Friday, November 28, 2014

McLaren Speaks Out On Superintendent

Update: from Director McLaren's blog under Priorities (when she ran for office) bold hers:

Seattle central administration has turned a blind eye towards the communities which fund its existence and the families it should be serving. Community engagement should be the foundation of district decision-making, not an afterthought. I invite members of the community to brainstorm with me and form a constructive venue fortwo-way dialogue. Help me reshape the district!

Together, we can bring the wisdom and guidance of the community back into the Seattle Public Schools.

Guess she forgot about this goal.   You might keep this in mind should McLaren run again because it is quite confusing when candidates say one thing to get elected and another when in office.

End of update

 She  makes the mistake of believing it's all about the Superintendent when it's all about the dysfunction at the district.  She also completely ignores the student data breach.  

I do not recognize this person as the Marty McLaren that I helped find and get elected.  

Question is, will all vote yes so it's a "united" vote or will anyone have the courage of their convictions?

On December 3rd, the Board will vote on offering a permanent contract to Interim Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland.

 Seattle Public Schools is at a crossroads:  We now have an extraordinarily able Superintendent on deck; in his 16 weeks in his job, he has demonstrated strong leadership, integrity, vast competence in his role, and deep awareness of the importance of relationships, among other vital skills.  In my extensive district experience, through seven superintendents since the mid-nineties, Dr. Larry Nyland stands out clearly as a leader with the capacity to meet the challenges facing Seattle Schools.



I know firsthand how destructive uncertainty is at SPS.  In my brief Board tenure, I’ve twice witnessed the extreme disquiet that gripped our district leaders during a Superintendent search: first in 2012, and again last June and July, upon Jose Banda’s resignation.  Ultimately, our history of extensive turnover at many levels stems from this kind of disquiet and churn. For at least the last 5 years, staff turnover has steadily eroded district coherence – that is, the clarity and alignment between SPS’s central leadership and the schools, as well as clear alignment among our schools.  At this point in SPS’s history, the option to avoid a Superintendent transition and maintain stability with a proven, strong leader in place is an unparalleled piece of luck. 


It is also important to recall that recent superintendent searches in Seattle have deteriorated into media circuses which have driven away qualified candidates.


In addition, to initiate a search now would mean the loss of powerful momentum, and time.  After only 16 weeks at the helm, Dr. Nyland is already poised to address one of the fundamental issues in the district – a culture of anxiety; fear of rocking the boat with truth-telling, or of addressing issues straightforwardly.  This project will go beyond next June, and there is much at stake.  We have a leader who will move us forward on this and many fronts, and who can carry through:  We should seize the opportunity.  The uncertainty of a search would create disarray at the top, with no guarantee of finding a leader who can quickly help us align ourselves again to move forward.


Choosing a Superintendent is, indeed, one of the Board’s most critical responsibilities:  Along with other experienced Board Directors, many principals, staff and community members, I believe that extending Dr. Nyland’s contract at this time will reap great benefits for our students and our school communities.


Timing:

If SPS is to conduct a search, we would need to vote by December 3rd to specify a search firm.  This is widely understood to be the latest realistic date to initiate a search and still attract strong candidates for the following July. We delayed recommending a firm for a vote until after the Superintendent evaluation on Monday, November 24th.  In Executive Session on Tuesday, the Board agreed to propose a vote on a permanent contract to Dr. Nyland, and to not proceed with a search. We are proceeding quickly with this vote because we believe it in the best interests of the District to be transparent with the recommendation and to move ahead expeditiously.


Regarding the holiday announcement:  Please note that policy requires agendas to be posted 3 days  prior to meetings.  Seattle Schools typically posts Board meeting agendas five days prior, on Fridays, to give ample time for review.  Due to the holiday closure, this agenda was posted 7 days prior; this timing has thus allowed two extra days for review. 


Gates grant:

Some constituents have expressed concerns about Board approval November 19th of a $750,000 grant from the Gates Foundation.  The issue of Dr. Nyland’s mistake in signing has been resolved to my complete satisfaction.  My overview of the grant itself can be seen on the November 19th Board meeting video, near the end of the discussion.  Please let me know if you'd like me to send a written copy of that summary.



