the only one who was bullying staff. It might have been under his directive, but it was often executed by Rina.

That is why I do not see Rina Goggehan as “innocent” from acting skillfully in using harassment tactics on teachers who she is supervising. She misusing the position of assistant principal for guiding and supporting staff, to often use her power for abusing and ushering staff out the door. Her job included the breaking down of staff.

Signed,

Lowell Supporter

Anonymous said...

Lowell Bullying part 5

Other tactics included making things hard on a targeted teacher included: Moving a teacher to a different grade level, moving them from their classroom, giving them more children with special needs in their class, Ignoring them in a social way, with hostile energy directed toward them, sabotage them from getting helpers in their classroom, supplies, etc. Gregory and Rina would question children about the value of what they were being asked to do, or how they liked their assignments while lessons were being conducted. The message from the principal was not a supporting one at all for the teacher in the midst of teaching a lesson. There was an undermining effect on the classroom in numerous ways that made it harder for that class to function. Children in the class were the ones really being sacrificed. Many other tactics aimed at isolating targeted teachers, building “spies” who reported in on targeted teachers, etc. All made for a paranoid, sick atmosphere, where most teachers did not feel safe or respected.

Many of us got out while the getting was good. We remain caring about Lowell and Lowell/Hamilton . We wish that these tactics were not used on staff. We view such cruelty as substantially underming our school. Those who experienced the harassment could give many more examples of the breadth and scope of tactics used on them. I believe that a change in leadership is needed in order to bring health to these schools.

Signed ,

Lowell supporter

Anonymous said...

Lowell Bullying part 5

Other tactics included making things hard on a targeted teacher included: Moving a teacher to a different grade level, moving them from their classroom, giving them more children with special needs in their class, Ignoring them in a social way, with hostile energy directed toward them, sabotage them from getting helpers in their classroom, supplies, etc. Gregory and Rina would question children about the value of what they were being asked to do, or how they liked their assignments while lessons were being conducted. The message from the principal was not a supporting one at all for the teacher in the midst of teaching a lesson. There was an undermining effect on the classroom in numerous ways that made it harder for that class to function. Children in the class were the ones really being sacrificed. Many other tactics aimed at isolating targeted teachers, building “spies” who reported in on targeted teachers, etc. All made for a paranoid, sick atmosphere, where most teachers did not feel safe or respected.

Many of us got out while the getting was good. We remain caring about Lowell and Lowell/Hamilton . We wish that these tactics were not used on staff. We view such cruelty as substantially underming our school. Those who experienced the harassment could give many more examples of the breadth and scope of tactics used on them. I believe that a change in leadership is needed in order to bring health to these schools.

Signed ,

Lowell supporter

Anonymous said...

Correction to Lowell Bullying.

I had meant Lowell/Lincoln, not Lowell/Hamilton.

I also did not mention all the health issues that many staff felt were the result of the Lowell politics. There was no end to how badly people were treated. When their bodies were breaking down, it seemed to inspire more bullying their way. It was clear that Mr. King and Rina G. could see the success from their methods.

Sincerely,
Lowell Supporter

mirmac1 said...

Holy Crap! Brian Rosenthal, where are you? This is a boil that needs lancing!

Anonymous said...

@mirmac1 Sadly, what this person experienced is just one part of the bullying that went on at Lowell last year and continues this year. There is a lot more to the story. For many reasons people have felt it best to stay quiet about their individual situations. I cannot tell you how incredibly painful it has been to read comments from posters who say things like this is a smear campaign against Lowell administrators or that the problems are due to petty issues with a few disgruntled employees. No! These issues go to core values such as as treating people with respect, honesty and professionalism. The actions by Lowell administrators have affected employees' physical, emotional and financial well being along with their personal and professional reputations. And the blame does not stop at the building administration level. It runs vertically and laterally through the SPS organizational structure. We would not tolerate our students behaving the way Lowell administrators behave. Nor would we tolerate our students ignoring bullying and abuse the way central administration does. When co-workers call in the morning in tears because they are worried about what they will face at school that day, or when a hard-working, dedicated employee feels too sick in their stomach to go to work, you know something is terribly wrong. And ultimately, it is not just staff who suffer. Even though they are trying their hardest, this ends up affecting students.
-in agreement

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

People are not posting these comments to create a better or "bigger" story. Believe me - all the people posting would prefer honest, fair, and respectful working conditions that would allow them to focus on students.
-in agreement

Anonymous said...

make that bigger and "better"
-in agreeent

Melissa Westbrook said...

