Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Leadership in Seattle Public Schools

Many of us, including me, have been complaining about Raj's lack of leadership skills as Superintendent. Others, including the Seattle Times, have been complaining about the School Board's lack of leadership skills. Because I am, quite frankly, really tired of that discussion that seems to be getting us nowhere, I'd like to raise a different leadership issue today --- principals, and their leaderships skills or lack thereof.

I saw what happened at Graham Hill Elementary with constant principal turnover and a few very week principals. I've read and heard stories about weak principals at various schools around the district and the effect they are having on teaching and learning at the school. For example, after years of having a strong, talented principal, Kimball Elementary now has a principal who, faced with budget problems, left it up to a staff vote whether to increase class sizes or let go staff, who were named in the discussion. I'm all for participatory decision-making, but that strikes me as ludicrous and an abdication of leadership. You can guess how the vote came out.

There are many Seattle Public Schools principals with strong leadership skills who are doing wonderful, inspired work, and they should be celebrated, frequently and publicly. However, there are others who should not be allowed to continue as principals, being shuffled from school to school.

And the Seattle Public School culture, with its emphasis on secrecy and claiming that everyone is wonderful and doing a great job (see the 2005-06 Annual Superintendent Evaluation for a clear example of this) only adds to the problem. Principals are shuffled from one school to another with no explanation and little notice. Principals are put on leave, or take leave, with no details provided to the parents and staff.

For example, today in the Seattle Times is the following:

Whittier principal placed on leave

Parents at Whittier Elementary School in North Seattle learned late last week that the principal is on leave, but the Seattle School District won't say why. Alex Coberly, 33, has been the principal at the school since 2002. Seattle Public Schools spokeswoman Teresa Wippel said Coberly was placed on paid leave beginning last Thursday. Wippel declined to explain, saying only that students have not been harmed. Wippel also wouldn't say whether Coberly's leave was tied to a particular incident, whether police are involved or whether anyone is investigating. A letter sent to Whittier parents said "we are not certain when [Coberly] will be returning." An interim principal is in place at the school now.

Parent Teacher Association Vice President Shawn Severin said she didn't know why Coberly was placed on leave, but, she said, "He is an upstanding guy that we support."


Anonymous said...

"Wippel declined to explain, saying only that students have not been harmed."

Good grief. That's the best they can do? If my child were at this school, I'd take absolutely no comfort in that statement. Either the principal indeed did something wrong, or the district is purging someone for their own reasons. (I think we can all agree that when we deal with the district, we're dealing with a very secretive political animal that doesn't like to be challenged.)

I'm glad you've taken up this topic because it's been absent in the closure discussion, and it's one that got a lot more attention during John Stanford's tenure, where moving principal's became an art form.

Stanford operated under the pretext that moving a "strong" principal to a weak school would automatically bring up that school. And in many cases, this experiment worked, but only for the school that got the new principal. The resulting downturn at schools that got "weaker" principals after enjoying strong leadership was an issue that seems to have died with Superintendent Stanford's passing.

This is a component of the closure and consolidation game I'm still unclear about: will the district lose their previous commitment to local control (another Stanford invention, having principals operate like CEOs) and make all schools tow the same line?

Melissa Westbrook said...

On Whittier, my kids attended it. Most of the years we were there our principal was Greg Imel, a great guy and low-key principal. He chose to ask the district, after several successful years there, to move to a school with more challenges. He loved Whittier but he thought it ran well (very good parent participation and strong staff). He was transferred to Dunlap (where he is today). Unfortunately, the Dunlap parents had no voice in the process. It's a mostly minority school and Greg is white. They weren't happy but I went down to a meeting and told them I thought it was disrespectful that they had no voice in the process but I could say that Greg is a good principal. I was a courgeous thing for him to do because he went from a school with high parent participation to a school with no PTA.

Alex Coberly was a very young principal. I was only with him a year but I think the school was a big challenge for him (it's over 400 students). I know people at Whittier and have heard nothing. The only thing I have noticed in the last couple of years is the WASL scores going down slightly (Whittier used to be on par with Montlake and Lowell).

Of course, a lot of this is union-based. I believe in unions but I also wish that both the teachers' unions and PASS, the principals' union, would recognize that leaving people who are ineffective in place is a disservice to their profession (not to mention the students).

We are working at Roosevelt to find a permanent principal. I did some research on principals and came away wondering why anyone would want the job. It is multi-tasking to the nth degree including budgeting. Their primary job is instructional leadership but they end up doing a lot of discipline and office work. I made a list of qualities needed for a good principal and came up with 22! (If anyone wants to see my research, e-mail me and I'll send it to you.)

Many principals get caught between a rock and a hard place, in between what the district wants and what their community wants. A good example is the TAF Academy at Rainier Beach. Principal Gary is not in a position to necessarily say no to the district and can't disclose to his community discussions that have taken place. He may have to take a stand and it may not be comfortable.

Beth is right; principals are crucial to a school. You could have 1-2 medicore or bad teachers at a school but it only takes 1 principal to bog a school down.

Charlie Mas said...

I made a list of all of Seattle Public Schools and counted the number of principals who have been assigned since 2004.

I could expand the list to include principal changes since 2003, when Mr. Manhas took over as Superintendent, but reviewing three years of data was a lot of work already.

It is difficult, as we have seen, for a school to make progress without consistent leadership.

Since 2004, of the 94 schools I was able to check, 45 of them still have the same principal they had in 2004. 44 of them have changed principals - either in 2005 or 2006. 5 of them - Summit, Graham Hill, Nova, North Beach, and Roosevelt - changed principals in 2005 and in 2006.

There were 25 changes in 2005 and 24 in 2006. That's a turnover rate of about 26%. At that rate, the average tenancy of a principal will be four years and the average tenure of a principal will be two years.

When you check the District reports you will discover that 25% of building staff have been working in their school for ten years or more. Another 25% have been working in the building for 6-10 years, and another 25% for 2-5 years. That doesn't count the 14% who didn't answer that survey question, but it means that at any given school at any given moment, it is very likely that at least 75% of the staff have been there longer than the principal. These people have seen 'em come and seen 'em go. They saw the current principal coming and will probably see the current principal go.

Anonymous said...

I teach at Whittier and have been there over fifteen years. Alex Coberly has the respect and support of most of his teachers if not all. My opinion is that he is respected by all but cannot say that with certainty.

