Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Seattle Times "Story" on Superintendents and School Board

Update: And now the Times editorial board weighs in.  Yawn.  Same old, same old (you'd think they would try a new tack but no.)  The Times absolutely refuses to acknowledge the reasons for the turnover in Seattle superintendents.  What is the Board to do in the fact of not one but two financial scandals?  Keep those superintendents?  C'mon. 

Then they speak of "a curiosity for a change in governance."  I hate to break it to them but that "curiosity" is only Tim Burgess, LEV and the Seattle Times.  Not in progressive Seattle.

And they speak of respect "for staff" as they incessantly berate the Board.  Oh kettle, it's the pot calling.

End of update.

Of all the issues for the Times to cover about Seattle Public Schools, they pick the issue of superintendents working with school boards.

This is an old, tired issue that the Times has covered...repeatedly.  In fact, it seems their go-to, defacto answer to ANY issue in Seattle Schools.  That darned micromanaging School Board.  It seems particularly inappropriate at this time (unless, of course, you were the powers that be in this town trying to send a public message to the Board about how they interact with our new interim superintendent.) 
 
Did the School Board stand up recently on some issues and flex their elected muscle?  They did and they were within their rights to do so.  Especially on the issue of bell times.  I say that because the staff does NOT set the priorities; the Board does.  The staff then lays out a plan to enact those priorities.

This is one of the worst articles on this issue that the Times has published.

In it, it is revealed that Banda sent an e-mail to the board about treatment of staff about the elementary math adoption process.  I had heard about this but that Banda released the e-mail - as he goes out the door - is very bad form on his part.  But I suppose he felt the need to protect the staff from that bad, bad School Board.

Nonsense.

From some of the comments from certain Board members, it seems that they don't remember when the admonishment was to not speak ill of each other publicly.  That past Board members got royally called out, by the Times, over doing just that seems to be forgotten.  And yet, it is now happening.

The litany of calling out goes on from Councilman Tim Burgess and the Alliance's Sara Morris.

I also have to wonder at the credit being given to Banda.  He helped pass BEX IV and the Operations levies? Honestly, that work had started long before he got here and he was a figurehead.  I didn't see him working those levies any differently from any other superintendent.

As well, there was this odd sentence in the Times' article:

He hired several senior managers and helped create a five-year plan to boost achievement for all students, regardless of race, disability, or background.

First, if you have openings at a government agency, you fill them.  Is that an accomplishment?

Also, what is this about "regardless of race, disability or background?"  Is that something new?  It is not.  And, there is  some irony in that credit for how badly our Special Education services have been.
The whopper?

But others say the leader of the state's largest school district needs to be a strong moral authority for K-12 education - someone who can stand out in a district pulled in different directions by education advocates, and stand up to a School Board that's been accused of bullying and micromanaging by its top leadership.

Moral authority?  Are we looking for a pope or a superintendent?  Rep. Reuven Carlyle seems to have planted this idea to the Times as he is quoted as saying it. 

The superintendent does not need to "stand up" to the Board.  The superintendent needs to stand by his/her staff and work with the Board.   Reasonable people can disagree and as long as it is clear on scope of responsibilities and authority, I think everyone CAN be reasonable.

(And fyi, the entire Board has NOT been accused of bullying/micromanaging but thanks for planting and nurturing that seed, Times.)

On the issue of bell times, Banda is quoted as saying that he told the Board, warned the Board, that there might trade-offs to pursing later starts for secondary students.  Fine, he gave them the heads up but the Board sets the priorities.  The staff can disagree but the Board is within their legal rights to set those priorities for the district.

And Charles Wright is quoted as saying he didn't feel "safe" in telling the Board bad news.  That's pretty hard to believe given his performance at the last Board retreat.  He certainly felt "safe" enough to call out the Board for asking for too much info too many times.

Could all members of the Board be more careful with their words?  Probably.  We all could.  But I note that, time after time, the Board says thank you for the work before they say anything else.  They give kudos and credit to the staff all the time and in public. 

