Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Times Hits All-Time Low with Nielsen Op-Ed

Yawn.  Yet ANOTHER Times push for takeover of Seattle Public Schools. 

I have said this elsewhere but I'll say it again: I believe there are forces, both within and without, trying to create a situation to take over the district. I believe there are some people in SPS who are either working with outsiders or working to drag their feet on some issues so the district will look worse.

Back to the Times op-ed. I always find it interesting that people at the top of the food chain think that they will be able to force top-down edicts.  It's not going to work but it will be a very interesting exercise to see who lines up where.  Who stands up for local, elected control of our district by people elected to oversee the district (and nothing else). 

The Seattle Times has its stable of ready mouthpieces for its public education view.  Honestly, Google and see how many times LEV's Chris Korsmo has had an op-ed.  Charters Lisa Macfarlane.  TFA's Chris Eide. And now Don Nielsen.

Most of you were likely not in SPS when Mr. Nielsen was on the Board. Those were not great days mainly because Mr. Nielsen is from the club of "the Smartest Guy in the Room." He was for Broad training of leadership LONG before Maria Goodloe-Johnson came into our district.  He helped secure the "leadership" of Joseph Olcheske, the finance guy,  who then promptly drove our district into a $32M hole. 

In Mr. Nielsen's op-ed he gives his thoughts on - well, he covers just about everything about public education in Seattle.  He gives three rather veiled thoughts on what should change - straight out of the ed reform playbook.

Here's what I wrote in the Times' comment section:

Let's start with Mr. Nielsen being a "senior fellow" at the Discovery Institute, "an institutional hub for scientists, educators and inquiring minds who think that nature supplies compelling evidence of intelligent design." That should tell you a lot right there.

(Funny how Mr. Nielsen never brought this up during his tenure on the Seattle School Board. There's some courage of your convictions.)

"Education advocates constantly talk about providing more money for schools. Teachers unions always press for small class sizes, which means more union members and more union dues."

Well, we public education advocates constantly talk about more money because Washington state schools have been consistently underfunded. Guess who agrees? The Washington State Supreme Court. And, in state rankings, our funding is about 46th. We don't even fund to the national average.

Know who else wants smaller class sizes? Parents. Parents who would like to see the cuts over the several years restored so they can get back counselors, nurses and librarians who make a real difference in the quality of education and form meaningful relationship with students that help students stay in school.

He claims we have a failed system. He is right that we need to do more to support minority and low-income students but overall, he is dead wrong that Washington State has a failed education system. As the proud parent of two Seattle schools grads (and now college graduates), I disagree. As a long-time public education advocate, I know that our state's graduation rate is above the national average. I know that our state's SAT pass rate is very high and that the rate of students of color taking the SAT continues to climb.

All being 46th in the country in funding. Imagine what would happen if we funded even to the national average?

As for the turnover rate in leadership in Seattle Schools, let's break that down. I note that Mr. Nielsen conveniently starts in 2006 to avoid the superintendent that HE helped hired, Joseph Olchefske, who left the district with a $32M financial scandal that Mr. Nielsen, as Board president, managed to overlook.

"Seattle’s public schools have been poorly led and poorly governed for years."

Does he include the eight years he was on the Board?

Add another superintendent who left under a financial scandal (Goodloe-Johnson), one who was interim and left (Enfield), one who jumped ship after just two years (Banda), and you can see how the turnover happened. If Mr. Nielsen were keeping up, he would know that today's urban superintendents are guns for hire and that the Seattle School Board should be looking regionally, not nationally.

The world has changed and our schools have not.

Just - not- true. There is so much different from when most adults went to school, that if they did visit a classroom, they would be surprised. I note that City Councilwoman Sally Clark said recently in a City Council session with Superintendent Nyland that when she goes to schools, it makes her wish she could do her own schooling over.

However, the basics of education - safe, comfortable buildings, solid teachers, great principals, good curriculum - those basics will never change.

Then we come to the most singularly disrespectful things I have seen in the Times on public education:

"Improve teaching by making the profession a real profession."

Jaw-dropping in its simplicity of reducing teachers to glorified babysitters.

Second most disrespectful thing?

"Admit leaders and change agents, not teachers who want to get out of the classroom."

Yes, that's all our current principals are, teachers who wanted to get out of the classroom. (And I note that Teach for America - nothing BUT teachers trying to get out of the classroom.)

