Dora Taylor (who is the main writer/moderator for Seattle Education blog) and I both write public education blogs. We write about different things (and that's a good thing for people in this region/state who care about public education.) We sometimes disagree.
But one thing we have agreed on is that Mayor Murray has plans to get the City a heck of a lot more involved with the direction of public education in this city. And, he's not going to do so much via official lines of contact but thru many other methods.
To wit, Dora's latest thread, Leaked email shows how Seattle Mayor Ed Murray plans to take over the school board
In a letter sent to Mayor Murray from Regina Jones, who is now working for the Mayor’s office as an “executive on loan”, spells out how to take over the school board by “cultivating candidates to serve on the board” based on the success of two mayors in San Francisco and with the work of Hydra Mendoza because “As in Seattle, SFUSD was concerned about a takeover of the district by the mayor”.The letter is dated November 1, 2015 and it is to the Mayor from Regina Jones and cc'd to Hyeok Kim (Seattle's deputy mayor), Robert Feldstein (Director, Office of Policy and Innovation, Seattle Mayor's Office), Mike Fong (Mayor Murray's Chief of Staff ) and Tina Walha (Director, Innovation Team at Seattle Mayor's Office.)
(To note; Ms. Walha describes her job this way at LinkedIn:
I lead Seattle's i-team, which functions as in-house innovation consultants, moving from one mayoral priority to the next. Residing within the Mayor's Office, the i-team helps the mayor, agency leaders and city staff through a data-driven process to assess problems, generate responsive new interventions, develop partnerships and deliver measurable results.Here's one of the opening paragraphs:
For many years, San Francisco has struggled in its relationship with SFUSD. Over the past decade, interaactions between SF and SFUSD have evolved into an excellent, collaborative working relationship centered on a shared vision.Sounds good, right?
A turning point in the transformation came through the Mayor influencing the composition of the school board by cultivating candidates to serve on the board.Oh, well, I'm sure it's quite "collaborative" when you handpick the candidates and they, in turn, pick other candidates. So long as everyone is on the same "vision" page.
"Having a board 'insider' allows the SF city department leadership to connect more effectively with the needs of SFUSD and promote a collective impact approach.Jones tells the Mayor:
- It is recommended in the letter to spend tax dollars to continue “to engage with the Mayor of San Francisco’s key staff and with SFUSD to forge a strong, working relationship on education policy. This should include Seattle staff attendance to observe SFUSD board meetings and key education-related discussions/negotiations between the Mayor’s office and SFUSD….Although it will take an investment of time to bring SPS to the table.
- Consideration should be given to identifying and pursuing long-term strategies for strengthening district governance, including…having an active role in the selection of the next superintendent…“
- Later in the letter it is suggested to take SFUSD up on its offer to facilitate a discussion with SPS (Seattle Public Schools) on SFUSD’s collective impact process to bring everyone “to the table” in selecting a new superintendent.
They have a member of their Board who works for the Mayor of San Francisco. Handy, no? Here name is Hydra Mendoza.
Here's a key to what our mayor is probably thinking because it echoes what he has said several times publicly:
Building Vision 2025 was focused on data. What does it show? How are kids doing? Everyone agreed that a world-class city cannot leave behind a segment of its students. The mayor and the superintendent looked for one thing they both cared about - and started there to figure out what they could do collectively.This is great but is it really that hard for a mayor and a superintendent to find something they agree on? I don't think so but I think it's hard to figure out JUST one thing AND what the solution is.
Jones describes what is happening in San Francisco and it sounds good:
The district now serves as an integral part of city planning, focused on a holistic view of services each student is receving across the district and by each city department.However, I would note that the Mayor's HALA committee thinks of schools as "amentities" which doesn't seem to rise to the same level as what is happening in San Francisco.
Jones then talks about Seattle:
This administration continues to struggle in defining the City's role in SPS governance.Again, the City has NO role in SPS governance. What they have is the duty to ask where they can help, make suggestions based on their data and research, etc and collaborate.
If the City of Seattle and the Seattle School district, via its elected school board, cannot agree on a vision for schools, want to know who has the final word? The School Board.
Dr. Carranza ( SF's superintendent) volunteered to support engagement of Seattle with SPS at regional/national education meetings - engagement that would take place on SPS' education "turf" (i.e. meetings of Council for Great City Schools of which SPS is a member."So Dr. Carranza will seek out Seattle board members/staff at these conventions/meetings in an effort to say how great things are in San Francisco. Good to know.
Although it will take an investment of time to bring SPS to the table, a discussion with the facilitator who guided SF's joint/integrated strategic planning would provide additional insight going forward.
Cultivating and supporting candidates to run for the board of SPS. These candidates would, ideally, have children in SPS, roots int he city, strong leadership capabilities, and a shared vision with the Mayor on racial equity, closing the opportunity gap and building a world-class educational system in Seattle. Inquiry should be made of the City Attorney regarding limitations on a City employee serving in this capacity.Breathtaking. First of all, she supposes that we do NOT currently have a Board that has these qualities (they do) or that they agreed on the need for equity and a great school system (they do). Second, yes, having one person who somehow sits in both camps in either an elected/hired capacity could be a problem.
As part of the suggested SF approach of working from "inside out," have ongoing engagement of key SPS principals, particularly principals in levy-supported schools, to further focus levy funding on effective strategies, including full-year, experiential learning supported by business and philanthropic partners. Find out what these principals think the City can do for them. It is clear from our dinner conversation on Oct. 27, that SPS principals in high poverty schools are anxious to partner with the City and are excited to embrace your leadership.Ah yes, the "let's have people on the inside." I think this is already happening and I believe that Director Blanford is probably in the Mayor's camp.
That part of about "experiential learning" is an interesting thought and would surely undercut charter schools seeking to do the same thing.
Taylor ends her thread with this thought and I agree.
If Mayor Murray wants to address the “achievement/opportunity gap” in a way that is more appropriate to his office, he needs to focus on a living wage for all in Seattle and affordable housing. That will go a long way in helping children succeed in school and in life. Leave education to the educators not politicians, attorneys and business interests.