Monday, December 31, 2012

End of 2012 - Wrap-up and Hopes and Predictions for 2013

A rosy glow this morning across the horizon - maybe a good sign for things to come.

It was a HUGE year for public education - in Seattle, Washington State and the US.  For whatever reason, public education has become a huge issue.  Whether it's trying to break unions (in Wisconsin) or the push for more on-line learning opportunities (whether at school or at home), politicians had a lot to say this year. 

Are we focusing on the right things?  I'm not sure we are.  I'm not sure that we won't look back in 10 years at much of the new education spending in this country and wonder if much of it was wasted on the wrong areas.  Or that there was too much effort made in directions that did not pay off. 

One of the drivers of this - and it shouldn't be the biggest driver - is the large group of wealthy philanthropists who believe they know enough to try to determine the course of public education over the next 10 years.  And yet, they are not elected, hired or appointed so it is puzzling why their ideas should take precedence over anyone else's. 

Locally, we lost a superintendent, Susan Enfield, and the mystery of why she left remains.  There is disagreement on what drove her off but I stand by my contention that there were personal reasons why she left (she even said this - repeatedly) that no one will ever know.  I think the loud public stance that she was "driven" off was a useful public diversion. 

We had yet another superintendent search - again, a messy one - but we had two viable candidates standing at the end and, I believe, picked the best one AND the one best suited to guide our district in Jose Banda.  

Sadly, we also had the death of our former superintendent, Maria Goodloe-Johnson.  It was a shocking turn of events for a woman who had so shook up our district. 

We saw two new School Board members come to the Board in Marty McLaren and Sharon Peaslee.  I would say they are still getting their sea legs but as Director Patu said to me recently, it takes a long time to know the district and understand how to get things done.  (Director Patu did confirm that she IS running again in November 2013 to retain her seat.)  But both Director McLaren and Director Peaslee have shown some backbone and resolve in asking hard questions and being able to take hard votes. 

We saw a terrible situation in the Cafe Racer shooting where multiple schools in two areas of the district had to face lockdowns.   It seemed to happen fairly seamlessly (for an on-going situation that was fluid) and to their everlasting credit, the SPD found the heartless perpetrator the same day. 

Hopes

- I hope that Superintendent Banda takes some strong (and visible) steps in the new year that signal his strength as our superintendent.
- I hope that more parents say no to MAP testing.  I continue to believe that, overall, it is a waste of time and money.  (A coming thread about MAP is in the hopper.)
- I hope that parents will convince neighbors, co-workers, friends and families to support the upcoming levies

I would tell you to vote your heart, not just your conscience.  By that I mean that you consider where we stand today as a district. 

We are cash-strapped, over-capacity in several areas that are yearning/demanding relief and our academic growth is stagnant.   McCleary's outcomes, despite the prodding of the Court, are unclear and relief from the state level is not going to come any time soon. 

I don't want charters, especially conversion charters, to get ANY levy money.  I know it is in the initiative that they will.  But, as I said countless times during the election, it is a badly written piece of work and I don't know that it will end up happening anyway (and districts may be able to undercut it or drag it out). 

I don't like money going for a downtown school when that is a want and NOT a need.  But we need the BEX money (and your pressure) to make sure that 99% of it goes to EXISTING schools that need the help.

So I am hoping everyone will vote for the levies.  

- I hope that we all find common ground to work together to move our district forward.  I do not believe most understand the force that parents could be in this district.  It is time to channel that power.

Predictions

- I think people might be surprised/disappointed at who does (and does not) make the Charter Commission.  I suspect that it won't be the usual suspects.  I think that Governor-elect Inslee, Lt. Governor Owen and Speaker Chopp know it will be important to get the right people to start the Commission, that it needs to be broad-based and most of all, there needs to be objectivity on the Commission so it is not a bunch of charter cheerleaders.  (And frankly, I think they know there is no way to enforce the initiative's language about Commission members' fidelity to charters - good luck with that one). 

- Board elections.  This could get very expensive and very hard-hitting.  Frankly, it shouldn't because of all races, Board elections are generally genteel affairs.  But, as we saw from this year's elections, Stand for Children and other groups are going to be highly aggressive in putting out candidates and money to support them.  Look for the first TFA-affiliated candidate to run for Seattle School Board. 

If you know of good possible candidates from Michael DeBell's region, please let me know.  Director DeBell has mostly said he is not running but I have heard nothing official.