YAS, I never used the word "molestation". Inappropriate behavior means A LOT of things. That your mind went there is something I can't control.

"There were thirteen staff members who are no longer at Lowell/Hamilton or Lowell from last year's staff. I am including IA's, Speech and other specialities, along with teachers. APP is a program that has a history of very little turnover, because people loved their jobs."

Quite telling.

Lowell Supporter, thank you for laying out out. I don't know if all you say is true but that's a lot of detail for something made-up.

Anonymous said...
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Dorothy Neville said...

YAS was complaining that you brought up the LA case in conjunction with Lowell. If there were no specter of any inappropriate conduct with children in the Lowell situation, then YAS would have been correct to be shocked and upset with that and think you are being incredibly unprofessional, slanderous perhaps. YAS evidently believed that the issues surrounding GK and RG and the district are strictly regarding adults, strictly involving whether or not King is a bullying tyrant or an effective assertive administrator.

What people will find out when the report comes out (and I have assurance that it will be a public document) is that the trigger for the investigation (at least the only trigger I know, there could be more) is regarding possible inappropriate behavior. A staff member shared with RG concerns about another staff member's behavior with children. Nothing to call the police on, but still probably not something to ignore. If I were a parent of a child exposed to that behavior, I would want it stopped. The question is, what happened next and what should have happened next? Does the district have a clear procedure for this? Are there clear behavior guidelines for staff dealing with children, are there clear guidelines for what to do when this sort of concern is taken to an administrator? Every one of us who has ever had a child in school would certainly hope and expect the answer is yes. One would think that after Broadview-Thompson, the district would be all over this sort of thing.

I know at least some of what did happen next. Of course I don't know everything, but the parts that I do know -- and have seen the documentation -- are extremely troubling and illogical.

I do not know about the other issues. The description of the bullying and how it was accomplished matches things that I had heard but have no proof for. I had been skeptical because they are emotionally difficult anecdotes that just seemed so extreme, surely they were exaggerating! I had no way of knowing for sure. But, I have seen documentation of the incident that involved my friend directly and whoa! It absolutely makes no sense, no sense at all. For an assistant principal, with the full knowledge of the principal, to behave in such an extremely illogical way made absolutely no sense unless they were already operating completely outside the normal standards and had no worries about being challenged.

Frankly, I have no idea of the scope of the investigation. I have no idea if the sorts of things that Lowell Supporter describes are even covered in the investigation. I hope so for the sake of objective, professional completeness and all the people involved. Those who have been involved in that aspect of the life at Lowell would know more. Have staff members with stories Lowell Supporter describes been interviewed by the investigator?

Ed said...

"dw" you don't know what you are talking about.

Julie ran "a tight ship" for parents, but the intensive "Climate survey" done jointly by SEA and SSD Director Patrict Johnson during her time at Lowell showed that she did that by using a number of the same tactics King is now accused of.

Having talked to MANY of the staff members at that time, I am aware of the racist abusive comments she made to ADULTS during her time there were outrageous and would even convince you.

Assuming you are'nt just using "dw" but are really Julie herself.

I'm just not going to engage in a public debate as too many people get hurt or harmed by the tenor and tone here.

onthefly said...

Lowell supporter... great job explaining the process administrators use to attack those who don't agree with them.

Every employee should read that.

Unless you've been there and witnessed it happen to yourself or somebody else, I don't think the public -- and even some of our colleagues -- want to believe how bad, petty and mean some administrators really can be.

You just don't expect that when you dedicate your life at great personal sacrifice to helping children you would be treated so brutally.

You know you're going to be paid a pittance and that there are going to be long hours... but to be treated this way is outrageous.

... and the state senate just handed people like King an evaluation system with job penalties and consequences that gives administrators infinitely more power.

Anonymous said...
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dw said...

Ed said:"dw" you don't know what you are talking about.

I can't use the language that first comes to mind because my post would be deleted. I was in the building at least once a week for all 5 years of Julie's principalship. Some years closer to daily. I sure as hell do know what I'm talking about. Again, I really think you're letting something personal get in the way of a realistic overall assessment. It would not (did not) surprise me if Julie let out a semi-inappropriate comment once in a while because she speaks freely and frankly with adults, sometimes without thinking about possible hurt feelings.

