Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Listening in on the School Board Meeting

Update #2: The Seattle Times is reporting that the district has put Carol Burton, the music teacher at Garfield, on administrative leave "while the district finds another job for her."  

Ms Burton described the news to the Times as being like "getting kicked in the stomach."

SEA president-elect Phyllis Campano, in her testimony at last night's Board meeting, tried to talk about the issue but got waved off by President Patu due to Board rules about testifying about a specific personnel matter.  She went on to speak generally about how administrative leaves are costly for the district and hard on teachers.

I note that Ms. Burton's lawyer says that Ms Burton would not have allowed the male student at the crux of the field trip incidents on the trip if she had known about his past history.  That directly contradicts what she said during the district's investigation of the trip. 

end of update.

Update: Shannon Stanton, Alki  principal, is leaving as is Roxhill principal, Sahnica Washington.

end of update.

It appears that Shauna Heath, Executive Director of Teaching and Learning, is leaving Seattle Schools. In Director Harris' director remarks, she referenced Heath and wished her well on her new life in Brazil.

The student speaker was Rochelle Bowyer from Center School. She did a great job in representing her school and how the issue of loss of arts there would be detrimental to the school.

Carlina Brown-Banks came forward to thank the Board for working to find funding for IB at Rainier Beach High. She generously called out that there are two other IB programs in the district - at Chief Sealth and Ingraham - and that the district needs to help support them as well.

My heart is gladden by all the great student speakers tonight. They offered superlative thoughts about both the IB programs, Center School and the Garfield Music program. (I do worry about the last speaker - a young woman from Garfield - who is missing her regular classes to teach the music classes.)

I have rarely looked at the district's "Gold book" on the budget but this year, I'm going to try to comb thru it and try to understand where the money is going.

I also note that earlier in the meeting, the issue of the cuts of family support workers at about eight schools in our district. As a couple of directors pointed out, there was discussion at the Mayor's Education Summit about having support in schools and wrap-around services and yet, these schools are losing that support. I think some on the Board are interested in understanding more about how the City funds these positions thru the Families and Education levy.

Board comments point out the irony that Loyal Heights drama group did a wonderful scene from The Wizard of Oz. (I missed that but I can't wait for the video to put available and I will link it here.). The irony is that it was followed by testimony from both Center School and Garfield High students about arts in their young lives and academic careers.


Anonymous said...

Can she take Tolley? Changes made on their watch will be detrimental to students for a long time.

open ears

Watching said...

At one point, the city wanted all Family Support workers to have a masters degree. At the time, I was working with a Family Support worker that did not have those credentials and she did an outstanding job.

It would be interesting to track the timeline related to Family Support workers and the city of Seattle. I imagine we are looking at one of their 'course corrections' related to test scores.

Charlie Mas said...

When Ms Heath goes, all of her unfulfilled promises go with her. Any promise that she ever made to anyone is now void. While the Board had a chance of holding her to her promise to evaluate the advanced learning programs, they have no chance of holding her successor to that promise. Whatever timetables she agreed to meet for MTSS are now void. Her successor will come up with all new timetables starting from scratch. It will be year one for everything all over again.

This is one of the great faults of Seattle Public Schools. Everything is personal; nothing is institutional.

Lynn said...


Maureen said...

Carlina Brown-Banks, not Carolina. She was great!

I walked out with a tremendous amount of respect for the Garfield choir students, but yes, I wonder about the amount of time that young woman was spending teaching other students. Maybe she was APP and already has enough High School credits to graduate? I don't understand how a school can offer High School credit for a class that has an unqualified sub and is, in effect, being taught by a 17 year old. Though I have a feeling this sort of thing happens more often than we know.

KSparent said...

