NOW UPDATED AND COMPLETE
A very sparse crowd for the first debate at the Rainier Chamber of Commerce debate event. It does not appear that it will be starting on time (a real pet peeve of mine for these types of events).
A few updated items on the race:
- The Seattle Chamber of Commerce considers Blanford and Dale Estey as part of "their" slate.
- Sue Peters won the endorsement of the SEA.
- The Great Seattle Schools PAC for Suzanne Dale Estey is up to $48K with Matt Griffin recently putting in another $15K.
Moderator for debate is Christina Lewis, Dem activist and lawyer.
Both candidates came to their places on the stage in a somewhat rushed fashion. The moderator introduced them without any background but the candidates each have a two-minute opening statement. They had a coin toss and Sue Peters won.
Peters: been extensively involved with district for 10 years and the only candidate with that kind of experience. She has been on two district taskforces. She has a 9-year old and 14-year old in SPS. Talked about her background in blogging, in journalism and working with Parents Across America and her endorsement by Diane Ravitch as a champion for public education. Endorsements by Sharon Tomiko-Santos, Larry Gossett and SEA.
Dale Estey: Fighter for high-quality in education, glad to be in Columbia City where groups have come together to work for a better community and that is what she has done in her previous work.
Utterly dysfunctional and personal issues than district issues. Mentioned SPS background as student and her work on a taskforce in high school. Worked for Ron Sims, Gary Locke, endorsed by 28 current and former state legislators, 7 City Council members.
First question: role on SB?
Dale Estey: SB has had a challenge with what we refer to as governance. Flying at the fight altitude. Pick right battles and SP focus and make sure that you allow school administration to manage school district.
Peters: I believe first and foremost my job is to represent community and bring those to the district. Responsible for being ambassador and represent what is strong in district and not disparge other Board members. Hire and supervise superintendent, curriculum, due diligence and oversight.
Second - SE and Central Seattle, how many schools have you been to?
Peters: Hawthorne, Aki, Lowell, Meany, Nova, Garfield, - district is affected by socioeconomics of communities we serve. high nubmers of F/RL and we need to bring spport services. We need to listen to then and let them tell us what will help. Rita Green, RBHS PTA
Dale Estey: at least 8 in recent months. Been in every building in the district over the years (I would dispute that). Family support worker who works with 14 schools in south. Could be closed. Have those supports in the SE and yet keep bar high. 40% are from immigrant background, met with ELL teachers at Franklin.
Third - What make an immediate difference for AA, Hispanic and immigrant children?
DE: several hundred meetings in last couple of months. 5-point SP, start early and prenatal care and district has a role in pre-school learning. Appalled about disproportionality, end out of school suspension. Summer learning loss - we can make a difference. gap in ELL professionals and finally, dealing with lack of authentic partnership with community based organizations.
Peters: Smaller class sizes is recognized and I would work towards that. Returning counselors to our schools - elementary and high schools. We need career counselors. Bilingual teachers, cultural competency.
Fourth question: what about school boundaries and the short notice about changing them?
Peters: It's a constant refrain in the district that the district needs to listen AND respond to input. Pay attention to ALL voices. Hawthorne is a good example with its STEAM program and now they are being redirected away from Mercer. We need to help schools with their progress.
Dale Estey: I don't disagree with Sue, the district has challenges with authentically listening. You don't go out when the cake is already baked. Hawthorne did what it was asked to do and the new proposal tears this out of the community. I have experience working with school districts.
Fifth question: what is your position on charter schools and their role for SPS?
Dale Estey: I am on the record as being opposed to charter schools. They are not right for Seattle now or later. There are huge challenges in public education with adequate funding and Washington State is near the bottom and it's not acceptable. I can work with the 28 Seattle legislators but I know others all over the state and can get more money.
