Sunday, October 27, 2013

Seattle School Board and So-Called "Dysfunction"

Following up on my analysis/thoughts on the Peters/Dale Estey race in District IV, I had promised a thread on this issue of so-called School Board "dysfunction."

As I have pointed out, in the Board evaluation, not a SINGLE member of the Board called the Board dysfunctional.  One Board member said if they didn't trust each other more, they would become "the poster child for a dysfunctional Board."  That's far from saying that they are.  (One senior staff member did call them dysfunctional.)

Now if you read the whole evaluation, you can see there are issues.  No denying that.  BUT, what the Times and Dale Estey and all these people leave out are all the pages of comments - by both the Board and senior management - about the good things said about the Board as people and as Board members.

Also, as previous reported, the Board voted in unison or 6-1 about 98% of the time.  That's not a dysfunctional Board.  

This lack of balance in the election narrative is troubling but, of course in politics, that seems to be the way.  Telling a complete story?  Omitting details that would provide context?  Not so useful if you want to win. And Dale Estey wants to win.

As I said in a previous thread, I found in Board minutes from July 1986, the resignation remarks of Director Linda Harris.  It might be good to consider them in terms of this belief that the current Board is "dysfunctional."

I believe Board members should be paid.  This is a corporation of almost $190M run by seven volunteers with varying degrees of available time. Toronto, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and NYC pay their Board members between $8k-30k a year.

I find the time commitment needed to be a responsible Board member is more than my schedule can absorb.  I asked 15-20 qualified people I know to nominate themselves for my position.  To a person, they have said that they just do not have the time and cannot make the financial sacrifice to be Board members.

Before I leave, I want to say publicly that this is a good Board.  We aren't the feuding, fighting, backbiting group I often see depicted in the press.  This is a caring, committed group of citizens who care deeply about the education of our children and I am going to miss them all.

Anyone who says that serving on a school board is all smooth sailing has probably been part of a group of rubber-stampers who act completely in lockstep and never have any deep discussions or apparently listen to those they serve.

Thinking people know that people of good faith do have disagreements but that each person on the Board was elected by voters in their own right.

Thinking people know that it is good to have a variety of backgrounds and voices on the Board to represent the diversity of our city.

Thinking people know that for any group, compromise and consensus is the order of the day, not group-think.

 As I mentioned, uber ed-reformer Lisa Macfarlane sent out an e-mail to people she knows about this race.  She says that Blanford and Dale Estey are "exactly the kind of people" who should serve on the School Board.  "They are smart and rational."

I would assume that she believes there are people on the Board who aren't rational.  Question is, are they leaving the Board or will they still be there?  And then she goes for the Alliance party line:
They understand the difference between governance and management, and they are not coming in with personal micro-managing agendas.

I can say that I don't think ANY of the candidates has an agenda but I think they do have concerns. I would expect no less of any candidate. I personally don't vote for someone who has no real vision or stands on issues. Just being "qualified" would not cut it for me.

Then she says this:

If needed, I am happy to have off line conversations about Sue Peters (Suzanne Dale Estey's opponent) who authored this conspiracy theory document and LaCrese Green (Stephan Blanford's opponent) and why I think they will take us in the wrong direction.

This "conspiracy theory document" was a flowchart that Peters created for her blog that shows all the many, many connections among ed reformers and their funders.

Apparently Macfarlane only reads from inside her ed reform silo because there are many, many blogs and ed websites who talk about all the connections. Bloggers from Alaska to Ohio to New York have connected the dots. Media like the New York Times and Education Week also come to mind.  Diane Ravitch certainly has discussed this.  Even the National Black Education Agenda has this at their website: Connecting the Dots: from the Mis-Education of Blackfolk to the Privatization of Public Education. 

So if Peters is a conspiracy theorist, she has a lot of varied company across this nation.

But basically, it's about a divide between what those with money and power believe should happen and others who see things very differently. Generally, that's called a democracy to have differing opinions and express them but apparently in some circles, that's a conspiracy theory.

(I note that the defendants in the 1240 lawsuit tried to get the lawsuit thrown out saying charters are proven to work and the judge had to remind them that the case was about the constitutionality of this law, not the efficacy of charters. You want to talk about an agenda? That's about as clear as it gets.)


Po3 said...

Call it conspiracy or call it what it is.

From a Salon article:

"Rupert Murdoch dumped $1 million into a corporate “reform” movement pushing to both implement more standardized testing and divert money for education fundamentals (hiring teachers, buying textbooks, maintaining school buildings, etc.) into testing-assessment technology. At the same time, Murdoch was buying an educational technology company called Wireless Generation, which had just signed a lucrative contract with New York City’s school system (a sweetheart deal inked by New York City school official Joel Klein, who immediately went to work for Murdoch."