"• Change the governance model. The present meathod (sic) of elected school boards is not working, particularly in urban systems. You cannot find an urban district, with an elected board, that has been able to put in place sustainable changes to its system."

First, Times you might want to proofread that second sentence ("meathod?"). Actually, if outside business types like Nielsen and the Gates Foundation would leave school boards alone, they could do better. But he seems to suggest - on the Times bandwagon here - that a mayor could do better.

I'll fire back - You cannot find an urban district, with mayoral control, that works well and allows parents and communities to have real input on their public schools.

Do you ever notice how people with money ALWAYS say, "it's not about money."


Mary Griffin said...

Astonishing just in terms of scope of audacity for all the reasons you point out. I agree, it is a new low.

mirmac1 said...

I guess this is part of the Times' "Solutions Journalism", paid for by the Gate Foundation.

Anonymous said...

Nielsen on governance is like Martin Pang on fire safety, Stuart Andersen on veganism, or Ted Bundy on feminist empowerment.

-- Ivan Weiss

Anonymous said...

I SO miss the PI. The Times is a pathetic excuse of a paper; a biased pile of crap that has its worth only in lining the bird cage. I will feel no guilt about being rude when they call -again- about subscriptions.


Po3 said...

"Improve teaching by making the profession a real profession."

I have to wonder what is the strategy behind statements like this.

Anonymous said...

What a waste of paper and digital real estate!

“Improve teaching by making the profession a real profession. Raise the standards of admission to these careers and change the compensation system.”

Reformers code for: private sector credentialing of teachers, alternative paths to credentialing (a la TFA), and merit pay based on test scores.

• Improve leadership by only allowing qualified people to become principals and superintendents. Admit leaders and change agents, not teachers who want to get out of the classroom.

Reformers code for: only those who attend the Broad training (or something similar) should be allowed to become a principal or super.

• Change the governance model. The present meathod of elected school boards is not working, particularly in urban systems. You cannot find an urban district, with an elected board, that has been able to put in place sustainable changes to its system.

Reformers code for: Mayoral control. Parents don't matter. We know better than you.


StringCheese said...

"Improve teaching by making the profession a real profession"

I agree! Let's give teachers the pay and respect deserving of a profession that impacts the lives of millions and the future well-being of all for generations to come.

That's not what he meant? Hmmmm...

VoteNO1B said...

There are some that want finance experts and others on the board. Fine. They can RUN FOR OFFICE and there is nothing stopping these individuals. But, that is too much work for these individuals and a certain outcome is not guaranteed.

Mayoral control of education is nothing less than an attempt to do an end-run around our democracy. Such efforts have been a failure in New York, Chicago etc.

Voters are smart. They kicked-out the business backed board that failed to oversee district charged by the state auditor. They also said "no" to a candidate that was connected to Seattle's elite business and political classes.

Ed Murray has a history and he drafted legislation for an appointed board. I also believe he has his sights on higher governmental positions.

1B is an attempt for the city to become highly intertwined with our K-5 system. If voters reject, 1B...Nielsen is laying the ground work for legislative action.

David said...

Melissa - bravo on your comments on this. Extremely well stated. Thanks for all you do.

Martha said...

Nielsen is EXTREMELY wealthy and many believe he is the guy behind the scenes pulling the puppet strings.

I've always felt that Seattle's "elite" helped Banda secure a job in Sacramento.

Anonymous said...

Hmm...I wonder if his tune about "Mayoral control" would be so emphatic if, for example, Kshama Sawant became mayor. Or any other person with a different worldview and different agenda, who would then have the power to change things in ways he doesn't like. He might long for the days when there was an elected board, even an ineffective one like the one he served on.

- Representation

Anonymous said...

The push begins :


Reader47 said...

It's really kinda fascinating that he (and the Times) can publish this without mentioning that $32 million in mismanaged funds under his watch. Must be lovely to live in such a "selective memory" world.

@Ivan - love your comparisons ;)

The "powers that be" must be in a total tizzy that they will once again not get their way for this little gem to show up right now....when will people learn that democracy can't be bought? Which doesn't stop many from trying, sadly....

Anonymous said...

" Improve leadership by only allowing qualified people to become principals and superintendents. Admit leaders and change agents, not teachers who want to get out of the classroom."

