As last year, this year the superintendent refused to follow the program placement policy and the board refused to enforce it. I've gotten the message that the Board will not make any effort to encourage the superintendent to reveal her procedure for making program placement decisions. In short, the superintendent doesn't care about policy and neither does the board.
I guess there's always next year.
The program placement process used to be secretive, dishonest, political, and corrupt. It was so secretive that no one on the Board knew how it was done. When the Board discovered how program placement decisions were made, in 2007, they were disgusted by the corruption. So they adopted a policy to govern it and clean it up. The policy required transparency and a performance report. The Board didn't want to put even a toe over the line between governance and management, so they re-affirmed the superintendent's authority to unilaterally decide program placement. They also made sure not to constrain the superintendent in how the decisions were made. They only required that the superintendent disclose the process. The thinking was that if they could end the secrecy, that would end the dishonesty, politics and corruption. They could be right.
Dr. Goodloe-Johnson never really followed the policy. Dr. Enfield never followed it at all.
For all of her high-minded talk about transparency, Dr. Enfield refused to provide the transparency required by policy. She has adamantly refused to disclose her process for making program placement decisions. And she has made them, a lot of them - dozens of them. She has made decisions about alternative programs, service programs, ELL programs, special ed programs, and advanced learning programs. She made dozens of them last year and she made dozens of them this year. We don't know how she did it, however, because she has kept her process absolutely secret. Dr. Enfield refuses to disclose her process for making program placement decisions, despite the fact that Board policy requires her to disclose it and despite the fact that her self-proclaimed commitment to transparency would require her to disclose it. As a result of the secrecy, the process is, once again, dishonest, political, and corrupt.
And the annual reports? We never saw them. There were notifications, but nothing like the reports that were required by the policy.
The Board has a duty to enforce policy. The Board, however, refuses to do their duty. I kvetched at them for about six months last year to do their duty. In the end I was told, off the record, that there were special one-time-only reasons that the policy couldn't be followed that year (reasons that could not be explained) and that it simply wasn't a priority for the Board to enforce it. I was told that the superintendent would follow the policy this year, and the board would enforce it if she didn't. I suggested that the honest thing to do, in that case, was to suspend the policy. Director Sundquist, to his credit, was starting that process when he lost his bid for re-election. At the December meeting of the Executive Committee, Board President DeBell specifically asked the superintendent if she would be able to follow the policy this year and she said that she would. Therefore, they decided, there was no need to suspend it.
So here we are and the superintendent did not follow the policy this year either, despite her duty to do so and despite her statement that she would. And the board is refusing to enforce it this year as well, despite their duty to do so and despite their effort last year to get me to believe that they would. I will, once again try to get them to suspend the policy, but I have little hope that they will bother. I'm in a familiar position for anyone who works with Seattle Public Schools. They did something wrong, but they promised that they would do it right next year. Then, when next year came, they still did it wrong, but they, once again, promised that they would do it right next year. Next year, none of the people who made the promise that they would get it right this time will be around. No Dr. Enfield, no Noel Treat, no Cathy Thompson. Here's a weird thing: believe it or not, people have tried to assure me that Dr. Enfield will do it right next year. Yes, despite the fact that she won't be here next year. They are so accustomed to the story that they can't stop saying it even when it is unquestionably false.
But what can I do? Nothing. In the end they have the option of breaking all the rules and all the promises. This is the moment when I have to come face to face with the absolute futility of all of my efforts. In the end they have all of the power and all of the authority. There is nothing I can do to compel them to follow their own policies. The Ombudsman won't help - this isn't his department. Customer Service won't help. The Ethics Officer won't help. Not even the Courts will help since the District cannot be legally compelled to follow their own policies. This is the bleak reality that all school activists face. In the end, you have no power, no voice, no vote. You don't matter. Your concerns don't matter.
Is it any wonder that the District has never bothered to keep any promises to any community? Why should they? Consequently, is it any wonder that the community distrusts the District? Even when the District runs one of their brief periodic efforts to "restore trust" (don't you have to have had once to restore it?), they won't actually do anything to earn the trust; they only talk about how much they want it. This is the District's Way. This is their culture, their standard operating procedure, their Tao. It is bred in the bone for them.
Mr. Banda is coming and he wants to earn our trust. I don't think he knows what an uphill struggle that will be, and I don't think he could guess how lonely it will be. There won't be anyone on the board or on the staff making that walk with him. Worse, they will be undercutting his effort at every opportunity.