- I note that Nyland and Blanford were chatting before the meeting. Nyland said something to Blanford and Blanford nodded and said, "Yes, let's get this nonsense over and get to work." (No I wasn't eavesdropping; the room was fairly empty and Blanford's voice carried.) Sorry that Blanford thinks that discussion over the selection of a superintendent is nonsense.
- said that "work continues" in asking schools for their lunch/recess schedules and "needed adjustments for lunch." He said "recess is more challenging" and it's not in the policy and needs work re: CBA. He also said the use of so many portables at elementary schools is a "lunchroom challenge."
He said that bell times/lunch/recess all overlap and there could be short-term and long-term options.
Two points on that statement - he's right but beware of the "long-term" solution that is promised but never comes
Second, it is my perception - and that of several other activists - that the bell times and lunch/recess folks have certainly got their message across in a way that many groups before them haven't. I think for lunch/recess parents it's a pretty simple message - my kid isn't getting the time to eat AND kids need active time.
There was a presentation about the Native American program. One issue - a long-time issue - is that the 506 form that needs to be filled out by parents/guardians doesn't always come filled out correctly (and the district cannot fill in any info even if they know it). Martin-Morris asked why this is.
The answer was interesting - it would seem that some of the parents/guardians are suspicious about filling out yet another form and giving more information to the government. So it would seem some trust-building is in order. Huge challenge there, I would think.
- Nyland tried, again, to explain the official enrollment count and staffing adjustments. I heard nothing new here except that he said there were 6 instead of 7 schools that got a decrease. I guess since Hazel Wolf solved their problem, they were no longer on the list.
Again at a Board meeting, at least 15 Garfield students and parents came, with signs, to protest the loss of their teacher (and possibly, the Latin program with it). The ASB president said they wanted a student rep on the Board. I told him later that there is supposed to be and he should ask the Board office directly. (Peaslee later mentioned this and said it was being worked on. Forget going thru channels,kids, apply directly to the Board. They NEED you.)
They spoke about how Latin is a benefit when taking tests like the SAT, one student said she enjoyed it and it was a benefit to her college application and still another said she had thought of suicide and Latin was one class that kept her going. (I'll note that the district has just hired two new "project managers" at about $125K each. When JSCEE wants a new person, they get it.)
Also Kris McBride, an academic counselor at Garfield, spoke eloquently about supporting the district's request to delay the 24-credit grad requirement, citing the huge lift it will require. But she also carefully laid out how losing one teacher ripples through the entire scheduling system.
Kate Martin offered an interesting idea for superintendent - hire Nyland as sort of the steady Eddie superintendent and get things settled down, look for a new superintendent Year two and Year 3 keep BOTH superintendents with Nyland mentoring the new person. (If Nyland is appointed, this is pretty much what will happen sans the last year. McLaren endorsed the last year part and and all I can say is "where's the money for two superintendents?")
Chris Jackins also noted that the district has filed, in December for years, a data profile. He said none was filed last year and wonders if one will be filed this year. He had also compared CSIPS (which were filed last night) and found a number of oddities in Beacon Hill's. Wonder what's happening over there - the cheating issue and now a nearly identical CSIP to last year's?
Laura Gramer, a deaf parent advocating for her children and the deaf and hard of hearing community, has been coming to the last several Board meetings to speak. She said communication is very important and it feels like, listening to the conversations, that the district is stuck. She said she was not sorry for making anyone uncomfortable.
There were a couple of speakers about the Growth Boundary changes around Dearborn Park. It was pointed out by parent Julie van Arcken that the dual-language schools in white neighborhoods are option schools and the ones in non-white neighborhoods aren't. Another speaker, Maiko Winklter-Chin, talked about relocating kids from Bailey Gatzert to Lowell. The issue is that many of these students are Chinese speakers, either immigrants or refugees and there is concern that they won't get the supports at Lowell that they have at Bailey Gatzert.
Then we had the entertainment that was the community against the relocation of Interagency. They had taken a whole first row with signs; there were about 8 people. Only one person had dropped off the public testimony list and the first person on the waitlist was a substitute teacher who spoke about the challenges of being a sub.
That ended public testimony at 20 speakers. But when President Peaslee said they were done, the Interagency people asked why testimony wasn't going until 6 pm. Peaslee said that wasn't how it was done; it was by number of speakers. The group got upset and talked back to the Board for about two minutes. (It was not clear what was said but they were mad.)
Another activist and I turned and looked at each other because, in the past, if you talked back to the Board like that, Security took you out. We were very surprised that it went on even that long. They left, muttering over their shoulders, and then took up a conversation out in the lobby with Pegi McEvoy.
Board Comments (in brief and partial)
Patu - regrets that students at RBHS apparently vandalized a nearby grocery store after learning the Ferguson verdict. Said students were not given enough guidance but that they needed to learn from that lesson not to allow their feelings to be taken out on others.
