Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Superintendent Will Smile for Cameras (But Don't Ask Questions)

Tomorrow is the first day of school and naturally, the Superintendent likes to do a mini-tour of schools to welcome students, parents, teachers and staff back.  So I wasn't surprised to get a media announcement of where he would be.  But then there was this:
Please note, Dr. Nyland is not doing any one-on-one interviews at these events. There will be no formal press conference on the first day. Please understand he’s very tight on time and at the schools to greet and welcome students, not to discuss the recent strike.
So it's a photo op. Right after the first strike in Seattle Schools in 30 years.  A strike where his major public role was to ask the Board for the ability to take the teachers to court for striking.

And, he's a busy guy.

That's a pretty hard ask for reporters (and I'm only a citizen-reporter).  


Anonymous said...

This will net him what it should at contract renewal: a thanks for your time now it's time for a new supe search. Don't care how "nice" the guy is. You don't refuse to take questions about the strike. You're the leader.

You're the leader who for the 1st time in 30 years allowed a strike. That's right, we've had disengaged supes, divisive supes and downright inept supes in the last couple of decades, but never have we had one who failed so completely to engage with one's labor force that 3,000+ employees walked out the door for more than a week.

No shrugging your way through this debacle. And yes, it was a NATIONAL debacle.


Anonymous said...

I think this is appropriate. Tomorrow needs to be about our children. They should be allowed to be free of strike talk, media, and conflict and instead enjoy their first day of school.

I am so sick of people criticizing him for every move he makes. He is actually a pro union guy who has done a lot of good in districts after strikes to heal. Do some research on him - if you give him a chance you might appreciate him. Coming into this district as a super is like walking into a 3 alarm fire with a garden hose.

I do think it would be important to Nyland to have a press conference at some point soon, to answer some questions.

QA Parent

Anonymous said...

District watcher wrote about Larry Nyland:

"You're the leader who for the 1st time in 30 years allowed a strike."

So Nyland "Allowed" a strike? That is a bit harsh.

Did SEA Prez Jon Knapp also allow a strike?

More likely bigger fish like the Business Roundtable et al. had something to do with this as well.

Bewildered Mind

Melissa Westbrook said...

QA Parent, I'll lay you odds there will be no press conference. I'm still waiting for their detailed accounting of what this all means to the district and where the money will come to pay for it.

seattle citizen said...

I agree that it would be important news to hear the superintendent's thoughts on the negotiations, but his visits to schools on their first day is not the place to ask him for those thoughts. It's ALL about the students tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Nyland is not allowed to discuss negotiations or the TA before the union reads it and ratifies it. That is an unfair labor practice.

And I agree that tomorrow should be all about kids.


Anonymous said...

While I agree that tomorrow should be about the kids, I think that Nyland is not answerable to his constituencies. After his installment last autumn he seemed really only good for photo ops.


Anonymous said...

Recognized Nyland at an event where he was not the main thing and was standing quietly to the side. Walked up, cheerfully said, "hello Superintendent Nyland! I'm a parent at this school, thanks for being here!" He could not have been more unenthused to meet me and mumbled a couple of words and turned away. I've written him off since then. I can't get with a Sup who can't be bothered by a parent.

--annoyed by fakery

Lynn said...

You'd think for $1,500 a day he'd be willing to talk to us.

Po3 said...

I suspect he will be leaving within a year.

Anonymous said...

Didn't say Nyland needed to talk today or this weekend. But he does need to talk specifically to his largest workforce, to parents and to city voters about this episode, because it will reverberate for years to come in ways we do and do not expect today. The leader of an organization either addresses such a situation, or is no longer the leader.

A strike doesn't happen suddenly. The reasons for a strike build over time and preparation for a strike is broadcast weeks in advance. For the negotiators under Nyland to have come to the table with such a weak first offer ----- for the SPS administrative team to have failed to understand the pressure our teachers and thus our schools are under because of lack of resources and coherent management via SPS administration ----- for SPS to have been so utterly clueless about the support teachers have and the skepticism nay anger parents have toward the JSCEE management and practices --- for all this and more, Nyland needs to acknowledge past mistakes and lay out a plan for moving forward.

Bottom line, the strike happened on his watch. Not on the watch of Olchefske, Manhas, Goodloe-Johnson or Banda, all of whom had serious flaws in their leadership, yet never reached such a point of animosity with its workforce that a strike took place.

Nyland needs to speak soon. And unless he has something substantive in terms of apologies and future planning, he also needs to move along soon. Ditto any board members who have supported him.


Anonymous said...

District Watcher..
You said it!! I'm a teacher and I think this strike could have been avoided. It's been building and the fact that the negotiators didn't realize it, or didn't care, does not speak well.

