Monday, June 17, 2013

Sweet, sweet irony

A few days ago I wrote about the Board's role and how they are failing to do their job.

Today, the Seattle Times writes the same.

Funny thing, though, the Times and I have exactly the opposite ideas about what the Board should be doing.

The Times apparently wants the Board to do nothing but promptly approve everything that Mr. Banda puts in front of them. That's what Directors Chow, Maier, and Sundquist did, and what Directors Martin-Morris, Carr, and DeBell do. The Times wants a rubber-stamp Board - as if that isn't dysfunctional.



The Times claims that "Time wasted on board dysfunction, including time spent on personality conflicts as well as delayed policy decisions, slows momentum on important improvements."

Really? Like what? What - exactly - has been delayed due to Board disagreement? The replacement of the math materials? The re-opening of schools? What has been delayed by Board disagreement?

Why does the Seattle Times accept disagreement in every other elected legislative body - The Congress, the state legislature, the City Council, etc. - but doesn't want it on the School Board? Disagreement in the State legislature is the source of more delay making improvements in our schools than disagreement on any Board.

The Times writes: "No surprise, district administrators, speaking anonymously to the consultant, complained of heavy micromanaging by board members."

Actually, they didn't complain of micromanagement, they complained of requests for data.

The Times writes: "Superintendent Banda used a recent board retreat to remind board members that he is in charge of running the district. The administrators work for him, not the board. The board has one employee: Banda. They will tell him how well his first year has gone on Wednesday when they take up his evaluation."

This is an interesting statement since the Seattle Times wasn't there and doesn't know what was said. I was there. Melissa was there. This message was not delivered with these words or this tone. Also, the Board has two employees - Mr. Banda and Andrew Medina, the internal auditor.

The Times claims that there is a study that "found the differences in [student] success could often be attributed to the school board."

Really? An attribution analysis in public education that could detect the effect created by the Board? Really? And the Seattle Times believed that? Let's set aside, for the moment, the well-established fact that the bulk of student achievement is determined by home-based factors rather than any school-based factors. Instead, let's just focus on the studies that the Times quotes all the time about the dominant influence of "teacher quality" and building leadership, let alone district leadership. Anyone who has any actual knowledge of schools should know that the Board has almost no influence on outcomes. The study is a joke and the Times, by referring to it, makes a joke of this editorial.

The Times writes: "For the past five years, the Alliance for Education has paid for leadership and governance training for Seattle’s school board, including quarterly retreats. But the board has had difficulty putting that training into practice."

I guess the training has been ineffective. The Alliance should be fired - that's what the Times wants to do with ineffective teachers, right?

The two new Board members will join Directors Patu, McLaren, Peaslee, Martin-Morris, and Carr. The majority of those Board members will be in the Patu, McLaren, Peaslee camp. If the Times wants Board unity they should be encouraging those currently in the minority to join the majority and they should be supporting candidates who will join the majority. But the Times isn't in favor of Board unity - unless that unity is aligned with their view.

3 comments:

Melissa Westbrook said...

This is an interesting statement since the Seattle Times wasn't there and doesn't know what was said. I was there. Melissa was there. This message was not delivered with these words or this tone.

Agreed. Banda could not have been more cordial to all in the room and did NOT say anything about the Board's "job."

I think Charlie you mistake a study about school boards with our Board. I think it was some broad-based study about boards (and probably did not include our Board). But I believe boards are pretty much down the list of what most influences student achievement.

Also, the Alliance did not pay for the retreats - Boeing did. Even if they did via the Alliance, it's Boeing's dollars.

I would disagree with Charlie about the micromanaging in the document. (I will post that today.) Some staff did complain but I take issue with that complaint for a couple of reasons.

One, some comments were about not being trusted; one said "We have all made mistakes and sinned." True but most of the scandals and financial missteps have been at the hands of staff.

Two, another comment was about not wanting to have someone looking over their shoulder. Sorry but the Board's role IS oversight and, at some level, someone IS looking over their shoulder in the form of a manager/boss.

Eric B said...

"We all have made mistakes"

Sure, everyone has made mistakes, both personally and professionally. I know I have. That isn't a free pass, though. Once someone has made a mistake, everyone should expect more scrutiny in that area for some time, even if the responsible parties are no longer there. And if there are repeated mistakes, then you should expect consequences.

Anonymous said...

The BOard is currently evaluating Supt Banda. A significant charge for Supt Banda has been to address the ongoing problems around special education. Supt Banda may have taken steps to assist the sped dept to address the problems therein to some extent. At the same time, principals are ultimately responsible for sped in the buildings and they answer to Education Directors, who are not playing any discernably positive role in fixing what ails sped in our buildings. I feel that this should very much impact Supt Banda's performance evaluation. It's a systemic/organiational dilemma affecting students with special needs that has been brought to his attention at least a dozen times in public.

frustrated reader