This is the one that's making me livid right now, about much of society. I think we can attribute a fair amount of the problems in our current system to administrator/manager types hwo believe that if they develop the perfect procedures/rules/scripts/training, that everything on the ground will function perfectly. It's the belief that we can get everything (mostly) cheaper, but, they also delude themselves about quality) by turning every profession into McDonalds.

And, so you get nurses who have 5 seconds in between parents (that is, if the patient doesn't cry and need a little bit of non-medical support) and teachers who have to teach 5 different lessons to groups of students to meet the state standards, in classes where I wouldn't be able to remember all the kids' names. And those front line women (they are almost always women) try and struggle, because they know, personally that the buck stops with them, if they have to turn their backs on the 80 year old or 6 year old in distress. No one else is going to pick up the pieces.

Managers who spent 2 years in TFA and then trained in "leadership" are not better than teachers at figuring out how to lead a classroom. The goals of these reforms are the opposite of having professional teachers, which means hiring teachers with skills and experience and then giving them the authority and resources to do their jobs.


Anonymous said...

Can I get another "I told you so"?

Who was it that said "Frank Chopp wont allow it"? and the state can't take over administration of a school district...WRONG.

This is a City, State and Federal take over of SPS. These agencies have the ways and leverage to do so.

Who want's to bet? Everything I told you is going to happen and get this, it was decided two years ago.

Who can guess what's the first thing that's going to happen once the Mayor takes control?

follow themoney

Anonymous said...

@Follow themoney, nothing has happened and your scenario is implausible, to say the least. The city can't handle its own problems and your theories have no support by most voters. So, no.

Stopblowing smoke

Anonymous said...

What nonsense this is from Nielsen.

As to mayoral control, Representation's comment above at 9:50 am is right on. What happens when it's not a mayor 'in favor' or whose thinking aligns w/ the GF, ed reform posses and other business entities - what then?

I may have to put forward GoodSpaceGuy Nelson as a mayoral candidate...


Anonymous said...


Just so you know, *I* was the one who said Frank Chopp won't allow it. And I intend to see that he doesn't, and that the idea never even gets to the House floor. So either you can continue to play Chicken Little, or you can lobby your elected legislators. Which is it going to be?

Ivan Weiss

Anonymous said...

* whose thinking DOESN'T align
I meant. oopsie


Carolyn Leith said...

To learn more about Nielsen and his connection to SPS visit this link:

The Battle for Seattle, Part One: Don Nielson and the Broad Foundation

Anonymous said...

Ivan, you advised some time ago us to not feed this particular troll. That was good advice. You would do well to heed your own advice.

There's no winning an argument with crazy.

--- swk

Melissa Westbrook said...

"I wonder if his tune about "Mayoral control" would be so emphatic if, for example, Kshama Sawant became mayor."

This is a real issue. You like/trust one mayor but not the next one. This is a great example.

Anonymous said...

Thanks swk, I don't always remember from day to day on the skazillion or so blogs I read just who is a troll and who is not. But I appreciate the reminder.

Ivan Weiss

Anonymous said...

Ha Ha , place your bets then. Frank isn't going to stop squat!

This district is so toxic NO ONE will want to have their name linked to it. Think what you want, IT'S A DONE DEAL!

Bye Bye teacher's union.

Follow themoney

Anonymous said...

What makes you think there's going to be some sort of vote? There's not! SPS can go it alone without ANY federal funding or DO WHAT THEY ARE TOLD and that is turning over control to the city. Just for laughs suppose there is a vote. I will bet the majority will vote in favor or city control. How could they not, look at all the self inflicted problems at SPS.

Watch it happen!

Follow themoney

Dora said...

An excerpt from Mayoral Control: The short of it:

When I heard that the City of Seattle’s Office of Education was to be renamed the Department of Education, I told friends that the next thing we’re going to hear is that the mayor wants to be head of the new Department of Education.

Well, the idea was floated last week in the Seattle Times Opinion section. No surprise there.