Once she told a group of prospective APP parents that it was a program for "misfits". It was surprising to hear, but she's absolutely correct. It is (or at least was) a place for kids who did not fit in at a regular school.

Julie ran "a tight ship" for parents, but the intensive "Climate survey" done jointly by SEA and SSD Director Patrict Johnson during her time at Lowell showed that she did that by using a number of the same tactics King is now accused of.

Sure, I heard about one, maybe two staff that left when Julie applied pressure on them to work as a team with other staff. There are always personality differences that can't be worked through in any work environment, and this happens in almost every building when a new principal comes in. That's a far cry from what happened last year, with outrageous bullying and a complete decimation of the staff. Not even close.

Do you have a reference or URL to the climate survey you're talking about? I'd love to compare with last year's. Not to mention the inappropriate handling of the surveys last year, bringing up issues of potential tampering, etc. That ought to tell you that these situations were not similar. And I sure wouldn't bring up Patrick Johnson as a shining example of Ed Director.

Having talked to MANY of the staff members at that time, I am aware of the racist abusive comments she made to ADULTS during her time there were outrageous and would even convince you.

I have talked with MANY staff members myself, over many years, and never heard anything of the sort. Because of your comments here, I will, as time allows, dig further out of curiosity. I suspect if I talk to enough of the dispersed old-timers, someone will remember something related to what you're talking about, but I can almost guarantee you it wasn't widespread.

I suggest you do the same thing about last year's disaster. But you need to talk with people that were there during both periods of time we're talking about. Last year there were a number of staff around that fit that criteria, but almost no one anymore. That's telling in and of itself. Staff I talked with last year said the situation was FAR worse than anything they'd ever seen before.

Assuming you are'nt just using "dw" but are really Julie herself.

What a stupid comment.

I'm just not going to engage in a public debate as too many people get hurt or harmed by the tenor and tone here.

It's too late, you've already done that by attempting to compare last year to previous years. I won't let accusations like that fly by unchallenged.

SPSLeaks said...

I would be happy to post any climate surveys that speak to these issues...

Julian

SPSLeaks@gmail.com

Anonymous said...
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dw said...

I'm glad to see 9:39 post was not signed. I won't do them the dignity of reposting.

But there is a balance to this general equation. Regardless of the obscene situation at Lowell last year, there are times when it really is necessary to push an ineffective or uncooperative teacher out. Sometimes it's a personality clash, and merely moving to another building/environment is appropriate, other times it might just be time for someone to retire or look for another profession.

Having a set of tools to make that possible is important, and I don't want to see them disappear completely. Having taught for 20 years should not be a security shield with absolute protection. There's a very difficult balance to maintain.

The EdReform crowd touts how difficult it is to remove teachers as a call for charter schools. And indeed, there are many buildings that have a crappy teacher or two that manage to hold onto their job year after year because the process is too onerous for the principal(s). Charlie would argue that this is a problem with the principal, and I would agree. And yet, the Lowell debacle last year shows that a determined principal can without question remove teachers they don't like, even to the point of decimating a building by removing a very large chunk of staff, including great teachers. Hence the delicate balance.

Understanding the motivations behind the PUBLIC's support of EdReform is important. There is frustration among parents across the state, and indeed across the country, about the perceived lack of ability to remove ineffective teachers. Their frustration is not unwarranted. Now along comes a movement that promises to do something about it, so we should not be surprised to see people who aren't deep thinkers and researchers climbing on board.

We can guess/assume some of the unwelcome motivations behind the leaders of EdReform. Much of that debate takes place here on this forum and others around the nation. But to counter the EdReform movement, we need to pay more attention to the PUBLIC's motivation, which is simply a quality education for their children, and frustration with antiquated retention methodology for teachers.

continued...

dw said...

…continued

SueP recently said: Also "Last in, first out" (LIFO) is not some policy voodoo invented by the teachers union, but a common practice even in other professions. In times of budgetary cutbacks, it is common for companies to lay off the most recent hires, keeping the most experienced workers on staff. It's common sense.