I wanted to clarify that the senior student at Garfield High School has taken on teaching these choir classes and directing the school's choir because the highly qualified and well respected teacher who is supposed to be in the classroom was first terminated by the District and then when reinstated by a King County judge after a long court case, is not being allowed back in the classroom despite the desperate need for a music teacher at GHS. The man who was hired by the District to replace the terminated choir teacher, walked out in the middle of the day a few months ago and has not been back and does not intend to return. Then the District brought in a substitute teacher who knows nothing about music is not qualified in any way to teach these students. Hence, this dedicated high school senior gives up her classes to to take this on because the adults who are in charge continue to make choices that are not in the interests of the students.
SO that is why this high school senior is not in her classes, It has nothing to do with being in APP and having enough credits. Can we just agree that this is leadership at its worst.

Charlie Mas said...

Are choir teachers so hard to find? I can understand the difficulty in finding a substitute who can direct the choir, but they could have found a full-time permanent replacement. Is this the school or the district?

Unknown said...

Charlie, We don't have a desire for a permanent replacement that isn't Burton. She won her court case and must be put back in SPS. If the only thing that speaks to the district is money, the legal battle over this will not end until Burton is back at GHS. If the District truly thinks she is a "danger" to students which is absurd, it still doesn't make sense not to put her at Garfield because they have to put her somewhere and GHS loves her, knows her, and has had her for 14 years as she has built the remarkable program. She is of course not a danger as the judge found and we are hopeful that the district will look at this logically and see that this whole thing can be over and learning can commence. Many times in the past year we have wondered, what happened to "Every student. Every classroom. Everyday."
-choir student

Unknown said...

The other thing is that this is a program that is crashing. We believe the only person who can return the numbers and save the program that may be cut is Ms. Burton. Otherwise, the choir program will be gone next year and they will have an excuse to let it fold.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa Westbrook said...

Unknown, are you saying that if the district had hired a full-time replacement parents and students would reject that person? It's the district's call to put teachers where they want them. I'm with Charlie in being a bit baffled that they didn't find someone else.

If the district didn't make a good-faith effort to find a real music teacher than it does look odd.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Melissa and Charlie here.... It is absolutely absurd that first, the permanent hire "walked out" and hasn't been back.

Was he given a chance by the community or viewed as an inadequate replacement for Carol Burton and just gave up?

Or was he truly unqualified to teach this position.

I noted a few weeks ago that there are lots of people who are certified to and desire to teach music at the high school level, and very few 1.0 FTE jobs. I have more than a couple friends who always dreamed of being a music teacher (whether that was band, orchestra, choir, or all of the above), got their certification, and then struggled mightily to find a full time gig. It is mind blowing to me that a permanent replacement hasn't been found.

Finally, for those demanding that Carol Burton go back into her past position immediately, well, I never figured that would happen.

What if there was a permanent replacement in place, and that person would be shoved out for Burton? Why would anyone even accept that position? Is that part of the reason Garfield can't get a permanent replacement in place?

Also, as I noted here a week ago, I've been involved in the private sector as a manager with unionized employees (I was part of that union, too, before I became manager). While I was there my boss chose to antagonize the union by terminating two long-term employees for what I felt was very questionable cause.

They took their cases to arbitration. As I expected, we lost. Neither one returned to work in less than a month after the arbitration ruling. There were all kinds of details that had to be worked out, and in one case, both parties had to return to the arbitrator for multiple follow-up rulings spelling out exactly what the back pay, vacation, etc would be because both sides interpreted his ruling differently. It took close to 3 months to get him back to work (and back pay continued to accrue...).


Anonymous said...

The Alki principal is going to Brazil as well. Must be Trump.


Anonymous said...

If the district didn't make a good-faith effort to find a real music teacher than it does look odd.

Is it the district's job to replace her, or the school's? Is it possible that after the first replacement left, the school decided to go the sub route, in hopes that they'd get Burton back? That seems like a big gamble, because even if a judge ruled in her favor it didn't guarantee that she'd be reinstated to the same position. In some ways it makes sense to put her elsewhere, somewhere she won't be responsible for field trips. So who is really responsible for the lack of a good replacement all this time--the district, or the school?

treble clef

Eric B said...

The more I hear about the program, the more questions I have. Why did the new permanent hire walk out? Was he not qualified to teach choir? Were there issues with the students because he wasn't Ms. Burton? Did he get support from the school admin? Were any grievances filed with the union? Something smells funny here, and I don't know what.