Short version of why this is not a good idea:
■The mayor is easily swayed on education policy by big donors rather than educators.
■The mayor is not an educator, knows nothing about how a school functions let alone an entire school district.
■Because the mayor has no idea how to run a school district, the responsibility is placed in the hands of staff and political appointees who know no more about managing a school, let alone an entire school district, than the mayor.
■It’s a way for folks like Gates and Broad to push through their agendas. An extraordinary example of that is Eli Broad pushing through his agenda in Los Angeles via mayoral control. Big money, big influence.
■Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland and New York have had mayoral control for anywhere between five and ten years and the schools are no better off now than they were when the concept was popularized via faux roots groups by Bill Gates and Eli Broad.
■The schools are no longer democratically led. The only recourse a parents has is to speak to the mayor (good luck with that), not a school board director.
■The mayor usually appoints the school board (so much for the democratic process).
■In Seattle where Councilmember Tim Burgess is Chairperson of the Education Committee, this is very concerning. Burgess came out for charter schools when there was Initiative 107 was on the ballot in our last voting cycle. With Chairperson Burgess at the helm of the Education Committee under a mayor who wants to be the head of the Department of Education, you can watch the floodgates open in Seattle to charter schools.

Dora said...

In the excellent article Got Dough?: Public School Reform in the Age of Venture Philantropy, Joane Barkin describes the popularity of mayoral control among the “Big Three”, Bill Gates, Eli Broad and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan:

On the question of who controls public schools, the Big Three much prefer mayoral control to independent school boards: a mayor with full powers can push through a reform agenda faster, often with less concern about the opposition. On August 18, 2009, the New York Post quoted Bill Gates on mayoral control: “The cities where our foundation has put the most money is where there is a single person responsible.” In the same article, the Post broke the news that Bill Gates had “secretly bankrolled” Learn-NY, a group campaigning to overturn a term-limit law so that Michael Bloomberg could run for a third term as New York City mayor. Bloomberg’s main argument for deserving another term was that his education reform agenda (identical to the Gates-Broad agenda) was transforming city schools for the better. Gates put $4 million of his personal money into Learn-NY. “The donation helped pay for Learn-NY’s extensive public-relations, media, and lobbying efforts in Albany and the city.” The Post also reported that Eli Broad had donated “millions” to Learn-NY. Since Bloomberg’s reelection, however, the results of one study after another have shown that his reform endeavors are not producing the positive results he repeatedly claims.

Anonymous said...

From my perspective, this blog is part of the solution for fixing SPS but ironically also part of the reason SPS is in the crosshairs of a nascent business/city reform-takeover push. This blog points out far more SPS incompetencies than the other local press ever would. The reputation that SPS is an unfixable mess has grown with the reach of the blog. The planning and operational failures in Seattle are in display in a way that is the case with few other districts of our size. Although our district may be no worse than other comparable districts, its warts are on display, and no business-city-SPS administrative type is going to like that. Nor will many potential superintendents.

As long as this blog exists, it is unlikely SPS will overcome its reputation for incompetency. After all, there will always be problems that parents want to discuss, because no system is perfect.

The fastest way to get rid of the SPS reputation (note I am not claiming reality) for incompetency is for this blog to go away. That is the short-term and long-term wish/plan of some of the business-city-SPS administrative community. Will it go away? That is solely the decision of Melissa and Charlie.

If it remains in existence, do I think an unintended (by this blog) result will be a push for mayoral control? Yes, I do.

Been There

Melissa Westbrook said...

All I can say is the only legal way to take over SPS is via the Legislature passing a bill. OSPI can't take over nor can the feds.

Anonymous said...

@ Melissa. I doubt the attempt will be that dramatic. It doesn't need to be. The city now controls a sizeable portion of dollars feeding our schools via the Families and Ed levy. The city-business coalition, not the district, calls the shots on that money, including how schools have to operate to get it.

Murray has announced expansion of the department, and the mission of the newest PreK levy is to align PreK-5. If you think the district and not the city will be controlling that alignment, you are wrong. If this alignment shows any success, middle school will be next. Middle school is widely viewed as the weakest link of SPS education.

Suddenly the lobster in the pot will be 2/3rds boiled and the last 1/3rd will quietly follow the rest. In fact, some of the city's most staunch voters will beg for city-business takeover the minute the district shows it has no room at the inn for high schoolers. The city-business coalition and state will have to ride to the rescue, but it will come at a price. A price voters will OK.

After all, the failures of the district will have been well documented for more than a decade. Here.

Been There

Reader47 said...

@Been There
I don't disagree with you in the slightest that this blog makes many at the City and/or SPS admin nervous. But it's kind of a chicken/egg argument isn't it? Did the blog cause the dysfunction or did the dysfunction cause the blog? Will ending the blog end that dysfunction? Or will ending the dysfunction end the blog?