Marty McLaren

Board Director

Seattle Public Schools District VI

November 29, 2014

20 comments:

Greg said...

This is disappointing, especially to those of us who helped elect McLaren. It is disturbing to see such fawning phrasing ("extraordinarily able", "vast competence", "rocking the boat with truth telling") without any consideration of the proper role of the Board as a check-and-balance.

I don't just disagree with McLaren's interpretation of the issues and situation. I see it as a betrayal of those that were counting on McLaren to challenge, question, and act as the voice of her community.

This is frustrating to the point of despondence. As Charlie said some time back, what's the point of electing new school board members if they become captured and rubber stamp everything very soon after election?

Anonymous said...

We're at an interesting crossroads for the district.

I think McLaren's piece is well stated and she makes some good points.

Past superintendent searches have not found great leaders for our district. The strongest leader (in terms of vision, etc) was MGJ, but she was a polarizing, destructive manager. Banda was neither - he didn't seem to have a vision that led his decision making process nor did manage his staff well.

Right now, what the Seattle School District needs is a strong leader (with vision) and as well as someone who can manage. I would like to hear more from Nyland about what his vision is and how he intends to manage his team to achieve that vision. I'm not opposed to Nyland as permanent super. I just want to know more about his goals and how he intends on delivering.

The downside to a superintendent search is another interruption in leadership and vision. A revolving door of superintendents allows terrible bureaucrats to take hold and run their departments in a dysfunctional manner.

Retirement is the next stop for Nyland, so I am much less concerned about his future ambitions than I would be with someone who is mid-career.

The greatest threat right now to the Seattle School District's independence is its own incompetence. If the District doesn't get better, and quickly, at the basics of serving its constituents, it will fall victim to an ambitious mayor. Ultimately, I don't think that is what is best for the district. They need a strong leader now, not six months or a year from now. And if the board feels that's Nyland, then lets move forward.

northwesterner

Melissa Westbrook said...

" I just want to know more about his goals and how he intends on delivering."

Well, you'll get that after the fact.

Note: the Superintendent does have a Monday community meeting so you could ask him then (but good luck because I find his answers - like Banda's - very broad).

I still have never seen a superintendent who wants to clean up the dysfunction at JSCEE.

Charlie Mas said...

Marty says that Mr. Nyland has demonstrated strong leadership. Could she tell us when and how, because I don't remember that happening.
Integrity? Really? When he lied about not knowing the grant policy? When he swept the Title IX issues under the rug? When he left the Special Education Director in limbo? When did he demonstrate this integrity?
Vast competence? Really? Can Director McLaren offer any examples of this "vast competence"? I don't recall any demonstrations of vast competence. Certainly not competence around grant procedure. Certainly not competence around Title IX. Certainly not competence around special education. Certainly not competence around student data privacy. Where was this vast special competence?

Anonymous said...

Marty McLaren please submit your resignation ASAP. You are done.

A2theK

Anonymous said...

We need new board members who are younger than 40. These old timers brains are too stiff. I want paid board members who have no experience. I want great thinkers who will not reference old obsolete knowledge or methods for giving our kids a great education. I want a board who will direct not get led around by the nose!

I don't believe we need a superintendent we 5 new people who are student focused. These are young smart people willing to kick A$$!

KICK A$$

cmj said...

"After only 16 weeks at the helm, Dr. Nyland is already poised to address one of the fundamental issues in the district – a culture of anxiety; fear of rocking the boat with truth-telling, or of addressing issues straightforwardly."

McLaren says nothing about how Nyland has demonstrated his ability to address those issues. In fact, he's already done quite poorly on at least one.

"A culture of anxiety." I'm not sure what this refers to. Maybe anxiety caused by NCLB? SPS has much worse problems, though.

"Fear of rocking the boat with truth-telling." No, Nyland is perpetuating the culture of lying, lawlessness, and CYA is SPS. He's been secretive on the particulars of the massive SPED FERPA leak. He most likely told us a bald-faced lie about signing the pre-school agreement (or he's a complete idiot who shouldn't be running SPS). He went straight to CYA over the NatureBridge thing. He's never shown any interest in rocking the boat.

