Monday, July 28, 2014

Where's the problem?

Over and over again we see that the problem is not inadequate policies or procedures but the absence of any enforcement and the absence of any accountability for those who violate the policies and procedures.

And who has the job of enforcing policy and holding staff accountable? The Board.


Ann D said...

"But we don't want to hurt anyone's feelings and for them to think we don't like them."

-The Board and Administration

ConcernedSPSParent said...

I have sent several emails to Director Carr regarding lack of policy enforcement. Disappointingly I have received no response.

Anonymous said...

I participated in an overnight camp for my student. Compared to last year, there were a few more hoops to jump through but on the ground --once at the camp -- things were pretty loose. The teachers definitely placed a lot of trust in the volunteers.


Anonymous said...

Charlie, I certainly don't disagree with you. When I was in a position to advise central and building administrators as well as school board members on issues of policy, I regularly told them that they got themselves in trouble more often than not when they were unaware of and/or did not enforce written board policy rather than not having any written policy at all (which is not good but not as bad as ignoring existing policy). But let me honestly ask you this: What does the board
"enforcing policy and holding staff accountable" look like? Beyond holding their single employee --- the superintendent --- accountable and/or dressing down staff at a public meeting, what concrete actions can they take? I'm very interested in your thoughts.

--- swk

Charlie Mas said...

swk, Thank you for asking. It reflect an interest in the idea that no one on the Board has yet taken.

I had better like the question because it's one that I ask all the time. Whenever any district official promises accountability I always ask them what it will look like.

Enforcement and accountability will have a lot of different looks. Dressing down staff at a public meeting is the next to last resort, so I wouldn't expect to see much of that.

One look will come when the Board becomes aware of a policy violation in a public meeting. For example, when Michael Tolley told the Board that eleven schools were using enVision despite the fact that only two had a waiver. At that point a Board member should have asked a confirming question like "Did I hear you right?" and maybe a clarifying question like "Is this not in violation of our policy?" Presuming Mr. Tolley doesn't have some weasel answer to create the illusion that these schools are not in violation of policy, the Board could then turn to the superintendent and give him a direction to enforce the policy and hold the principals accountable. Then the Board needs to ask him how long it will take. Then the Board needs to follow up at the superintendent's self-imposed deadline for action. If Mr. Tolley could invent some weasel reason why the schools were not in violation of the policy, then the Board should direct him to suggest changes to strengthen the policy. Again, ask how long that will take and follow up.

Often the Board becomes aware of violations before a public meeting. Such was the case with the Program Evaluation Report. Mr. Tolley and Ms Heath submitted an annual program evaluation report that didn't have any program evaluations. Their report utterly failed to meet the requirements of the policy. The Board saw the report before it was presented at the Board meeting, so the correct path would have been to contact Mr. Tolley and Ms Heath, remind them of the requirements of the policy, advise them that their report didn't meet those requirements and suggest that they withdraw it from the Board agenda until they could provide a report that did meet the policy requirements. And, of course, ask when that is likely to happen and follow up.

Sometimes the Board becomes aware of problems at a committee meeting. For example the Audit and Finance meeting when they learned that Paul Apostle had missed the self-imposed deadline for corrective action on a Title IX issue. They asked him for an updated timeline for completion. His addition of eight months should not have been acceptable. They should only have given him another two months. And when they saw him again and he still had not taken the corrective action rather than giving him another year to complete the work (a deadline past his retirement date), they should have insisted that he complete the work in the following month and report back. They should also have advise the superintendent of the failure. If they cannot do this in collegial and professional way they have no business being Board Directors. And if Mr. Apostle coul not accept that kind of accountability then he has no business being a department head.

Then there is the everyday sort of private accountability such as when Mr. Tolley promises to "get back" to the Board with the answer to a question. Board members need to get a timeframe for the response from him and they need to follow up. If they have not heard from him by the self-imposed deadline they should write to him asking for the information or an updated timeline and they should copy the superintendent on the message.

