I never worry about action but only inaction. - Churchhill
Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy. - Dale Carnegie
The time for action is now. It's never too late to do something. - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
What's with all these inspirational quotes? To inspire you to realize that the time is now to stand up and do something about Seattle Public Schools. You do this, of course, for your own child(ren) to make sure that their school is the best it can be and that you feel confident in the education they are receiving.
But, if public education is (as I believe it is) the backbone of our great country, you must do this for all public school children. YOUR school is really only as good as ALL schools in the system.
Action expresses priorities. - Ghandi
I have read the Strategic Plan, I went to a community meeting on the Strategic Plan and I ask and listen and I still - don't - know.
It's really about that I have no idea how or why this district has set its priorities. If you asked any parent about long-term district priorities, I'd bet they would say, "close the achievement gap." Beyond that, I'm not sure what parents would say.
At the community meeting at Hale, there were about 50 parents and many SPS staff. We had to watch the district video, we had to listen to the NE Executive Director, extoll the virtues of the NE and the "needs" of the district which (big surprise!) include "enhanced data use", increased enrollment and limited capacity and ensuring culturally responsive schools. (On the latter, I have no real idea what the district is doing to move the needle.)
Is enhanced data use really an SPS priority for parents?
I sat at a table with parents who could have been the same parents from 10+ years ago. Why? Because they were unhappy with many of the same issues. How can that be?
What do they see as relevant? The real world issues that affect their lives (and their children's lives) on a daily basis. Mostly, it was transportation. Day-to-day issues mean more to them, right now, than any strategic plan.
Now, you could say to yourself, "Well, but we need to look at the big picture" which is true but the concerns about the daily lives of students and parents should be the canary in the coal mine for this district.
Make no mistake - I believe our SCHOOLS mostly function well (in spite of the district) but the district itself? Not really.
That the district is now on its second try to get the HR department right (and paying $100k+ to be in this Urban Schools Human Capital Academy) should tell you something.
That the district continually tinkers with transportation and parents are still unhappy about transportation should tell you something. How do you engage parents in a big picture when they can't figure out how to get their kids to school on time and get themselves to work on time?
That parents feel the communications from the district about important issues AND their ability to access information via the Source and Fusion is poor should tell you something.
Our tables were directed to discuss three topics. The first one was very droll - what would you do if you ran the district? Thornton Creek principal John Miner was at the table. He is such a credit to this district and he got very excited and said things like resources - libraries that are up-to-date, more PD for staff, more visual/performing arts. Other parents added counselor/family support worker/nurse/psychologist for every school. Things that involve schools on a daily basis and would enhance the school experience for every single child at each school.
Other parents were unhappy about transportation, communications and info from the district (VERY unhappy about the Source/Fusion for both parents and teachers), culturally relevant ways to communicate with school communities (hint: not online). Better surveys from the parents' POV and not full of ed jargon. Ability to access the lunch menu (seriously, this is problem?).
And there is the feeling that the district is trying to "balance its budget on the backs of parents." Whether it's making transportation schedules that are not working parent-friendly or making more school-level cuts, parents feel frustrated.
And, most of the parents had little idea about Common Core and what was coming. One mom said, "Oh, we're at an Option school; we won't have to do that."
One parent asked why the district doesn't ask parents with relevant business skills for help on issues like demographics, transportation, etc. No answer but I've heard that question asked for years.
I never worry about action but only inaction. - Churchhill
But, did I hear anyone say at this meeting that it is all TOO frustrating/worrying to stand by and do nothing? I did not.
I get that people are busy and often feel they cannot make a difference. It takes numbers, folks.
It takes many, many parents saying no to high-stakes testing.
It takes many, many parents to say they will not continue to raise money to pay for staff and maintenance at their schools. The state doesn't fully fund education and now the district does not want to fund basic education.
But, that's not supposed to be YOUR worry. That's the district's worry and by enabling them to move money where THEY want it and not where it is truly needed, you allow this to continue.
It is your job to let the Board and the district know - over and over - comes from the movie Network, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore."
I note that the parents rallying around later start for middle/high schools are doing a great job. They are lucky that President Peaslee has made this her project but I think even without her, they would be making forward motion. So yes, it can be done.
One question on the list at the community meeting was something like "What will you as a parent do to support the district?" It seemed to baffle some parents.
I suggested that maybe it was support in terms of levies. One parent said she was dismayed when the district used passage of the levies as a "mandate." She said there are "no line item vetoes" in the levies so she just votes for them but that the district is wrong to think it's a wholesale endorsement of everything they do.
Nothing gets a district's attention like losing a levy.
I think there are many good, smart, hard-working people at district headquarters.
I agreed that the current upper management team seems more unified than ever in the past.
But that parents do not understand the biggest education reform since NCLB is coming (in the form of Common Core) means that someone at headquarters does not believe it is important for parents to know. (Or, more likely, they don't want parents to realize what is happening until it is too late. As of now, it is NOT to late to ask hard questions.)
That parents in this district grapple with basics like basic school funding and transportation and getting information is a big signal that all is not well.
That the Board seems to be rowing right along with senior leadership is troubling but yes, that's what they are doing. It's a pity but not surprising. Boards come and go (as do superintendents) and yet, not much changes.
Personally, I'm tired of supporting this district.
Go out and get busy. - Dale Carnegie
That "Get busy" phrase?
The calling card for one of my favorite activists in the Southeast.
The two words I whisper to myself when I start my exercise (which is running stairs).
The next move is yours.
Don't wait for anyone else.
Get up and get busy.