After he left, why wasn't a long term sub with choir experience hired? Like Northwesterner said, there are people who would love that gig. Again, something smells funny. Bottom line, I very much appreciate the student's dedication to teach three classes, but as she said in testimony, she's not a qualified teacher. Why isn't a qualified teacher in front of those classes?

GarfieldMom said...

A full time replacement was hired for this year. Students and parents gave him a chance (students were genuinely excited about working with him), but he couldn't make it work. He had no ability to build rapport with the students and started pitting them against each other, asking some students to "take his side" against other students. Many students found him to be sexist and homophobic -- not exactly qualities for success at Garfield. In March, he left on an "indefinite medical leave of absence" so technically he is still employed by SPS. (And apparently embarking on new self-employed business ventures as we speak.)

When he left, the school immediately prepared a hiring notice for a new replacement teacher. No one has been dragging their feet trying to keep the job open for Burton.

The district is paying three people right now for the position of choir/piano teacher at Garfield -- Burton, the teacher on leave, and a sub. Parents are paying AGAIN for a music director for the spring musical and for extra help for the choirs. The district has spent approximately $500,000 to date on this case, a case they were told long ago that they would not be likely to win. When you wonder why there's no money for IB programs or arts teachers, think about that.

GarfieldMom said...

The reason a long term sub with choir experience wasn't hired is because there aren't any. Not even one sub qualified in music, in all of SPS.

Lynn said...

Not surprising news about the Alki principal. She's married to Shauna Heath.

Charlie Mas said...

The District has two decisions to make. The first is to determine alternative consequences for Ms Burton's violation of procedure. The second is to assign her to a school.

When making decisions, the district leadership tells us that they put the students' best interest first and foremost. They also tell us that nurturing and preserving relationships among students and teachers and in professional learning communities are super important.

So, given Ms Burton's existing relationships with students, families, and colleagues, wouldn't it be in the students' best interest to reinstate her at Garfield?

Patrick said...

I dunno. Maybe at this point the best thing would be to return Ms. Burton to Garfield choir. If she's going to be on the payroll, she might as well be doing what she's good at and where the students and families want her. Just send another teacher or school administrator along with her on overnight field trips.

How can a sub walk out in the middle of the day and still have a job? Boggles the mind.

How can there be no subs in the whole district who know something about music? Is there no attempt to find people qualified in different areas for the sub pool?

Anonymous said...

I guess we'll be competing with all the other singers for spots at SAAS and Northwest. It's a real shame. Garfield's program had a rep for being better than nearby private schools. Burton did that. SPS doesn't care.
-sad parent

Eric B said...

GarfieldMom, thanks for the info filling in. I'm frustrated also by the District's willingness to throw money at lawyers but not at teachers.

Greenwoody said...

The district's constant mismanagement and refusal to follow common sense is really disturbing. A judge felt that Carol Burton had already been sufficiently penalized. This is just hurting kids so that district administrators can make a point about who is in charge.

I continue to believe there need to be mass firings at the JSCEE. Is it time for a mass protest at the JSCEE? Occupy JSCEE until we see Nyland, Tolley, Pritchard, and others hand in their resignations?

Because clearly, these problems aren't going to be solved by asking nicely.

Anonymous said...

Every time there is a music sub in this district, students teach the class. Even long term subs. That has been going on forever. Though more typically it is a student in that class.

-HS Parent

ConcernedSPSParent said...

Apparently senior staff will leave no stone unturned in their quest to demonstrate how utterly out of touch they are with the community they are supposed to serve.

We need a superintendent who will demonstrate leadership not pettiness.

Outsider said...

Was Shauna Heath known for advancing a particular philosophy within SPS? I wondered if her departure was just a random personnel thing, or the outcome of some philosophical struggle in the inner sanctum, and if her departure would signal any change.

Or maybe it just seemed like a fine time to head for Brazil, what with the economy in depression, the government in crisis, riots in the street, and disease-ridden mosquitoes flying everywhere.