Enforcement and accountability are not difficult. Every other industry in America manages to do it. Public K-12 education can do it too.

Finally, policy compliance should be an element in the superintendent's evaluation. It is not.

Is that helpful, swk?

Anonymous said...

What is important is people realize the current administration configuration isn't working.

How can you expect 7 part time non paid board members to truly care.

What is the motivation of these 7 people to go unpaid ?

We need full time paid board members to fix the mess. Also we the people should vote on a super not the board.

Timefor Change

Anonymous said...

I can't speak to the field trip being discussed.

I can speak about what I have experienced:
You do this as a labor of love. You are not getting paid. You want to support students. You believe that doing this right is good for the students, the school, and community.

Even without the nightmare scenarios I have been reading about here, most teachers refuse to chaperone overnight school trips at the high school level--now I don't either. Taking these on is serious work. After these trips you get really sick afterwards. Why? Lack of sleep. I didn't sleep at night because I was busy doing what a teacher/chaperone was supposed to do, chaperone. Making sure that sleeping arrangements are *proper*, keeping an eye out for drugs, etc.

Given the small # of teachers willing to chaperone in the contexts I worked in, if the trip is to take place, schools have to rely on parents and community volunteers to chaperone.

It also annoys teacher - chaperones to no end to find out about chaperones deciding not to show up at the last minute. I am not talking about an emergency concerning a sick child.

On another note: Teachers involved in some of the student - run groups with overnight trips can also tell you that students in leadership positions have been known to tell parents/community members that are perceived as too strict that they were not needed. That is not fun either, expecting these parent and community chaperones to show up and to find out that they were told not to come--even after having been confirmed by teachers.

Schools can do a better job of discussing the expectations of chaperones, teacher or otherwise.
Remember I mentioned that high school teachers stop chaperoning?

There needs to be support for these trips if they are to continue. If not, let's stop.


A Chaperone said...

Here is a question: You are a chaperoning an overnight trip at a hotel. At night, kids lock their doors for safety reasons. Is the responsibility of the adult to look into the rooms?

Anonymous said...

As far as I know none of the board members have a degree in construction management. So why do they spend most of their time dealing with construction issues.

Time for a board recall and start-over.

Foolme twice

Anonymous said...

As far as I know none of the board members have a degree in construction management. So why do they spend most of their time dealing with construction issues.

Time for a board recall and start-over.

Foolme twice

Ann D said...

Timefor Change - I think the fact that they don't have their own staff also contributes to the disorder. Who keeps track of all the things that are due or were postponed? However it is happening doesn't seem to be working.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Modern Sound, thank you for your calm thoughts. I recall getting a frantic call to see if I could chaperone because no less than 3 people backed out! I also know it's not that fun and hard work.

I think the deal is that the chaperone checks every room they are responsible for at a certain point (like 10 pm) to see that everyone is in there who should be (and check the bathroom and closet for anyone who shouldn't be).

Then, hang out in the hall reading for some period of time so that if anyone peeks their head out, they know someone is watching.

Anonymous said...

More coverage of the case today.

In both cases, pictures of Garfield are used. What a putrid pockmark on SPS.

PubliCola says it is odd local media have not made this a huge story. And it points to a blog.
The blog itself discusses the incident and what constitutes rape.

Veteran Reader

Anonymous said...

"Even without the nightmare scenarios I have been reading about here, most teachers refuse to chaperone overnight school trips at the high school level--now I don't either."

As I read through these nightmare incidents, and the chaperoning families felt is required for high school students, this was my thought exactly. I don't see how we can expect teachers to volunteer to chaperone school trips where students are not expected to comply with the rules, but instead have to be policed. I now believe that I would not be a suitable chaperone for a HS trip.

I heard from an elementary school teacher recently that she'd given up taking kids on field trips, because the rules had become so rigid, because the parents weren't available and reliable, and because the children were less likely to follow the rules (for example, not bolting).