Personally, I think he is the best principal since Ellen Punyon who was energetic and ambitious. Alex is equally energetic and ambitious and has led the staff to tackle many more projects and professional development opportunities.

I am thoroughly against sending so-called "strong" principals to so-called weak schools because a strong school is much more likely to enhance the image of the principal than the principal is to enhance the image of a strong school. Comparing north end schools like Whittier to Dunlap is like comparing apples to artichokes.

In addition, the personal leave of Mr. Coberly is his business and the Districts. Perhaps parents think they should be privy to everything but I think some discretion needs to be used by all parties. Let's let the system work.

We at Whittier wish the best for Alex.

Anonymous said...

One more thing . . . even when Stanford was around, principals were never the CEO's of schools. Granted, he wanted them to be. But all the unions that principals have to work with impede that ambition. And the teachers' union is only one of several.

I wish the custodial or facilities or whatever they're called would actually be accountable. Teachers could actually teach if they weren't having to clean so much. . . (I'm not joking.)

Charlie Mas said...

Principals have (at least) two separate and distinct jobs.

On one hand, they are the building administrator. This includes the duties related to budgeting, marketing, public relations, fund raising, scheduling, making reports to the District, and maintaining the physical plant - in short, the elements other than teaching and learning.

On the other hand, the principal is supposed to be the school's instructional leader. This role includes both the teaching and learning duties and the leadership duties such as supporting, coaching, evaluating, and supervising teachers, participation in SIT team discussions, facilitating vertical and horizontal academic articulation, student discipline, setting and maintaining a culture of learning, team building, and a number of other things.

It is difficult to balance these two sets of duties, but I have yet to meet a principal who would not LOVE to delegate the building administration work and focus on the instructional leadership work.

It troubles me to hear that a school has hired a math coach or a literacy coach for two reasons. First, I would hope that the principal were the one to support the teachers and provide them with this sort of instructional leadership and mentorship. Second, if there is going to be a highly qualified certified teacher in the building, I want that person in front of students. While I understand the value of a mentoring teacher, I still want that person teaching classes at least half the day.

Wouldn't it be possible for the District to create a high level administrative position that doesn't necessarily require certification and isn't paid six figures to take over the building administration duties for one to three schools (one high school or up to three elementary schools) and thereby free up the principals to focus on the instructional leadership role?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I agree, Charlie. I am on the team at Roosevelt to interview principal candidates. We were discussing traits of a good principal and what questions might be asked. I pointed out to our student leaders at the meeting that the main job of a principal is instructional leadership and they seemed very surprised. I told them it wasn't discipline or organizing schedules, it is to oversee what teachers are teaching and guide them. (Our interim principal, Dick Campbell, said I was right.)

At large schools like Roosevelt, Garfield, even Eckstein, the principal has a huge job to do. Squeezing out every penny out of every dollar is a huge part of it even with help from staff and parents.

Charlie, you should pass that idea on.

Anonymous said...

I don't see any benefit to anyone, innocent or guilty, in publicizing a forced leave of absence without saying why. The implication the public is left with is summed up in the old cliche "no smoke without fire." Could anyone WANT their leave of absence to be accompanied by speculations about hands in the till, wrongful firing, whatever?

I am another former Whittier parent, by the way, and can't think of a thing I ever heard of Mr. Coberly saying or doing that was in the least nefarious. Of course people had an occasional minor gripe, but minor indeed compared to anything that would justify this sort of action. I'm mystified.

Melissa Westbrook said...

What is curious is how the Times managed to be at Marshall when this evaluation process occurred, why Dr. Drake did nothing to stop the Times from being there and photographing students(he apparently no longer has an office in the Main Office and the secretary must not have notified him, again, why not?) and how the Times found out about Mr. Coberly? This isn't the kind of stuff the district sends out press releases about and since it is the Times I have to wonder about if there is a mole in the district trying to undermine the district and/or the Board. I should ask a Board member what they think/know. I would think the leadership would be furious.

Anonymous said...

At Graham Hill, parents were never informed last year when an ineffective principal was given leave as to how long it would be, etc., or what plans were to run the school, and so forth. When that principal was suddenly reassigned downtown (at a high principal's salary), that was equally mysterious. But heck, after the district's performance regarding Graham Hill principals, who should have been surprised? The most delightful part of it all is that the new principal, Chris Morningstar, is simply terrific. Who'd have guessed?

Beth Bakeman said...

Anonymous Whitter teacher, I think you have misunderstood my concern about Alex Coberly's leave of absence. The issue is not necessarily why he has taken a leave of absence, it is how the district has handled it. Why was it mentioned in the paper at all?

Even assuming it wasn't the district staff that publicized the leave, why did the district spokesperson respond in a way that only encourages speculation about the reason for the leave? A statement like "Wippel also wouldn't say whether Coberly's leave was tied to a particular incident, whether police are involved or whether anyone is investigating." is inflammatory. Certainly the spokesperson could have found a better balance between protecting the privacy of the principal and providing a reasonable amount of information to assuage parents concerns and questions.

Regarding your suggestion that we "let the system work," the problem is the system is dysfunctional. After observing "the system" not working properly over and over, it's hard to expect the best in this case.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, Beth, but trying to second guess the system is not the answer either.

The Times found out because the District put out a letter to Whittier parents advising them that Mr. Coberly was on personal leave. A Whittier parent called the Times and asked them to find out why. Whether it is a forced leave or an optional personal leave has never been publicized. For all I know, Alex could be out on medical leave. We don't know.

Had I been in charge and given that it was a short time till winter break, I'd have said nothing to anyone. Personally, I just thought he was sick or something. No big deal. It is now a big deal.

I say wait until we have the facts. Why does everyone think they have to know everything about everybody all the time?

I totally agree that the District communicates poorly. No argument. But, this is personal for those of us at Whittier who are concerned about Alex and who care for him very much. If our parents could simply be patient, we will eventually all know the outcome. School will continue as usual. The teachers will make sure children are well served.

And for heavens sake, let's be flexible, understanding and kind about this.

Charlie Mas said...

Here's some information on these matters.

First, Julie Briedenbach, currently principal at Lowell, will be interim principal at Whittier. Hal Kimball, former Lowell principal, will come out of retirement to be the interim principal at Lowell. I believe that Ms Briedenbach will return to Lowell when a permanent principal assignment is made at Whittier or when Mr. Coberly returns.

