Thursday, October 12, 2006

Raj Still Doesn't Get It

From today's Seattle Times article, Seattle alternative schools say their character is at stake, comes another quote that shows that Raj still doesn't understand what alternative schools are. He continues to confuse alternative structures, like K-8, with alternative teaching philosophies.

Manhas said concerns about combining schools are shortsighted. "We're not walking away from alternative schools, and actually we're expanding K-8s," he said, pointing out district plans to add middle-school grades to Orca Elementary and expand two neighborhood schools — Broadview-Thomson and The New School — into K-8s. "I think the demand for alternative K-8s either is constant or has gone down."


Lisa said...

GEESH. Is this guy Raj wearing ear plugs or what's the deal? He sat through the Pathfinder/Cooper Site Hearing...there was a unanimous, spontanious...vote against a merger. Shortsighted or not it is clear the community does not support combining alternative and traditional schools.

Anonymous said...

Seattle Public Schools' fundamental problem, the flaw at the root of all of the District's other problems, is that they are structurally and culturally incapable of responding to the needs of the community they purportedly serve.

Mr. Manhas truly can't hear you.

They are structurally incapable of responding to the community because their is no place in their structure for the community to provide input. There is no place for you to show up and say "I think we should do this" or "I think we should stop doing that". There is no structure whereby they survey the community to discover teh community's needs or preferences. There is no place in any of their decision-making processes when someone - anyone - is supposed to consider what the community wants or needs. There certainly isn't any point in any of their decision-making processes when they consult with the community.

Community engagement, if there is even a sham costume theater version of it, comes AFTER the decisions are made. At that point they are invested in the decision and reluctant to change it. Sometimes they feel so much pressure to move forward with something - anything - that no amount of opposition can stop them. When their decisions are questioned, they defend them like mother bears. They equate criticism of the decision with a personal attack.

And why is this community engagement element missing from the structure? Because their culture doesn't value it. They don't care what you want. They don't care at all.

I had to laugh when I heard Board members bemoan the poor communication possible through the public testimony process. It's their process. They could change it if they wanted to. Since they don't change it, we can only conclude that they don't want to.

Anonymous said...

I should correct myself. Mr Manhas CAN hear you, but what he hears sounds like when adults talk in Charlie Brown cartoons: whah whah whah.

He doesn't hear your words, just your tone. He has no interest in the content of your talk because he knows that it just doesn't matter. He decides, not you. And he has already decided before you opened your mouth.

It's like when the person you're talking to isn't listening, they're just preparing what they are going to say and waiting for you to take a breath so they can jump in and say it.

It's like when people call up radio talk show hosts and disagree with them.

It's not communication.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Charlie. I'm not sure it's better in other districts but education is so vital, so intimate to parents you'd think there would be a way to communicate what is wanted, what is wanted more of, what is disliked and what people are willing to make an effort to have in their school.

I very much agree with his comments on process. Much of it is done months ahead by committee or departments and then presented, with a deadline for the Board, and then moderate public input but usually not enough time for the Board to:
-ask hard questions and get back fully realized answers from staff
-listen to public input, go back to staff and ask about these concerns, and consider them in their deliberations

Everything is rush, rush, rush for the Board. Staff likes it that way because they usually get the path they wanted to take in the first place. A good example is BEX III. I know, somewhere, there's a master list out by 10+ years of what Facilities thinks should be done and by gosh, they are sticking with it. It doesn't matter what promises have been made (unless it's to a foundation with deep pockets), how long others have waited, school closures are occurring, etc. No matter how much you tell the Board that things don't make sense, aren't fair, are not a good use of time or money, you have to find and out and out bombshell to stop them. For BEX III they have to vote on it Oct. 18th or it won't be on the ballot (the operations would, though, and frankly, that's the more important one). The sky won't fall if BEX III isn't on the ballot or is voted down. Some communities will be very disappointed but no, the sky won't fall and the money is there for any truly pressing maintenance needs (BTA). But not have a BEX III on the ballot? Not get more money from the voters? Nah, they'll pass it on the belief that no matter what anyone tells them, staff knows better. Chris Jackins knows where all the financial bones are buried but no one ever listens to him. (I do predict at least 1 Board member may vote against it.)

But, as Charlie, says, the Board could change this if they wanted to and they don't.

I did finally watch the public testimony from the last Board meeting. Actually, I've seen worse behavior and much worse language. I think Brita actually did the right thing (although she left Cheryl being the taskmaster and boy, what's up with the avid dislike of her so early in her tenure?)by leaving. That woman who was shouting and egging them on had to be shut down some way. Too bad she dragged her kids along for the show. There were some good, eloquent speakers and I think it just got lost in the din. I think if they go with the Cooper/Pathfinder idea after all the important words said about it, they are just asking for a disaster.

Anonymous said...

Is anyone familiar with Tom Vander Ark as a potential superintendent? He is education director for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation here in Seattle and he was among the finalists who recently applied to be the public school superintendent of Los Angeles.

Anonymous said...

Vander Ark was Federal Way superintendent in the 1990s. He is a big supporter of K-12 alternative schools. Around this time last year, he stunned Raj when the Gates Foundation declined to renew a $26 million grant to Seattle Schools. Vander Ark explained that the foundation only renewed grants to school systems that had demonstrated good leadership in spending the previous grant.

Type "Gates Foundation exec pans Seattle school district" into any internet search engine.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Van der Ark is in the mold of former Superintendent - He Who Must Not be Named - Olchefske. No education background (although he has done a lot of work on that for Gates Foundation). There was quite a long piece about him in the Northwest Magazine pull-out in the Sunday paper about 2 years ago. I was dumbfounded to read that he was sitting at his daughter's high school graduation in Federal Way and was thinking that the class looked small and how many kids were there at her high school? He was the Federal Way Superintendent at the time. He had no clue that the number of kids who start off as freshman is not the same number as those who graduate.

I've heard him speak a couple of times. No thanks.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info, Holly and Melissa.