To me, the only way out of the mire that is SPS is a strong leader with allegiance to NO ONE but the parents and students of SPS - a fiscally responsible leader who holds SPS management to the fire to follow thru on promises and streamlines the focus to where it should be - the classroom - not everybody's pet project but the teachers and students.

Until that day comes (and it would never happen with Mayorial control) nothing will change.


Robert Cruickshank said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert Cruickshank said...

We should not let the defeatists get us down. We do need to come up with a grassroots plan to improve SPS administration, as the CTU did in Chicago ahead of their successful strike.

But we also need to fight back.

It turns out that Ed Murray telegraphed this punch a long time ago. Eight years ago he was quoted as calling for the city to appoint members of the school board to "temper volatility" - referring to a quite legitimate public revolt against a plan to close schools. He even pledged to introduce a bill, not sure if that ever happened. More here:

We know that SPS has issues. This blog isn't responsible for them or even for publicizing them; the Seattle Times does that already. But this blog is a crucial organizing space to stop this and, as the title says, Save Seattle Schools.

If people want to fight back, let's do that. If people want to just be all doom and gloom, well, keep it to yourself.

Anonymous said...

"All I can say is the only legal way to take over SPS is via the Legislature passing a bill. OSPI can't take over nor can the feds".

You don't know what you are talking about. There are plenty of "ways" to take control. Just like there are plenty of ways for SPS legal to circumvent the law. Hell their lawyer openly talks about twisting the law in broadcasted board meetings, god only knows what they do in their executive closed to the public sessions.

BTW when do you think anyone started caring about the law around SPS?

Follow themoney

Anonymous said...

Pay no attention to concern trolls like "Been There." If this blog stops shining the light on SPS malfeasance, misfeasance, and just plain incompetence, then how in hell will people get any information? From the Seattle times?

Who cares if our political adversaries read this? Let them be reactive to our proactive.

-- Ivan Weiss

Anonymous said...

No this blog is mostly about stopping charter schools and defending the teacher's union.

As a customer of SPS and a property owner/tax payer I don't like what I'm getting from the administration or the teachers.

This blog owner is schizophrenic she can't decided if she hates or loves the district administration.

I'm burned out at the dysfunctional system that never owns it's issues. I think 5,390 employees is ridiculous when just over half are teachers.

Every time the district fails they hire more administration staff. I'm tired of decisions made by part-time board members with zero skin in the game!

I want one person in charge who I can vote out of office. Really how much more are we going to take.

its over

Anonymous said...

Been there, your entire argument is a house of cards when you state: "The city now controls a sizeable portion of dollars feeding our schools via the Families and Ed levy."

The entire 7-year budget of the levy is $235 million and not all of that is spent in support of SPS directly. The general fund plus the capital budget of SPS just this school year is north of $800 million. Even if the levy spent every dollar annually directly on SPS, that would be less than 5% of the annual budget. I'm not going to call that "sizable."

--- swk

Melissa Westbrook said...

Been There, interesting analysis.

Reader 47, you're making me dizzy.

Did this blog cause the dysfunction in the district? (Charlie stop laughing). No, we did not. And, yes, if the district cleaned up its act, we would have far less to talk about and might go away.

But not yet.

"the only way out of the mire that is SPS is a strong leader with allegiance to NO ONE but the parents and students of SPS - a fiscally responsible leader who holds SPS management to the fire to follow thru on promises and streamlines the focus to where it should be - the classroom - not everybody's pet project but the teachers and students."

Yes indeed.

It's over, no,we defend teachers, not the union. I have many disagreements with the union (ask me about the charter fight).

To say we are "just" about one thing is pretty silly.

And here's the thing, people don't vote mayors out of office over one thing. So even if you hate how a mayor is running the schools, you are unlikely to get a majority of voters to vote her/him out.

Anonymous said...

its over, followthe money, OSPI pissed, Cooked goose

Melissa is schizophrenic? Ba ha ha.

You should talk: you go by about seven different monikers. Your tirades have the same grammatical errors, over and over and over.

Stopblowing Smoke

Anonymous said...

I know your not "JUST" but your original cause was anti-charter.

If you are not a defender of the TU then shows us by a few post analyzing the union. When you say teachers, are you one of those people who believe SPS should not review and replace non performing teachers/employees?

