Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Times Urges Mayor Murray to Take Control of the School Board

In one of the most shameful and disrespectfully written editorials I've ever read in the Times, they urge the Mayor and the City Council to make taking over the majority of the Seattle School Board positions a top legislative priority.

It's a funny thing because I JUST today wrote the Board about a couple of other issues but warned them of this.  Now we all know there is no love between me and the Times so no one gave me a heads up.  You could have seen this coming from the signs put out by Burgess and Murray a mile away.

Here's what I just told the Board in an e-mail:

No, I'm not clairvoyant - I just can see where Mayor Murray and Councilman Burgess are heading.

This from the Seattle Times:
But the value of a city department of education is diluted as long as the Seattle school board (sic) remains mired in dysfunction.  With the elected board whipsawed by ideologies and personalities, Seattle is now looking at its fifth superintendent in a decade.  It is telling that three left for smaller school districts.  The district's special education department - on its eighth chief in five years - is an embarrassment, as shown by a Monday Seattle Times news report.

If Murray is going to make a lasting difference on education, he needs power to ensure competent leadership is part of the seven-member school board.  The mayor of Oakland has the power to appoint three members to a 10-member local school board. 

Doing something like that here requires state legislation.
They asked Murray and he said, "It makes it easier to get something done." 

The City Council and the mayor (sic) should make mayoral power over the school board a top legislative priority for the 2015 session.

Where - to - start?
This is quite the throwdown to you as a Board and I would suggest a strong response.  It should include the message that the MAIN goal for this Legislative session is NOT to overthrow the Seattle School Board but to fully fund McCleary.  (I guess the Times must have missed that discussion in the Supreme Court today.) 

If any of you believe in this nonsense, then please, for everyone's sake, show yourself. 

But this is an incredibly disrespectful editorial and there is no mistaking that.   And, they don't just want a couple of appointments - they want the majority.

Any ideas that anyone had about being "partners" with the City on preschool should be put on hold (especially if the City's proposition passes).

Do you trust people who are trying to end the elected control of the School Board?  The control of ONE job, YOUR job - public education - and not a multitude of jobs as the Mayor has. 

I can only say - as respectfully as I can - that if your Board or the previous one - had not allowed yourselves to be intimidated or shamed by this "dysfunction" talk or "micromanaging," maybe this wouldn't be happening.

But I, for one, will not let this stand and any Seattle legislator who promotes this may find his or herself an outcast in Seattle because the one thing I know -after more than decade in activism - is that Seattleites will not let this happen.

End of e-mail

The Times wants a fight?  They are going to get a fight. 


Anonymous said...
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Charlie Mas said...

Bwah ha ha ha. This is the worst Seattle Times Editorial yet.

Their shining example of board dysfunction: the special education department is a mess. Really? That's the Board's job?

too true said...

"The City Council, and the mayor"

Who gets capitalized in Blethen's world? Certainly not the "mayor" or the "board." But MW you are completely right in both pointing out the disrespect as well Blethen's poor political stance against -- Seattle. WE SEATTLE never vote the way he tells us to. WE SEATTLE look to The Stranger on how to vote. Not because we are sheep but because we have a similar agenda as they have. We like to be free and we like to help our neighbor. We don't want untrained teachers (TFA) or school closures to mask poor test scores to support the corporate education reform.

It could be a lot better but I hear that Blanford is working to a position between the Board and the city (supplementing his current elected role on the Board). His trip East certainly seems to confirm that.

Muarry this city has a history of one-time Mayors... Going towards Blethen will insure your carcase is thrown on that heep too.

mirmac1 said...

Yes. Carcass. Heap. Me hungry. Hulk smash! (I have no other words at the moment)

I will from now on call him Mr. Bloomberg.

Anonymous said...

Fuck this. Sorry, Melissa - a visceral reaction there. But I, for one, won't let this go down without a fight. You rally the troops and we'll be there. There are many many people in this city who don't have kids and don't follow school board issues that closely because they don't have kids in the system, but who care that the system is well-run and that kids are getting what they need, and they wouldn't necessarily follow The Times' edicts (more likely to follow the Stranger, as Too True says).

I've noticed that my child-free friends ask for my opinion on school board races and levies. I'm sure many of us have friends like that, too.

Our school board needs to stay independent. This year is the first time we've had any hope of success for a long time - it's less than a year since DeBell left, and even if Peaslee et al haven't been perfect, they have been an improvement. Let's give them a sporting chance to prove themselves before imposing sweeping changes again.


Anonymous said...

Well ..first thought that comes to mind,

does it really matter, at this point?

SPS is on the precipice of major crash-and-burn-ville, frankly. At this point, I really, truly don't believe the big clusterf*** that's coming is avoidable. Too much diddling on Absent-Man Banda's watch, all 2 years of it, means at this point, the die is truly cast.

SpEd, unfortunately and sadly, has been the canary in the coal mine. The way the District treats SpEd families, is how it will treat all families as circumstances get worse and worse and worse and the going gets really, really tough.

The continual years of bad SPS decisions in all spheres is awe-inspiring! Remarkably bad decisions in everything from actual education, like discovery math curricula, to lack of fiscal controls, hello Potter!, to nutty operations, IT, looking at you, to the ultimate flustercluck, facilities, close 'em, sell 'em, oops, open 'em, build 'em, who knew? (we all did) that's what I'm talking about.

