Saturday, April 12, 2014

Goodbye, Charlie

This is likely to be one of the most difficult posts I ever write because how do you say goodbye to someone who has been a constant in your life over the last six+ years?

Charlie Mas is something of an enigma.  Even to me.  He's brash, outspoken and yet, a big softie.

At times some people thought that Charlie and I were one person.

Or that we were joined at the hip in our thoughts.

Or that we confabbed on every post.

Wrong, wrong and wrong.

It makes me smile because Charlie and I also never consulted on who wrote what.  We had our own reasons and our own interests.  I think the most important concern for Charlie is (and always was) accountability, no more, no less.

I have sometimes groaned at his words, cheered at his words but always admired his ability to cut thru the bullshit to the core of the matter.  That it may have upset others was no matter to him (or me) because the cleansing light of day is what this district has needed (whether they believe it or not).

But we recognized in each other, as did Beth Bakeman who started this blog, a recognition of the relentlessness of our thought and our desire for better for public education in this city.  I know that some may not have always (or almost never) agreed with us but gave us grudging acceptance for our longevity and our refusal to give up when others might have.

If nothing else, Charlie has taught me to stand by my words and not be afraid of what others might say.   
I would almost call it a "To Sir with Love" moment except that I'm older than Charlie and it is admiration and deep regard,  not love.

His mind is quick, his focus clear and his devotion to his beautiful daughters always his mission.
But my favorite thing about Charlie is his love for, and use of, sarcasm.  So many in Seattle shy away from tough talk and sarcasm - there are a lot of seemingly delicate ears in this town.   (And I'm sure there are those that just think it isn't "nice.") 

Fine.  But for the rest of us there is Charlie and all the Brits who seem to make a sport out of being sarcastic. (See Countess Violet on Downtown Abbey "We can't have him assassinated. I suppose.")

Some thoughts on the joy of Charlie (and sarcasm):

I'm not so good with the advice... Can I interest you in a sarcastic comment?
Chandler Bing

“It’s a sad state of affairs when I’m the one bringing sanity to the equation”
M.A. George

“I can be quite sarcastic when I'm in the mood.”
Holen Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye

Goodbye, good luck and keep in touch, Charlie.


Catherine said...

Holding up a toast to your tribute. cheers!

Charlie Mas said...

I have always shared the view of Alice Roosevelt "If you haven't anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me."

Mel didn't mention this, but I'm hell to sit with at Board meetings. I do a sarcastic MST3K-style running commentary. It can be a little distracting.

Because the bulk of this work is online, there are a lot of people who don't recognize me in person. They find out who I am and they ask me if I'm that Charlie Mas. I admit that I am, and begin by asking if I owe them an apology. I've had to make a lot of apologies.

I've had to apologize here a number of times and, even more often, acknowledge that I was wrong about things. That's the nature of this work. I'm wrong a lot.

In all of the time that I've been doing this, I have never asked the District to do anything that they didn't promise to do. That's a funny problem with the SPS culture. They think that setting a goal is equivalent with meeting the goal and they think that making a promise is equivalent with keeping a promise. They are shocked and offended when anyone actually remembers their commitments and expects them to be fulfilled.

Maybe it's a Seattle thing, but people around here shy from confrontation. Consequently, I once was pilloried for calling Raj Manhas a jerk for refusing to fulfill a long list of promises he made in a letter to Spectrum families. No one, however, had any problem with his broken promises, just with my rudeness in bringing them to everyone's attention. I don't get that. I hope I never do.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I forgot about that running commentary - yes, it is annoying (but sometimes very funny).

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mr Mas, for your hard work, and for caring. It is rare these days to find someone who believes in Say what you mean, and mean what you say. May your future be happy and bright.

(BTW, where do you find the Japanese anime films that are like Miyazaki's? I saw a list of films you recommended on Slog but can't figure out where to get them.Thanks :-)


Anonymous said...

We've never met in person but I owe you a huge debt of gratitude -- for making me feel a little less insane vis-a-vis SPS, somewhat more courageous, and a lot more informed. Thank you.
Baron Humbert von Gikkingen

n said...

I, too, am going to miss Charlie's voice on this blog. I prefer plain speaking and yes, even confrontative types who get to the point expeditiously.

"Nice" . . . this country is going down the drain with "nice."

Good luck, Charlie. I hope you like the east coast. Feel free to chime in anytime.

Charlie Mas said...

Where to find anime? I find it on Netflix and Hulu mostly. I also watch it on the Funimation site and a few other anime web sites I know.

You may want to be careful, however. Japanese stories, even those meant for children, can contain nudity and references to sex. If you're sensitive to that sort of thing you'll want to either preview what you share with your kids or check a reference like Anime News Network for any objectionable content.

Sakura Con will be this weekend at the Convention Center downtown. Even if you don't become a member and have access to all of the programming, you can see all of the cosplays in the public parts of the convention center.

Anonymous said...

Thanks much. We'll check those out. Havea great life wherever you go.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for all your hard work reporting from SPS. We are going to miss you a lot. Wishing you and your family the best!
- One of your readers

Anonymous said...

I'll miss your insights and contributions, Charlie. But mostly I'll miss your effort and fortitude that's so lacking here in my hometown, where passive-aggressiveness and political charades cloaked in political correctness combine to trump progress daily. Like many things in life, our schools do well in spite of those who claim to lead them, because of people like yourself who rip back the curtains and expose the villains hiding behind them as much as possible. Disruption and agitation are necessary from time to time. As Nicholson's Joker famously said: "This town needs an enema!" It did, still does, and probably always will. Thanks for reminding us from time to time. WSDWG

Anonymous said...

Charlie - Seattle has embraced a group think happy happy go along get along definition of "confrontation".

Anything which rocks the boat against whatever nonsense leaders are spewing is like punching someone in the mouth & knocking out teeth. (I partially grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, confrontation was dangerous to your health.)

On Sunday I wish had presented you with the Michael Tolley Award For Democratic, Open Processes, and Not Being A Self Promoting Pocket Liner.

I also wish I had presented you with the Bill Gate$ Award For NOT Being A Highly Degreed, Highly Credentialed, Highly Compensated Suck Up, Sycophant and Toady.


seattle citizen said...

Thank you, Charlie. You've done a valuable service in the Seattle schools community: You've provided some degree of accountability by continuous daylighting of and commenting on district policy and programs. Thanks for the many hours at meetings. Thanks for the honest and forthright commentary. All the best to you!

Jan said...

Farewell, Charlie -- truly, fare well. Your posts have enriched me, my understanding of how bureaucracies like SPS work, and how to advocate with laser-like focus. I will also especially miss your irreplaceable history with SSD -- I can't even recall when I first crossed paths with you but it was probably when my oldest, now 27, was in elementary Spectrum.

May you find things as worthy as what you have done here to occupy your time "back east."


TechyMom said...

Thank you, Charlie. I have learned so many things from you. Your no BS attitude is rare in Seattle, and you've done a great service by asking tough questions of various administrators over the years. It's also fun to read your rants. Enjoy the East.

Greg Linden said...

Sorry to see you go, Charlie. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and I wish there were more like you shining light on problems they see so others can see them too. I'll miss your posts.

Robert said...

Where or why is Charlie going? I reread MW's post for clues. As often as I have looked to Charlie for information I have tried to channel him when advocating for what I think is important for SPS and of course for my kids. Mostly in that order.

-see you around Charlie