On another matter, I spoke with the Times reporter about how they happened to be there during the "evaluation".

The reporter had been working on the story about Marshall for some time - months. In the course of reporting on that story - the story about the supervision of the teachers and the lack of response to the student complaint - she interviewed Ammon McWashington and Joe Drake. As the reporter was getting ready to publish, they wanted some pictures from inside the school. Dr. Drake did not care for the content of the interview and so he did not respond to the reporter's request to come to the school to take pictures.

The reporter knew that the District was going to do this "evaluation" so she made inquiries, found out who was going to the school to do the survey, and asked if they could come along. The district staff person replied "It's an open process". When they got to the school, the staff person signed them all in.

There are rules regarding photographing students in schools, and part of those rules have to do with whether or not the student is recognizable. The student pictured, with his head down on the desk, is not recognizable so the restrictions on publishing photographs is much looser.

Anonymous said...

As a parent of a child at Whittier, I disagree that Coberly's term has been without issues. A big issue at Whittier lately was that too many kids were on the waiting list for a second-grade Spectrum class. These kids were randomly assigned wait-list numbers by the district, but then the list is forwarded over the summer to Coberly (he is the keeper of the list and makes the phone call when a spot opens up.) In this summers case, many of the wait-listed kids all knew each others number. But parents are sure that the list was not followed in order. As it turned out a child who was number 21st (and whose parent is very PTA active) was automatically placed in the Spectrum class without a phone call. Other parent's who kids were in places under 10th were never called.
In fact, all the kids who got to the second grade Spectrum from the waitlist are very active PTA members (some are on the board) or are classroom PTA representatives. The other families, with lower waitlist numbers, who did not get in, were not active PTA members. I hope this was an accident, but it looks fishy.

There is also a rumor at Whittier that you can appeal the whole Spectrum testing process, by paying for private testing. Every child at Whittier that didn't pass the test but appealed was allowed into the program (but now that you can buy your way in...I know one parent said they spent 900 dollars on the appeal...there is a long wait-list for a spot). So is the Principal picking who gets the spots??? I wonder...

Anonymous said...

Well, if it is true that you can now "buy your way into Spectrum at Whittier," then that explains why their test scores have been falling. When my girls went to Whittier, half of the kids in their Spectrum class could have went to Lowell.

I know many of the same teachers are still there and they are the most wonderfully challenging teachers. My oldest loved math and was allowed to attend the third grade spectrum math classes when she was in first grade. These teachers never believed the kids had limits and were constantly challenging the kids to reach two or three grades beyond their age level.

Nevertheless, I have noticed their test scores have been falling as of late. We never heard of anyone appealing back then. And most of the kids who did get in came from all over the city, certainly not from within the school or half of the PTA. How could the PTA kids get in?

Is Whittier Spectrum still filled from all over the city? Then you could tell if the kids who are getting in are really gifted, because giftedness (as Spectrum defines it) is found randomly in 1 out of 50 kids. The program would have to fill from outside the school and outside of Ballard.

Anonymous said...

A *rumor* that you can appeal??? The appeal process has been in place forever and is a perfectly honorable business as far as I am aware. It's not a question of "buying one's way in." There have always been kids who got in based on private test scores, many times doing better than some of the kids who got in based on grade-level CogAT scores (which don't require that you actually demonstrate any above-level ability, only that you be very very accurate at grade level).

If district folks are no longer telling people about the appeal option, THAT'S the biggest inequity, in my opinion. Even bigger than the money, given that the psychologists have sliding scale fees.

The secretiveness of the district contributes greatly to inequity, in my opinion. You've got to be some kind of insider to understand how basic program choices work, which frankly stinks.

About the waitlist: that's another big example of inequity. The waitlist is produced by artificial scarcity, resulting in competition in a realm where competition is completely inappropriate. Again, those who know to have their kids tested early get in, and those who don't know get left out. Gee, I wonder who loses? The thing to do is to work for a situation where the district replicates successful programs when it is obvious that much greater capacity is needed.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Whittier's Spectrum program has never been an all-city draw. To the best of my knowledge, no Spectrum program has. The programs are meant to serve the cluster they're in, with no priority given to students who are already in the regular program at the school that provides Spectrum.

Charlie Mas said...

All Spectrum programs, like all schools, are all-city draws. Of course, the District will not provide out-of-cluster or out-of-region transportation (except when they do for students who are integration positive at certain schools or for any student leaving the Southeast middle school region for Hamilton, McClure, or Meany).

If a Spectrum-eligible student from outside the cluster applies for a Spectrum seat at a school and there is a Spectrum seat available, the out-of-cluster Spectrum-elgible student will get it.

Anonymous said...

What Charlie wrote is true, and for years the Whittier Spectrum program had a few children from the South End and half from outside of Ballard (Queen Anne, Fremont, Lake City, etc...) but now there is less than a handful of childen that do not reside in Ballard. And only two children were taken from outside of Whittier (they did not attend Whittier before enrolling in Spectrum).

This saddens me because our schools are loosing diversity and on last years survey more Whittier kids said they had less appriciation of diversity that ever before.

Who is more likely to get into Whittier Spectrum? Those with parents active in the PTA, those who went to K at Whittier (only 3 children who did not attend their first year at Whittier are in the 2nd grade program), those who can afford and have knowledge to appeal.

This is not a program that is for the NW cluster's gifted children as it was intended. This is starting to look like a program for those already at Whittier.
And if that is true then we need to ask, who is being left out who should have got in? And is it even worth getting in to a program that is in name only? The test scores at Whittier and the children's views on diversity seem to say, NO.

Anonymous said...

Whittier parents are meeting with the new principal tomorrow, Tues, Dec 19th at 3:00 PM.

Anonymous said...

If Whittier's interim principal is who Charlie says it is, she is excellent - she was the principal at View Ridge before Lowell and I heard nothing but fantastic things about her and know a lot of people were really sad when she left View Ridge for Lowell.

Anonymous said...

"Is Whittier Spectrum still filled from all over the city? Then you could tell if the kids who are getting in are really gifted, because giftedness (as Spectrum defines it) is found randomly in 1 out of 50 kids. The program would have to fill from outside the school and outside of Ballard."