I'm predicting that the easiest way for a teacher to comply with chaperoning requirements will be to not chaperone at all. I see an end, or maybe a moratorium on field trips in the public schools coming.

The rhetoric I'm hearing about the issue reminds me of an interview I heard about policing rules -- the community activist was a strong advocate for cleaning up the Seattle Police force, but she said that in mediation she had realized that some requests would have negative results. For example, judging police by the number of complaints against them could result in police simply drawing back from more confrontational situations and more confrontational areas. For the police at least, we could say that's not doing their job. But for teachers, all these extra responsibilities are just extras they volunteer.


Anonymous said...

I note that it is Monday and the letter from Peaslee to Principals Parents and Community that was on an earlier thread on this blog is not on the SPS website. It has not been reproduced anywhere that I've heard of other than this blog.

Was that just an email to this blog or to wider media?

Was this a lone ranger effort at weekend damage control (or less cynically clarification) just from Peaslee or was it an official Board letter or was it an official SPS response to the community?

Anyone know how and to whom this went out?


Melissa Westbrook said...

ZB, I think this is more an issue for overnight trips rather than a standard day field trip.

Interested, I pointed out elsewhere what you are seeing. I received my e-mail from the SPS Public Affairs office. I don't know who else received it.

Anonymous said...

I have a question. As school employees, don't teachers get paid to chaperone field trips? The Garfield Field Trip was an outdoor classroom type experience that took place during the school week, was it not? So these teachers were not "volunteering" they were working. Working with kids requires a high level of patience and an understanding of where the kids are in their developmental process. There are some parents who absolutely should not volunteer for High School field trips. If you think High School kids are going to follow the rules when there are no adults there to enforce them and nobody is sending the message that there ARE rules and they need to be followed, don't volunteer to chaperone a field trip. Also, don't be a high school teacher. Yes, field trips are a lot of EXTRA work. I'd be willing to bet most of us have had jobs where we have done extra work at one point or another. ZB, do you really think making sure kids don't get out of their beds at night is too much to ask? You put boys in one area, girls in another, you have a clear lights out time, you position adults near the doors, WITHOUT ear plugs and you tell the kids they need to stay in their own beds. You need enough adults and you need to have adults who can speak with authority's and repeat the rules. If kids break the rules, there need to be consequences. They get sent home the next day. Some kids are going to push the limits, but most will comply IF it is clear that the rules are real. I can see myself as a high school student getting up and wandering around at night if that's what everyone else was doing and no adult was stopping them. After the first night of that, even the die hard rule followers get the message "hey no one cares what we do here! Free for all!" That isn't the atmosphere you want on a high school trip!

I am shocked to hear student leaders have the authority to veto chaperones. That's a problem with the school culture if its true.

I am wondering if public high school is the place for my kids now. They are good kids, but I don't want them in a place where the kids are making the decisions on things like who chaperones. That's the cart pulling the horse. Yikes!

Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

From what I understand, no, public school teachers don't get paid for out-of-school-hour field trips. They are paid a bargained yearly wage that is figured down to weekly hours and field trips are outside those hours. They do field trips because they believe in the benefits for the kids.

That said, the SPS rules around behavior and chaperoning still apply.

I cannot imagine my kid surviving school without field trips. That said, even worse would be for my kid to not survive school. Which is what the laxness of SPS will lead to at some point. That is why it is not in any way overstatement to be outraged at the laundry list of unacceptable events in this case.

North of 85th

Anonymous said...

By the way, I went to a coed boarding school, so I know of what I speak. There were rules and no one ever snuck out to go to the opposite gender dorm. That's because we knew the consequences would be serious if we did.


Anonymous said...

" There were rules and no one ever snuck out to go to the opposite gender dorm."
Hey it happens all the time in the boarding school books (well, except for the ones set in England in the 20's. :-) Doesn't it even happen in Harry Potter. (yes, I know I shouldn't get my facts from YA fiction).

