Board Director Sharon Peaslee said, about superintendent Dr. Nyland: "We need his steady, clearheaded and highly skilled leadership to stabilize the district and fix what’s broken."
So what, exactly, is broken and how, exactly, can Dr. Nyland fix it?
Yes, this is going to be a total rant - I suggest those looking for news just skip to the next post.
The are, doubtlessly, lots of broken elements in Seattle Public Schools, but three in particular jump out at me:
1. The culture is broken. It is a culture of lawlessness.
2. The staff and the work in the JSCEE is completely disconnected from the staff and the work in the schools.
3. Special Education is broken.
The fixes are just as clear - which is not to say that they will be easy to fix.
The culture of lawlessness can only be fixed when it is replaced with a culture of compliance and accountability. That means that the people at the top have to start enforcing the rules and meting out consequences to the people who break the rules. They have to start now. One warning and then straight to full enforcement. Annual reports need to meet the requirements of the annual reports. Policies must be followed. Procedures must be followed. People who violate them must be disciplined - and their bosses. In addition to following the laws, regulations, policies and procedures, the staff need to comply with the District's stated values. That means that motions that lack the requisite community engagement must be rejected by the Board. As I said, the path is clear, but it isn't easy.
The mission of the JSCEE staff needs to be clearly articulated and it needs to be much, much narrower. They need to focus on taking over all of the non-academic work of the schools to free the school staff to focus on academics. After that, their role should be policy enforcement and quality assurance. The schools don't need all of the academic support work that the JSCEE is doing and they sure as hell don't need all of those weird special interest projects that the JSCEE indulges in. All of the projects need to stop until the JSCEE figures out how to accomplish their primary missions of policy enforcement and quality assurance.
As for Special Education, first it needs to get the resources required to do the job. Training for teachers, principals, and other school staff. Additional front line personnel to work with the students. I know that the teachers need a lot more support than they are getting. In addition, the special education department needs the authority to administer and manage the work. We will never make progress so long as the responsibility is with special education while the authority is in the schools. Special education staff need the authority to hold teachers and principals accountable when they fail to meet their obligations to special education students. Special Education cannot be an afterthought. It is basic education.