I also note that President Peaslee says that the public attacks on the Board don't help matters just as people claim the Board - some of the Board - attack staff members.  She's right.

What's interesting is they get a quote from Marysville School Board VP Chris Nation on this issue but not our soon-to-be superintendent, Larry Nyland.

I'm more interested in what Nyland says and does. 

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

What a whiny article. Banda is a well-compensated executive who complained on the way out the door about how tough it was to do his highly paid job. He reneged on his contract and left for a cushier job near family. He is paid a lot of money to make hard decisions and negotiate with a wide range of people with varying interests. Seriously, it is why he was paid the big bucks.

Meanwhile, the unpaid part time Board does their stated duty and picks a district-vetted math textbook (one of the top 3 choices), acts in the interest of its constituents and directs the District to look into bell times based on a huge desire on have part of the consumers if the system, and picks up the pieces when Banda unexpectedly and suddenly breaks his contract.

The Board is by no means perfect, but good lord - Banda and the Times are coming across as a bunch of whiny, spoiled brats here.

Observer

mirmac1 said...

I guess if board meetings aren't going to all be a board kumbaya, with plenty of staff back-slappin' and high-fivin' - then there should be none.

Anonymous said...

That should read: "acts in the interest of its constituents and directs the District to look into bell times based on a huge desire on the part of the consumers of the system"

Observer

Anonymous said...

It is nice to know that parents and children are on the lowest rung of concern for this superintendent.

-GoodRiddance

n said...

"...a School Board that's been accused of bullying and micromanaging by its top leadership."

The Times is accusing Peaslee of bullying. They are parroting Carr. Unbelievable. The Times is clearly nostalgic for the leadership of the past elitists. They are at the least being intellectually dishonest here by supporting the comments made by Carr who came under a lot of deserved fire on this blog.

C'mon, did anybody expect any better from the Seattle Times?

Anonymous said...

He should be embarrassed by this. This does not acquit him well. This article shows that he is not concerned about the children in SPS one bit, nor the families impacted in SPS by the many things he has left undone, un-addressed, swept under the rug. For him to allow himself to spend time on this interview and to allow these quotes to be printed is very poor judgement on his part. His swan song to the district is to kick the board in the pants and make the district look bad. Not classy.

-FedMom0f2

Anonymous said...

plain and simple: the Board doesn't know what it's job is. It hires and fires the super. I approves spending. If the super doesn't enforce policy, the board needs to admonish and if not satisfied, replace the super.
Peters want to be a super but she's not.

social climber

Moral Authority? said...

"But others say the leader of the state's largest school district needs to be a strong moral authority for K-12 education - someone who can stand out in a district pulled in different directions by education advocates, and stand up to a School Board that's been accused of bullying and micromanaging by its top leadership."

I agree. Reuven Carlyle's quote was ridiculous. Is he implying that others don't have a sense of morality? What does Carlyle mean by "micromanaging"? Is Carlyle referring to the math adoption; something that falls under the board's legal responsibility.

Carlyle has some explaining and apologies to make. Shameful.

This helps explain why some of Carlyle's constituents are not thrilled with him. Glad Gerry Pollet was interviewed. It gets really old having the same cabal of individuals- Burgess, Sara Morris and Carlyle being quoted.

Moral Authority? said...

"But others say the leader of the state's largest school district needs to be a strong moral authority for K-12 education - someone who can stand out in a district pulled in different directions by education advocates, and stand up to a School Board that's been accused of bullying and micromanaging by its top leadership."

I agree. Reuven Carlyle's quote was ridiculous. Is he implying that others don't have a sense of morality? What does Carlyle mean by "micromanaging"? Is Carlyle referring to the math adoption; something that falls under the board's legal responsibility.

Carlyle has some explaining and apologies to make. Shameful.