It's not one-off stupidity, it's endless...

So yes, the District is lined up for severe failures, and thus, I must admit, it is not clear that it really matters who is at the wheel as the car is careening off the cliff, 'cuz it's gonna land in the same place. Nice Job, Banda! Wright! Tolley! McEvoy! Herndon! Way to go, DeBell, Smith-Blum, Peaslee!

Caring who is at the wheel is really like caring about the deck chairs. I don't see what's salvageable, nor do I see what the hail-mary would be at this point; we are simply too far gone.

Valiant educators in the trenches keep-on keeping-on, they are the heros. They are the ones every single day in our schools caring for our children and working their butts off despite the numerous obstacles and lack of respect and pay that come their way from up above.

Tired reluctant-cynic

Elephant's Memory said...

It is VERY important to remember that when Ed Murray ran for Mayor of Seattle, he raised $880,000 and had the support of a PAC. He was also supported by the Chamber of Commerce and Seattle's business communities.

Ed Murray, with the help of Christian Sinderman ran a disgusting campaign. Murray and his supporters used victims of domestic violence as pawns:

"Earlier this year, state senator Ed Murray warned that if he faced Mayor Mike McGinn in a two-man battle for mayor, this would "be the ugliest campaign Seattle has ever seen." Now Murray is on the ballot against McGinn, and, sure enough, a political action committee supporting Murray seems intent on using the dirtiest, most dishonest politics Seattle has seen in years."

Newspaper reports indicated that Tim Ceis was behind some of the dirty politics. Remember: Tim Ceis also supported charter schools. Nick Hanauer- another charter supporter- funded Murray's dishonest PAC.

Murray was elected by Seattle's business community and he is carrying out their wishes.

A few weeks ago, we saw Reuven Carlyle and Tim Burgess quoted in a Seattle Times article. The ground work has been being layed by all the usual suspects.

Disgusted said...

For those of you that don't know: Seattle's business and political communities have been controlling Seattle Public School board- for years.

Seattle's business and political communities throw highly paid consultants, dollars and polls behind their candidates.

Seattle's elite have failed to control school board elections for the last two business cycles and they are throwing a tantrum.

..and if Tired reluctant cynic thinks things can't get worse- think again. Look at the city's dismal failure to address infrastructure, transportation, homelessness, rents etc. What do you think they would do to education??

mirmac1 said...

As per usual, special education is used as the whipping boy by those who wish to score political points.

The Times' "Education lab" reporter has been fishing for a "negative" SpEd story for months. What does he find? Skeletons in the closet? Millions in locked briefcases?

No, he found "failure to communicate" as the KEY to the matter. Parents like me got a good laugh outa that one. His premise is really a no brainer that does not add to the body politic, yet it feeds Times' editorial board's toxic blatherings.

But the Times' has its agenda it must continually put forth. So Gates' Ed Lab grants pave the way for asinine editorials like this one and others.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I have been pondering this and Reluctant Cynic, I can't altogether disagree with your comments. I think that some of the problem today is the Board not upholding its own policies and being afraid to flex their duly elected muscle. (Echoes of the discussion today at the Supreme Court over McCleary.)

But here's the thing. Many years back, I was a volunteer investigator for six months at the public defender's office. It was interesting, trying and I learned a lot.

Now we could look up info on the victim, the witnesses but weren't encouraged to look up anything on our clients. I did sometimes and guess what? Many were not angels.

But just because our clients did something wrong in the past did NOT make them automatically guilty in the case at hand.

I was not helping to defend any one person in any one case. My tiny contribution was to defend the Constitution.

And so it is here. I don't defend any single Board member or the entire Board as it exists today. I defend democracy.

I believe public education is just that important.

Because we have the City Council trying to take on the Parks AND preschools (and they can't even get Bertha right).

Murray wants to be able to appoint a majority of the Board? Is he seriously going to pick someone who disagrees with HIS agenda? And, if he picks the majority of the Board, then he is also effectively picking our superintendents.

Anyone truly believe you vote out a mayor on one thing? I don't.

As well, this feels like the Mayor might be thinking (again, with people whispering in his ear); "Those voters! We put up candidates with good backgrounds, fork over a lot of dough for their campaigns and the voters STILL don't vote the way we want. WE know better and this has to stop."

Why does the Mayor think he knows better than the voters of Seattle when it comes to public education?

Anonymous said...

I do disagree -- altogether -- with Tired reluctant cynic.

I have watched this play out on a national political stage and also (with the "Majority Coalition") in the state, to some extent. The only thing that regular (NOT rich, connected) folks have to empower them is their ability to band together (through their vote) and their purchasing power (such as it is). To counter that, those who want to run things without having to bother with democracy generally swamp our spending power -- but the vote thing is harder. To nullify that, they either need to get us to vote against our interest (candidates who misrepresent themselves) OR just not vote at all -- and short of voter suppression laws, the best way to do that is to convince folks it isn't worth the bother. Government doesn't work anyhow, why bother, blah, blah, blah. Then -- to keep us from waking up and changing our minds when we realize how horrible their plans for 'us' are -- they use their power to remove the ability to vote. For us -- it is changing the school board to one appointed (or partially appointed) by the mayor. (For many states in 2010, it was wild, out-of-control gerrymandering -- that resulted in a situation where more folks voted for democrats than republicans in the US House of Representatives -- but the Republicans took it by a huge majority. It will take a decade to unwind -- and that is only if they can't put enough voter suppression tactics in place to win again in 2020.