I don't think it is a push to privatize education. I think it's a business strategy for corporations to increase their bottom lines. Lots of money to be make in education! I don't have a problem with that; I just want to see results.

If people like Lisa McFarland are so convinced; why isn't she pointing to successes instead of conspiracy theories?

Anonymous said...

Lisa MacFarlane doesn't care one whit for what kids need. She has her agenda and her need to "feel good" through her illusion/delusion of "saving kids from public education".

It is all about the money, and for these people on the fringes like Michelle Rhee, Chris Korsmo, and Lisa MacFarlane, it's about protecting their status as "education saviors" and hobnobbing with the rich and powerful. I actually have a teeny bit more respect for the for-profit education groups - at least they're honest that they're trying to make as much money off students and education as possible - than I do for the fake non-profits who really are for-their-own-profit and political favors, like Stand On Children and Students Last.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Honestly, people, her name is Macfarlane. Not that hard.

The problem with making money off of education is the profit motive. It tends to cloud the thinking about what is really getting done.

dw said...

Here's an open letter/request to Lisa Macfarlane:

Dear Ms. Macfarlane,

"Conspiracy theories" become reality when proven true. Please explain this:

Reform Campaign Finance Machine

Some additional background here: Who Runs The Reform Campaign Money Machine?

Sincerely, Seattle Voters

For those of you who aren't inclined to click through without encouragement, the first link is a spreadsheet of campaign contributions by a select group of reformers in 11 different cities around the country. This is most definitely a coordinated effort, and public disclosure proves it without a doubt.

Enjoy the read.

GooseGander said...


I totally agree with your statement about Seattle Times-Estey connection.

"This lack of balance in the election narrative is troubling but, of course in politics, that seems to be the way. Telling a complete story? Omitting details that would provide context?"

The thing is, I don't understand why this is so troubling to you as this is the same thing you have been doing in your coverage of Horace Mann from day one.

Negative spinning and selective reporting of facts filled with your biased agenda.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Again, you confuse two different stories.

I have no agenda but to have a better district that supports students, parents AND taxpayers.

Dora said...

Check out
Lisa Macfarlane of WA DFER and her conspiracy theories

Charlie Mas said...

GooseGander, what should be said about Mann that hasn't been said?

Doesn't this blog provide ample opportunity for you to say it?

Anonymous said...

Right on Goosegander, for years this blog's authors and many subscribers have lambasted the board. Now they get another APP parent running for the board, whose opponents think will make the board "dysfunctional"... and what do we hear? Oh, the board isn't really dysfunctional after all. It's all hunky-dory. Perfect for their special interest candidate. And that is definitely bias at work.

Kettle Pot

Melissa Westbrook said...

" Oh, the board isn't really dysfunctional after all. It's all hunky-dory."

Nope, you have that last part wrong.

I don't believe the Board is dysfunctional. Neither do they.

BUT is everything hunky-dory? Please. We have NEVER said that. The day we do will be the day we sign off.

And that day looks to be a long way off.

Crownhill said...

It's hardly novel for someone to point out the near-Machiavellian links between reform-minded entities and funding sources like the Gates Foundation. If there "is" indeed a conspiracy, it wasn't created by Ms. Peters side of the aisle, that's for sure. Must be lovely to live in such a well appointed echo chamber ;)

Charlie Mas said...

Isn't there some point between "the board is dysfunctional" and "the board is wonderful".

I don't recall anyone on this blog saying that the board is wonderful.

I have, in fact, said that the board fails to function in a number of ways. I'll say it again: the Board fails to make policy because the Board refuses to enforce policy. Here's another: the Board fails in its duty to write policy - there hasn't been an advanced learning policy for nearly five years, the Board has abandoned their own policy revision initiative. Here's another: the Board conducts inappropriate reviews of superintendent actions by reviewing the quality of the decisions but failing to review the compliance of the decisions.

So, sorry Kettle Pot, but your claims are false.

Ragweed said...

The problem with all this "Board is dysfunctional" nonsense is that the examples that people cite as functional boards are nothing but. Matt Griffin says in the Seattle Times Article “It’s got to be acting like a board does in any nonprofit or any company.”

But corporate boards are some of the worst examples of organizational governance. They essentially let the CEO do whatever he or she wants, so long as the stock goes up, and usually intervene only after there has been some business disaster.

Corporate governance has basically admitted that boards cannot govern effectively. The outcome of the debates over the Theory of the Firm started by Jensen in the 80s essentially concluded that the only way to protect shareholder interests was to tie the CEO compensation to stock performance, because it was too difficult for the board to effectively moniter the CEO.

For a corporation, there is at least some argument to be made for a single measure of success in the form of monetary profits (or shareholder value, which is not always the same). But there is no single measurement of what constitutes quality education. A School Board is composed of elected officials who answer to diverse constituents. They should not act like the board of a company.

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