Sue, I love your research, and all you are doing to fight the dark side of EdReform, but this is one point where I fear the EdReform crowd is winning the support of the swing voters. LIFO is, for the most part, antiquated in professional settings. It works for assembly lines, retailers and blue collar fields where workers simply do what they are told and are fairly interchangeable. But you will rarely find LIFO in a modern engineering firm, or a software firm, or an architectural firm, or in any professional occupation where employees have a lot of latitude in how they perform their duties.

I consider teachers to be professionals, not EdReform widgets. I want them to have a reasonable amount of freedom in how they go about their duties, to accept responsibility for both the good and bad that comes from that, to continue learning and growing throughout their career, which is necessary in all professional occupations. LIFO does not support those goals.

The problem, of course, is how to fairly evaluate teachers, because to say that they are all equal is clearly false. But this is where I feel the EdReformers fall flat, and one of the reasons why I cannot support them: the methods they are pushing for evaluation are neither robust, nor fair. In particular, using students' test scores as a significant part of evaluations, for the many reasons that have been discussed here and elsewhere.

I strongly support our teachers, and have actually become more supportive of teachers' unions in recent years, but they need to start adjusting to the realities and expectations of the modern world. If the EdReform crowd continues to gather strength, particularly around this hot button issue, eventually they will be like a tsunami, rolling over us all, leaving nothing but flattened disaster behind. I don't want that to happen. Everyone needs to stop and think carefully about why EdReform is able to sell their message, and how to counteract that message in a meaningful way rather than dig in our heels.

Anonymous said...

Mr. King has targeted many more staff and teachers in a given year than were ever targeted by Ms. Briedenbauch, however she was the one who introduced at Lowell many of the tactics that he uses. She did run a tight ship. She got rid of those she did not like, using methods deliniated in a previous post. She was good to "her people," who grew in numbers as she hired people to be on her staff.

Seattle Schools conducted an inhouse investigation on bullying charges, which found there was considerable bullying reported concerning Ms. Breidenbauch. The staff then took part in an anti-bullying workshop called "Colors."
Once completed, the concepts from the program were never referred to again. This was a matter of the school district following procedures, showing that they had done something about the concerns.
The staff remained deeply polarized, mostly due to issues regarding curriculum and harrassment. Dividing the program into two separate sites releived the pressure at Lowell during that first year of community building. Mr. King was a successful leader that year.

Mr. King came into his second year saying that the honeymoon was over and that he was now going to do things his way. This New Lowell community was torn apart through the leadership of Mr. King last year.

Signed,
Former Lowell staffer

Anonymous said...
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onthefly said...

...there are times when it really is necessary to push an ineffective or uncooperative teacher out. Sometimes it's a personality clash, and merely moving to another building/environment is appropriate

Principals aren't kings. Professionals are allowed to have collegial disagreements with other professionals -- even with principals... even with superintendents and school board members.

Not only is this allowed, it's preferred.

In fact, it says so right in the contract.

The most important part of the Certificated Bargaining Agreement is right in the preamble and it gets completely ignored by the administration.

"We believe there is a correlation between the education of our students and the empowerment of the
staff entrusted with the responsibility for their learning. Therefore, this Agreement commits both
parties to building a collaborative partnership based on mutual respect and trust that is deeper than
the leadership and which will continue beyond the tenure of those currently in leadership positions in
our respective organizations."

We are not slaves -- we are educated professionals who must be treated as such.

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Anonymous said...

Climate Survey--at the time the climate survey was taken in the Spring, there were already staff personnel who had resigned, or were out on medical leave due to the stress of harrassment, who did not get to take part in the survey. Even without their input, the results of the survey showed deep dissatisfaction with administration.

SPS staff

Anonymous said...

"CLIMATE SURVEY' - results of the survey showed deep dissatisfaction with administration"

Again, your basic premise is that the teachers are fantastic and there is an insensitive principal who is the cause of everything.

Consider the alternative explanation. The teachers were doing a marginal job; a new principal was trying to institute some changes, and the teachers, who are set in their ways, felt threatened, intimidated. And, rightly so. In their mind, tThe impossible has happened! Somebody is trying to hold our feet to the fire!! Let's resist! Let's organize! Let's call the Seattle Times! The End of the Word is near!! We might have to shape up!! Let's not allow such things!!

Lowellist

onthefly said...

You have to earn the parents' and the principal's respect.

This statement speaks volumes.

So we ARE your slaves who have to bow and scrape to please you, is that it?

