Friday, January 30, 2015

Conversing with Rep Tomiko Santos on Breaking up the Seattle School District

I spoke with Tomiko Santos about this issue this morning. It was a concerning conversation because of several things she said:
1) She had been thinking about the idea for years as she has felt that her district (and its schools) have not been respected by the school district.

I find this a very odd reason to upend an entire district. One legislative region does not a district make (at least as I see it).

2) She believes this will bring "equity" to her area. I wasn't able to ask her what faith she has dividing the district up is the way for that to happen.

I also would ask the question about equity.  Years ago, I very much thought things were not as equitable throughout the district but I think things are much better. I see the inequity not so much in what the district proves as what PTAs do. (That said, RBHS has been at the bottom of the "to do" list for waaay too long.)

3) The "emergency" clause was put in by "technical" people. Well, I don't care who did it - there is no burning reason to do this kind of massive overhaul.  If they need the word "emergency" in there to put this bill forth, then something's wrong.

4) She made it sound like there would be a process to the change almost as if parents/communities would be involved but the bill proves zero guarantee of that. So the sausage making will happen probably behind the scenes.

5) She said that most exceptions in the law for schools are for Seattle and other legislators had questioned that. I'm not sure I get it.

6) She said it isn't class size that matters but school size. I can only say that Seattle had many small schools just a decade or less ago and they were not all beacons of success.

7) She feels it's important for communities to support the central administration. I would agree.

I also told her this sounds a lot like a charter district coming. She said no, she was against charters (and she has been consistent on this point).

I told her - it is a massive gamble and I'm not hearing real reasoning backed up with real data.

My belief is that this  - along with the City's Pre-k, the mayoral appointment of school board directors - is a power play of the highest order by those who want to control the district and the discussion about public education in Seattle.  

Does that discussion include parents, staff and communities?  I guess not.


Robert Cruickshank said...

Santos's comments do not inspire sufficient confidence to enable me to support this proposal - especially with Pettigrew's other bill on mayoral control still floating in the mix.

SPS has problems. Many of them stem from the Legislature's failure to properly fund the schools. Others stem from a central staff culture of profound hostility to parents. It's possible that a split district might be good. But there's also a lot of reason to believe it would be bad. And there's no reason at all to rush this process.

There needs to be a broader community discussion before something like this is done. It should not be imposed from above, certainly not by a Legislature that is facing contempt charges for failing to fund our schools.

Dora said...

Usually when something doesn't make sense, and splitting Seattle in half doesn't, there is a whole other story behind it and it's probably not pretty.

It would be Apartheid Seattle.

Is that honestly what Tomiko wants?

Pettigrew I get. He's been bought and paid for, but Santos?

There's more to this story than meets the eye.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Good point, Robert. Why the rush when McCleary isn't even settled?

Dora said...

And what happened to meeting their Paramount Duty?

If they focused on that, what problems there might be could more easily be resolved.

As it stands now watching these two reps, I don't think their taking their responsbilities very seriously, at least when it comes to our children and ensuring adequate and equitable funding.

That is what they need to focus on, not bills that don't make any sense.

OpenMike said...

The logic is simple...

If you can't strip voters of control over all of SPS, split into smaller pieces. Exert control over the non-white, lower-income, low-parental involvement district and freely apply Randian principles to the profit of various corporations.

Shocking said...

Does Tomikos-Santos have research to back-up her assertion? Is she talking about smaller school districts?

This was a deal that was done behind closed doors and I've lost my respect for Tomiko-Santos.

At this point, what difference does it make if Tomiko Santos opposes charter schools?

I agree with Melissa's assessment. Legislators that support this deal will own the outcome and it isn't going to be pretty.

Shocked said...

Lastly, not one of these individuals have claimed responsibility for failing to fund our schools.

Dora said...

Open Mike,

That was my thought also.

Easier to prey on those who don't have the wherewithal to push back or see what's going on.

Open season.

Because we know the north end won't stand for Teach for America, high stakes testing (for very long), the drill and kill of Common Core Standards (again, not for long) or the cheap charter schools and online schools who promise everything but give nothing back in terms of a real education.

Dora said...

Was there some sort of deal made to keep her leadership role on the Education Committee?

I'm trying to make sense out of why Santos sponsored this bill and then comes up with such limp excuses for it.

Anonymous said...

Arrgghhh these people. I hope everyone contacts the entire Seattle delegation and points out the fallacies inherent in this proposal.

If you want to fix educational inequity, fully fund K12 education first.

If you want to fix the "rest" of SPS, vote for School Board members that clearly and strongly hold the Supt. accountable for mismanaging staff, and that includes, as Robert so aptly notes, their history of "profound hostility to parents"

But splitting this District up? That will fix things? Hogwash.


Dora said...

"Central staff culture of profound hostility to parents."

That also includes hostility towards school board members by central staff playing around with budget numbers so that proposals won't require a public hearing by the school board and also providing inaccurate and sometimes misleading information to board members to further personal/professional agendas.

Anonymous said...

I've heard it's next to impossible to fire people at the district, plus they are worried if they fire the wrong person that person will spill the beans...or hand over the books

Joe Public

Melissa Westbrook said...

JP, you may not be wrong on that point.

Anonymous said...

I doubt SPS can cry poor. The information I've seen show SPS with one of the highest administrative cost per student in the nation. You have to ask yourself how can they spend so much on administration and be so poorly managed? I'm guessing it's the Fox guarding the hen house problem.

Who can move those dollars from downtown to the schools?

Joe Public

Anonymous said...

So, how are the additional district's boundaries decided?

Santo's website

there is a link to the bill, it's short and concise, takes effect July 1

sounds like she and Pettigrew are saying buzz-off northend, we'll take of our own, thank you very much.