I believe if there are similar issues at SPS once the mayor or whom ever is in charge we the people will not reelect. I believe in the power of the voters and right now we are completely shielded from being able to clean house at SPS. This was by design!

its over

Disgusted said...

I am going to take Been There's comments with a grain of salt. As a matter of fact, Been There's comments, taken with a grain of salt, would cause an individual to suffer from hyponatremia....:)

I find it astonishing that Nielsen could write a piece without a single word about him and Olechefski loosing $32M. Nielsen's relationship to the Discov eryInstitute should give anyone pause.

We could go on about the short-comings of the city, but that is another story.

Lastly, I find it amazing that there is talk of one governing body being swallowed by another. Why isn't the state talking about taking over the city? Why aren't the feds talking about taking over the state's governance structure. Why do individuals within our society think it ok for the city to take control of our schools..which is it's own governing body?

Anonymous said...

My Google anti robot word for this post is Posterior. That's some statement.

Which administration is worse? The city's or SPS's? Wrangled with both much to my dissatisfaction.

SPS's administration is worse. Much worse. The city has a functioning tech infrastructure. Civil servants mostly seem to want to keep their jobs, so if you're on your game, they may eventually employ problem solving skills. cc:ing up the manager ladder is helpful as opposed to SPS where you get crickets.

It's a battle of midweight v lightweight. I'll take the midweight FTW.

North of 85th

Melissa Westbrook said...

No, our origins were NEVER based around charters. Do keep up.

And Disgusted it begs the question: if voters are too dumb to elect a good Board, are wetoo dumb as well to figure out who should be mayor?

Anonymous said...

This is one of MW's posts that leaves me scratching my head.

I read this blog (as an SPS graduate, without kids) because I'm generally fascinated by the operations and capacity issues of a large school district, and the coverage here of these issues is excellent. I'm in an MBA program focusing on operations and logistics, and I love thinking about these gov't issues through a business school mindset.

I don't think Neilson's op-ed was worth publishing. Not much content there, and a lot of negativity from a guy who could have effected change, but was mostly ineffective in his time on the board. Yawn.

But where the blog starts to get a little fuzzy is with posts like this. I know where Charlie stands on issues, but MW's stances are a little less clear.

Okay, MW doesn't like charters, big data, or the big ed reformers (Gates and Broad). I like charters (with reservations), thinking big data should be pared back but still has a role, and dislike Gates and Broad. So I have some divergence with her opinions.

But I wouldn't say that Nielson is totally off target on a few things here. He indicates that we should be looking at getting good administrators, not just teachers who want to get out of the classroom.

What is wrong with that?

District HQ is infested with managers who started as teachers, picked up an M.Ed. or Ed.D. along the way, and are now totally ineffective managers. How many of the district's senior leadership have education in a field other than Education? Many of the Ed. Schools in the U.S. are totally disfunction; I looked seriously at becoming a teacher but couldn't put myself through two years of their curriculum just to get an M.A.T. There has been lots of criticism of the UW's Ed School on this blog; do we want more of that?

I think Neilson is right on target with what he said; SPS needs effective managers and leaders, and needs more competency from folks that have come from outside of education.

As for alternative routes to certification (TFA type stuff), I also think that's right on target. Just because it was popularized by TFA doesn't make it inherently a bad idea. Again, two-year M.A.T. programs are stuffed full of garbage classes (which is why SPU's one year program is so attractive) which to career changers and others who are passionate about teaching find to be a turn off. If alternative routes to certification brings a wider pool of people into the classroom, some of whom may not have the ability to take a traditional route, then so be it.

As for city takeover, that's got to be a non-starter. This board, while not perfect, is showing a lot more leadership than before, and Supt. Nyland's simple statement that he's directed staff to make sure they are doing what they promise to do shows that he get that that may be the biggest single problem in the district. I'm not impressed, at all, by Mayor Murray, and don't a Murray directed district to be any improvement over what we've got. But SPS needs to get better at the basics, and fast. Unfortunately, the bureaucracy seems totally unable to move that fast.


Anonymous said...

@ Ivan: why would you yell troll? I did not advocate for the blog to shut down.

@ Cruikshank and @ Disaster: No hurt feelings over ignoring my posts. But to be trite, forewarned is forearmed.

@Reader 47: I am exceptionally clear that SPS dysfunction came before the blog. I remember when Beth B. started the blog to stop the closure madness.

