Sunday, March 08, 2015

The trouble with the recent settlement

As was reported and discussed, Seattle Public Schools recently settled a sexual harassment suit for $249,999. This situation provides a number of examples of the District's dysfunctional culture of lawlessness. Shall we count them?

  1. The staff attempted to keep the settlement from the Board.
  2. The staff attempted to keep the settlement from the public.
  3. Rather than being held accountable for the failure at the heart of this litigation, the principal in the case was promoted - twice.
  4. No one has been or ever will be held accountable for this failure.
  5. No one has been or ever will be held accountable for trying to cover up the failure.
  6. No one has been or ever will be held accountable for trying to keep the settlement from the board or the public.
  7. This settlement will not lead to any improvements or changes in the way the District handles these sorts of complaints. No lessons were learned.
  8. The District enacted a crisis response plan for exactly this sort of public relations disaster, and the crisis response utterly failed. There will be no effort to improve that either.
Think how differently everything would have been if, ten years ago, and this year, the District staff had simply followed the policy and procedure. None of this would have happened.


Anonymous said...

Charlie, thank you for following these dysfunctional situations and outlining the actual problems with the district's actions so clearly and succinctly.

It's easy to get into a "he said/she said" with these situations and your analysis cuts that out and gets to the crux of the problem.


Melissa Westbrook said...

And if NOTHING else proves that the dysfunction in this district is at the district hired leadership level and NOT the Board - this case is it.

Anonymous said...

And that is why the district needs to be split. The rot is too deep and so deep downtown that the tree of dysfunction must be chopped down. Two ugly trees might grow in its place. But that is only a possibility. And it would take generations to get to the diseased present.

The reality is that wormwood exists here and won't die without dire measures.

Split Now

Anonymous said...

I agree this clearly validates the argument that this district is rotten to the core and we need to cut it down and replant to grow a healthy forest.

-- Split this mess

Anonymous said...

Splitting the district would only be a distraction. What needs to happen is that people should be fired it encouraged to resign. Ron English being put on leave is a start,


Anonymous said...

That should have read "fired or encouraged to resign".

Splitting the district would not make that happen. In fact, it would allow bad players to remain onboard, since experience/longetivity usually trumps ethics/honesty whenever there is a huge reorgination like that. The belief would be that experienced people would be needed to lead and re-form the administration.

What we need is a superintendent with a backbone and a reputation for cleaning house, plus an old fashioned layoff. There are CEOs in industry like this. Aren't there any in the traveling superintendent circuit?


Melissa Westbrook said...

"And it would take generations to get to the diseased present."

No, it wouldn't but thanks for the hyperbole to beat that drum for a split.

It would take a superintendent who would come in, review and clean up. So far, we have been unable to find such a person since John Stanford (and we'll never know if he would have finished the job).

Anonymous said...

That pretty clearly lays things out. I'm baffled as to why one would assume splitting the district would solve this type of issue. If anything, it seems like it would only magnify the problems. Twice as many opportunities to play games. Because as Observer points out, experience would be an asset during a reorg - especially one that requires duplication of effort.

Thanks for telling it like it is once more Charlie.


Charlie Mas said...

Yes, a superintendent who is committed to compliance could clean house. So could a Board that is committed to compliance.

Institutional culture flows down from the top. In Seattle Public Schools, that's the Board.

A Board committed to compliance would require compliance from the superintendent.

Greeny said...

Yes, please Splitters - splitting would not help things, and would most certainly make things worse, for reasons'observer' and 'reader 47' point out. To stay with the tree analogy a bit, "splitting" does NOT equate with "chopping down" - we can't start from zero and keep a functioning school district, much less two. Keeping of some wood is inevitable. I agree with your conclusion, Split Now - "the reality is that wormwood exists here and won't die without dire measures." Except dire measures cannot be a split, which will keep who knows what wormwood at what levels to continue the rot creep until it finally manifests where we see it (what's your guess: 1 out of every 10 "$249,999ers" - ie hide attempts - make it to our radar now? 1 in 20?) We need the wormwood cut out ASAP, and to keep the best, healthy wood, as well as whatever wood that can be nursed into health with a strong healthy leader. THAT demands someone successful at renovating whole orchards, knows an ax from a pruner and keeps BOTH sharp. THAT, as Observer & Melissa allude, is a turnaround expert in the Superintendent seat. And no, Melissa, we have not been "unable to find such a person" - this Board, as I know you'll recall, around last Thanksgiving opted to not even look.