Um, it's APP that's top 2%, not Spectrum. Spectrum has been variously defined, but somewhere in the top 5%-10%. I don't know how many kids are in the NW cluster, but quite a few. When my kids were at Whittier, there were already wait lists (not as large), and that was before the North Beach program closed.

I can remember Greg Imel urging people *not* to send their kids to Whittier for kindergarten out of the desire to get a better chance at the Spectrum program. Nonetheless, I think many parents who were pretty sure their kids would qualify did so anyway, wanting their kids to stay in a familiar environment, and not wanting to trigger questions about why they were changing schools. I suspect that trend has increased, as has Whittier's general popularity. The kids who go to kindergarten at Whittier are therefore far from a random sample of kids in the district.

Anonymous said...

The idea that parents of gifted children are putting their kids in Whittier K, because they want to try for Spectrum in first grade may be difficult to do, because Whittier is wait-listed and rarely does a child get into K that doesn't live within the very small neighborhood boundry.

Charlie Mas said...

Spectrum often runs in families. Once a child is in the Spectrum program at the school, it is easy to get another child into the school - even an out-of-reference area student into a wait-listed school - with the sibling tie-breaker.

Anonymous said...

I teach at Whittier and am unaware of any one moving up on the waitlist unfairly. I would be surprised. Are you sure someone went from 21st to enrolled?

Also, we have two full kindergartens every year. I'm sure the potential for Spectrum eligibility contributes to that enrollment. We have an educated and ambitious population of parents. Their children are very enriched and capable. It is a highly capable program and I'm not surprised many of our K kids become Spectrum and APP eligible.

Anonymous said...

I can add that Whittier does take students out of its cluster as my daughter got in off the waitlist, as did another child out of the cluster that year. I was surprised, as I thought children who were already at Whittier would get in first, but that was not the case. It was random -- each child who qualifies and wants the spot is given a number on the waitlist.
Whether a principal can tweak the waitlist, I can't say, but in our case this did not happen -- some of the parents of children on the waitlist were very active in the PTA etc.

Anonymous said...

My child is in second grade at Whittier. We were Spectrum eligible and had a low number on the waitlist. We did not get in and so I thought the list did not move over the summer.

We were shocked when we realized we were passed over by children who were also on the list but had higher waitlist numbers--yes as the other person wrote as high as twenty.

I now feel strongly that it was not handled properly. Although, I cannot say that something unethical happened.

Anonymous said...

I suggest that you check that out because usually by second grade, the class is full and there is no room or perhaps few spots available.

If that happened, you should take it up with the District post haste.

Charlie Mas said...

You can file an appeal of an enrollment decision if you think that you were not treated fairly or the rules were not followed.

Anonymous said...

"I can add that Whittier does take students out of its cluster as my daughter got in off the waitlist, as did another child out of the cluster that year."
My questions to this parent: Were you new to Whittier (went to a diffent K) or did you have a sibling already at Whittier? And did you get a phone call from the district (before the list is passed to the principal)? Or did the Whittier staff call you in the Fall? The principal doesn't get the list until August.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure I would appeal with Coberly as the principal.

I think Whittier's principal, after dealings with him on committees and in speaking with other parents who have also dealt with him, is a retaliatory, insensitive, "tell you what you want to hear", under-skilled pricipal and I think they are probably scared it may impact their child's changes for next year.

Anonymous said...

I don't know who you are but that whole comment is ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

I have to say that I strongly considered Whittier, but after meeting the principal there and his take on the gifted program, I did feel he was either a very poor communicator or hostile toward the advanced learning program. We went to North Beach instead and now we are at Lowell.

Charlie Mas said...

anonymous wrote:

"after meeting the principal there and his take on the gifted program, I did feel he was either a very poor communicator or hostile toward the advanced learning program."

Hostility towards Spectrum and APP is a surprisingly common attitude in Seattle Public Schools. I say surprising because gifted programs are not regarded with hostility elsewhere. Carla Santorno said that she was really surprised by it. She has never seen any other District that was hostile at all, let alone SO hostile, towards its gifted programs. Everywhere else she has ever been or ever heard of, principals are clamoring to have a gifted program in their school. In Seattle, however, they typically DON'T want it. She is mystified. So am I. What's up with that?

Anonymous said...

I studied giftedness in grad school and interviewed many families of gifted children. I now teach in a regular classroom but for four years I was a APP teacher and then a Spectrm teacher for five years.

In Seattle I encountered few gifted children in my program maybe three per year. And to be honest they were the kids who didn't fit well into the classroom, had gaps in their learning, and seemed unusual. The other kids in the classroom were what I would call, highly motivated by their parents to succeed. And they were easier to work with and had very normal social and academic needs.

As a teacher of a large classroom, if I ever had 20 gifted children, I would not have known what to do. Luckily the program attracts these less gifted but very knowledgeable children whose parents work with them at home.

The downside of this is that some of us felt we were not really teaching gifted children, and I think it also weakened our belief in the program. Never did I see poor children from dysfunctional families in my classroom, no foster children, or children of single parents.

Where were those children? I grad school I learned you can't teach giftedness it is an oddity. So where are those children?

Maggie said...

Anonymous, I sure agree with you about the "giftedness" factor. Although, children who test in the 98 and 99 percentile certainly aren't average. Isn't that what Lowell serves?

I've taught Spectrum and had several APP students as well. The really gifted kids were not always on board with my particular assignments which didn't bother me at all as long as they were engaged. One of my children simple read every book in the room . . . and I had a lot!

Also, "giftedness" isn't always rounded. It can be specific. So, I concur with your comment that it could be difficult to teach to.

Having said that, if I really had a full class of high achievers who were highly motivated and working above grade level, I would be doing a lot more arts enrichment with them. We would be learning history by producing Shakespearean plays; we would be doing math via hands-on projects. But, because most Spectrum kids are at grade level in certain areas, you have to include the teaching that they need and you can't assume they are getting it through project learning. They need direct teaching as well.

I'm in favor of Spectrum even though it includes a lot of highly motivated if not gifted kids. These kids deserve a placement that honors their commitment to learning and effort. It is shameful when they sit in classrooms geared to low and middle kids who are having to be constantly motivated.

Charlie Mas said...

Okay, let's step into this tender subject. Beth may want to break this off and make it a new thread, but here we go.

What is Spectrum? Whom does it serve? Why do we need it? How much do we need?