@ swk: $235 million is quite significant in the world of ed. SPS jumps through hoops for much less.

@ All of you: If the city can control parts of SPS with only 5 percent of its budget, imagine the management it can exert as it aligns PreK-5, with more levy $ in the game.

@ All of You: It's a fact that the city is able to present a polished story on its successes as opposed to SPS which notoriously cannot. The good news SPS gets generally comes from outside analysis. The day the city controls more of the money and more of the storytelling, not to mention shaping much of the PreK-5 education measures and goals is the day the city-business coalition moves toward management of more or all of the district. In doing so, some of them will point - behind the scenes - to the items discussed on this blog as evidence of everything in SPS that has been and continues to be wrong.

Further, certain political and business operatives will point to evidence on this blog as reason for more management, while at the same time discrediting the blog's owners and commenters. These aren't amateurs - this is how big money politics plays. 'Never waste a good crisis,' smiled Rahm Emmanuel.

I did not say the blog should abandon its passion. I said it is an interesting situation, as the blog authors and many commenters are against mayoral control.

The fact that some commenters are for mayoral control, on a blog that is generally anti-establishment, is another reason to pause.

Been There

Anonymous said...

When you have 7 unpaid citizens how can you expect anything else but mediocre? Do you want the real estate agent back? -hell no

It's comical to watch each of the board members act astonishing every time there's a problem at SPS. It shows they are frauds or just don't have a clue. Pick your poison!

There are several that flat out lie at meetings, others that just can't stop asking stupid questions. I think she just wants to be on TV! Have you the noticed the board member that never speak, that's probably a good thing, but it's still telling.

No it's time for a change and SPS won't change on it's own.

If we keep a board then we need the best money can buy and only one boss who will lay down the law at the district office and schools.

Personally I would cut administration by 30% convert the district office into a school/admin building and hire 100 new teachers.

its over

Anonymous said...

Been There, $235 million spread out over 7 years is not 'quite significant in the world of ed.' And only a fraction of that money directly affects SPS. While the district certainly jumps through hoops for federal and philanthropic dollars (which also make up less than 10% of the district budget), these entities certainly don't control the district as much as many people think they do. Have you ever managed a public education budget? If not, what the hell do you know about it?

Also, it's a laugh that City Hall can 'present a polished story on its successes.' What would these successes be, if you don't mind my asking?

Finally, 'certain political and business operatives' don't need this blog to make a case for SPS mismanagement. They don't even need evidence, in fact. They make up whatever they want. Tell a lie enough times and it becomes a political truth. And I know many of these operatives and can I tell you without reservation that they don't really care what this blog has to say. They are aware that it exists and they know of or even know Melissa and know she's a force, but they're not reading this blog.

--- swk

Anonymous said...

Have you ever managed a public education budget? If not, what the hell do you know about it?

Ha Ha neither has anyone at SPS they have only mismanaged a budget.

And flat out stole public funds thru various schemes.

its over

Joe Wolf said...

@ northwesterner -

On my team, degrees are in:

- Economics/urban planning
- Economics/finance
- Statistics/ed research

In Enrollment Planning:

- Statistics (PhD)
- Geography (PhD)
- MPA (Evans School)

Anonymous said...

@ Joe Wolf - and no doubt you would like to work on behalf of Seattle's kids within a system that isn't perpetually shorthanded, technologically challenged, and tainted by years of bad publicity.

City management beckons.

Bring It

Melissa Westbrook said...

"But I wouldn't say that Nielson is totally off target on a few things here. He indicates that we should be looking at getting good administrators, not just teachers who want to get out of the classroom."

I do like when people innocently ask, "What's wrong with that?"

There is nothing wrong with getting good administrators. And, there's nothing wrong with teachers who become principals.

But I read Nielsen's statement as ALL principals are teachers who want to get out of the classroom. That's not true or fair.

Let's see who in senior management isn't in education? Charles Wright for one. Pegi McEvoy, as well.

Also, want to be a teacher? You could try the district's new Seattle Teacher Residency program.

Melissa Westbrook said...

As I was saying to the two Mikes the other night (McGinn and O'Brien) I am a fairly scary person to some because I have no boss and no funders.

I get to say, do and write whatever I want. It's a pretty good place to be.

I'm fairly sure most powers that be don't read the blog and could give a rat's ass about my opinion.