In Seattle's case, this is EXACTLY what big business and big money want -- and have wanted ever since A4E went "ed reform." They want to (and did) buy influence -- and then use it to undermine and degrade good governance (starting with the MGJ era). Next, when they have choked off funding (because they never want to fund anything in the public sector -- unless it is provided through contracts with their cushy private sector friends) and things work even worse than usual (I say this because I am not defending the glories of public bureaucracies here -- there is ALWAYS work to be done getting government to run well), they niggle, and criticize, and nitpick, and get entities like the Seattle Times to do their bidding.

Finally -- just as they always wanted, they get people to get tired, and disgusted and cynical about the ability of the public sector to deliver ANYthing (we aren't supposed to notice they are hanging off the back bumper, dragging their feet to impede as much progress as possible) -- they can take the next step. Tired cynical people throw in the towel, quit, give up. What the $%#. Who cares? Nothing we do seems to help anyway. And voila! Money and monied influence wins.

cont'd (sorry Melissa)


Anonymous said...

Point me to one decision -- one "managed crisis" since the MGJ days (I do think Potter would have not gotten away with as much) that we think would have gone "better" if managed by a City bureaucracy -- where no one making decisions is elected on the strength of their positions on education (as opposed to -- say -- neighborhoods, urban growth, policing, minimum wage issues, city business climate issues, relations with the Port, relations with Metro, downtown panhandling, etc. Where will math texts fit in, when people are arguing about Nickelsville, the tunnel, the salary of the City Light CEO, etc. How do we think that having someone downtown run SPED will help? Does anyone think the Gateses and the Alliance will have LESS clout when they are whispering in the ears of Murray and the City Council (especially with all the other "non educational" sweeteners they can throw into a pot to get their way -- (don't do what they want on giving big contracts to Gates ed-data folks? Maybe we will move our headquarters to Redmond or Bothell? Ah. That's better! If the City is running the schools, how will that be better? If the City is picking the Board, why would we think they would ever be more likely to pick a Betty Patu, -- rather than a Martin-Morris, Sundquist or Peter Maier? No -- those are EXACTLY the folks they would pick. And why do we think having the City pick board members would clean out the bad bureaucracy, or result in a better Superintendent?

I would love to know if there is ONE city out there -- where the mayor "took over" education -- that is happy that they no longer get to elect a school board. And if there is one, I would like to know whether, and to what extent, it is comparable to Seattle.

I spit in the teeth of cynicism. I am NOT tired. I am really, seriously, "channeling mirmac (as best as I can)" pissed.

I am DONE with the Times -- and I am implacably, and irrevocably opposed to Murray if he continues down this path!


Anonymous said...

I am all for the theoretical idea of McCleary but am very concerned about the reality of how SPS spends/allocates money. It seems like we might be giving money to an organization that cannot spend what it has now in an effective manner. More money to SPS equals more money misspent.

Joe T

kellie said...

The simple truth that is so quickly overlooked here is that democracy is messy. That is a feature, not a bug.

The board is not the problem with Seattle Schools. The fundamental issue with public schools is that schools are required to serve 100% of this years students, even if to do that, you must abandon your multi-year plans. That requirement of 100% service for this year, combined with a real need to have a long term vision creates a tension that is complex to manage.

And as for the revolving door on Superintendants, the simplest explanation is more convincing in my opinion. When you focus on a national search to find a superstar, you find precisely that. You find someone who has no local connection.

The truism that all politics is local applies to schools. It takes years to understand the nuance of decades of local decisions that got us here.

Anonymous said...

What would we get with the Mayor and City Council takeover? More political largesse to give out to the right group and voting bloc to keep the political machine running. They'll trot out the usual easily disposable, poor, ethnic, downtroddened faces with all the right potential for media ops. You know this is the same folks who brought our hood, "the find it, fix it walks" while we are still being beaten up, robbed, raped, murdered, run over, shot up, pulled over, and muzzled.

There'll be different names with high price tag at SPS helm. A big yes to Burgess' expensive Pre-school initiative that only reach a fraction of Seattle preschoolers while getting a bloated, well compensated admin staff with poorly paid "teachers" and TAs. Will get a very expensive Bertha like downtown school to go along with the never ending Mercer mess. Higher property taxes. Look for more ed levies to vote on in August.

Meanwhile for the rest of the 50,000 students much like the rest of Seattle populace, we count only enough for the dollars we bring in to the city and school coffer. After that, we are left trying to kill each other off to see who get to be top of the stewing pile.

The culture won't change, just the vultures!


Rocky said...

Game on!

Elephant's memory said...

For anyone that is worried about fiscal responsibility, let's look at Murray and Burgess's preschool proposal:

These clowns are proposing one administrator to every 50 students. The city wants a preschool program for 2000 students and they want to hire 42 highly paid administrators. Administrative level will go to over 60(!) individuals after 2018.They are also proposing very generous salaries. I'm confident we'll see these jobs land in the hands of their best buddies.