Peters: I'm glad to hear my opponent supports my ideas that I have developed from 10 years of being in the district. I don't support charter schools and never had. But the biggest issues is public school is a public trust and that's why I oppose them. They segregate students, don't serve ELL students and drain money away from existing schools. My opponent has accepted money from the main supporters for charter schools.
Sixth question: On a scale of 1-10, where do you rate equity (with 10 being the highest)?
Peters: It was the top item on the district taskforce I worked on for the SP. We need robust education and not cookie cutter schools. We need to support our alternative schools and STEM/STEAM and give students a chance to fulfill their potential.
Dale Estey: It's critical. We don't need just equal opportunities. We have institutional racism that pervades the entire society. The kids aren't set up to succeed because the playing field is not level. I just want to take minute to say my opponent is being disparging and disrespectful about my supporters. They are strong Democrats and yes, some work with the business community.
Seventh question: We hear about the school-to-prison pipeline in SPS and the country and how this affects disadvantaged students.
Dale Estey: SPS is under federal investigation for this and it's not acceptable. We need kids in the classroom and it starts in the classroom.
Peters: If we do believe all children can succeed, we need to hire teachers who believe that and work for our diverse communities and build cultural competency. My brother is a public school teacher in an urban district in California and he sees a sense of futility in connecting studies to goals. We have to change that.
Eighth question: SPS is under federal investigation for disproportionality, what are your concerns?
Peters: Students of color and Sped students are being punished and suspended. We have to address this and keep them on site, in our sights. We have to talk about respect and behavior and raising our students to be citizens. Hire diverse teachers. But we are not the only city dealing with this issue.
Dale Estey: I was stunned to hear about this and it's easy to put words on paper and not do much. Class size and professional development has a long way to go and we need a more diverse workforce. I have experience in Renton on multiple school taskforces and Renton moved the need from 50% up to 94% for several years. (Editor's note: it was unclear if she was talking about disproportionality or graduation rates here.)
Peters: I am proud of my grassroots campaign and one that is progressive. I have the support of all the Democratic legislative districts (and that one voted before I got into the race), the Labor Council, the SEA, the Teamsters, Local 609 and support of four of the seven current School Board members. I will work well with whoever serves on the Board with me in a collaborative manner. We have 51,000 students in our district and it's a broad array of students and I value each one of them.
I am also supported by Larry Gossett, The Stranger, Diane Ravitch, Democratic Metropolitan Council, Stella Ortega and I had the highest rate from SeaMat. I represent the community and that is my focus.
Dale Estey: I want to say thank you for this opportunity today. I have a strong city-wide, positive campaign and too many people to list. I have the support of many of the Seattle legisltion, over 500 donors, 350 endorsers and (she named a couple of union endorsements, I'm sorry I missed them), business community. I get dinged for business support but I believe the sponsor here today is the Rainier Valley Chamber of Commerce. There are serious issues here and we need to question the status quo when the Board says in its evaluation that it is (dysfunctional).
It has been stated that I go to the well of my high school experience in serving on the disproportionality taskforce too often but it affected me deeply.
End of debate.
I will note that the audience did not grow even afterwards when O'Brien and Shen were to debate. Interestingly, neither side packed the audience so the applause, when it came, was tepid for both speakers.
I thought Dale Estey the more forceful speaker (but there are always the quieter speakers like Martin-Morris and McLaren.)
I think Dale Estey may have stretched the truth in a couple of places. One, the Board evaluation did NOT say the entire Board said it was dysfunctional. One anonymous Board member said that. Two, she's attended "several hundred meetings in the last couple of months" - hard to believe. Also, I appreciate that she says she visited every single school in the district when she was in high school (again, hard to believe) but even so, the district has changed - a lot - since then.
Peters seemed to rush some of her statements, trying to get her points in.
Peters: (about out of school suspensions) - We want to keep students on-site, in our sights
Dale Estey (about the boundary changes)- You don't send a cake out already baked.
I'll have another thread on the overall campaigns and strategies that I see forming.