Anonymous said...

This was a comment on a friend's fb wall. This is what Nyland has been busy doing...Sorry if it was reported already - it's the first I'd seen/heard of it.

To: District Leadership Team
From: Larry Nyland
Date: August 13, 2015
RE: Reorganization
Providing schools and families strong systems that support academic outcomes and meet student needs is central to our district mission. As superintendent, I am committed to make the necessary changes to support our students, schools, staff and families.

As I and previous superintendents have noted – Seattle has many silos. We also have many policies which require multiple handoffs between divisions. Due to the complexity of our silos we sometimes fail to make the handoffs between silos in a fluid and transparent way. My intent is to clarify division roles in a way that makes it easier for staff and the public to find support.

Earlier this year I asked for two reviews: one for the legal department and one for the other divisions. Between these two reviews, more than 50 central office employees were interviewed regarding: organizational structures and functions, strengths and challenges, and perceived administrative needs. Recommendations suggested that we continue to align functions and provide clear pathways for decision-making and provide needed support to the Instructional side of the organization.

To that end, as superintendent, I am organizing the administrative team to:
Support the strategic plan
Build further capacity in central office to support schools
Provide greater possibilities for succession
Reduce silos
Increase coherence
Minimize added cost

Support and clarify key initiatives
Work toward customer service improvements
Systems clarification
Simplifying collaboration

1. Make the shifts (re-org) for the 2015-16 year (now).
2. Evaluate results (Spring of 16).
3. Then, make necessary adjustments (June 2016)

Specifically, I will be making the following changes:
Increasing Teaching and Learning Support by elevating the existing Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning to an Associate Superintendent role and adding the new Chief of Schools position. This new Chief of Schools position will provide more coordination between schools, greater implementation of district goals, and increased support for parents and schools. The Chief of Schools also retains responsibility for leadership development. In addition, I will transfer to the Associate Superintendent of Teaching and Learning (from Operations) the Executive Director of Coordinated School Health and Positive Climate and consider added support for MTSS-B and Closing the Opportunity Gap. This will align those
functions with Teaching and Learning. Finally, the Director of Grants will transfer (from Business and Finance) – again to align categorical grants with the direction and focus of Teaching and Learning.

Consolidating Facilities and Operations by elevating the existing Assistant Superintendent of Facilities to Associate Superintendent of Facilities and Operations. The Assistant Superintendent for Operations (Logistics, Transportation, Food Service, Safety, Security, Crisis Team, Threat Analysis and Media Center) will become part of the Associate Superintendent team. This move combines the work of Facilities and Operations under one leadership team as is the case for most districts of our size. This will also allow for greater communications between enrollment services and enrollment planning.

Family and Community Engagement: is one of the three major goals of the district strategic plan. However, those functions remain scattered between Director of Equity, Director of Community Partnerships, Communications Office, the Ombudsperson and Customer Service. In order to strengthen our Family and Community Engagement efforts:
The Ombuds role will evolve to include customer service
The Chief Partnership Officer (renamed position) will be asked to further develop and coordinate the family and community engagement work

to be continued

Anonymous said...


Creating a Student Civil Rights Compliance Office that will report to the Deputy Superintendent. This will allow us to better comply with the OCR, Title IX, Title II, and HIB requirements that we are currently working on. This entails the hiring of two positions (Student Civil Rights Compliance Officer and Accessibility Coordinator); reassigning the Title IX position and one investigator position from HR and Student HIB from Operations. This change is driven by the field trip settlement of $700,000, the recommendations of the Title IX task force, OCR/ADA settlement agreements and increases in student HIB complaints.

In other moves:
Purchasing will move from Operations to Business and Finance where it will align with Finance functions
Customer Service will move from Operations to the office of the Ombudsperson

Audit Response manager will move to the Deputy Superintendent office where there will be district-wide oversight in concert with the strategic priorities of the district

Continuous Improvement and K-12 School Operations will merge to better serve schools.

The Executive Director for Strategic Planning and Partnerships will be retitled as Chief Partnership Officer and be asked to bring clarity and coherence to:
o Teacher partnerships, evaluation, support and development, including Career Ladder Coordinators
o Family and Community engagement as outlined above

Legal department adjustments will await the final determination of the administrative leave for the General Counsel

Finally, I will appoint an Implementation Team to address any concerns or feedback you have as we implement these changes. On my behalf, they will work out details, collect feedback, make necessary adjustments, and help with transition plans of new roles.
Our schools are doing great work and we want to support that momentum. It is my hope that these changes will increase our ability to meet the needs of our 53,000 students, their families and our dedicated staff.

Anonymous said...

Thanks District Watcher for, as usual, telling it like it is.