Hi Holly!

Where is Blanford in all of this? Afterall, he and Holly Miller have a "special project" that they are working on.

Anonymous said...

Based on what I have seen in the last 8 years with my kids in the SPS I would say the following:

1-I can no longer in good faith advise incoming jobseekers and faculty at the UW to put their children in the SPS. I did not think like this 6 years ago but I see no change for the better and many changes for the worst.

2-There is no functional advanced learning program in the SPS. There is no academic challenge evident in either the APP or Spectrum programs. This can be a key issue for recruiting faculty to our local Universities.

3-Students are actively discouraged (by principals and the superintendents) from seeking academic challenge to supplement the district's spotty educational program. This discouragement manifests itself in a variety of ways ranging from not providing students with access to online courses on school grounds to withholding credit and placement for outside educational opportunities.

4-The math education in the SPS has been unsuited to prepare district students for college and university courses. This criticism may now only apply to middle and high school students (thanks to the advocacy of the school board).

I have seen the UW lose promising faculty candidates over the last several years. The lack of academic rigor in the Seattle Public Schools and administrative disfunction evident in the SPS district has been a primary factor in the decisions of these people to go elsewhere. The operation and priorities of the district schools are a key factor in driving talented workers away from Seattle.


Anonymous said...

Jan - I can't think of any cities who are happy with mayoral control of schools. Obviously Chicago comes to mind first, with its corrupt and power hungry mayor, elite appointed school board, and underfunded public schools in poor black neighborhoods while charters for affluent white kids get new buildings. But of the others I know of/have read of, consistent themes of too much power centralized in the mayor's office/rewards to friends are evident. Seattle Times has fully displayed their utter stupidity and their rampant disdain for democracy and public schools with this one.


Anonymous said...

No worries Repercussions, I see those UW's progenies well represented in APP, at Lakeside, U Prep, Seattle Prep, Bush, Holy Names, Waldorf, Redmond, Mercer, and Bellevue schools

They have the means and smarts to adjust and get on top.


Anonymous said...

I agree with disgusted. This has nothing to do with the underperformance of the district (which does exist, and has been going on for as long as I have been involved -Olchefske) but with who lost the last two school board elections.

If Maier and what's-her-name from Queen Anne had won, this wouldn't be happening.

Chris S.

Anonymous said...

I know ugh, I was originally shocked and disappointed at the number of state university employees who send their kids to the overpriced private schools in the area. As an academic, I do not think you get a good bang for your buck at those schools either. But at least the kids are not penalized and discouraged from excelling academically as you are in the SPS.

However, there are also a huge number of UW faculty kids being kicked around in the APP Spectrum and ALO programs as well. I can't think of a single one who is happy with the academic rigor (or lack thereof) of these programs.


Eric B said...

Isn't Boston School District mayor-controlled?

I'm of two minds here. On the one hand, I see Chicago and New York don't want that here. On the other, I see Michelle Rhee taking the mayor of DC down with her.

If there is mayoral control, it MUST be direct and specific. The mayor has to hire the superintendent so that any stupid messes the Supt makes are the mayor's problem too. If the mayor just appoints the majority of the board, then there is absolutely no accountability through elections.

If the mayor takes control, performance of SPS and the superintendent will be a major campaign issue in every mayoral election. Is that such a bad thing?

Anonymous said...

-Repercussions - Excellent summary of some of the major issues in SPS.

I do not want the Mayor or Council to exercise control of the SPS Board. Yet, I do agree the District is a hot mess - everything that Repercussions mentions, to just basic things such as how staff treat and respond (or NOT) to parents and students. If this were a business it would have closed its doors long ago. Yet we are forced to put up with substandard practices and services.

I know it has been broached on here in the past, and, I know it is not popular in this forum - but I keep coming back to SPS as being too large and unmanageable and would like to see it split into smaller districts. Recently, I have been wondering how such a campaign could be launched.

Concerned Parent

Anonymous said...

The rest of you can do what you want. For me, the reaction to this editorial is clear and simple. For what it's worth, here it is:

"Dear Ed: I was happy to support your candidacy for mayor because I thought your predecessor was an incompetent fool. But if you do as the Seattle Times would have you do, you likewise will be an incompetent fool, and I will work as hard to make you a one-term mayor as I did for your now thankfully departed predecessor."

-- Ivan Weiss

Elephant Memory said...

Primila Jayapal and Ed Murray are bought and paid for. They are owned by Seattle's political and business establishments.

If people were smart, they would get behind Louis Watanabe and send him a campaign donation.

Anonymous said...

The idea of specifically Ed taking over SPS makes my blood boil. He had years in Olympia leadership to do something about the funding shortages that hamstrings all WA public schools but he did exactly nothing.

He was nowhere - NOWHERE - on education, period. Frockt out of the 46th runs circles around him on education policy.

You don't just jump into ed policy. You study it. You have kids go through the system. You volunteer. Ed has done none of that.

Jumping on the "ed reform" wagon is just so much resume building for the man, and I'll work my butt off to elect someone else if he so much steps in the direction of public school "ownership".


Anonymous said...