Greeny said...

Exactly that, Charlie.

What is/has been Nyland's explanation? Surely the School Board has demanded one? And, will hold him accountable? For surely coming in when he did, he was well aware, and I would dare expect well-briefed on SPS' Title IX thin-ice (to say the least.)

The "I didn't know" trotted out by this consultant to superintendents stretched incredulity last time...

ConcernedSPSParent said...

You think Sherry Carr is going to do anything?. She is one of those who got Larry 'Shrug' Nyland appointed without due comminity input!. Nyland stuck it to the board by signing the penny short deal and Carr will do nothing.

Anonymous said...

I think it is disingenuous to bemoan a "culture of lawlessness" year after year, for good reason, and then defend maintaining SPS as usual when an alternative is offered because it could "theoretically improve someday."

The politics behind the split proposal are dubious, especially with the charter vultures in the wings, but c'mon...SPS won't get any worse than it is now if there's a split.

"Maybe someday when we get a leader or board with backbone" is about like saying "Someday when I win the lotto" when talking about this district.

This blog exists because of the chronic dysfunction and lack of ethics in this district. The rebuttals based on "John Stanford (RIP) made sure the phones were answered and he fired some people" and "maybe there's another general with a spine who wants to work here" are simply not credbile defenses for maintaining the cesspool.

If you are against the split, better reasons are needed than these. Your child not getting into Garfield doesn't cut it, either.

Fear of ed. reformers in the southend is a credible reason to be against the split. That's about the only one that's been offered so far that has any merit.

--enough already

Melissa Westbrook said...

Like charters, like Common Core and now - via Enough Already - there is "defending maintain SPS as usual."

News flash - this blog has NEVER defended the status quo. We want change, we have advocated change.

But doing something to "do something" is childish and will not help. Careful examination of the issues - transparently - is the way forward.

SPS will get worse if there is a split and there will be no going back.

I have made my reasons for not having a split pretty clear but I'm sure Charlie and I could create a great list.

Anonymous said...

To be clear...

John Stanford visited one of my schools several times, shook hands with teachers, looked us in the eye, and asked about our very difficult classrooms and school. He meant business and cared.

He also spoke at the Democratic National Convention and probably would not have been in SPS for long even without his illness.

I had great respect for him but came to realize that our district had quickly become a stepping stone to higher and greener pastures.

--enough already

Anonymous said...

"Wanting" reform in SPS means nothing. Look at what "advocating for reform" in SPS has gotten...the eternal recurrance of the same.

The best part of this split proposal is that people "downtown" have gotten a bit nervous.

I like that.

--enough already (who's been anti-deform way before it showed up on this blog's radar)

Greeny said...

Enough already, you are quite wrong on this: "SPS won't get any worse than it is already" if it is split in two. First, it defies logic. Second, it doesn't address root causes, it merely hides them with the smokescreen of confusion for a few years.

This post clearly lays out the problem - the root: accountability. How does your idea solve it? It does not. Unless you presume, with a split, you intend to find TWO education turnaround experts? (and who's going to manage that into compatibility? It's not possible, enough. The idea of a split does not have merit. But, it IS distracting us, by splitting our voice, from getting behind what IS possible: ONE turn-around CEO/ CFO/ Superintendent/change expert is what is needed. To get that, we need a School Board that recognizes the need, and the urgency. That requires US to get on that page, and elect Board members with a turnaround agenda. Peters & Patu need support, before they burnout swimming uphill. But it's not a lotto proposition.

Anonymous said...

Could someone tell me when this dead General was the Superintendent? Was he the last of the Great Generals which well of late also seem to be fading in memory.. Patton quite the racist..

But needless to say what did he do exactly and specifically. Be detailed I have time.

Is this split something to do with the "revered" Garfield- a school for scandal every other week. Probably right now that strange Principal is jealous that Eckstein was in the news over him. Met his son? Chip off the block there probably will get the gig in 10 years when he graduates.

Man since moving to Seattle I have never seen a city so caught up in the past and legacy quite like this place. Odd since 60% o the residents are transplants.

Well get me that list I need a laugh.

- Curious and Curiouser

Anonymous said...

Stanford was supt. from about 1995-98. He did not walk on water, by any means, but he's the only superintendent in district memory who was beyond mediocre.

In SPS Land, that qualifies for canonization.