And thanks gobbledygook for the Reorg info - I guess I'm a giant skeptic, but its not screamingly obvious how that isn't just a bunch of title changes with some minor moving of parts. Perhaps someone with more knowledge can chime in?


Anonymous said...

Those were my initial thoughts too, reader 47. Lots of moving parts, but what are they actually going to be doing?


Anonymous said...

Imagine if he had taken questions today. No matter what he said, the knee jerk reaction amongst many around here would be that he was trying to tamper with or "bully" the union and their process. No matter what he said. He's damned if he do and damned if he don't. In my opinion, he made the best choice.

Fremont dad

Anonymous said...

You're right, Fremont dad. Nyland and the district could be sued for an unfair labor practice if he said anything to try to influence the general membership vote. Phyllis can jump out in front and declare victory while management is allowed to say nothing. Give him a break. While he may not be the flashiest new toy, he knows schools better than any superintendent I've ever seen and he has a mighty task ahead to turn this ship around. I suspect his reorg plan is a very careful step in the right direction . . . not too much at one time.

DistrictWatcher, you're just dead wrong about the district failing to avert this strike. Did you read Danny Westneat's column quoting Jonathan Knapp that the strike was planned from before negotations started to follow the Chicago Model: pander to a few hot topics with active parents -- recess and testing -- and stir up public support. SBAC refusals and McLeary rulings only stoked the flames. There was no way Nyland could have stopped this strike without giving away the store.


Anonymous said...

I agree with Fremont Dad and Emile on both fronts.

I am almost certain this strike was planned by the SEA before negotiations started. Talk to anyone who was at the WEA RA in April. They talked about it then. There was no way the district could have diverted this strike, without giving 21% raises, and fulfilling every other bargaining request. Before people start claiming it would have been good for the district to show up and bargain, I ask you to look at the SPS Proposal and Bragaining Timeline and then challenge the SEA to present any kind of data that refutes it. And also, why doesn't someone demand to know why SEA suspended bargaining from June 23-July 23. The same people who throw flames at this district based on rumors are unwilling to stand up to SEA about the misinformation they have backed from day one. I have lost all confidence in my fellow teachers, parents, and Seattleites, to think critically and make decisions based on evidence.


Anonymous said...

It is not uncommon for negotiation and strikes to be planned at the same time. Shoreline did that and they didn't strike.
I do think that the strike was avoidable. If they had taken the extended day off the table, most teachers I know would not have struck. Of course there were lots of concerns and lots of wants, but most teachers wouldn't have struck over them. The extended day was the final straw for many people.

Anonymous said...

As has been pointed out by others here, it's impossible to believe the teachers didn't want a strike when you watch the video of their vote for it. They all looked like it was something to party about.
NE Dad

Anonymous said...

Agreed with NE Dad. The teachers union wanted this. If it wouldn't have been the extended day, it would have been something else. The offer on the table when they called the strike was a total of 9.2% over the 3 years and they settled on 9.5% over three years. The strike wasn't about money, or the extended day, or not enough recess, or testing, or any of those other things that the union claimed it was about (and the teachers couldn't really explain why they were on strike) It was about making a statement. They had it planned and made it impossible for the district to avoid. They inflamed the district without any data. They union took the entire month of July off from bargaining and then blamed the district for dragging their feet. They refused to bargain in the two days before the strike vote. They had no intent on settling this contract before a strike was called.

They now need to approve the TA that their leaders and bargaining team recommended and they need to keep kids in school. Support is waning.

QA Parent

Lynn said...


You seem to be very familiar with the Superintendent's skill set - in a way they doesn't seem possible from an outsider. Do you work with him?

David said...

Even if the teachers union did "want this," I don't really care. I was happy to stand with them and would do it again. The district needed a wake up call that putting more and more demands on teachers every year without really any support for them wouldn't fly.

Watching in Bleachers said...

Oh I wonder what kind of a pay jump will be required to go from "Assistant" Supt. to an "Associate" Supt.? Tolley was already making $202K last year with a staff of how many Exec. Dir. Directors at $162K a pop.... I guess they'll need raises too now that the role of teaching and learning is apparently a critically in view one.

... sigh...must be nice to live and work in the glass palace. I have to go now, I have to take what extra money we have to go buy more pencils, paper and cleaning supplies for my student's school because there is no budget for things "like that".

Anonymous said...

Funny, I wondered about that too - would the title changes mean extra pay - wonder if that's what the proposal for raises to the School Board was about that didn't get discussed due to the strike. How they can possibly ask for more with a straight face, given some of those numbers is waaaaay beyond me.


Anonymous said...

Not sure what your point is. I've been attending school board meetings for over thirty years.