Further, editorials like this don't just appear out of thin air. Want to guess who has been into the Times editorial offices lately? No doubt "government civil job lifer" Holly Miller who would LOVE to expand her salary and role. Burgess is a given. Probably Maude Dowden from the Downtown Chamber and Sara Morris who carries water for Dowden as head of the Alliance for Ed. Also, Ed's staff or Ed himself. You don't offer sweeping new powers to a mayor without talking to the mayor.

Political graspers all.

I have to step outside to spit to get the foul taste out of my mouth.


Elephant Memory said...


Here is your answer to Boston and mayoral control:

"Chicago, Boston and New York schools are still under the watch of the mayors — Richard Daley, Thomas Menino and Bloomberg — who first took them over. But what happens when the next mayor comes into office? Will the commitment to improving schools continue?"

It is worth noting that Murray and Burgess are WELL of Boston's school structures. They visited these areas and found that it was much easier to get the school district involved in preschool efforts because there was control from mayors etc.

While we should increase preschool to low income children, I don't believe present funding should be redirected out of the K-12 system. I'm sure Murray and Burgess would love some K-12 dollars for these efforts.

Let's not forget Murray LOVES to bash poor outcomes, but he failed, miserably, to fund ed. while in the legislature.

As a matter of fact, he was the guy that wrote the legislation for Bertha!! Keep this guy away from us!!!!!!!

Ivan- I'm afraid you made a very big mistake supporting Murray.

Anonymous said...

The only good thing about breaking up in smaller districts is some "districts" will be able to drop all pretence to address FRL, ELL, and SPED needs, 'cause they'll be a fraction of the student population (and kids need that so they can learn to be empathetic and get a taste of other cultures). Without all those "drain", the good districts can focus on real learning, language immersion, Waldorf style, hands-on, project learning and and fix the highly capable and GT needs and even address dyslexia and certain autism spectrum. You'll get to have public school bragging right, but private school like set up. Farmington Hills, here I come. Other "districts" will be overwhelmed by these "high-need"populations and will remain the poster child of what is wrong with public ed. Perfect opportunity for charters the likes you see in DC and New Orleans. But hey, that'll be another "district" problem now.

District 9 or Hunger Games anyone?


Jon said...

I also question the motives of the mayor and his backers but, like with growing support of charters, I think the board, superintendent, and district staff bring this kind of thing upon themselves.

If there weren't so many problems with how central administration is run here in Seattle, there would be a lot less fuel for the fire of those that want a takeover of our public schools.

The best defense against these kinds of moves would be a well-run, functional, accountable, and efficient central administration and school district. Sadly, we are nowhere close to having that, and I see few signs that our new superintendent considers it a major priority.

Anonymous said...

Elephant memory -- I have no regrets about having supported Murray. McGinn was a train wreck, a dumpster fire, and a clusterf*ck, and Murray has been a big improvement.

Unlike McGinn, Ed will test the political waters. He will not go forward with this if he thinks there will be political blowback that might affect him and his administration adversely. It's our job to quit wringing our hands and assuming the worst. It's our job to start providing that blowback.

For example: Message to Ed -- Taking your political advice from Frank Blethen is not a ticket to political advancement, nor is it a prescription for sound public policy.

-- Ivan Weiss

Melissa Westbrook said...

Repercussions, interesting because my experience about attracting UW faculty is different. My husband is in UW prof and when we moved here, a LOT of the prof and their spouses had chosen private. The overwhelming majority now chose SPS. And, he's in a department that is very competitive for candidates so I don't think the school situation has scared any of them off.

Chris S. about who didn't get elected, you are right on. That's why my long comment referenced the frustration that I think the powers that be have over Board elections. Why didn't that nice Peter Maier keep his seat or that nice Suzanne Dale Estey win? It would seem those outcomes are a mixture of tone-deafness and lack of understanding about this district.

Eric, if the mayor appoints the majority of the board, he will also control who is superintendent. I cannot accept that kind of power. Charlie has often said that maybe the City should run facilities or appoint the Superintendent but I cannot see the power brokers even contemplating that. It's all or nothing.

Concerned Parent, it may be time to think about splitting the district but I'll be darned if I know how. I know it would have to be legislatively done but who would lead the charge out of Seattle? It might be possible if some large group like SCPTA or League of Women Voters said they would help do a survey/study of what it would look like and if the outcomes would be better for students and taxpayers. I would not support dividing it into more than 3 sections.

Jon, I have warned Board members for years that to not get this district's house in order is to invite this kind of action. I agree with your thinking.

Reader47 said...

Wow - mayoral control - is that the frying pan or the fire? I agree with those who say SPS has laid a path to this proposal, strewn with mismanagement and dysfunction. But that's equally true of many government entities (try working for the State sometime, it's just as bad).

Mr. Mayor - you are a fool if you listen to this "advice" and I will happily join the throngs making sure you are never mayor of Seattle again if this happens. What a misguided power play.

David said...

This is just so overwhelmingly depressing. And so freaking TRANSPARENT that they are trying to use kids as stepping stones to further their political careers. Never have I been so thankful my kid is a senior this year.

Eric B said...


That's exactly the problem I have with the mayor appointing the majority of the board. If he does that, he has the control without the accountability. When the next clusterf*ck arrives, he replaces a couple of board directors and goes on his way. If there's no board and the mayor appoints the superintendent, then there is a direct line of accountability to the mayor, and it becomes a direct campaign issue. "Why did the superintendent you appointed allow ____ to happen? Why haven't you replaced the superintendent over this?"

