I attended the Mayor's Education Summit (Pursuing Equity and Excellence for Every Seattle Student) at the end of April. I attended the morning session. (Powerpoints here near the bottom of the page.)
Why have I not written about this until now? Well frankly, I'm not sure what to make of it.
The event certainly was great for networking - a who's who in support of public education especially elected officials. I saw directors Harris, Blanford, Patu, Pinkham and Burke there as well as legislators Rueven Carlyle, David Frockt, Sharon Tomiko-Santos, Bob Hasagawa, Noel Frame, and Gerry Pollet and CMs Juarez, Harrell, Burgess, Gonzalez and Herbold. (There may have been others; the room was mostly full.)
But it was a lot of sitting and listening to people talk. Problem was, there wasn't a lot of substance save the student speakers.
Mayor Ed Murray stated that poverty leads to poor outcomes in school. He said that the social and emotional health of families "is as essential to learning as what is taught in the classroom." He also noted that inequality challenges is to be his focus for year three in office.
He then reeled off the stats about the achievement gap in Seattle Schools. He said he was not "finger-pointing at the district" but that "we must own these outcomes." He got big applause for saying that he wanted to end homelessness for children by the end of this year.
He did say that he wants "measurable outcomes" but did not define what the measurement would be.
Former mayor Norm Rice spoke briefly and asked, "What can the City do to help you, your community, or your organization make sure that every child succeeds in school and in life?"
Former Rainier Beach High principal (now head of the city's Education department), Dwane Chapelle, came out to "Little Red Corvette" (probably a nod to the then-recent death of Prince.) He said that they made significant progress at RBHS and there were two lessons he took from that.
1) No great change happens working alone.
2) High quality teaching, best practices and innovative schools cannot be just for some schools for some students.
He led a panel to talk about the community conversations that happened throughout the city in the months before the Summit. He also noted that over 1300 people had participated in the conversations.
However, there was really nothing mentioned that came out from all those community meetings. That's the one thing I did want to get from the Summit; what was the common thread of the feedback and also specific feedback from different areas of the city. This is what the Mayor's page on the Education Summit says:
The ideas and findings from all these conversations and gatherings were
recorded and then presented at the Mayor's Education Summit Event.
No, they weren't and the Powerpoint at the website is just a collection of quotes.
Patricia Lally, the director for the City's Office for Civil Rights, had a Powerpoint about their Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI.) There wasn't much there that hadn't been said before on this issue but she did bring up targeted universalism.
Superintendent Nyland spoke briefly and he seemed very glad to be there. He said he came out of retirement because of the new focus for a "universal target."
Michael Tolley, from SPS, also spoke. Honestly, it's the longest I have ever heard him speak. I wish he would speak more often; he did a pretty good job. He received applause when he said he had several roles but his first role is as a teacher. He said that diversity may be declining in the city itself but it wasn't in the district. He said that it was important to "nurture students and give them a sense of belonging and validate their identity."
The best part of the morning was the student panel led by principal Mia Williams. It was a particularly good and varied group of students from our middle and high schools. (Unfortunately they did not have the names of the students listed in the program and the students didn't all speak up so I wasn't able to get their names.)
One student from RBHS asked why people had such low expectations for their students and why some were so surprised at the success RBHS had created. (She also said they need a better building.)
One student from Garfield had a great phrase - he said, "Tell us the truth about what is going on because comfortable lies won't get us anywhere." " Comfortable lies" - that's quite good.
Another student said the funding for programs was too low and they needed better access to technology.
One student, who is being homeschooled, said his mother wanted to teach him to "think past tests" and to retain more of what he learned.
But since this event...crickets. I assume the Mayor's Education Summit Advisory Group is meeting but what then?
believe we need more transparency about this process and what they are
discussing. Maybe we can't go to the meetings (or see them on
videotape) - can't we even see the agendas for the meetings?
We're not allowed to even know the direction this group is going?
From the rules ("norms") for the group:
The Mayor wants a robust conversation where people can speak freely and question one another.
Danny Westneat of the Times said this:
There's a strong suspicion already among some school activists and parents that the Mayor and business community are angling to take more control of the schools."
I suggest contacting the Mayor and City Council with your thoughts - on Seattle Schools, this process, what you think should happen. But they need to hear from parents on the ground.
Mayor - 206-684-4000 e-mail
Chair of the City's Education Committee - Bruce Harrell, 206-684-8804
Vice-Chair, Lorena Gonzalez -206-684-8802, Lorena.Gonzalez@seattle.gov
Member, Debora Juarez, 206-684-8805, Debora.Juarez@seattle.gov