--enough already

Kate Martin said...

Does Marni Campbell still work for the district? What kind of repercussions does she face as then principal in response to the BS at Eckstein?

-Kate Martin

Melissa Westbrook said...

Curiouser, fyi Stanford was black so whatever you think of "generals," Stanford was not racist.

He did two things - one ephemeral, one set things in motion for a big change.

The ephemeral thing was bringing much of Seattle together,especially SPS staff, on this "let's do this together." He made people believe in public education. In short, he made people care.

It was a very important time for SPS and we have never gotten that idea back. (I feel Stanford cared about parents and teachers in a way that no superintendent since has.)

The set-in-motion idea was the decentralization of the district. I think some of it came from the guy who he selected to be CFO - Joe Olchefske (who took over when Stanford died) - who had this concept of "tight, loose." Meaning, if schools are doing well, they don't need as much oversight from central (and are somewhat freed to choose their own course) - that's loose. And, when schools are not doing well, then they get the "tight" which is tight oversight of their school.

I think Stanford would have sourced out more of the workings at headquarters as well.

But we ended up keeping Olchefske - without a search - and that turned out badly (for the district, no Olchefske).

I, too, believe that Stanford would have left for greener pastures but might have done some good before he left.

Anonymous said...

You'd think that after paying out close to $1M in settlements in the past year, SPS leadership would get the message that being an accountability-free zone isn't necessarily cost effective. But if they're bound and determined to validate the Peter Principle time and again, I suppose they'll just have to budget more for outside attorney's fees and monetary damages.


Anonymous said...

Exactly, greeny. The core issue is accountability.

Its more than a false argument to say that anyone who is against the "split" is FOR the status quo. They just don't happen to see a split as the "glory hallelujah we've all been saved" answer to what is the, again, the core issue. accountability. Intelligent people can agree to disagree on the best solution for resolving that.

Personally, that starts with the Legislature being accountable for their duty to fully fund basic education.

And the Supt (any Supt) holding his exec staff accountable for their actions.

And the Board (any Board) holding it's one employee accountable for the actions of his/her subordinates.

That's true in the existing district. It's true in any mythical split district.

Unless and until accountability becomes the mantra of SPS, there will always be some entity ready and willing to prey on the dysfunction.


Anonymous said...

Did the teacher get charged with any crime for his behavior that was the basis of this incident? Is he still teaching? Did he leave Eckstein after the incident?

Anonymous said...

The SPS accountability issues or failure to follow State and Federal laws have nothing to do with funding. SPS gets over $920,000,000 per year and is far from being impoverished. Why do people insist on using lack of funding as an excuse for SPS lawless behaviors.


Anonymous said...

@ observer,
"traveling superintendent circuit"
Good one.

Lynn said...

I think that the board should amend Policy 6220 to exempt settlements negotiated by the legal department. If all settlement agreements were brought before the board for approval, they (and the superintendent) would be forced to face the culture of the district.

Has anyone here ever requested the total amount spent by year on settlements?

NEmom - the teacher is still working in the district and with a population that I'd consider more vulnerable than most.

Anonymous said...

Okay so let me understand something about the General (yes I know he was black thank you for telling me anyway) is unlike the current crop of Generals who are finally being outed as the scum, sexist, sleeping around and in fact now admitting racist and anti semite as Patton is now been shown to be (that was my point and not some vauge allegation that the Black General Stanford was racist)... that this General with no background in Education demonstrated compassion and team building. And anything else that you can list that is tangible and verifiable other than feeling good?

As we have come to see that 3 years is the maximum be it death or disgrace that Superintendents leave this City.

And that says we should not maybe split it up as the last person who had a warm fuzzy was nearly 20 years ago and since then the district is falling to pieces.

I see the legacy thing here clearly.. the past was so great wasn't it.. depending on who's rose colored (whoops used the word colored) glasses you are using.

Have any here run for this board of incompetence? Why not or what happened there.

Tell, I have time.

- curious and curioser

Mr.Bones said...

"Does Marni Campbell still work for the district? What kind of repercussions does she face as then principal in response to the BS at Eckstein?"

Campbell was promoted to be Director of Special Education in Seattle(despite having not training in special education and never having been a special education teacher). She now works for the Highline School District as Executive Director -- another big step up.

Melissa Westbrook said...

According to the Times' article, the teacher is on leave. It is unclear what happens next.