The mayor appointing the board is the worst of both worlds.

Po3 said...

I can't think of one example of a Times editorial that resulted in a change in state legislation.

Anonymous said...

Yes Charlie, when you have a department like SPED in a "mess" for 15 years and the board turns a blind eye I would say everyone of the board members are negligent in their responsibilities. If it was an isolated case or school then not so much. We are talking 7000 students not receiving FAPE is what their own consultants said.

If able I would fire each and every board member, but who cares it just a hobby position. I feel used by a certain board members election campaign and will work against that member come election time.

SPED Parent

Anonymous said...

I know many of us complain that the district is often operating in crisis mode, but it seems to me the Board needs to develop a real sense of urgency for addressing some current and impending crises. Maybe they need to go into short-term crisis mode overdrive or something. Sit down and say OMG, we absolutely have to address X, Y and Z...NOW! Tell staff to get it done, and done right, now, or heads are gonna roll. Put other priorities on hold, just for a bit, to take care of the biggest issues NOW. Prove they are up to the task. Or maybe they aren't.


Anonymous said...

SPS is a mess. The board is in disarray AND deaf to its constituents. Add to that the chronic under-funding evidenced by McCleary and it's hard not to wonder if the city running the schools would really be any worse.

My trash gets picked up on time. My kids don't. Need we say more?


Anonymous said...

Sorry I had to laugh at the UW this UW that...Dude UW is part of the problem! Where do you think the constructionist teachers come from? That's right UW.

What about school psychologist? UW

Oh, we had better listen or face losing another overpaid PUBLIC SERVANT at OUR PUBLICLY FUNDED UNIVERSITY!

You would be better served posting on a Tokyo base blog.

Get Real

Anonymous said...

Kids get robbed, shot at, beaten up on the way to schools and their homes. Raped in a city park and in their beds at night. Need I say more?


Anonymous said...

I won't even sign my regular moniker today, because I see I'll get slammed, but I don't think this is the worst idea. Sorry, I usually agree with you MW and CM. I've had enough and am not going with the "devil you know" attitude this time. Am willing to try a new model. Bring it on! You know the definition of insanity, right? Can't keep waiting for new Supes and better board members.
-Anonymous Today

#TakeMarblesGoHome said...

Arguments that mayoral control will bring stability is BS.

There is no guarantee that a mayor will be in office beyond one term. I am already hearing rumors that a candidate is firing-up to run against Murray. Murray would be smart to remember that he didn't win by a landslide and he had $880K and a PAC.

Murray would be smart to stay clear of this issue. I'm absolutely confident the push-back against mayoral control would be fierce.

Charlie Mas said...

D, are your concerns about the board or the senior management?

TechyMom said...

Personally, I'd like to see an elected superintendent. Then you'd have real accountability for the person who can actually do things, rather than just oversee and tisk-tisk.

Anonymous said...

How about the Mayor and city council fix things like crime, SPD, transportation, affordable housing and zoning first? I like my family, friends, and neighbors not to get robbed/assaulted for just one year or even 6 months. I like the kids to be able to walk around the neighborhood or take a bus and go to their community center, the library, the parks, the markets, and schools without fear of being harassed or robbed of their phones or the little bit of cash they have. Just little every day things like that would make a huge difference.


Anonymous said...

Good point Melissa, I would say that my anecdotal info is that about half the young UW faculty choose private and half public. However, the disarray in the SPS is a factor in faculty recruitment at this point. These private schools charge up to $20K a year nowadays. That's way too much to pay for elementary school IMHO. The religious schools charge less but that is not an acceptable option for many.

I also fully agree that UW is part of the problem. You have half the faculty at UW wanting greater academic rigor and a decent math curriculum to minimize remedial training for incoming students. And the other half of the faculty……I dunno…..with their heads in the clouds or something, doing everything they can to obfuscate education in the district. Bizarre.

But the state of the public schools are contributing to a growing loss of a talented workforce in the city of Seattle. Dropping the mayor into the mix is the worst possible "solution".


Anonymous said...

Personally, I would like to see a Mayor and City Council who support public education not by taking over the school board, but by:

1. Pressing Olympia to full-fund K-12 education.

2. Get a firm grasp of the enrollment/capacity challenges facing SPS, and work on ways to help meet these challenges. It is pretty obvious that the Mayor does not understand the school capacity shortfalls, or he would not be promoting the preschool initiative. If he really wants to increase the number of minorities who graduate from high school, then perhaps he should work with SPS on solutions for our high school capacity crisis, because expecting kids to attend high schools with shifts that start at 6 or 7 am is not going to yield the results he is looking for. If SPS wasn't spending so much time and money on coming up with emergency capacity solutions every year, then perhaps SPS could direct more time and money on curricular, programming, and transportation issues?

3. Direct funds to better support our students in their daily commutes to school (i.e. sidewalks, signaled crosswalks, better Metro service, etc...).

3. Direct funds to better support adequate before and after school care and activities at our schools and community centers. For instance, the Lake City "community center" is basically a rental hall, with very few, if any, facilities and services to support families). This part of town is exploding with growth, and our teens and tweens need a functioning community center. I'm sure other areas of town are facing similar shortages in support for tweens/teens.

