Ours started late as the first one ran to about 25 minutes and that was good because we could push for a longer interview than 15 minutes. The tv people went first with KING 5's Robert Mak pushing for all the media to be there together for 45 minutes. No go.
Besides the TV people I saw The Stranger's David Goldstein and KUOW's Phyllis Fletcher, both sharp and knowledgeable.
As I mentioned previously, there was just Brian Rosenthal and me in our interview session although there was a cameraman from somewhere (likely KING 5) but without a reporter. Why he got to stay, I don't know.
This was Mr. Banda's third trip to Seattle in the last five weeks and he called it "an interesting process."
Here's the Times' take on the interview; there are differences (including the fact that I didn't mention TFA nor did Banda but Rosenthal at the Times seems to think it was said).
What was his specific interest in coming to Seattle?
He stated that it was an opportunity to work with a "progressive" large urban school district and there were many favorable opportunities to work with groups because of the location, businesses, educational institutions and engage in partnerships.
I asked about coming to a district more than twice the size of his own and that his district was only K-6.
He stated while he was currently in a K-6 district that many years of his career were in secondary education including being a principal of a high school. He said his current work afforded him the opportunity to learn to focus on building the foundation to send his students off well to their secondary education.
How do you feel about a more active community and media?
He said, "For me, it's about engagement style which is huge in Seattle." He said he had to go out into the business community in Anaheim and convince them to be engageed. He said the variety of stakeholder groups in Seattle was an asset and he hoped to engage them all.
I followed up and asked how him might come to a decision if he was hearing one thing from one set of groups and another from yet another set of groups.
He said he would work with his Board and listen to each group and see how their feedback was aligning with district goals. He said, "There is nothing more important than feedback."
He also stated that he would start with learning about key communicators as well as getting out into the community and, of course, into the schools.
I asked him about Special Education in his district.
He said that leadership was the key and that he had recruited a Special Ed teacher to be the director of his program. He said they have a balanced program with more attempts to keep students in the regular classroom with an aide but with some pull-out work still needed. He said they have a good autistic program and had noted some students from outside their district trying to get in because of the quality of it.
He was asked about teacher assessment and use of performance measures.
Banda said that there had been a bit of discussion in his interviews around this issue. He said it comes down to compromise and that it was good to have a performance piece but not for the majority of the evaluations. He said Anaheim did not use it because of the strength of the teachers' union but he believes it should be part of an assessment but not the majority of that assessment.
I asked about a specific time when he had a disagreement with a Board member (or the Board) about an issue and how it was resolved. (thank you to a reader for this question)
He stated that there had been a couple of Board members who had pushed for a project-labor agreement (meaning a certain amount of labor had to come from the community itself) and that he hadn't felt it was needd beause they didn't use it previously and had no issues with strikes from labor.
He was asked about the governance in Anaheim.
He said he was responsible for hiring of principals but via an agreed-to process by the School Board with hiring teams and input from the Board. He said the Board had never opposed a hire he made for a principal.
I asked him about the Broad Academy interest noted on his resume.
He said they came to him and that he was encouraged to apply because it was very competitive and "cutting edge". He said he was not selected but he was not heartbroken about it.
He was asked about the first 2-3 things he would do as superintendent.
He said he would get out and build relationships and make connections with staff, parents, groups, media, etc.
He was asked about Central Administration changes.
He stated he wouldn't make any right away and had no set plan for it. He said it was important to look at systems to see what is and isn't working.
He was asked about a new strategic plan.
Banda said he thought the current plan was well-done and had goals and priorities clearly set out.
I asked about charters and ed reform and specifically his remarks about slowing down his district's efforts for RTTT funding.
He said that he didn't have a lot of experience with charters as he didn't see a need for them in his district and when he was at Oceanside district that had two which was a small number. He said he felt that his district could do the work they needed to without charters. As for RTTT, he said a couple of his Board members were enthused and he just wanted to slow it down and reflect on what that money would mean in terms of staff work, requirements and what the true benefits would be to children.
- a genuine person, not a lot of jargon or edu-speak
- he repeatedly talked about engagement, relationships and listening
- not a lot of specifics. It got a little unnerving because I kept waiting for something specific to hang onto and I just didn't hear it from him.
- naturally, I like that he is pretty blase about charters and I especially like his wanting to be sure about something like RTTT money before a huge commitment of time, both in getting the money and then having a plan to spend it.