(That said, I suspect he may have thrown his hat into the Charter Commission ring.  It might be possible that he could step down from the Board - as might Harium Martin-Morris - to be on the Commission.  I say step down as I don't believe a person could serve on a School Board and be on the Charter Commission but it would be a great hat trick if so.  Both Martin-Morris and DeBell, over the last years, have shown themselves to be increasingly ambitious and I wonder if the Board might be a little constricting to them.)

- Levy election.  I suspect both will pass but by more narrow margins than usual.

- Mayor's race.  No, I have no prediction except that as the field gets bigger, McGinn's chances out of the primary get better.  I wish Ed Murray wasn't running - we need him in the Legislature.  I have contacted all the candidates campaigns (save Kate Martin but I know her) to interview them about being Mayor and what they see for public education in Seattle. 

- Parents.  I think this may be the year of the parent in public education in this country.  I sense a lot of unhappiness with being pushed and pulled around.  (I note that in Philadelphia, they are trying to close 1 in 6 public schools.  More on that later but you could understand why parents might be upset.)

I plan a thread on parent groups and what choices you have. 

- Gun control.  I personally plan to keep this in the forefront of my thoughts.  Enough is enough and I hope many of you will join me.

On behalf of Charlie and myself, best wishes for a happy and safe New Year's Eve and, for the coming year, as Maurice Sendak told NPR's Terry Gross - "live your life, live your life, live your life.

or, as Ferris Bueller said:
"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." 

That goes ditto for raising children.

7 comments:

Po3 said...

"Look for the first TFA-affiliated candidate to run for Seattle School Board."

Any inside scoop on this prediction?

Also wondering why you think DeBell amd Martin-Morris would "go charter?"

Personally, I think charters are going to fall flat in WA state. It would be ironic to see two directors give up their school board positions for a commission that I believe will fizzle out.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Po3, absolutely no inside scoop but they are everywhere in all other state education elections and commissions. I expect it to be no different here. (I will be seeing the Commission applicants list so I'll let you know.)

Why would DeBell and Martin-Morris go charter? Well, it's the direction both are going in for sure. Both lean ed reform. DeBell is something of a lame duck what with not being the Board President and planning to leave in November. Maybe it might make sense for him to leave to another job that would position him for some other elective office.

Martin-Morris seems bored and somewhat detached. I'm reading that as maybe he is restless (and I know his interest in public education has been a big part of his life so the Charter Commission might be the next thing).

Whoever gets in on the ground floor of the Charter Commission is going to help set the guidelines for how they operate and how fast they get set up. It's a pretty big deal.

Anonymous said...

I wish both men were serious about ed reform for public school kids by implementing a better math curriculum. The delay in changing the discovery math approach has been terrible.

If they go on the Charter Commission they will lead a handful of schools, instead of benefitting many more students in SPS.

S parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ah, but their replacements could be better.

Anonymous said...

A shout out to the contributors --teachers, parents, staff -- and author of the Seattle Times article on Special Education (Oct 2012), "Not-so-special treatment in Seattle of special education"
http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2019484765_specialed21m.html.

A hope that the new superintendent and the school board will find the political will to make changes and listen to the right people. To my mind, that wouldn't be the SEA or PASS.

Reader

Rufus X said...

From the Stranger's annual regrets, "What They Really Think of Us":

Nick Hanauer—entrepreneur, venture capitalist, idealist, charter schools lover—regrets that we called charter schools "divisive," "ineffective," and worse as we encouraged people (in vain) to vote "No" on Initiative 1240:

"I don't often disagree with the political positions The Stranger takes, but you guys do fuck up occasionally, and choosing not to endorse charter schools was one of those times. I regret the fact that you refused to acknowledge that we have a public school system that is insanely, deeply resistant to change, innovation, and accountability. A system that is designed almost exclusively to serve the interests of adults working in the system, and which has been consistently shafting the most vulnerable kids for decades. I regret that The Stranger, which usually stands for change, innovation, and progress, took the stupid, reflexively conservative position against those things in this case, all to protect the status quo. I regret that you proved that far lefties can be just as narrow and backward as far righties. I predict the following: We will open some charter schools, and they will blow away the conventional schools in our city. I further predict that even you—dear Stranger staff—will eventually breed. And when you do, and your children are of school age, YOU will be desperate to get YOUR kids into the charter schools that YOU have thus far maligned. And then the regret will be yours. I look forward to seeing that."

Rufus X said...

OOPS - So sorry I didn't text-bleep when I copied/pasted from The Stranger the previous post.