I think you may have teachers confused with indentured servants or prisoners who have to earn our freedom.

You see this vile attitude of entitlement in a few of the schools in rich neighborhoods in Seattle.

My job isn't about "earning your respect". My job is to use my education and experience (usually more than most principals) to educate children in the most effective way.

If you don't want to respect that because I don't bow and scrape before you or a principal that's fine with me.

dw said...

Thanks for the add'l info, Lowell Staffer. (although it's a little odd that as a former staffer you don't know how to spell your old boss's name).

I don't think it's uncommon for one or two staff to leave (or in some cases, be pushed out) with a principal change. In fact, I think it's probably uncommon for it not to happen. But I will do a little digging to the the bullying investigation you've brought up.

Still, there's no comparison between what happened last year and during the previous several years.

Anonymous said...

Teacher evaluation is based on the Danielson Framework, details of which are in the 2010-13 SEA Collective Bargaining Agreement.

http://www.seattlewea.org/static_content/cbacert.pdf

pg 107 - Evaluation

pg 141 - State code for teachers responsibilities

pg 147 - Evaluation criteria

-it's in the contract

Bird said...
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Bird said...
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Bird said...

Again, your basic premise is that the teachers are fantastic and there is an insensitive principal who is the cause of everything.

I have no first hand knowlege of what's gone on at Lowell, but the school reports and climate surveys don't appear to back the story that the school was filled with mediocre teachers who rebelled when the cracker jack principal decided to hold their feet to the fire.

The test scores for the school don't indicate any notable problems-- or at least not any problems that can't be found district-wide and are unlikely to be fixed by simply shaking up the staff.

The parent and student climate surveys are likewise unremarkable, outside of the 21 percent drop last year in the parent survey for the question "I am satisfied with the leadership provided by the school principal."

I suppose it's possible that there were one or two bad teachers, not enough to impact the school overall, and that just trying to get rid of those caused this giant mess.

But if that's the case, this still is a colossal failure of leadership. It should be relatively easy to maintain the support of the rest of the staff under those circumstances.

In any case, I don't see any evidence to back your theory, Lowellist.

If you have any I'd love to hear it.

Anonymous said...

Response to BIRD:"In any case, I don't see any evidence to back your theory, Lowellist. "

Well, I have plenty of first-hand experience with Lowell APP. (All of the comments below are related to APP; I have no experience with the other parts of Lowell). The sections below are from a letter wrote sent in response to a parent who was considering Lowell for her gifted kid.
-----
There is no question that the APP program is clearly better than the standard fare in the regular public schools, and clearly better than the Spectrum program. They are ahead of the regular curriculum (probably the "2 years ahead" stated expectation is probably not really a full 2 years, and it depends on the teacher and the discipline). The quality of the kids in the APP classroom is generally good (clearly better than regular classes or Spectrum). The kids do get homework (again, teacher-dependent), and they do learn in the class.

However, the quality of the teaching is not what we expected. There is quantity in the work they do, but not the kind of quality one would expect. There isn't enough differentiation, and there isn't enough challenging problem-solving, that would really 'teach them to think differently'. APP kids get bored easily, and most teachers just teach a little bit 'ahead of their age', but not radically differently.

The root cause of all of this is, that the APP is a 'black sheep' in the Seattle school district. The District is more worried about trying to get the low end of the Gauss curve to come up, then about what happens to the top percentiles. APP is really, just tolerated (at best), and every year there are efforts to dilute it, to suppress it, to merge it with the other classes (what happened a couple of years ago with Lowell). In fact, we have seen the APP used /abused to improve the overall scores of a school, or to "demonstrate" that a marginal teacher is doing a good job ("Look at the fantastic scores his class is doing!!").

Most teachers do not really have any qualifications or interests in APP teaching or in challenging highly gifted kids. They use all sorts of excuses why they cannot go 'higher' in math, for example, due to 'District regulations' or similar half-cooked excuses. But, we feel that the real reason is that the teachers are too burned out to 'go the extra mile'. And this probably applies to every public school, but it really is obvious at the APP level. All of this is probably (at least in part) related to the scary fact that there is a super strong Union power in public schools.

Another big problem is that some of the APP kids get in early on, and even though they have the right IQ, they don't work hard enough or don't have the right parenting background, and they fall behind over the years. So the class splits into two separate groups. In such cases, there is no mechanism to put them back to Spectrum, and much of the teachers' efforts is spent on working on the 'low end' of the class.

