For one thing, they make it sound like he's been here just a year but, at the end of August, 2016, he will have been in SPS for two years. (They say it's the end of his first full school year which is true but most people will not read that distinction.)
They make this claim:
At the end of Nyland’s first full school year as permanent superintendent of the state’s largest school district, opinions on his performance split into three groups.They are:
- some who think he's stabilized the district
- some who think he is moving too slowly
- those who just don't feel they know him (despite his nearly two year tenure)
I'm pretty sure the majority of people who have interacted with him would say he is a nice guy and a gentleman. I certainly would.
I think JSCEE staff probably do like working with him because of his personality. But Stephanie Jones of CPPS nails it:
“I know that he is passionate about the work of the district, but I don’t know that I have a great sense of what his priorities are for the next phase,” said Stephanie Jones, executive director of Community and Parents for Public Schools of Seattle, a group that works to improve parent and community-member engagement.Exactly. Even as he continues with the Strategic Plan, most parents probably couldn't tell you much about it. It's large and unwieldy and has had some shape-shifting happening to it.
At his office in the school district’s headquarters in Sodo, Nyland is the first to admit he’s not a visionary. Ultimately, he sees his role as bringing together different groups that otherwise might not have interacted, like central-office staff with a parent group. It’s not appropriate for him, he said, to come in with one big idea for how to fix all the district’s problems. He sees his job as a weaver.I'm not sure we do need a visionary but we do need a vision. It's interesting that he had the idea that central office staff didn't interact with parent groups before he came (or that they wouldn't.) As well, I wouldn't want someone like Maria Goodloe-Johnson who did come in with a big vision of her own.
But I sure do want a leader.
One thing I had hoped for - given his background in Marysville in working with Native American students - is to see some of that happen in SPS. Not so much.
One thing Nyland did do right? He rehired Steve Nielsen as deputy superintendent.
Nyland had this interesting statement:
In Marysville, where Nyland served for nine years, he said he would meet with people who had concerns and explain what the district was or wasn’t doing. They would either agree or come to understand that the district couldn’t do everything for everybody. In Seattle, there’s another group:Could that have been the Alliance for Education? Because I can't imagine any parent group coming in and saying that.
“(They say) ‘I flat-out disagree and I want what I want,’ ” Nyland said. “That part is different.”
The Times also pointed this out:
In a 5-1 vote, that board recently decided to dilute one of the longtime powers of the superintendent — deciding where to offer and close programs, sites and services.
That had long been the sole responsibility of the superintendent, and now, depending on the situation, the board will vote on them, or at least be informed of the superintendent’s decisions beforehand.Unfortunately, the Times did not explain WHY the Board took this step which makes it look like the Board is trying to micromanage. (They also did not get a quote from a single current Board member.)
Who did they talk to?
Among the two dozen educators, parents, advocates, former School Board members and politicians interviewed, the responses about the state of the district range from “running exceptionally well” to “bad, which is business as usual.”I have to wonder about the thinking of any reporter or editor who is doing a story on a current superintendent and doesn't talk to a single current Board member. Almost like they wanted to shape the story in a specific manner.
What Nyland says at the end is telling about how he sees the work in SPS:
From his office, Nyland gazed out the windows at the Seattle skyline. His contract runs through 2018. After that? He’s not sure.Given the Mayor's machinations around gaining control over the district, I find that statement quite in line with the Mayor's efforts. Hmmm.
“Grand, big ideas, particularly for a city or district the size of Seattle, are going to take a lot of time, and a lot of ownership,” he said. “My goal is to leave the system better than I found it.