The same questions can and should be asked about APP.

What is Spectrum? It is supposed to be a self-contained program for academically gifted students in grades 1-8 providing a rigorous and accelerated curriculum - as developmentally appropriate - in reading and math.

In reality, however, Spectrum is only self-contained (or nearly so) in a few schools. At a more than half of the designated Spectrum sites, the Spectrum classes are not self-contained. In this context, "self-contained" would mean that all - or at least a strong majority - of the students in the class are District-identified Spectrum-eligible. Some designated Spectrum schools have VERY FEW district-identified Spectrum-eligible students. So few, in fact, that the presence of a program is questionable.

There is also some debate about whether the Spectrum students are "gifted" or not. They have been tested and have demonstrated that their cognitive ability is in the top 13% nationally. There can be little question that this reaches into a range that cannot be regarded as "gifted".

Finally, there is some question as to whether the curriculum is rigorous and accelerated. While these is a good deal of talk along those lines, it would be insanely labor-intensive to make any sort of real determination. There are no assessments or benchmarks for rigor or acceleration. No one checks on Spectrum programs to make sure that they are fulfilling this promise, and there is no one who holds the schools accountable for providing rigor and acceleration.

Whom does Spectrum serve? It serves a population of high performing students. This population is much more likely to be White and much less likely to be African-American than the district population as a whole. It is much less likely to be eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, and much more likely to come from a two-parent household than the district population as a whole.

Why do we need it? We need it for a variety of reasons, academic, financial, and political.

Academically, we need it because, while this population of high performing students are not particularly extraordinary, and these students are well-served in the general education programs at some schools, their needs cannot be reliably met at most of our schools. This is a somewhat shameful admission, but true. Most Seattle Public Schools do not provide adequate support to students working beyond Standards. In addition, there is reason to believe that the students are even better served in the self-contained programs, although the District has not disaggregated that data.

Financially, there is ample evidence that when access to Spectrum is unavailable, families are as likely to choose to leave the District than accept assignment to a general education program. These families make disproportionately higher contributions of time and money to the District. If withdrawn, their contributions would be missed.

The program is politically necessary to meet the needs of families that want an academic opportunity for their children which is free of those elements of public education that they desperately wish to escape: other students' discipline problems that waste their child's class time, remedial lessons that waste their child's class time, and any de-motivating influences (such as boredom, the perception that the child is the smartest person around, and teachers who put a ceiling on what they will teach because it is "next year's lesson"), the worst of which is peer pressure to underachieve.

I sometimes think that people choose Spectrum as much or more for what ISN'T there than they are for what IS there.

How much Spectrum do we need? There is a variety of possible answers to that question. In the Utopian Vision in which all teachers have amazing talents so they can differentiate instruction for each student and deliver parallel curricula to their class, we don't need Spectrum at all. From another viewpoint we could say that we need a Spectrum seat for every student who is ready and able to work beyond Standards but who is not being supported in that work in their general education program. In this world view we could eventually get up to 30 or 40% of the students into the program. In the most pragmatic sense, we need enough Spectrum capacity to provide a seat for every qualified student who wants one - which is more than we have now. It could be argued that the District does not offer real Spectrum in a number of elementary school clusters and none at all in the West Seattle-South cluster.
The legitimacy of a number of the middle school programs is also debatable.

Maggie said...

As a teacher who has taught Spectrum children, I do see another factor which I call the "sponge" factor. It is curiosity. My experience in my north end school was that the District-identified "gifted" children were easily engaged because they loved to learn.

That is certainly not true of all programs. But, I found it to be a major difference between the kids themselves. I had excellent readers mostly. I had some who were high achievers in math, a few in writing or art. But, most of them were very, very curious. That made my job easy.

Within that one classroom, I had very few who were not sponges for learning, and I could identify those that weren't almost immediately.

It is that strong desire to learn that demands a Spectrum placement for these kids.

Also, I wonder at the notion of "rigor" with children. When I started under Dr. Vaughn, he was comfortable with an "enrichment" model. I think rigor might be applicable in middle and high school but elementary is not the proper time in a child's life to exhort painful effort. I much preferred the challenge of broadening and deepening their interests than in moving them quickly through curriculum.

Faster is not always better.

Anonymous said...

I thought this blog was about Alex Coberly....

As a former Whittier parent, I found Alex to be aggressive and hot-headed, not to mention immature. I am inclined to believe Alex is gone because he did something without think first. That's his usual MO.

Anonymous said...

I think the discussion went to advanced learning because someone mentioned that Alex Coberly was not a friend to spectrum. As a parent of a Spectrum child I feel that is true, and after reading about the wait-list for Spectrum, and my other dealing with him on Spectrum, I feel his goal was to undermine Whittier's spectrum program.

However, if you are at Whittier you will find that a whole extra class of students is now on the wait-list for Spectrum. What is a principal to do when half the school is Spectrum eligable?
You raise the whole school's rigor.

But he can't get the teachers on board and half the kids in the school are doing busy work-Spectrum too!

Twenty years ago those teachers were rigorous and challenging, but now what they teach at each level kids learn a year earlier in the worst private schools.

The standards have changed for what a child should learn by when. When those teachers started there was one preschool in the neighborhood. Now even stay at home parents send their kids to pre-school to learn Kindergarten stuff.

Anonymous said...

"Twenty years ago those teachers were rigorous and challenging, but now what they teach at each level kids learn a year earlier in the worst private
schools. "

Please do not insult teachers. What teachers teach is not what teachers want to teach. We teachers are required by the state to teach to the standards, and the standards are tough. The curriculum that is required of us to teach has no room for "busy work." Home School if you think it's so awful.

Anonymous said...

As a teacher at Whittier, I sure haven't seen the same Alex Coberly that you describe. He has been responsible for more positive change at that school than anyone before him subsequent to Ellen Punyon.

He does support his teachers as well as work for kids . . .

Sorry your view is so negative.

Anonymous said...

I have a child in Whittier, and one more who will be going through so I care very dearly about the school. I give a lot of my time as does Mr. Coberly, the teachers and all of the parents at Whittier.

I have never seen this site but was looking for clues as to what is going on with our principal. And I think blog personalities are sort of a "good cop" and "bad cop" where people write things they would not sign their name to because they want to push the discussion to the edge.

