Friday, October 20, 2006

Board Members Did Not "Back Down"

I'm extremely frustrated with press coverage that suggests that Seattle School Board members who voted to table the school closure motion "backed down" in the face of public pressure or changed their minds about school closures.

As I said in my testimony at the Board meeting on Wednesday, I am clear about whose proposal was voted down. It was Raj's proposal. The School Board members didn't like the preliminary recommendations or the process used to develop them, and they were open and honest about that with Raj. Raj was unwilling to change his mind about two of the recommendations or to do what Brita Butler-Wall requested, and pull the entire Phase II recommendation.

Wednesday's Board meeting was the first time Board members could discuss the proposal and react to it formally in public. The five Board members who voted to table the Phase II recommendations did so despite the fact that three of them believe in the importance of closing schools. They did so because they were presented with recommendations that failed to consider the academic implications of the proposed changes.

Today's Seattle Times editorial, This isn't any way to run Seattle schools, also makes two ridiculous statements:

1) "We have a superintendent who could be effective if he had a board to back him."

2) "The cool heads of board members Michael DeBell and Cheryl Chow were not enough to prevail and the board inexplicably tabled the closures issue."

Listen to coverage on this issue on KUOW today from 25:04 to 32:25 and then from 43:12 to 44:17 in the audio file. Sakara Remu brought up the "structural funding gap" and the fact that school closures won't solve that. Susan Paynter said "Chow and DeBell were the ones who had the most spine in this situation." Knute Berger says "...they should have just declared victory [after Phase I] and moved on." And I managed to get on right near the end to say that the School Board did not change their mind. They voted to close seven schools and would have been willing to close more if Raj had brought forward recommendations that made sense from an academic perspective.


Anonymous said...

Excellent point. That was my perception as well, having followed this controversy and also watching much of the Wednesday meeting on tv. This was the school board telling Raj, look, you're wrong here, it's clear. There are many facts that were brought up by speakers, including the fact that neither school proposed for "co-location" of two "programs" had enough room for both. I wonder how much longer Raj will hang on to his job.

Anonymous said...

This is not a closing schools issue, this is a process issue. And from that standpoint SPS has failed all the tests. Don't mistake backbone for logic.

Anonymous said...

I do wish there had been no Phase II (or, it had happened in 6 months to a year). People were still getting a grip on the Phase I closures which, in and of themselves, were enough of a start. I think Raj and the staff shot themselves in the foot by going ahead AND having a completely different way of choosing schools from the CAC.