This helps explain why some of Carlyle's constituents are not thrilled with him. Glad Gerry Pollet was interviewed. It gets really old having the same cabal of individuals- Burgess, Sara Morris and Carlyle being quoted.

Moral Authority? said...

I also believe that the powers in this town are laying the ground-work for an appointed board. That, is the real story.

Anonymous said...

Well I guess now is the time to announce the plan for an initiative to covert the board into full time paid positions with staff.

Of coarse to pay for it we will need to gut the administration at the mail sorting facility.

Who wants to gather signatures with me?

--Michael

Anonymous said...

Parents if you are having issues in special education you need to file a citizen complaint NOW.

It's critical for OSPI to see parents think SPED is not working. As of today there 10 citizen complaints and one withdrawn. Although this is a 100% increase from 2013 we still need more to get OSPI and OCR to mandate true change.

Do not withdraw your complaints for withdrawn complaints will not count against the SPS RC-CAP.

Go to https://www.k12.wa.us/SpecialEd/DisputeResolution/CitizenComplaint.aspx

Follow the form example or if you need help email sld.advocate.seattle@gmail.com and someone will be happy to help you through the process.

SLD ADVOCATE

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well,Social Climber, just as you would not replace the mayor for one issue, you would not replace the superintendent. But you make clear that it is your elected duty to make sure that Board policies are followed.

The biggest question? What does "admonish" mean and how would you do that? Because apparently asking questions gets you in trouble as a Board member or pushing back on staff "priorities" versus Board priorities. I'm serious - what does "admonish" look like?

Moral Authority, you are absolutely on point. Burgess is laying this groundwork and it should be clear this is what is coming.

Problem is, I doubt if the voting public - in Seattle - will go along with it.

Linh-Co said...

But wait, there's more from the editorial board. This is pretty much a repeat of the article.

http://seattletimes.com/html/editorials/2024193224_seattleschoolsedit30xml.html

Charlie Mas said...

Here's a hot link to the second editorial.

Anonymous said...

"News" and editorials being so similar makes one wonder if "news" is actually news. One day in the Seattle Times there were two or three similar articles about Gates Foundation education ideas, very similar to each other. I sent them an email if this was an advertisement being paid for by the Gates Foundation or if it was a news article that somehow multiplied.
NEmom

Anonymous said...

All,

Can I get an "Ahem, Hallelujah!" because our fair emerald city has at least one real newspaper: it is called "The Stranger". Thank goodness!

If you want real ed news, go there (and read the blog:-). I miss Goldie, but The Stranger still can turn out first-rate, thoughtful, real journalism with gravitus, accuracy and objectivity.

The Seattle Times piece was such utter drivel on so many, many levels.

And, not to beat a dead horse, but the math fiasco lies squarely at the feet of Heath and Tolley.

And I didn't know Banda whinnied about that in a blistering attack. That makes me think of him as both stupid callow. As the top educator, he should have been faaaaar more plugged in and not so "hands off" anyway. If he had, he would have done a mid course correction with the MAC, so the disconnect wouldn't have happened.

Heath and Tolley worship at the alter of common core, (haven't you heard? It will save us all!! Yeeehaaa!!"), so they were the ones who honed in to the focal criterion of "alignment to CCSS" to the practical exclusion of ought else, pushing the Math Adoption committee down that singular narrow chute, when in fact, that was but one factor, AND, the better question was simply, "what works best to use to teach kids?".

The question together with ALL of the criteria, including being effective for ALL students, including our ELL students, dyslexic students, etc. was what were needed to guide the MAC. The MAC was improperly steered (not their fault!), so, ask a bad question, get a bad result. In the end, it worked out, become the majority of directors were unwilling to sit by and allow Seattle's children to have 7 more years of unnecessary suboptimal 'investigative' word-heavy math. Another "Thank goodness!!"