McLaren - She took Latin and loved it. Long talk about how hard staff had worked on enrollment numbers and saved a teacher at Roosevelt and that the "decision on staffing is made in the building."
Blanford - also took Latin. Also, said that he thought he would not have a community meeting in December but is after all on the 20th.
Harium - mentioned that on MLK,Jr's real birthday that 500 classrooms across the country will be doing a "real day of learning" and hoped some SPS classrooms would participate.
Peters - had concerns over Garfield's scheduling issues, thanked Meg Diaz for her work on the enrollment numbers that she had presented at the last Board meeting, and said the superintendent search IS about community engagement and that can't be pushed aside.
Carr - said her community meeting location will likely change in Jan.
Peaslee, in remarks that she did NOT make over the weekend, tried to explain the superintendent situation.
- they were not trying to "pull a fast one" or curtail public engagement
in the Board agenda, with no press release or notification on the district
website on a holiday weekend, is information about the most important decision
you make as directors?
Not a fast one? Then I don't know what would better qualify.
Not curtail public engagement? Ditto.
- She says this vote was triggered by the idea that the hiring of the search firm was to start in November but the Board decided to wait until after the superintendent's evaluation. That's fine but why didn't they mention this during the weekend? She said it would have been difficult to find a search firm after the evaluation review because "there's only one Board meeting in December." Well, that's convenient.
She said, "We had very little choice on this vote" and made it sound like the week between the Intro and Action was a gift to the public. She said, "You can send e-mails."
She also explained it was absolutely typical to do a contract in an intro/action. I'll look into it (because I don't think that's entirely true) but I note that Peters, later on, said this is true for superintendent but AFTER a process or during an emergency.
Again, there would be almost zero public engagement except for this blog sounding the alarm and some media outlets willing to write about it. (I still note the silence of The Stranger, Crosscut and Publicola.)
They then voted for officers with Nyland acting as chair. There were only single nominees for each office. Blanford, in speaking of McLaren, for Member at Large, said she was a consensus builder.
It is Carr for President, Peaslee for VP and McLaren for Member at Large. I have always thought that Sherry Carr would be a great Board president.
Then we came to the discussion about the Superintendent.
Peaslee and McLaren kind of tag-teamed with reading Nyland's resume and it was long listening.
But Peaslee also said several other things:
- the Board is "legally charged" to hire the superintendent and can change their minds anytime
- she said there was a "swirl" of allegations about the Gates grant. No, actually there is not. It is discomfort over the facts of what happened. I don't recall (and I've never said) that he did it on purpose but the fact of the mistake is the issue. She went so far as to call Marysville's Board to ask about how they handled grants.
I can only say, "Superintendent Nyland, welcome to the big leagues." I understand he has been in smaller districts but he is now in the biggest district in the state. He didn't think anything was different with huge grants coming in? And, as Sue Peters later pointed out, she didn't understand how he didn't have the instincts to wonder about this himself.
- Peaslee said he will "solve problems." In four months here, he has "taken on Sped and headquarters culture." I don't know who she is talking to but I don't think the Sped parents are any happier and I know the culture at JSCEE hasn't changed much at all.
- She claimed we were "lucky that he stepped out of retirement." Well, he may have been retired from being a superintendent but he has been working for a consulting firm since he left Marysville.
Then we had the curious case of Marty McLaren schooling us all on when community input should be used and what shouldn't. Apparently, not in superintendent selection. She said that the "public engagement cannot affect the Board vote." I have no idea what she means because the Board gathers information - from all directions all the time - mulls it over, discusses with colleagues and then they make their professional judgment.
The place for input is something like bell times, she said. Oh.
Maybe she'll give us a list of what qualifies for public input so parents and community don't waste their time in the future with issues where she won't consider input.
Carr seemed to think she, too, needed to run thru the laundry list of turnover. (I'll note here, as I did in my Board comments, Marysville had the same issues.) She said a surprising thing that I confess I must have missed her saying before - that the financial difficulties in the district are the fault of the turnover situation and so is the disproportional discipline issue.
Peters pointed out that a false choice was being set up -either a massive search or nothing. (And she's right - I wonder at the lack of imagination elsewhere on the Board.)
Then when they got to the vote, McLaren says that Nyland "has sketched out a plan that can position us to overcome our challenges" in two years. Please, show us that plan. She said he has "galvinized staff."
Patu basically said Nyland is a good guy but felt the four months was not enough time. She said "we have always involved community" in the decision.
Martin-Morris said, for him, it's critical to move "large systems forward."
Blanford said he was "deeply troubled and conflicted." He said there were reasonable arguments on both sides and he would take advantage of input. I found that, coupled with his decision to have a Dec. community meeting after all, interesting. Almost as if he was trying to be less confrontational and perhaps a little more thoughtful.