That being said, I, as one parent, do not think Alex has helped our school a great deal-we were a strong school when he arrived. The teacher whom wrote before me feels has been good for the school. So I trust that the teachers mostly like him (last years staff survey reveled as much).

However, most of the parents that I have contact with (I will admit they are mostly parents of those in the Spectrum program and tend to be the ones that take on a major role at the school. We chair committees, run after school clubs, volunteer at least two hours a week, and give a great deal of money.) do not think he has been good for our school.

Mainly he has turned off higher-educated parents of Spectrum children and I know several families who have left Whittier for private schools or APP and other families that I really wanted to attract to the school that told me after talking with the principal they felt turned-off.

Now this bothers us because it really was true that our test scores were comparable to Lowell's because kids who could have went private or to Lowell stayed. And those of us who are trying to have our kids strive for that type of education are trying to wait him out. But more and more of the parents of these kids (I included) are seeing our kids come home not excited about learning, not feeling they are being challenged and we are getting a little nervous.

To me he has created a culture that does not appreciate excellence. How could he do this? I am not sure, but he doesn't really talk to the kids about academics, he doesn't acknowledge or give much support or acknowledgement to our wonderful PTA-funded Spanish program, he doesn't acknowledge or show pride in the fact that we have one of the best chess clubs in the city of Seattle, he doesn't do much to encourage kids not to watch TV (Mr. Pule does this and really inspires the kids--Thank our lucky stars for Mr. Pule who must be the best PE teacher in the district) although he does remind the kids, Mr. Coberly doesn't really make the kids feel it is important.

I don't blame him or the teachers for the little drop in test scores-but I don't think he brings a culture of excellence, and so parents who want that for their kids, and know it is something you have to work on everyday are feeling a bit concerned, and some are choosing to leave. And that is concerning those of us who are trying to keep that culture of excellence at our school.

Anonymous said...

As a former parent at Whittier, I find the last comments laughable, but also so sad. Another Spectrum parent complaining about all the work Spectrum parents do to keep Whittier segregated between the smart kids and the dumb kids. Spectrum parents run roughshod over the PTA, the curriculum, the faculty and especially any parent whose child is not in Spectrum but tries to be involved anyway.

Students are in Spectrum through questionable testing and shady appeals. Not one Spectrum teacher at Whittier has an advanced degree. The best teacher was harrassed out by Mr. Coberly. She pushed every student to learn. Then took them camping in the spring! Ms. Davis taught multi-grades, Special Ed, and Spectrum wait-list students. She challenged them all. Where is she now?

Spectrum parents: please remember that all students are gifted and your child is no better than any other child at Whittier.

I am sure to receive howls about these comments. I've heard it all before. Instead make a "play date" with some other child and make damn sure that child is in Spectrum. Fraternalizing with any other child might make your kid's hands dirty.

Anonymous said...

I wrote the comment about the culture of excellence and it has nothing to do with smart or dumb segregated or not. The families he has turned off are also gay families, and people of color, and parents of families not even looking at Spectrum but looking for strong academics for everyone in the school. Most schools want a Spectrum program because they really can lift the whole school, and they want language, arts, and strong clubs.

The principal is a guide to what the whole school can achieve when he is supportive of the whole school --"having everyone read the same book" as another principal does--then the whole school can strive for excellence in every child.

As I said, I do have a child in Spectrum but I feel as you, for I know a lot of kids at Whittier, that the kids in Spectrum are no smarter than the kids out.

So this is sad, because by the third grade, Spectrum test scores start out achieving non-spectrum school test scores.

Well this doesn't have to happen, if you have a principal that strives for academics and expects excellence from each of the kids and teachers at his school. Like Ms. Davis.
So we very much agree.

Anonymous said...

As a parent of one child who did not do Spectrum and two who are, (NOT at WHittier)I am wondering where this hostility comes from? It certainly it not at my school.

Please can someone comment on the person who said Spectrum parents only allow playdates with other Spectrum kids.

It is true that you do playdates with the kids in your class, and even more likely your desk partner, and by second-grade usually with the same sex child in your class. But have you asked a child in or out of your child classroom (Spectrum or not) for a playdate? And did you get a different response from the "Spectrum parents"?

And what was the comment that "Spectrum parents run roughshod over the PTA, the curriculum, the faculty and especially any parent whose child is not in Spectrum but tries to be involved anyway." Aren't Spectrum parents also just parents? Why do you, as a parent, label yourselves as something other than parents?

This really needs some follow-up? This is concerning that there is this hostility out there? Can someone else comment?

It seems your whole school needs some help and some serious counceling!

Anonymous said...

"Please can someone comment on the person who said Spectrum parents only allow playdates with other Spectrum kids."

I had twins in Spectrum and regular classes at Whittier, and never saw the attitudes described in that post. My daughters were invited to playdates and parties, separately and together, by quite a variety of kids. One of the things I treasured about Whittier was that it was easy to talk to other parents on the playground after school, and I don't recall any big divide between Spectrum and non-Spectrum parents.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

I am a little resentful of Spectrum families at Whittier because what the person said about the test scores being higher for Spectrum is true and I think all kids should be entitled to the same program.

In a world where there was perfect information (everyone knew about the test, everyone could afford to appeal (even at a sliding scale it was too much for our family) and ever kids is tested in the same year then I would not be resentful.

My child was recommeded for testing and missed the cutoff by two points in one area. We know other kids who missed it by much more but had the money to appeal and got in. It was a particuarly had time and we could not afford it. But doesn't my daughter deserve the same quality of education? It is public school afterall?
So we are at Whittier and the teachers say, she is easily Spectrum level, but it doesn't matter because it is filled.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I, as well as several of our fellow Whittier parents, have to agree that Coberly is, as one blogger put it, a "retaliatory, insensitive, "tell you what you want to hear", under-skilled principal."

He is an arrogant, young frat-boy type and no doubt his hot-headedness and essential hubris is at the root of his dismissal.

Anonymous said...

"I am a little resentful of Spectrum families at Whittier because what the person said about the test scores being higher for Spectrum is true and I think all kids should be entitled to the same program. "

I think your feelings are misdirected toward the Spectrum parents - it sounds like you should direct your feelings towards the school district policies, not other parents. We should be working toward a common goal of ensuring all of the Seattle Schools are providing the best education possible for all of the kids.