The laxness will result in cancelling the field trips, but so will a demand that the children will be safe if they are properly chaperoned, even if the children are trying to break all the rules (that is a variant of the sentiment expressed by Ron English).

BTW, the stories I'm hearing of private schools does not comfort me with the idea that the incidents described couldn't happen in their trips. In those trips, it seems the kids got cozy without rape occurring, but the conditions were available (girl, boys, in rooms together where they shouldn't have been without teachers policing). There's a change in social mores of girls and boys interacting that makes the rules more difficult to enforce. Are we really supposed to treat every time a boy and girl are together alone as a potential rape waiting to happened? Like, for example, one does in cultures where men and women must remain separate unless they are married or related to one another?

PS: I'm not arguing that reasonable rules were followed at Garfield. I'm just not ready to call for teacher's heads and I want more conversation about what the rules should be.

Anonymous said...

For the most part SPS high schools are NOT a safe place for your kids.

When I was at a SPS high school we never had any of these issues you see today. No rapes, no murders, very little drugs, no guns, no gangs. and students seemed to try to follow the rules.

I used to be anti-charter schools, but I not so much now. This district seems too divers with to many divisive issues to make it. Now we have the adults involved in corruption, embezzling and dereliction of duty.

There's simply no one in charge at any level our children seem to come second to the needs of the employees. Pathetic!


Disgusted said...


Really, there is no safe place for children. As parents, we can only try our best to keep our children safe.

Also, there is plenty of corruption within charter schools.

Anonymous said...

If you generalize maybe, but statistically that's not true. There are many places or
institutions in the Seattle area that have never experienced the level of criminal activities that occur in the SPS high schools and I feel my children are very safe at one of those VS a SPS high school.

We are now seeing just how disinterested school district's staff is around student safety.

There's a CYA fire drill everyday at the district office. Pathetic!


Another thought said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

This was a terrible incident, but I can't throw the blame so harshly on the chaperones for this trip. I don't have a high school aged child, but I have been in a position to have to chaperone high school aged kids at an overnight event for a nonprofit. I would have to guess that for high school kids, this kind of supervision - or lack of good supervision - is the norm.

You are taking a big leap of faith when you send your teenager on an overnight field trip... but if 2x as many parents and community volunteers offered to help out and attend overnight field trips with their teens, well then you might have a more manageable situation. This is too much of a burden to put on teachers.


Ed said...


Paul Apostle had no business being a department head, period.

Everyone that knew him knows it. Except the board.

That appears to be the problem in a nutshell.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Another Thought, my apologies, I accidentally deleted your question which I believe was, "What if there was sex between members of the same sex?"

No one should be having sex, consensual or not, on a field trip. (there's that old lady in me.

Ballard, if it's too much to chaperone high schoolers, then no more field trips. It is not worth it if people can't handle it.

Ed, I always try to give every new senior staffer a welcome and the benefit of the doubt. Mr. Apostle was always kind to me and yet I kept seeing (and hearing) how things were not getting done. I think he left while the time was right.

Anonymous said...

What about the headline story in Seattle Times now - Blame for the turnover in SPS leadership. I suppose it was only a matter of time…
Still no reporting on the Garfield case though.


Anonymous said...

oops should read- "blame the board for the turnover in SPS leadership"


Anonymous said...

The premise of the article today

("Is friction driving out Seattle school superintendents?") so misses the point. If there is friction, it's because of Banda's mal-administration. Imagine whining to the Board that we don't feel "safe" delivering information. That's real adult. And it is a disservice to the Board. I'm disgusted with Carr's pandering to this. I applaud Patu in her indignation and incredulity: they are just doing their jobs asking for information that is chronically with-held, delayed, watered down, and mis-represented, Over and over and over again. Banda be gone!!! This was no thought leader. No moral authority there. Deer in headlights. He should definitely go for his pension somewhere else IMO. Take Wright with him. Please


Anonymous said...

