Monday, December 08, 2014

No Surprise: The Times Likes Nyland

This morning the Times has an article about Superintendent Nyland.  Here's what I said in the Times' comment section:

"The Seattle teachers union fully supports the idea of appointing him the district’s permanent superintendent." (quote from Times article)
All the teachers I know were never asked to vote. The BOARD of the SEA may support this but neither Knapp nor the Times can say the union membership does.   
I agree with Charlie Mas. The Times, seemingly, does not trust the wisdom of the Board but Nyland makes a few "missteps" and all is forgiven?
Let's explain WHY those "missteps" are telling of a superintendent who will be less superintendent and more caretaker.
1) We are supposed to be getting a seasoned administrator. He is coming into the biggest district in the state, handling over $1B worth of taxpayer dollars. It doesn't dawn on him to ask questions when a $750K grant from the biggest foundation in the world is put before him? He hasn't read the Board policies on these grants? No one in SPS who is guiding him through his early days bothered to tell him?
Or was it just that the Gates Foundation wanted it done. (Easier to apologize than ask for permission.)
FYI, the district won't say who is the person really responsible for this error since Nyland isn't (he's the new guy as he likes to point out).
2) that data breach? NOT a misstep. Let's go thru that one:
- a guardian of a Special Ed student asked for his student's records, that's all. The DISTRICT sent the law firm a document with thousands of students' information, including address, disability, discipline, bus stop and other personal items. The law firm then sent it onto the guardian.
- the law firm did this TWICE over several days even as the guardian told the district it happened.
- the district fired the law firm but the questions remain: Who authorized the law firm to have all this personal data? Why did it get to the law firm twice?
- the district violated the student privacy law, FERPA. A law. When Nyland reported this to the federal Department of Education he said ALL families involved had been notified. But, at the Board meeting, he said they had been notified "electronically." All families have e-mail? No and so that would be false that ALL families have been notified.
That is a HUGE deal and for the Superintendent and the Board to sweep it under the table is wrong. But let's see what the feds say. Or the State Auditor.
And this is four months into the job and this is what accountability looks like under Nyland?
The Times also had an strange op-ed about charter schools.  I say strange because it comes off somewhat as a campaign for charters when the election is over.  But, if you were part of  a group that was unhappy that not all the charter slots have been filled and/or you are worried that the law will be overturned, well then, maybe it makes sense.
The thrust of the op-ed is that charter schools ARE public schools.  Yes, they are under the charter law.  But the more important question is are they "common schools" under our state's constitution?  T
That would be the question that matters more.


Lia R. said...

This article attempts to give the impression that Nyland has the ability to calm the waters between various factions.

The Seattle Times claims that SEA and the Alliance for Education support Nyland.

Truth: SEA membership did NOT weigh-in on this issue.

We're looking at someone from the Alliance for Ed, Jonathan Knapp, folks.

Sharon Peaslee helped force the deal.

Martin Morris and Martha McLaren are very pleased with Nyland's plan for our children. When do they plan on sharing this idea with the families and children of Seattle Public Schools?

The article also indicates that Nyland pushed forth with Gate's small school notion; an idea that he was warned about. We all know-the small schools deal was a failure. Which of Gate's initiatives will Nyland push in SPS. We don't know, but McLaren and Martin Morris seem to think it is a good idea.

Concerned said...

Nyland helped lead a superintendent program at Seattle University.

Are we to believe that Nyland did not understand that he needed board approval before signing the $750K grant?

Perhaps there was a hand-shake at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Kudos to Melissa for testifying and calling this to board attention. Without this testimony, I'm not confident the board would have known that Nyland signed a contract and a quarter million dollars were sent to the John Stanford Center without board approval.

Are there any other rocks that need to be looked- under?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I would say that it's too late to do much. Sharon Peaslee saw to that with the posting of the item on the agenda right before Thanksgiving.

I think one thing to watch is this small schools idea. Nyland brought it up very briefly at the coffee chat. I have heard from some Marysville teachers who dislike it very much (and it narrows what electives kids can take and they lost most choir offerings because of it).

Interestingly, I was contacted by some parents in Highline who are ALSO unhappy with their small schools high schools (this under Susan Enfield).

We tried it here and I don't think it's worth it. What IS worth it is finding ways to develop relationships that does not limit student access to class offerings.

Anonymous said...

It's fine that the Board extended the time for the vote on Nyland to allow for public comment, but it appears they wouldn't listen to it anyway, so why bother.


mirmac1 said...

The vote on Wednesday is a desperation vote. The options stink. Is this one of those times when elected directors figure they should "vote their gut" without data, without specifics, with impunity??

I have some concerns about the anointment. I have more concerns about a movement to stifle the voice of directors who still believe in representing the interests of students. The theme of Saturday's retreat was: we don't need to listen to no constituents, policy and procedures are discretionary depending on when it impedes certain initiatives, we need better directors who don't cause problems (or ask questions), vote for what's in your heart, data or not.

The fix is in. Students and families have, um, fourth class status.

Anonymous said...

As the FBI raids LA schools district office, because the ex-superintendent made a sweetheart deal for iPads, the Seattle schools are going for a superintendent who just made a sweetheart deal with Gates?