Another problem is that the kids in the class do not 'push each other' to excel. Part of it is due to the large 'spread' in abilities and ambitions (see previous paragraph). There is certainly not the atmosphere of exploration, curiosity, and intellect that one would like to see from a bunch of kids who are supposedly at the top end of the Gauss curve.

There are many, many meetings and discussions on how to improve the APP, but these discussions go nowhere. Generally, there is a climate at the School and District level where the APP is at the bottom of the priorities. APP, in essence, survives, because it is tolerated (until now), but most principals do not really feel like it is a priority.

PS- when you have APP as part of your school, of COURSE the test results are good. But this does not mean much, as the test standards are ridiculously low.

Lowellist

Anonymous said...

Response to ONTHELFY

"You have to earn the parents' and the principal's respect."

"This statement speaks volumes. So we ARE your slaves who have to bow and scrape to please you, is that it? I think you may have teachers confused with indentured servants or prisoners who have to earn our freedom. You see this vile attitude of entitlement in a few of the schools in rich neighborhoods in Seattle."

YOUR response speaks volumes, as it shows YOUR sense of entitlement. Whether you like it or not, you are a government-paid service professional, who is supposed to perform at a high level. If you choose not to, you are no use to my kids and my tax dollars are wasted, and the future of my kids is endangered.

This does not mean you have to bow to the parents or any such nonsense. But you have to please the parents, who have HIGH EXPECTATIONS from you. You have to PERFORM at a high level, and if you do, then everything else will follow. Principal's respect, parents' respect, and the rest. It is a very simple principle.

I feel like a character in a Kafka book for even having to explain this to you.

Lowellist

onthefly said...

...you have to please the parents, who have HIGH EXPECTATIONS from you...

Why yessuh massuh lowellist. I'll try my best to please you massuh.

I feel like a character in a Kafka book for even having to explain this to you.

You know, I see you as a character in a "Kafka book" also -- something along the lines of Sordini in "The Trial."

Look it up. Then you can thank me for educating you about Kafka.

Anonymous said...

onthefly: ...you have to please the parents, who have HIGH EXPECTATIONS from you..." Why yessuh massuh lowellist. I'll try my best to please you massuh."

You just don't get it. Your salary is paid from my tax dollars. You are not doing any favors teaching the kids.

Your attitude, your sense of entitlement and the fact that you can bank on a whole Union system defending you -- this is exactly what parents, principals, administrators and all reasonable people should fight against. No wonder, that with teachers like you, American kids score lower on standardized tests than most other countries.

Lowellist

Bird said...
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Bird said...

Most teachers do not really have any qualifications or interests in APP teaching or in challenging highly gifted kids. They use all sorts of excuses why they cannot go 'higher' in math, for example, due to 'District regulations' or similar half-cooked excuses. But, we feel that the real reason is that the teachers are too burned out to 'go the extra mile'. And this probably applies to every public school, but it really is obvious at the APP level. All of this is probably (at least in part) related to the scary fact that there is a super strong Union power in public schools.

You think the APP kids are limited to 2 years ahead in math because of the scary super strong union power?

Huh, that's an unusual perspective.

My kids's not in APP, but is qualified for APP, so I try to keep up on the outstanding issues involved, and everything I've heard and read over the years has indicated that this limit in the curriculum is indeed a district mandate.

In fact, most of these problems you list seem to have a lot to do with district level decisions, rather than teacher level decisions.

It's all very interesting, and I agree with many of your points about problems, but this doesn't appear to me to provide much backing to your contention that King was cleaning house in a way that would fix any of these problems.

You sound very frustrated, and I'm impressed with your level of hostility towards the teachers.

Are you also the anonymous poster who wrote "You have to earn the parents' and the principal's respect"? Or was that someone else?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Okay kids. We're done with this thread.

Is this how it is over at the APP blog?

I appreciate the passion you have for the school but now this thread is over.

Any comments, anonymous or not, after mine will be deleted.

Anonymous said...
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Ed said...
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onthefly said...
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Anonymous said...
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Melissa Westbrook said...

Clearly, you thought I was kidding.

I'm not.

I will be deleting any and all comments after this one.

This thread is CLOSED for comments.

Ed said...
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