The upshot: (1) cancel your subscription to the Seattle Times (read it for free on a browser that doesn't store cookies), (2) read the Stranger for local news, (3) check in with the blog on occasion for timely SPS breaking news, (4) thank Director Peters and McClaren for straight up math for our city's young children, and finally (5) count our lucky stars we have been freed from the ineptitude and do-nothingness of the recent stop-gap placeholder.

STRANGER, not ST

Melissa Westbrook said...


"Can I get an "Ahem, Hallelujah!" because our fair emerald city has at least one real newspaper: it is called "The Stranger"."

Amen. Thank God for the Stranger because 1) they are a good (albeit sometimes racy) counterbalance to the nonsense about public education in the Times and 2) they have a big enough readership that their endorsements influence outcomes. That truly matters.

Moral Authority said...

These weren't articles; they were hit pieces. In addition to yesterday's article and the editorial, ST Education Lab picked-up the story.

Banda met 1 in 23 criterion. Yikes.

This one is for Mr Moral Authority- Reuven Carlyle:


“The same president who has insisted that core moralism drives him has brought America to its lowest moral standing in history.”
― Glenn Greenwald,

kellie said...

In the many years I have been working on capacity issues, I have seen 7 superintendents. During that time, every board member has served faithfully for their 4 year term and most have doubled down for a second term for a total of 8 years.

They have done this as volunteers. I don't know when the last time, any superintendent has served for 4 years, let alone 8. This obsession with a national search is a huge disservice. You need someone with local ties who is invested in Seattle Public Schools.

At this point, the board is the institutional memory. Whether I agree with them or not is irrelevant. The board demonstrates their commitment to Seattle Public Schools over and over again.

The ST could really use some perspective. A quick google easily find stories about significantly more dysfunctional schools boards. Democracy is messy. That should not be a surprise to anyone at the Seattle Times.

Watching said...

kellie,

You make a very good point. We have, essentially, volunteer board members that serve 4-8 years, but we don't have superintendents stick around for more than 3.

I'm thinking the grass might be greener on the other side for some of these supers. Heck, Banda will be making even more dollars in Sacramento. If he leaves Sacramento, he will have the ability to collect 12 months of full pay= need to check about leaving w/o or w/ cause.

Additionally, I believe Superintendents are vested in a system if they serve 3 years. Why would they stay?

Additionally, Superintendent s don't stick around and they don't take the blame for the mess that they created, or their failures.

Monica said...

There is but ONE group ELECTED by the voters of the community to oversee the district. Not Carlyle, not Banda, Blethen OR Burgess: and that's the board.

When will these interests get over it?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Good for you, Monica.

Monica said...

No, good for you Melissa!

Where would we all be without the dialog you make possible?

We are all in your debt.

Anonymous said...

"Newspapers don’t really go out and find the news: they decide what gets to count as news. The same goes for television and radio. And you might disagree with their decisions! (For example, journalists are often accused of focusing on bad news and ignoring the good, making the world seem worse than it is.)

The important thing to remember, whenever you’re reading or watching the news, is that someone decided to tell you those things, while leaving out other things. They’re presenting one particular view of the world — not the only one. There’s always another side to the story."

Oliver Burkeman

STRANGER, not ST

Greeny said...

I've never been more disappointed in the Seattle Times. Really, I feel the wool's been over my eyes for years, and it's just been pulled off in the last few weeks: 1) no coverage of the MATH adoption fiasco, and the lengths the SB went to try to work with a staff so biased, so entrenched, and so clearly actively trying to thwart any acts by the Board that would threaten staff wants for a lesser curriculum (Why to such lengths? We don't know...no investigative reporting), and #2 Garfield rape case#2,well-done by AljazeeraAmerica last week (TY, Aljazeera) AND STILL not picked up, despite 100K+ parents in this community who will give a damn about what this reveals about the safety of their children on field trips under SPS - TODAY! Thank you, ST, for your amazing service to our community. Honestly, why do we even give you bandwidth?

Anonymous said...