"Addressing issues straightforwardly." Vague. Has he addressed SPS' long-standing problem of FERPA leaks? Or the issues with Native American education?

McLaren complains that "recent superintendent searches in Seattle have deteriorated into media circuses which have driven away qualified candidates." SPS is large, diverse, and occasionally contentious district. If a potential superintendent can't handle the media circus during the search, how are they going to deal with satisfying all the frustrated parents.

McLaren's major argument for appointing Nyland is that we don't want the uncertainty of not knowing who our next superintendent is. Sorry, but that's a terrible argument. Nyland will be here until July as interim superintendent (if I'm reading McLaren correctly). There is more than enough time for a search.

Northwesterner said If the District doesn't get better, and quickly, at the basics of serving its constituents, it will fall victim to an ambitious mayor. Nyland has been quite supportive of the mayor on the preschool initiative. Now, they might just be in agreement about preschool, or Nyland might not want to make waves disagreeing with the mayor, or there could be something more. I'm not really sure.

Northwesterner raises a good point that the most recent superintendent searches haven't found very good leaders. Stanford was pretty much the best (and only good) permanent superintendent that we've had in the past few decades. Banda was lukewarm and incompetent, Goodloe-Johnson was polarizing and actually got fired, Manhas wasn't terribly competent, and Olchefske presided over the $35 million budget shortfall caused by an accounting error.

The interesting thing about Stanford was that he had zero background in education but spent 30 years in the military as an officer. He also had a master's in "personnel management and administration." He was a breath of fresh air and highly competent. Perhaps we need someone with management experience and training, rather than focusing on looking for someone with experience in education administration?

I don't expect a superintendent to be perfect -- they're human -- but I want to see someone who is
-honest
-tackles SPS's compliance problems
-fires terrible/dishonest employees
-makes decisions about instruction based off research and parent involvement.

A few positive notes:
- the existence of the SPS Public Records Office and public record laws in WA/USA. They help the community keep SPS honest.
- the many dedicated and fantastic staff in SPS as well as the students and their families.
- many of the schools in SPS remain excellent despite years of blunders by district administration.

#BS said...

Peaslee and Ron English worked on a BAR that was introduced on eve of Thanksgiving.

This is the OLDEST trick in the book and intended to railroad an issue without public notice.

Shall we remind the board of their Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan makes community input a top priority.


•Support proactive and transparent communication with all stakeholders to foster trust and collaboration
•Build partnerships among students, families, staff, labor partners and the community to support academic success

The board is acting foolishly. The intro and action, on the same day, will result in public backlash.

Board votes will be interesting. I sure hope Peaslee has all the votes. Putting an item on the agenda, and not having a unanimous, to hire the superintendents and will reflect poorly on the president.

Enough said...

"This is disappointing, especially to those of us who helped elect McLaren. It is disturbing to see such fawning phrasing ("extraordinarily able", "vast competence", "rocking the boat with truth telling") without any consideration of the proper role of the Board as a check-and-balance.

I don't just disagree with McLaren's interpretation of the issues and situation. I see it as a betrayal of those that were counting on McLaren to challenge, question, and act as the voice of her community."

Yes, a real betrayal. Especially since Nyland is the guy that will work behind the scenes to give Burgess and Murray the keys to Seattle Public Schools.

Hell, there were 5 board directors that agreed to the Gates grant without realizing it ties them to the city without a partnership agreement.

Let's not forget: Nyland is also the guy that signed the Gates Grant for $750K without board approvoal. Frankly, if Melissa didn't testify on this issue...I don't know that it would have come to public light.

C'mon said...


"The greatest threat right now to the Seattle School District's independence is its own incompetence. If the District doesn't get better, and quickly, at the basics of serving its constituents, it will fall victim to an ambitious mayor"

C'mon. The district has problems, no doubt. but we're not Detroit. Any attempt for mayoral control is nothing more than a power grab with the intention of privatizing our educational system.

Delete Needed said...

Please delete Kick A$$'s comments; they reek of ageism.