4. Implement impact fees for developers to support school capacity needs and infrastructure, and all the programming and services listed above.

- North-end Mom

Anonymous said...

North -end Mom you have expressed my view much better than I could have. Thank you and I would add that Ed Murray was in Olympia for a long time and was K-12 education fully funded on his watch? Nope, and now he wants to take over SPS.


Anonymous said...

It isn't just that the District doesn't work well, though. The more outrageous thing is that many of those trying to pull off this take over of Seattle Public School governance have had a direct, and deliberate hand in trying to make the District work worse.

They have cultivated and supported efforts to prevent board oversight (remember MGJ's "contract" with the board to not disagree with her) and good governance. They have actively worked against community outreach and involvement -- and FOR special interest politics. They have encouraged the Superintendent and senior district management to ignore the public and to condescend to the Board (by ignoring Board policy and procedures -- things like getting stuff onto agendas, not voting on things you introduce in the same meeting, etc.).

When has the ST or the Alliance -- or any of the other ed reform political groups -- ever tried to help the board with community outreach? Where was A4E (or anyone on the city's staff) as the District struggled to try to figure out how to reach compliance with the OSPI SPED investigation? Why have we never had an effort from A4E to help the board insure that staff shows up with recommendations (and supporting presentations) that address crucial issues and follow policies in terms of how they wre developed? They were nowhere. Absent. Gone. Why? Because having a well run, functioning School District, and good educational outcomes for kids has never been the goal with these folks. It is not about education with them -- ANY of them, any more than Russia's presence in eastern Ukraine is about helping to bring peace. It is all a political power grab.

I would be very curious to see the results of a public records request on the Blanford's communications with Holly Miller and the City.


Elephant Memory said...

"If the mayor takes control, performance of SPS and the superintendent will be a major campaign issue in every mayoral election. Is that such a bad thing?"

C'mon, Eric. The mayoral campaigns are beyond fierce, funded at $880K and there are many competing issues. Mayoral control of education would only encourage more dollars to flow into PACs and mayoral elections. And...we're so lucky to have Gates and his cronies right here in our back yard.

Elephant's Memory said...

Lastly, the people on this blog have children in SPS. We've spent years and years interacting with SPS administrators, boards, curriculum, teachers etc. Our children have sat in the classrooms during the Great Recession and saw a funding gap of $125M that needed to be closed. Our children still sit in those classrooms as we wait for the legislators and McCleary. Heck, an entire generation will go through SPS with inadequate funding.

Murray has NEVER had a child in SPS and he has not had years of daily interaction with SPS. That counts.

Elephant's Memory said...

I won't forget the business backed board adopting Discovery Math, either.

Anonymous said...

I wish many of these comments (esp Jan and N-end mom) would be entered at the ST comments section as well. The comments are trending v. this idea so far at the ST, which means the ST will bury it making it hard for anyone to find.

I echo the voices here.. No mayoral control. Let him and the city council get a handle on everything that actually is their responsibility first. then we'll talk....


Anonymous said...

Getting ready for the public demonstrations:

Hey, hey, ho, ho.
This lame idea's got to go.
Public school kids don't need more woe.
With a mayor there for show.


Po3 said...

Baffled as to why is everybody getting worked up over a Times editorial?

Tomorrow it will be yesterdays news.

Today it is was a waste of ink and paper.

Anonymous said...

The second Council or Mayor try to grab more SPS control let's have the blog rise up to remind them that NOT A SINGLE CITY POLITICIAN stopped the almost $100 MILLION mistake/debacle of closing schools. NOT A SINGLE CITY POLITICIAN has lifted a finger to solve the current capacity crisis.

The mayor and the council are about to shove a feel-good idea (PreK) down the throats of a district that can't manage the responsibilities it already has. With friends like the city, SPS doesn't need enemies, that's for sure.


Patrick said...

It's unbelievable that the Times would have us look to the Oakland Public Schools as a positive example! Maybe not everyone on this board knows that about 20% of the Berkeley Public Schools is Oakland residents who have managed to fake a Berkeley address.

Melissa Westbrook said...

SPED parent, I hear your frustration and anger.

I will say that I have rarely encountered anyone who treats the Board work as a "hobby."

The legislation that the Times SHOULD be working for is funding to pay the three largest school boards' members in the state (that would be Seattle, Spokane and Tacoma) so that Board members could truly devote time to it as their real job.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Jan, that's an interesting idea to see those e-mails that you suggested. I might have to get around to asking for those.

Po3, I got "worked up" for a couple of reasons.

1) I want to nip this thinking in the bud. I want the blowback to be such that the flame of any idea like it goes out.

2) People actually still read the Times and some of them - who don't know our district - might actually think it a good idea.

I have already heard from a couple of my legislators (I wrote to all of them this morning). They all respect Mayor Murray but do not approve of this idea. (When I have heard from all of them, then I'll say who they are.)

I would advise you to let your legislators know that you don't want them working on this "education" issue but that they should be working on THE education issue which is McCleary.

mirmac1 said...

Yes. Hulk ANGRY. Hulk SMASH!

Reader47 said...