Today's ST editorial is a retread of ones published in June 2013 and May 2012. I am sure there are more but those two popped up on the first page of a google search. The pieces decry the Board as disfunctional or as micro-managing activitists. The ST Editors, Burgess, Carlyle, and others want to lay the groundwork for Mayoral or State take-over of the District. And yet the most "professional board"(2011 per Lynn Varner) was given a pass by the ST in spite of its failure to oversee then Superintendent MGJ which by the way lead to her firing and two board members losing elections. ST editors are again looking to poison the well for the next Superintendent search. ST are the worst offenders when it comes to bullying.

NGC

Greeny said...

Any chance that opposing Letters to the Editor will be published? I would start with Charlie's prescient Mythbusters blog(see saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2014/06/mythbusters-seattle-cant-keep.html):

Writing on 6/21:
Once again Seattle is looking to hire a schools' superintendent, just two years after hiring the current one. So you're going to read and hear a lot of people saying stuff like "What the heck is wrong with Seattle that it can't keep a superintendent? There must be something wrong with that school district/school board/city/community/whatever."

I guess Seattle Times picked the Board this time, for reasons some of you speculate above. I just wish Times' readers could be reminded of facts in previous tenures - they might more easily recognize this "newsstory" for the deliberately misleading, defamatory (how about libel, School Board members?) propaganda that it is.

Greeny said...

Ah. Read the ST comments. Thank you all, for your intelligent, fact-filled push-back for all ST readers to read and consider - even when it appears they have no interest in doing so. People are entitled to their own opinions, I believe, and I also admit to personally believing that some opinions are neither worth having nor repeating. But we are not entitled to spin our own made-up "facts" or engage in wildly revisionist history - whatever happened to "ethics in journalism?"

Monica said...

Carr should talk. As chair of Audit & Finance committee, how many years should the board wait for the issues vetted there in the "Corrective Action" document recently posted, to be addressed by senior staff?

This just the same staff "stay out of my business" attitude that led to "Potter-gate".

And the general counsel is the common denominator.

Anonymous said...

How about all of us writing into the "Rant and Rave" column of the ST, only this time we can rant about ST's coverage (or lack there of)of important issues and rave about alternative news sources!
- Neighborhood Parent

mirmac1 said...

"I've never been more disappointed in the Seattle Times. Really, I feel the wool's been over my eyes for years, and it's just been pulled off in the last few weeks"

Amen Greeny

Anonymous said...

Banda was formerly the superintendent of a K-5 district. IMO, he came to Seattle to get K-12 district experience to bolster his resume.

He came to Seattle when BEXIV planning was wrapping up, and got to add the passing of a major levy to his resume, but he got the heck out of Dodge in time to avoid responsibility for the inadequacies of BEXIV...such as the looming high school capacity shortage.

He was on his way out of Seattle well before the math adoption vote. I'm wondering if FACMAC's daylighting of the lack of high school seats had anything to do with his decision to leave?

Could you imagine how much less attractive he would be to outside districts if he had stuck around for the high school capacity crunch? It would look as though he wasn't prepared, as a superintendent, to handle matters beyond K-5...

- North-end Mom

Charlie Mas said...

This is my point exactly.

These ideas that are about how Mr. Banda wanted to slink out of town before all of these time bombs blow up: high school capacity, Garfield rape case, only 1 out of 23 academic goals met, failure to implement the new special education delivery models and the potential loss of federal funds, failure to implement MTSS, failure to implement Common Core, failure to implement anything and everything, a Strategic Plan printed on toilet paper, zero progress on nearly all projects, the next APP split, a big fight looming over the future of advanced learning, Africatown II, the mess Paul Apostle left behind, a challenging levy vote for the Downtown school, Southshore's conversion to a charter, and probably three or four things that we can't even imagine yet, but which he could see like an oncoming train.

I'll say it again. Senior staff leave Seattle Public Schools because the district is unmanageable. In part due to the toxic culture of the headquarters staff, and in part due to the insurmountable disconnect between the JSCEE and the schools.