Friday, February 13, 2015

Seattle Times Editorial Board Continues Its Droning on School Board

The Times has yet another editorial on the state of the Seattle School Board.  Yawn.

This time around they reference the three bills before the Legislature around large districts.

HB 1665 -  Increasing compensation for school directors in districts enrolling twenty thousand or more students.

HB 1497 - Concerning appointments of the board of directors of a school district of the first class having within its boundaries a city with a population of four hundred thousand people or more.

 HB 1860 - that would limit a school district size to 35,000
(affecting SPS only).  

The Times really does a job on the Board in its opening paragraph saying that the turnover of superintendents is a source of "gossip" as well as concern.  I don't know what to say to that charge except that people die (Stanford), people don't do their jobs (Olchefske and Goodloe-Johnson) and people leave (see the rest).  

They claim that "parents, business leaders and elected leaders" are "lamenting" the Board and its workings.  

Really?  All those people are standing around wringing their hands over the Board?  Maybe those who want to control public education but interestingly - at least from the Board elections - the voters aren't feeling the same way.  Otherwise, they would have elected these great business types. 

They also reference a 2013 consultant study of the Board (done BY the Board) but only mention the bad stuff.  There was a lot of good stuff said - by BOTH the Board and senior staff - about each other.  
The Times also claims there is "no cohesive vision" from the Board.  If that's true, then they should also be blaming the superintendents because THEY are the ones to help create and enact that vision.  Funny how the Times always goes after the Board. 

"Something needs to be done."  Uh oh.


The Times then mentions the three bills above.   They support the mayoral appointments and the board member compensation.  (Nothing about the stinkbomb that is HB 1860.  I still can't find any media entity or elected official, save the sponsors, who likes this idea.)

In talking about compensating Board members of larger districts, the Times also oddly says that in Seattle, Board membership requires about 20 hours a week.  (I can hear the laughter of the Board from JSCEE.)

That might be 20 hours may be on paper - required Board meetings and committee meetings - but most Board members put in far more time.  That time would not be compensated but getting something more is a good first step.  (The bill would not provide a salary but compensate Board members for required meetings.)

Once again, Rep. Eric Pettigrew makes a point that is not the crux of the problem.  He says the board needs to be stabilized and that mayoral appointment of two positions would help that.

 First, the whole Board never turns over in one go.  (That could only happen with a recall of all seven members.)  Second, Board members don't always run again - it happens.  That doesn't mean there is turmoil - there could be a lot of reasons someone doesn't run again.

The Times cites the stepping up of activity  - by the City - in public education.  So how does the City's aggressive insertion of itself into public education mean it's a good thing?

In an effort to make HB 1497 for mayoral appointment seem more palatable, they try to say this "hybrid" form is "the best of both worlds."

Again, I'm smart enough to vote for 5 of the 7 Board members but not all of them?

What does the Mayor know that I don't?

Why would someone wait around to be appointed and not run if they truly thought they could make a difference?

And, if I'm not smart enough to vote for the entire Board, then how am I smart enough to vote for another, larger group of people, namely, the City Council?  Why isn't the Mayor appointing some of them?

They hen have someone from UW saying something strange.  Tom Halverson, according to the Times, says that "the current elected board of seven has been hamstrung by its internal conflicts for at least two decades."  How is that even possible since none of them has been there for 20 years?  I'm thinking that the Times was clumsy in its writing and meant that there has been 20 years of internal conflicts on the Board and that this Board is no different.

I think over the last 20 years there has been some diversity - both in backgrounds and race - to the Seattle School Board.  Would it be good if MORE people felt they could run?  Yes but mayoral appointment is NOT going to find those people.

At the end the Times claims that mayoral appointments would NOT fix "long-standing problems" nor "would it ensure that only the best candidates end up on the Board."  So what will it do?

"...provide a catalyst for better governance."

I find that kind of baffling for a couple of reasons.  Having a hybrid board would not change governance.  I looked up "governance" and it's the processes, not the people, of an entity.  Only the Board can change how it works - the addition of new people does not change the rules/policies by which the Board operates.

Second, it still begs the question of how the Mayor is better equipped to pick people to be on the Board?  Will he look for diversity?  Business acumen?

And, won't all candidates elected to be mayor of Seattle have different lens' and differing ideas on Board candidates?  Would Mayor Burgess?  How about Mayor Sawant?

I don't know how this bill can pass without someone answering these questions.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Next week is the deadline for each House to pass their bills. HB 1497 has been heard but is not scheduled to be voted on. HB 1860 was changed to HB 2048 and heard this past Tues.and is scheduled for a vote this coming Tues. In order for school districts to pay their board members, the board would have to vote to do so and then include the money in the levy. The state won't pay for it.
Catherine

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing the legislature is using these as distractions so no one will notice they've done nothing about McCleary. Punishment too, perhaps, for making their job harder? Funny how they avoid their biggest task.

CT

Watching said...

I agree with CT. We're seeing lots of educational bills, but not seeing a strong foundation to fund education.