Instead of the ST posing the question about whether the board is responsible for churn in SPS leadership, maybe it should investigate who is responsible for the chronic mismanagement, lurching from crisis to crisis, and involvement in various financial and other scandals. Investigate what has gone so wrong with the district and what can ever set it straight again. I believe the district is too large and top-heavy. But how could a split be accomplished? Other smaller districts in the greater Seattle - Eastside area don't seem to be be plagued by the problems we do.


Anonymous said...


A smaller district wouldn't magically remove the dysfunction. But I agree that all evidence points to SPS being an ungovernable entity. I think it is time to split south and north. North can take Wright. Haw Haw Haw.


Yuch said...

Banda, be gone is right.

The article reminds me of the DeBell days. Interesting that Blandford is quoted.

Anonymous said...

It's too bad that teachers aren't paid for field trips. They should be. Melissa is right, as a parent volunteer, part of the job is to make sure nobody is having sex of any kind. If that is too much for people, let's not have field trips. I have an example of something truly horrifying that happened on a private school field trip in a public place. I can honestly say that no adult present would have imagined this thing (of a sexual nature) would happen in this place at this time while adults were present. Nobody blamed the chaperones. The kids got immediate consequences. At the end of the trip, no one thought the kids had done something cool or worthy of emmulating. I doubt that same thing will happen at that school again. School administration did a good job of sending the message "that was unacceptable behavior, but these are kids and kids sometimes make bad choices, we hope they learned from this." Chaperones just need to make a good faith effort. And yes, high school students can be very challenging.

Just Saying said...

I observed ONE middle school dance. After what I saw, I wouldn't even consider being a dance chaperone.

Ed said...


Take a look at the first few pages of the (posted) Corrective Action grid and I think you will agree that often "nice" people have no business being department heads.

Anonymous said...

That's too bad Just Saying! I had the opposite experience. I really enjoyed the middle school dance I chaperoned.


Anonymous said...

Bottom line is (and always has been) You get what you pay for.

What? Are chaperones never supposed to sleep? Are students supposed to be monitored constantly? If students are not monitored constantly, and by people in a position to hold them "accountable", and observed AT ALL TIMES - then yes, things WILL happen sometimes. If you're a chaperone, you have to decide - when you will give it up. When will you sleep? When will you let the chips fall where they may in terms of behavior? And, people draw the line at different places. I do not "blame" a young chaperone who probably felt he/she had no authority - for "giving it up" when he/she did. With a different set of students, that approach would have worked out just fine with no will effects. Who wouldn't want to get some sleep at a weeklong camp in the Olympics?

At the end of the day, we the taxpayers are ultimately responsible. We want deluxe educations for our kids, filled with enrichment opportunities like overnight camps away from home. And, we want it for free. If we PAID for FULLTIME, PROFESSIONAL chaperones, eg. professional night time supervision, and 2 daytime shifts of supervision, - we'd be shelling out a lot more for education than we do.

How many times have bloggers lauded the extensive volunteering that SPS parents provide? This event is the downside to that style of education. It's unprofessional, inequitable, and lacks any sort of accountability. When something goes wrong - suddenly, all those proponents of volunteerism - cry about accountability. Really, a culture of volunteerism vs professionalism is a culprit.

(Yes - the coverup, lack of follow up, FB bullying protection, Title 9 issues - those are all on the district.)


Melissa Westbrook said...

Give it up? Please, we're adults. At least make a good faith effort (which does not seem to be the case here).

That the district did not background check at least one chaperone should tell you something.

I am willing to lay about 50% of the blame for this at the district's feet (the actual incident).

As for the follow-thru - 100% on the district.

Anonymous said...

Reader, As a chaperone you don't have to stay up all night. You just have to stay up until the kids are settled down to sleep. The kids need to know who is in charge...the chaperones/teachers. The teacher needs to let the kids know that he/she is watching them and grading them and that he/she is going to be the final authority at the end of the night to be sure they are in their rooms after the chaperones have finished their duties. Then the chaperones can visit in the halls/nearby and check on them until later. They can sleep. It is a matter of Who's in charge?