CPPS Position on Leadership Change

Today's article in the Seattle Times, "Nickels urged to take control of Seattle schools" continues the recent pressure in the media for leadership change at Seattle Public Schools.

The article includes a quote from CPPS president, Charles Rolland, supporting the idea of an appointed School Board. ""If I'm a stellar superintendent, what makes me want to come to this kind of place?" said Charles Rolland, a community activist who has twice trooped to City Hall in recent weeks to meet with Nickels, along with other activists, business people and educators."

Charles Rolland and Venus Velazquez also weighed in last week with a guest column in the PI, "Norm Rice for interim superintendent."

And below is the CPPS response to Raj's resignation posted on their website:

"Seattle’s school system is in crisis because of a failure by our district leaders to provide a comprehensive vision and corresponding strategy. The trust and confidence in our school district is at an all time low, yet the decisions we make today will have a significant impact on our kids and our city.

CPPS believes this crisis is an opportunity for us to overhaul a long-broken system and restructure a world-class public school district. To do this, we need:

  • Structural reform of the School Board to institute a system that allows for decisions to be made and implemented with consistent leadership, comprehensive vision, and clear goals. We need School Board members that are focused on their role as policymakers rather than administrators.
  • A visionary, risk taker, and goal-oriented Superintendent who can build support for a common vision with the Board and community.
  • A civil discourse on educational issues, one which is open and inclusive, and builds a broad coalition for educational excellence.
  • A short term plan to restore trust and confidence in our district in the short term to help support the levy and bond measures which are on the ballot in February."


Anonymous said…
Oh brother. Another Seattle Times hit piece. Is it just me, or was the omission of Rolland's past work with Norm Rice just an editorial error? Painting him as just another agitated parent doesn't cut it. He wants to nominate his old boss to be the new boss. Let's be honest and get all the agendas on the table.

I've grown quite weary of slanted news and special interests. I want to know what my child's teacher needs to make her STAY in Seattle.
Back when the Board had its failed attempt to find a new superintendent, I was doing research on this subject. It turns out that (a) the average superintendent stays about 2-4 years, 5+ is practically a lifer (b)superintendents rarely come into the job without problems in a district - face it, education is messy and (c) the problems we face - beyond trying to provide the best education possible to the children of Seattle - unease among the public over leadership, bad pr and communications (the district does have a plan/focus but it is badly communicated)and the sadness of school closures are not the worst problems a superintendent could come in to face. The Board doesn't work as a team but they aren't dysfunctional. I think the real challenge is trying to get the powers that be to get out of the way.

I think the CPPS outlines a good wish list. But I believe the Board has operated as policy makers (despite people believing they are there to solve individual problems which they are not) and not as administrators (what is the evidence of that?).

Also, what short-term plan is really going to turn around perceptions? You could install Mayor Rice but his job would not be to ride herd on the Board so you wouldn't solve the public perception problem there. (I'm sure the Board, in the coming months, will try to look united as a result of wanting to pass the levy/bond measures but who will be fooled by that?) He couldn't stop school closures so anyone who is against it in general or specific will still be upset. What kind of plan would really work? I also submit that now that we are on the downslope of 2006 with the next month being holiday season leaves only about a month (from early Jan. to early Feb.) to try to influence voters or persuade them that the district is turned around. Good luck on that, people are just not that naive.

There was an editorial in the Seattle Medium newspaper about believing that the Board and the superintendent (whoever it is) will play nice and make promises in order to get people to vote for the levy/bond measures and then turn around in March and do what they want. That's based on past experience and that's how so much mistrust has gotten built in our district.
Anonymous' comments illustrate the difference between half-empty and half-full perspectives. The fact that Charles Rolland knows Norm Rice so well is a positive--he's in a better position to judge the man. I have some great former bosses I'd love to see helping SPS (and some bad former bosses I'd work to make sure don't). What is wrong with that? It's not like Charles Rolland is going profit, nor is this a big "favor" to Norm Rice. The popular former Mayor has lots of more attractive options. As Melissa points out, the interim Superintendent job won't be easy. In fact, it seems like a bad move for him--why risk his positive image to tackle tough political issues like school closures? Let me offer my hypothesis: It's because it's not a political move, but a true desire to help out in an area he is passionate about. Anonymous & people like you: at some point we have to trust somebody, right? For me, I trust proven leaders who don't have a lot to gain personally. What's your alternative?
Anonymous said…
and to tag on to anonymous' comments: if labeling this "the CPPS Position" implies it represents anything but the opinion of the dozen or so people in that group, it's false advertising. The officers are self-elected (unless you count the show of hands of the random people who came to the last meeting they had in the spring), there is an email list and a randomly updated website, and that's about it - no grass-roots organization, no voice of the people, no meetings, no votes, not much of anything. To Charles Rolland's credit, at least he didn't imply anything more in the Times article -
Charlie Mas said…
It will require structural reform for the School Board to take up their role as policymakers because they are currently without any means of enforcing policy. They can write policy, but if they cannot enforce policy, then they have not made policy. As it currently stands, they cannot enforce policy.

I would love it if we had a visionary, risk taking, goal-oriented Superintendent who could build support for a common vision with the Board and community. Does anyone think that Raj Manhas was that person? I sure don't. Is Norm Rice that person? Maybe, but why the false urgency? Why not allow time for a search to find that person?

Likewise I would love a civil discourse on educational issues, one which is open and inclusive, and builds a broad coalition for educational excellence. So far, the District has not come out of their fortress to have any kind of dialog. The District sets the structure for communication and the District has chosen the duelling monolog model. They could, just as easily, chose a shared dialog model.

I don't think that restoring trust and confidence in our district will be a short term effort. I would prefer a long-term and lasting effort to establish and maintain trust and confidence. If there is to be any kind of silver bullet to manage public opinion before the February ballot items, the time is now. The Superintendent and the Board members should be prominent in the media, giving interviews, telling the truth about everything that is good and right with the District and the schools. Moreover, they should be emphasizing why it is critical for the students that the levy and the bond issue be approved.

Yet both the Superintendent and the Board members are totally absent from the media. They have left the field open for the Times, Don Nielsen, and Charles Rolland. Why aren't they out there? Why don't they realize that they need to be out there countering all of this bad press?
More anonymous naysaying...
It is true that right now CPPS is mostly the efforts of a small group of people who were brought together by our common passion for public education and a belief that SPS would benefit from more parent & community participation in district-wide affairs. But we are part of a national organization and we have definite plans to reach out further. Grassroots has to start somewhere, and we are trying. Communicating what we've learned, offering our views to start discussions, and putting it all up on the web is a good place to start, and all takes work. Attack us with negative rhetoric if you want, but this is all volunteer time, we are not profiting, we are aiming to be inclusive, and we are trying to do something beyond just complaining...
Do you have any better suggestions? Feel free to post them up on our yahoo group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cppsofseattle) or email contact@cppsofseattle.org.

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