I am amazed to read some of the comments in this blog about Spectrum vs. non-Spectrum. My family has been involved with both programs, and I think the quality of education in both programs at Whittier is excellent. No program, school, teacher, or principal is perfect, but I think Whittier is a jewel in public education.

I would rather see parents working together to improve it's imperfections, rather than pitting programs against each other.

Maggie said...

I think Whittier is getting the brunt of all this negativity simply because the thread started out about Whittier's principal.

These feelings about Spectrum in general are felt universally by some parents at every Spectrum school; esp., those schools which have self-contained classrooms.

You will never overcome the feelings/beliefs of privilege and elitism when you give something to the highly-capable kids.

Extra money and extra programs are always available for at-risk kids. But, children who need more challange or something different at the high end rarely have that same empathy from the general population.

Also, even though we try so very, very hard to help children disregard the differences between the regular and spectrum programs, parents are usually at fault for illuminating those differences. Both the parents of kids in the program who brag to their children about their "brilliance" - yes, I've heard it - and those parents who resent the program and talk about it around their children.

Children have elephant-size ears. They don't miss much. And, children are very, very savvy. They get it.

Parents could help themselves and their children if they would emphasize the hard work Spectrum requires and not the "not-always-high IQ' of the children in the program. Both programs contains very smart kids. But, Spectrum asks for more. Not all parents want children held to that expectation.

Anonymous said...

I do feel for Whittier. A principal like Coberly can destroy a lesser school. Look what happened at Greenwood under Dr. Radcliff.

Whittier is such a strong school, but I know the parents there have been holding their collective breath since he arrived.

And then when he put his child in the school (somehow getting a full-time slot over kids who live closer...hmmm), my friends felt doomed.

Look at his supporters and they are probably supportive because he took their side of an issue before he heard all the facts--another thing he was known for.

Or maybe he "arranged" for those coveted Spectrum spots for his supporters.

Either way, Whittier has survived where other weaker schools would have seen enrollment fall.

Good Luck Whittier, I know your hard working, committed, and child-centered teachers, PTA, and staff have deserved better for a long time.

Anonymous said...

My two cents: Alex Coberly is a parent, and citizen and it is a shame that public official have so many critics. Who would take his job after reading this blog? You will be lucky to get a decent replacement. How do we know it not these blogging Whittier parents who are wacky?

Beth Bakeman said...

The original purpose of this post was to discuss problems with how principals are assigned and moved around between schools.

The goal of this blog is to have everyone across the city come together to work for great schools. Working for change often includes criticizing or pointing out problems, but this particular thread does not seem to have a productive focus right now.

I would remind all the Whittier parents that when parents of incoming kindergarteners are looking for schools, they will probably do a Google search and will find this blog and the comments on this post.

Anonymous said...

You can't imagine what it was like to be at Whittier and then have this inexperienced know-it-all principal come in and insult and humiliate the teachers, patronize the parents, and basically do his best to turn off every touring parent who walked in the door.

You then stay, because you love your school and you send your next kids through, and bite your tongue everyday. And then to finally think you are free of the person who abused your school and tried to run it into the ground.

As the other poster said, a weaker school would have been destroyed, but we are not a weak school, our parents are motivated, our teacher are committed, and our PTA works hard everyday to bring the very best to all of Whittier's children. We basically tried to insulate them from his ineptness.

So hopefully we are free of the ogre and our story and the story of each of our kids can continue happily ever after.

Does this have a meaningful thread? Maybe the district will give Alex to someone out there and they will see that they can still be strong and successful and also weather through. Or maybe the district will start taking the complaints (numberous were sent over the years) more seriously if people start speaking out about BAD principals.

Anonymous said...

I think the main job of a principal should be that of an academic leader.

He should make sure the curriculum moves each kids along to the next level. He should inspire the teachers and have high expectations of them.

He should be checking in with families to see if they feel their children are challenged.

I hear some teachers resent when a principal wants the different grades to work together as a whole.

This would prove more difficult at Spectrum school where the children are supposed to not have a ceiling in math and reading.

I think a large school with Spectrum need a curriculum adviser who works along side the teachers and principal to ensure that Spectrum standards are being met.
That same person could have a list of kids who are also highly-motivated for reading and/or math but not in Spectrum to help advise teachers on their curriculum.

It is a lot to expect a principal to be able to responsible for two different sets of curricula (Spectrum and regular).

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
I don't know who you are but that whole comment is ridiculous

If you know what I know, you would not support Alex Coberly. He is a terrible administrator and deserves to be fired. I have witnessed his racism against African Americans and lesbians. I say, good riddance.

Anonymous said...

My children attend Whittier. They come home from school feeling safe, involved and excited about learning. We have had terrific teachers (not in the Spectrum program) and my children have made many friends, both Spectrum and non-.

We love our school and the Whittier community, and it is dismaying to see members of our school (anonymously) tearing apart our principal in a public forum. NO ONE is perfect, and I daresay that includes all of you.

The district has handled this leave extremely poorly and people are frustrated. But leave the vitriol at home, please.

Anonymous said...

From my perspective, no one is tearing apart the school when they finally complain about their dealing with a principal. I believe instead they are letting involved parents at other schools know that they can survive and are hoping this site can help them with the change they are hoping for. I have grown children who have gone through SPS, I read this site regularly, and I also have been involved in some SPS committees with Alex that took place outside of Whittier.

I personally do not know any facts about racism or bigotry as another poster mentioned and I have heard him speak passionately about the children he serves. I also imagine that Alex Coberly gave his best for the school each day, but he clearly does not have the interpersonal skills to deal with so many different stake-holders at his school and a few times I was taken aback at some of his comments about "pushy parents" and he did seem to hold some contempt for Spectrum parents as another poster alluded to.

As a overseer of managers in public service, I realize that public sector management is difficult and some people can learn to be better managers and I would invest the time in helping some of my highly skilled technicians become better managers, but with a young, relatively unskilled principal with some questionable attitudes I would just cut my loses.

Is the school at harm by blogging this issue? It may be if he is brought back, but SPS as a whole wins when people discuss this issue and it seems like people at Whittier and elsewhere care not only about their school but about each school in Seattle. This will give ammunition to another school who may have to fight his placement at their school.

Anonymous said...

Can we not pay principals more to attract more skilled interpersonal managers and pay yearly bonuses based on the percentage of CHANGE in the parents who feel their child is thriving academically, emotionally and developmentally at the school. Seems like it couldn't hurt. I would rather pay for a good manager than bottled water.