I think we should all send a copy of North-End Mom's points to the Mayor ;o) spot on

mirmac1 said...

Yes, probably more productive than my approach.

Anonymous said...

Reader47: great idea. Done!
chris s.

Po3 said...

Could the editorial be intended as distraction from PreK? People can only fight so many battles at once.

I also like the idea of an elected super.

Anonymous said...

The City wants to take over the schools?

This is the same city that can't seem to fix the sidewalks?

Let me think about it...


Anonymous said...

FIX sidewalks? Up here (in Lake City) there are very, very few sidewalks to fix....because there aren't sidewalks on most residential streets!

It blows my mind that they can designate walk zones and "safe routes to school" when there aren't sidewalks for the kids to use. My kids don't have the luxury of a sidewalk on their walk to John Rogers and Hale. It's been especially scary during the 35th Ave closure, since the detour traffic is directed past both schools.

IMO, there is quite a bit the City can do to support our kids, without getting into the business of running the School Board.

Also, if you forward my comments on to the Mayor, please correct my grammatical and punctuation errors. I should have proof-read it before posting. Thanks!

- North-end Mom

D said...

There is plenty of blame to go around, but ultimate responsibility rests with the School Board for managing the district. And they've done a pretty poor job of it. They ignore the people they were elected to serve. They even ignore the recommendations of committees they themselves established for guidance. Basic and routine functions such as student registration and record keeping get completely botched (at no small expense).

This violent reaction to the mere suggestion of city management of schools is surprising to me. The district is known nationally for its dysfunction, so why not make a change? I've got no great faith in city administration, but can it really be much worse?

Anonymous said...

Agreed, D. I posted earlier, but honestly I'm baffled by the responses here. Our district is broken. Period. There is no fix in sight. It's more of the same, and things are getting worse. Why not try something new? The city has problems, sure, but on the whole has more experience managing complex organizations. Most people who had experience at SPS administration have fled in recent years. We need help. I'm all for it, despite the risks. I don't see anything getting better without a drastic change.
-Anonymous Today

Melissa Westbrook said...

D, that link is the Chamber of Commerce. Am I going to listen to them about school boards? I am not.

City control would be worse. You would not pick your Board. You likely could not go to them with a problem/issue if it wasn't something the Mayor/City Council thought important. And, since the Mayor would control the majority, the Mayor would be picking the superintendent as well.

Go ask Chicago or NYC or LA how they liked mayoral control.

Anonymous said...

I also love N. End Mom's comments, and I, too, am going to include them when I write to Murray.

Re: Repercussions' comments about SPS dysfunction affecting the caliber of hires moving to the city - really? Not from what I see. In the over-educated NE of the city (that's supposed to be a joke, but I am clarifying that in case someone is offended), there are tons of SPS students with parents at UW/Microsoft/Amazon/NOAA/the big medical providers and many of those kids are in advanced learning, despite its flaws.


Charlie Mas said...

The Board cannot be blamed for the mismanagement of the District because it is not the Board's job to manage the District. The Board should constrain themselves to policy work - and they do, for the most part.

That said, the Board can be blamed for their failure to enforce policy. Enforcing policy is policy work and it is their job and they simply don't do it. If the Board would enforce policy, then the District would be better managed, but that doesn't make them responsible for the mismanagement.

Take Special Education as an example. The Board can hold a work session on Special Education to daylight the problems and clarify the lines of authority and responsibility. But it would be totally inappropriate for them to adopt a hands-on approach to correcting the problems in that department. It would be wrong of them to take over the day-to-day administration and management of the department.

Anonymous said...

To "D said . . ."

This comment makes me a little crazy. The Seattle School District is NOT known nationally for being dysfunctional (not that I am touting them as paragons of functionality). There are MANY FAR FAR worse, in Georgia, Kansas, Missouri, etc.
The link you provide is to a ST article (now, THERE is an unbiased source) citing a study by (or financed by) the US Chamber of Commerce and some other "conservative business group" (the ST's description -- not mine). This is just more ed reform spin. It it the exact example of the problem -- the scam -- that is going on here -- where supposedly pro ed, or benign entities (the A4E, Sara Morris's group, the ST, etc.) all trash the District and undermine it -- and then crow that it doesn't work well so we should turn things over to them.

Am I alone in thinking this is just blatantly underhanded and wrong?


Anonymous said...

I'm just wondering-what tools does the Board have to enforce policy? As far as I'm aware, the only hire/fire power they have is over the superintendent (although I believe that they need to approve new hires, but that's just a rubber stamp process?). They can TELL the district to fix SpEd, but if the district doesn't, the Board does...what? Send the district to its room without supper?

mirmac1 said...

Sub I'd say the board/boss tells the supt/subordinate that they are falling down on the job and have to shape up or ship out without a golden parachute. Don't the rest of us working stiffs have to work under those conditions.? It's only the Don Neilsons /Times/City types who feel somehow anointed to do whatever they damn well please.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"It it the exact example of the problem -- the scam -- that is going on here -- where supposedly pro ed, or benign entities (the A4E, Sara Morris's group, the ST, etc.) all trash the District and undermine it -- and then crow that it doesn't work well so we should turn things over to them."

I think that is happening. I think from within and without, there is now a concentrate push/drumbeat in order to flip the district somehow. Do not fall for it.

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