Then again, I have almost 400 followers on Twitter and some of them are not who I would have expected.

This blog exacerbating the SPS public face problem? Very funny.

Anonymous said...

A couple notes back towards MW and the rest of the readers.

I don't think its appropriate for me to phrase my earlier "what's wrong with that?" comment as "innocent." I've spent a lot of time reading about, and thinking about issues in education over the years. This blog is just another manifestation of that interest. Now I'm spending my time formally studying organizations and management. There are plenty of administrators throughout the country who weren't good teachers, went back to school to pickup the requisite certs to become an administrator, and based on their past teaching history (with no regard for competence or excellence) became administrators.

Please note, there are plenty of terrible managers in the corporate world, too.

I didn't take Nielson's sentence to indicate that all administrators were unhappy/unsuccessful teachers who moved to an admin role to get out of the classroom. Our different understanding of what his intent was in the op-ed led to my comment above.

Charles Wright, in addition to his J.D., has an M.A. in Early Education. As was pointed out to me the other day, in three years of law school, J.D. candidate never take a single class on how to run and lead the law firm they aspire to be a partner in. This is why J.D./MBAs are becoming more commonplace.

Regarding teaching - out of the picture for me now. Seattle Teacher Residency is intriguing, as are other alternative means to certification (including TFA though they are much less attractive than they once were).


Charlie Mas said...

I would like to be clear about something right here. I may think that someone performed poorly in their job, but that doesn't mean that I don't "like" them. Usually I don't know them well enough to either like them or not like them. I have no personal relationship with these folks.

To reduce a critique (positive or negative) about an official's job performance to "you like him/her" or "you don't like him/her" not only misstates the critique but cheapens it to a matter of personal taste instead of an analysis of effectiveness.

I have had lots and lots of disagreements in policy and performance dissatisfaction with school district officials whom I personally liked. It didn't stop me from writing about their policies and performance - though I will acknowledge that it may have softened my language. There are some officials who I don't like personally and I'm sure it sharpened my language when writing about them. But I wasn't writing about whether I "liked" them or not.

No one is disputing that the District - and public education nationally -has problems. That's not in dispute. That's not the discussion. No one advocates for the status quo. The discussion is about what solutions should be tried to fix those problems. Should we try mayoral control, Teach for America, charter schools, merit pay, big data, standardization, and high stakes testing, or should we try policy and procedure compliance, a shift in teacher focus to motivation and principal focus to culture, additional preparation and support for struggling students, and more individual attention for students?

I advocate for the latter set of reforms. Mr. Nielsen advocates for the former set of reforms. That's the discussion. You can join that conversation, but let's not pretend that the conversation causes the problems or that the disagreement is personal.

No Thanks said...

Reuven Carlyle is openly discussing the idea of appointing 3 board members. Carlyle believes that we need individuals with financial backgrounds. Fair, enough.

Let's remember that we had a business backed board that was comprised of an attorney, two Boeing executives and a hedge fund manger. This board allowed district operations to fall apart and we had an audit with 12 findings, which is unheard of.

The business backed board and our audits are looking MUCH better.

Don't let Carlyle's arguments fool you. This is nothing more than an attempt to undermine our democracy.

There is reason to believe that Carlyle has been in Olympia talking about getting rid of the school board. IMO, Carlyle represents his own desires and desires of Seattle's elite business class that want to control our schools.

Carlyle likes "grand deals". Let's remember his last "grand deal" he gave to Boeing. Funding education is another one of Carlyle's "grand deals". Let's watch this play out.

Anonymous said...

Reuven Carlyle, like Ross Hunter et al, is just another plutocrat in our state legislature who decided to "give back" to the unwashed multitudes after making a buttload of money in the technology sector.

He (again like Hunter) has become testy over the years when the unwashed multitudes didn't immediately fall on their knees in thankfulness for his generosity (i.e., hubris). Since "the people" are too stupid and/or lazy to appreciate all of his grand plans and ideas (all for their benefit, of course), he's decided they no longer need to be part of the equation. Screw 'em if they can't see his gifts.

--- swk

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
mirmac1 said...

No Thanks,

On that point, I was wondering if anyone could talk about Reuven Carlyle's "mingling" tour to North Beach Elementary the other night? I understand he was quite upset that we unwashed "misunderstood" the multi-Billion dollar tax giveaway to Boeing. Did he get tarred and feathered?

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