Back to boundaries, do they want downtown taxes in their district? Maybe the two districts will split downtown SLU to the northend Stewart and south to the southend district.


Question said...

How would city taxes impact the school district? I thought all taxes went to Olympia.

Oy said...

If mayoral control passes, it is possible for the mayor to appoint 4 individuals; 2 in the north-end and 2 in the s. end.

Oy said...

Thanks to Peaslee, McLaren, Carr, Martin Morris and Blanford for signing the Gates contract- without a MOU with from the city. The Bailey Gatzert prek- will move into the city's hands with unknown conditions.

Anonymous said...

On taxes -- Only 55 percent of SPS' budget comes from the state. 25 percent comes from the local excess levy (the one we vote on every few years). Another 10 percent comes from "other" (revenue and grants) and the last 10 percent is federal funding.

Ideally, you want a mix of property types to keep costs down for homeowners. When the bill hits homeowners hard, the levies are harder to pass.

-Ramona H

Disgusted said...

One thing is for certain. If Santos is successful in breaking-up the distict; the rats and cronies doing the work for Gates and the Alliance will be broken-up and this is a good thing.

Tomiko- Santos indicated that SPS has a corporate culture and she wants a community culture.

Clearly, she understands the influence of the Chamber of Commerce, Ballmer, Matt Griffin, Gates, Ed Murray, Tim Burgess and their corporate backers etc.

Another Thought said...

There are benefits to breaking-up the district and this might not be a bad idea.

We have outside interests, hidden agendas, Ed Murray, Tim Burgess, The Alliance For Education, LEV - and their worker bees inside the John Stanford Center. We've watched special interests get their plans "embedded" into the strategic plan etc. No one can deny that there is a lack of transparency and attempts at end runs around the board. This is one way to break-up the rats.

Anonymous said...

Dora, That's it. Instead of addressing what's in front of them, they're going in the opposite direction. Equity has nothing to do with this unless it means more segregation. The cost of doing business doubles and that's only the beginning. This is total crap.


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how anyone who has watched SPS, much lass had children in it, thinks that splitting the pie ends corruption. Divide the pie and you create more opportunity for the rats.

None of our legislators are committed to their responsibility to raise revenue and adequately fund schools. This is desperate.


Anonymous said...

a frequent poster on my facebook, with inside SPS knowledge at the worker bee level, suggests just firing everyone who makes in excess of $100,000 a year and doesn't work with children. The poster also suggests that the few things that might go wrong would be worth the cost of flushing out all the empire builders, those most preoccupied with playing CYA and kick the can.

I can see how the dumb ideas of Pettigrew & others get traction - the track record of those managing this educational fiasco only shines if you're handing out rewards for obfuscation. However, to think that the well credentialed pilfering crowd is going to improve anything, beyond their personal net worth, is beyond laughable.


n said...

I'm no expert in any of this, but local is usually better. More accountability. I'm not denigrating anything about this proposal until I read more analysis. I don't see it as being detrimental at all. Personally, I'd rather pay two supers much less than one super so much that he's beholding to everybody except the proletariat. :) said...

Regarding splitting the school district in two:
Please make the following effective changes instead:
Fully fund education.
Pay directors and their staff ( = city council )
Clean out headquarters.
Improve the teaching corps.
Adjust curriculum and instruction (to effectively serve all children).
Support access to community based Success Coordinators (Personal Development Plans - Birth to 30).

Anonymous said...

Is there a bigger hypocrite than Pettigrew, who's own children are too good for SPS and attend Catholic Schools? No skin in the game, but all-too-ready to carve up the pie and give handouts to his Ed Reform string pullers.

The key question is who is actually writing these bills? Pettigrew doesn't know the first thing about Public Ed, yet he leads the charge to destroy it from his privileged position on the outside, with his own children free and clear of the consequences sure to befall others. This is the absolute worst kind of "leadership," i.e., selling out others when you have no skin in the game.

Simply disgusting. WSDWG

Anonymous said...

n - that's the thing. If I'm reading the bill correctly - the bill passes first and it mandates the superintendent of public instruction to THEN do the analysis. How and where to split geographically, redrawing boundaries, HR transfers, how the assets are divided, how levy funds are allocated, CBE - all of it. There are no details, no analysis, no fiscal note – nothing at this point.

I’m not really able to take that leap of faith when our legislators who can’t even follow a court order to fully fund education (which if it happens, I believe the outcomes Santos and Pettirgrew are upset about, will be improved)

If this were a serious bill, and they really wanted any kind of buy in from voters, the analysis and details would be pinned down first.

I am disappointed that this is how these legislators are choosing to spend our collective time and enerty when fully funding education should be their first priority.


Anonymous said...

And they're declaring it an "emergency" like they did with the Mariners stadium, in order to avoid the people's right to a referendum on the act.

One more way to disenfranchise the voting public by taking away their right to subject the legislation to a popular vote.

The "emergency" clause is THE RED FLAG in this legislation that should tip everyone off that the tail is trying to wag the dog again, knows they don't have the popular support, and wants to ram this down our throats like totalitarian dictators.

Shame on Tomiko-Santos and Pettigrew.


Ed said...


Pettigrew has never even been on the Education Committee!

He is simply a shill for LEV and charters.

n said...

Well-taken, Katydid. I do think our school district is too large. What to do about it? Well, that is the rub.

Lynn said...

Too large for what? We are not a large school district. Again, there are 93 districts larger than Seattle in the country.

n said...

Ninety-three out of how many? I think too large. So, what do you think the problem is, Lynn? Or is everything working just fine? I've been reading this blog through five plus superintendents. What's changed? What is your diagnosis? And remedy?

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