Like Mark Twain said, learn from other people's mistakes, there's not enough time in life to make them all yourself, or something like that.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Concerned said, "Nyland helped lead a superintendent program at Seattle University."

It was at Seattle Pacific University, not SU.

SU Educator

Ragweed said...

I am curious about why people say that the small schools thing was a failure. Do we really have a sense of the impact of smaller schools?

Specifically, what impact did it have on students sense of community? Or Self worth? Did it result in more or less clickishness? Did it result in better student-teacher relationship? What about drop-out rates? Cultural engagement?

Or was it a failure because it did not raise test scores?

I am curious because my sense is that small schools got dropped because they did not result in higher test scores for less money, not because of anything having to do with actual education. But I haven't really looked at the research, so that is just a perception.

Catherine said...

Offering or facilitating options in small High Schools is an art - and can be done. Look at Nova and Center School. It's just not "easy" nor in the main stream. The school needs to be flexible and facilitate classes in other schools/locations/options...

Anonymous said...

From the TIMES Comments:

"... if he had the level of effort and commitment required to be a successful public school superintendent that you claim that he has, he might have put a little bit of that effort and commitment into researching the procedures around that Gates grant before he signed it.

If he had the level of effort and commitment required to be a successful public school superintendent that you claim that he has, he might have identified, for the taxpayers who are paying his salary, how the Special Ed data in the data breach got into the hands of the law firm, and maybe identified who was responsible.

But he didn't do any of these things, and therefore, we the taxpayers who are paying his salary, think we might be entitled to some answers before committing to this guy. Or we could just take your word, and the Seattle Times' word, for it and go to the mall."


Lia said...

Years ago, Gates promoted a small school initiative. Large comprehensive high schools were broken into schools with approximately 400 students.

I've known teachers that were flown around the country to win their support for small schools. These individuals promoted small schools. Some showed up for class and they didn't have materials etc.

More on Gates and his small school initiative can be found here:

english must go! said...

Learn all you can from the mistakes of others. You won't have time to make them all yourself. ~Alfred Sheinwold (from the quote garden)

Sorry no one in seattle makes mistakes. (sic intended)

Not the sunshine blowers on other threads who have the ability of free thought but I am sure they were paid. Not the Board because they were elected but put a blind eye to a rape at GHS.

Not Nyland as he is new.

Not English... Not sure why.
-Potter gate
-M-GJ gate
-SPED violators
-Title IX violators
-GHS Rape inaction
-8,000 SPED data breach violation

Not Peaslee- anyone interested in why see above.

Oh who introduced this debate crushing BAR---- See above. They lost that battle but will win on Nyland. He has no secret silver bullet to right the ship as he will be status quo type of guy. If not amiable. Of course once this gig is over he can consult other districts or even our own charter schools here for a few more years with the SPS Sup in his hat.

I hear he is going to be at TM for a coffee chat on Thursday 9ish. Meet meet me there?

Anonymous said...

I was formerly a huge supporter of the concept of small schools, and then had the opportunity to teach in a small school, and now think that overall it's a very good thing that the Gates Foundation saw the evidence and stopped pushing/supporting them. A few aspects:

1) The earliest small schools were started by highly motivated small groups of educators/admins who had to claw to get permission. These were feet on the ground that saw needs and solutions and most of them got great results - bottom up support. This is why you still find some wildly enthusiastic supporters.

2) Small schools became a "solution" and then many were started due to a top-down push. Top-down doesn't always work (many teachers who didn't buy in moved on resulting in a huge turnover before/at-start of some small schools).

3) The studies that the Gates Foundation read (per articles I read, and this matches my personal experience) noted that there simply isn't a deep enough pool of talented principals to suddenly triple/quadruple the # of principals (which effectively happens when you split a large school into 3 or 4 schools). This blog often comments about the lack of highly talented principals in the district. With too fast a push, as many districts did, under-qualified assistant principals became full principals and frequently they became tyrants to mask their lack of skill.

4) Many large schools turned to small schools created new divisions including lots of in-fighting amongst the principals (this has happened in Highline SD too by most accounts). At least a principal with 2-3 AP's had to at least fake it that they were collaborating for a shared purpose.

5) The successful small schools build around themes and incorporate students interested in those themes. An art school should mostly have artsy students, a science school science nerds, a tech school a bunch of geeks. Many small schools that force other students (and teachers) in wind up with issues.

6) Some students didn't like it because they were completely separated from their friends (forced into separate small schools on the same campus), didn't like the loss of the yearbook (not enough students to justify the cost), and stuck with the same teachers (sometimes good, but sometimes bad because no chance to have a different teacher as there were no choices).

All this said, I still think there's some room for some small schools IF there's staff/admin/student buy-in... but overall a lot is lost when you lose a comprehensive school.

As to scores... they are all over the map (small motivated staff in a theme school do amazing work, staff in a tyrannical dictatorship small school wind up with huge turnover and poor scores).

Reportedly Enfield is not impressed with the small schools and may be trying to undo (2nd/3rd hand insinuations at best)... but as to the comment that she hasn't dissolved them all yet... well, at least she's watching/observing/listening first. Once in place, warts and all, I'm not sure they should just be willy nilly dissolved either... but I'm overall not impressed with small schools anymore after my experience.

Former SmallSchooler

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