Anonymous said...

I know of only 2 qualified retired music subs and they work every day. They can pick and choose their jobs...

And that is why students must step in. Hey at least in this State Subs are licensed Teachers in the rest of the country

But hey let's trash subs more and really alienate the work force! Sub-depreciation day!

- Sub

Watching said...

I had the opportunity to listen to part of the board meeting and I must say- we have an outstanding board!

We have a board that supports the community. They are also working to shape the direction of education in Washington state. We have a proactive board that is willing to take on Olympia and I'm thrilled.

Anonymous said...

Can the board tell Nyland to put Burton back at her job like the judge's decision?

Anonymous said...

Melissa, the woulda shoulda comments about whether she would have let the boy on the trip is totally irrelevant to the current situation, in my opinion. If she had been told about the prior event, she would have had the knowledge to make a concrete decision or to be more aware of him. If he went on the trip, maybe she would have said no to his request to hang out in the girls' room during free time. That is neither here nor there right now. Her lawyer might have misspoken, but that doesn't mean he is not telling the truth about what she would have done. If she had had the info, she could have been more prepared.

Patrick said...

GHSMom, no, personnel matters are not up to the Board. (Except the Superintendent, the auditor, and the board secretary.)

And are you sure that's exactly what the judge says? Generally, the District gets to decide who works where. The judge said there is no cause for termination, but reassignment or lesser punishments are still at the discretion of the District.

Anonymous said...

I agree with ConcernedSPSParent regarding the district's pettiness. This culture of bullying and retribution on the part of the central district against parents (whom they view as "entitled") and those teachers who put serving students above all else is unlike anything I have ever seen. Is this what they learn in their "Leadership" courses that they all take to advance their careers into the lucrative upper administration positions? Instead of serving the school community they learn to obfuscate, prevaricate and evade.

The district has so much that is great about it - great, dynamic teachers, impressive schools, unbelievably talented kids. But as of the last sixteen or so years, the district appears necrotic and dysfunctional. Really sick. You have to ask, what kind of people would destroy all these good things? Until the administration sees an overhaul (including the superintendent) I would not advise anyone to trust their kids to the Seattle Public Schools.

-SPS Parent

Patrick said...

Sub, no disrespect for the substitute. It's not their fault they were put in an impossible position of teaching a subject they're not qualified for. I suppose if the District needed a long-term sub for a French class they'd get someone who spoke only English and Chinese.

z said...

Charlie said: When Ms Heath goes, all of her unfulfilled promises go with her. Any promise that she ever made to anyone is now void. While the Board had a chance of holding her to her promise to evaluate the advanced learning programs, they have no chance of holding her successor to that promise. Whatever timetables she agreed to meet for MTSS are now void. Her successor will come up with all new timetables starting from scratch. It will be year one for everything all over again.

Unfortunately, you know as well as I that it was never going to happen if she stayed. She never had any intent of fulfilling any of her AL promises (among others). So there really is no downside in this matter to her leaving.

On the other hand, if someone else comes in to replace her, there's at least a small chance that they will be more in tune with the real AL needs (kids' needs, rather than petty adult issues). I often feel like it could hardly be any worse than it has been over the past few years, though I know that's not true, because it can always get worse.

The biggest problem I see right now is that unless Tolley exits very quickly, he is likely to have the most say in Heath's replacement. Given that he's a huge AL-hater as well, this does not bode well. My hope is that Heath saw the writing on the wall with the new Board starting to exert a little influence, and bolted before the heat started turning up. Given that Tolley is also shopping himself around, I can only hope that he has the same read and leaves very soon as well, which could inject fresh/critical thinking into the curriculum and instruction section of the SPS org chart.

Melissa Westbrook said...

GHS Mom, no, the Board cannot tell the Superintendent to do that. They could talk to him about what they observe and he heard the testimony last night.

I'll just say that if she is not reassigned to Garfield, that it looks like SPS administration is trying to send a message to teachers and their union.