I have not heard anyone blame lack of funding for the issues at SPS headquarters. But when you have those in leadership who decide where the money goes and for what - not listening to parents and teachers - then it does become an issue.

Curious and curioser,you are welcome to search thru this blog for many answers to your questions. Myself, I don't have time.

Mr. Bones, that would be an interesting conversation to hear between Campbell and her current boss, former SPS superintendent Susan Enfield.

Johnny Calcagno said...

I'm hesitant to call attention to a specific comment above, but common decency would suggest that we all should avoid comments about the children of SPS staff.

Enough said, hopefully.

Charlie Mas said...

I don't see how a split District would contribute to a culture of compliance, but I'm willing to hear an explanation.

I like the idea of every legal settlement, regardless of value, requiring board approval. That's a very good suggestion.

In the end, though, it will still come down to someone in the District leadership insisting on compliance with the law, regulations, policy, and the District's stated values. All it takes is one person.

Anonymous said...

I agree, Johnny. I was going to post the same. It is totally unacceptable to post about children of SPS staff, employees. I think postings like that should be deleted.

Roadsign said...

When we read reports about a teacher "pressing his body" against a teenage girl we are universally outraged. Something like that is disgusting and child sexual abuse really does happen so reports like this must be true, right?

As a 30-year teacher I have seen one true report (it was beyond horrific) and at least seven reports from parents about teachers abusing their children that turned out to be demonstrably false.

False reports do happen and they destroy people's lives forever. Each case follows a predictable course -- the parent reports to the principal and a teacher is put on leave until the district can "investigate" the allegations. These "investigations" usually take 6 months to a year. Nobody has ever been able to explain why they take so long.

Here are some examples: a teacher pulling a child out of the way of a school bus driving in the loading zone. The student went home, told their parent the teacher had grabbed them too roughly -- the teacher put on leave and then transferred to a different school.

A child was on top of another child punching him in the face during a playground fight and a teacher pulled the student off the victim. The parent complained that the teacher shouldn't have touched their child. The teacher put on leave for two months and then returned to work without any comment from the district.

A parent volunteer was yelling at an autistic student on the playground so a teacher told the parent to stop upsetting the child. The parent smeared the teacher to other staff that the teacher was "unsafe" to be around children, but left what "unsafe" meant as deliberately ambiguous so people would assume the worst.

BTW, a teacher can be disciplined/terminated for doing nothing in situations like these.

A very recent case where a teacher patted the back of a misbehaving student's hand. The student reported the teacher had slapped them despite witness statements that called it a "pat." The teacher put on leave, eventually returned to work but the parent wrote emails to the entire staff calling the teacher "dangerous" and demanding she be observed by the principal or teacher at all times. Like a lot of people who dedicate their lives to children, the teacher was emotionally devastated by the attack and chose to resign because of the harrassment.

This stuff happens all the time.

Anonymous said...

Another area where a culture of lawlessness exists is around military recruiting.Superintendent Procedure 4200 SP.A and B, signed 2/28/2012 (cross reference Board Policy 4200), calls for recruiters to obtain permission to visit schools on a schedule. Additionally, counter-recruiters are to be made available. Regrettably, reduced counseling staff leave no one in charge to enforce these rules.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm sure false reports do happen.

But, in this case, very little happened from this "investigation." The student was not moved from the classroom, it seemed to be quite a cursory "investigation" and all of that backfired on the district.

Which leaves the teacher hanging.

(It would be interesting to know if the teacher had gone to his union rep and asked what could be done to protect him.)

I understand all of this and yet, in the end, who gets hurt? A teacher who may not have done something that justified exiting him or her (and has their name tainted) and taxpayers.

It doesn't punish those who are suppose to do careful investigations that protect everyone.

I am aware of that last incident referenced (the hand slap/pat). I will also say that teacher has been moved around a lot in the district.

Lynn said...

It is good to hear that teacher resigned.

If five other schools chose not to retain an employee, if several chose to cancel a program in order to facilitate the transfer and if that teacher's coworkers agreed to spend their planning periods in the teacher's classroom would that friendly pat on the hand seem a bit more suspicious?

There are two sides to every story.

BP said...

Most music teachers have several schools they move around to. It's the nature of their job. The teachers agreed to stay in the teacher's classroom to support her and protect her from a harassing parent.

Uh yeah. A teacher should lose their job for slapping a hand.

There's two sides to every story.