Anonymous said...

#BS said:

"Board votes will be interesting. I sure hope Peaslee has all the votes. Putting an item on the agenda, and not having a unanimous, to hire the superintendents and will reflect poorly on the president."
--
According to my latest information, she does not have all the votes, and is not likely to have them. It is on us to ensure that it stays that way.

Nyland is in place. There is no hurry.

-- Ivan Weiss

Melissa Westbrook said...

BS and Ivan, here's how I see the vote.

Definites
Blanford (goes w/o saying)
Marty (she's already said it)
Sharon (she wrote it)


Maybe
Sherry - Although after her performance on the Gates Foundation grant it's likely to be a yes, Sherry has a lot of law and order in her and I don't know how much she will like coming to the table this way.

Harium - He's also a probably except that I am told that at his October meeting this subject came up and he said that some on the Board wanted no search but he thought it was a better idea to have one. Has he changed his mind? There's something to ask him.

No's*
Sue
Betty

*These two poor women are going to be under HUGE pressure to vote yes. To have a split vote would look terrible (no matter how large or small). The Board should be united on who they pick; otherwise, it signals no faith in the choice and/or the process.

Sue and Betty will get hounded by the powers that be to do this. I'm not sure I would blame them if they did but they would have my undying admiration and support if they say, "No, I won't be bullied." Because that's what this is.

Someone suggested to me that the powers that be put a bug in Nyland's ear to tell the Board he will walk if not given the job outright. This is fairly plausible.

After this is all done, I'll tell you what I REALLY think about Nyland's thought process but I prefer to keep my own counsel at this point.

Send those e-mails to the maybe and no people.

Anonymous said...

I received Dir. McLaren's response via email - it was all I can do not to respond "madam, respectfully, you are delusional. either that or we have vastly different definitions of integrity"

I fail to see how anyone who realized it is the Board's job to be the check/balance to the Supt could let him get away with the Gates grant incident. I fail to see the urgency in appointing Dr. Nyland. And I aree with the poster who said we need someone with business management skills more than an "educator".

Board, if you are reading these comments, please do not be hornswaggled into voting Dr. Nyland into office in this disturbing way.

reader47

cmj said...

Write the School Board. Let them know about what concerns you have either about Nyland himself or the rushed manner in which Peaslee and McLaren are trying to make him permanent.

I was looking back at a piece that the Seattle Times wrote when Nyland was appointed interim superintendent. It's interesting how many recent SPS superintendents have been promoted from within.
-Olchefske: CFO under Stanford, became interim superintendent when Stanford became ill, appointed to the permanent position without a national search (or any search, I think).
-Manhas: district's chief operating officer, became interim superintendent when Olchefske resigned, appointed after most or all of the finalist search candidates dropped out.
-Goodloe-Johnson: hired through a national search.
-Enfield: chief academic officer, appointed as interim superintendent
-Banda: hired through a national search
-Nyland: hired after "the Seattle School Board met several times behind closed doors to discuss interim candidates"

Neither promotion from within the organization nor national searches have consistently offered good candidates. A regional search would offer fewer candidates, but we might avoid the people who just see Seattle as a career stepping stone.

#BS said...

Northwesterner makes many valid points.

However, the manner in which the hiring of the superintendent has been botched and may play into the hands of the mayor, and those that want appointed school boards.

Peaslee had best land a deal with unanimous votes and give the public an opportunity to weigh in.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Peaslee had best land a deal with unanimous votes and give the public an opportunity to weigh in.

The only sop I can see is the Board saying, "okay, we'll only Intro this but we'll vote in two weeks."

Anonymous said...

Director McLaren wrote:

"Along with other experienced Board Directors, many principals, staff and community members, I believe that extending Dr. Nyland’s contract at this time will reap great benefits for our students and our school communities."

I suppose this means that the public testimony at Wed's meeting will be stacked with personal endorsements of Dr. Nyland?

- reality check

Lynn said...

Poor Garfield students. They're hoping to speak at this week's board meeting and will be shut out again.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I got into the phone line right at 8 am with no problem. Will I make the list? Don't know.