Anonymous said...

"Parents could help themselves and their children if they would emphasize the hard work Spectrum requires and not the "not-always-high IQ' of the children in the program. Both programs contains very smart kids. But, Spectrum asks for more. Not all parents want children held to that expectation." Wrote Maggie...

What I truly treasure about Whittier is that both my kids, who have very different learning styles, can be at the same school and both be thriving and happy. My older child tested into APP, but we wanted her to have the academically challenging environment she needed, while at the same time attending her neighborhood school with her little brother, who likes to move around and need an alternative learning environment. At Whittier, my family gets both but, but, this is very true at Whittier: They are both held to high expectations--just in the way that is exactly right for each of them.

We are so pleased to be at Whittier it is alternative, team-taught and APP all rolled into one neighborhood school. Thank goodness we are within the boundary. However, I, like most posters, will not shed any tears if Alex Coberly doesn't return. Is it only Spectrum parents that feel this way? He does rub me the wrong way on Spectrum issues. I am sure that he doesn't think that Whittier need a Spectrum program.

Anonymous said...

I'm actually offended at the poster who continues to speak for all parents when s/he derides and denigrates Mr. Coberly. I teach at that school.

Now hopefully the readers on this board can see how difficult and rude some of our parents can be. Most are wonderful and our parents are what keep our school going and growing.

But, the kind of angry attacks posted by this poster is not representative of the parent population. I'm willing to admit that Alex must have some communication issues . . . several people have mentioned that. But, I do not believe for a moment that most parents hold him in such distaste as is reflected above. As a teacher, I can promise you that we support him and have found his leadership to be energetic, demanding and supportive. He is young. We've helped to train him and he has learned to coax the best out of us.

If you insist on attacking him, please speak for yourself only. I'm sorry he has so angered you.

Anonymous said...

It seems the current poster thinks that one person is reaponsible for all the negative blogs on Alex Coberly. How do you correct this? I have never felt compelled to blog in my life.
I will call myself Whit1, but it is important that he is not placed at another school if these comments are true; I know mine about him not creating a culture of excellence is true. So please help the next school by speaking up as Whit and then pick a number.

Anonymous said...

The Whittier teacher has every right, of course, to support Alex. But, he/she is incorrect in stating all teachers at Whittier support him. I also teach at Whittier and all the negative stuff being said about him in this blog I agree with. I hope he stays away; very far away.

Anonymous said...

I would like to discuss how a school gets rid of a bad principal or can they refuse to take him? I enrolled my kids in my neighborhood school, Greenwood, and ended up fleeing with everyone else.

It seems there is no information that the PTA can look at to see if the principal is liked, or has preformed well.

One person mentioned that there is a survey done at the school each year and Whittier's principal, Alex Coberly was well liked.

Is this survey done on each principal? What does it ask? Can it be expanded to have parent attitudes toward the principal?

We at Greenwood saw our enrollment drop and still for years nothing was done about the principal there.

It seems PTA's are powerless once a principal is placed.

I worry about my current school because we love our principal, but she has been here for a while now and with these problems at Whittier we are worried they may pull her to go there. We are a sucessful school and I believe she has helped our school tremendously.

Beth Bakeman said...

Yes, there is a place to get data on principals. I will create a new post today on this topic and give you details.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but I don't believe a teacher wrote that last post. There's no way to prove it, of course, but a teacher wouldn't generally leave a message like that without some sort of general explanation.

We've had staff meetings frequently lately, and I know most teachers are very supportive of him. If you don't think we are, look at the evaluations he's been given by staff - Beth has posted the link in her latest comment. Alex gets higher scores than the District's principals in general.

I think the proof is in the evaluation . . . check it out. We don't need to leave this to an anonymous detractor.

Anonymous said...

It is true the teachers and staff gave him much higher scores than the District average. And they score the District very low. Hmmm, what does this tell us? If it is true that Whittier parents are being mailed letters tomorrow that "may cause much concern" what does that tell us about this positive survey just last Spring?

Anonymous said...

I am a Whittier parent and it's obvious to anyone who reads this blog that we need some better communication from the district. I do believe in confidentialty, but after the letter that was sent home today saying there would be a letter coming in the mail that would cause "discomfort", I can only say that the district needs to have an open meeting with all of us. My Whittier experiences have been very mixed. I will not be sad if Mr. Coberly leaves. We decided to choose Whittier in spite of him and hoped for the best. This blog shows a lot of passion and feeling for Whittier which is what makes it such a great school, but our warts are showing too and these need to be attended to. We need a strong leader to come and help. I don't believe that Alex can do this. But that aside, thank you to those who are really speaking your minds in a school where that isn't always encouraged.

Anonymous said...

What is it you are looking for a strong leader to do? Whittier is a strong school. Has been throughout his leadership.

Also, the District average is reached by averaging all the principals' evaluations by staffs. Alex's staff supports him more than the average staff supports its principal.

Every school will have warts just like every family has warts. If you are looking for perfection, home schooling might be the only place you find it. :)


If I may say, complaining is so easy . . . treasuring that which works benefits children in the long run. We have too much nit-picking for my taste.

BTW, the letter tomorrow will separate those who want to wait for the truth and those who will jump to conclusions. I'm a waiter . . . I'll hope for the best for Alex. May not be what it seems . . .

Anonymous said...

Also, I watched the school board meeting from Jan 3 tonight. Better communication is needed throughout the District. Communication is the Districts biggest failure.

Anonymous said...

Strong leadership involves listening to everyone even when there is disagreement and even when you don't want to hear something. I think it's wonderful so many parents and teachers love the school and thin Alex is wonderful. Obviously, some of us believe our school could be improved and even when mentioning this anonomously are shot down. My experience has been that few are willing to express concerns publicly in this school. It's not that bad, but there does need to be an openess and it isn't there for the all parents. As for your comment about homeschooling, you can rot. Public school is for everyone, even those who think it could be better. We at Whittier are far from perfection. I too have been willing to wait and see about Alex. I haven'spoken to anyone about this except my husband. Whatever it is we wish him the best, but as I said before we wouldn't be sad to see a stronger more open leader come to the school.

Anonymous said...

So....for all of you that just can't wait to know. You should have the letters from the district by now!

Anonymous said...

"I'm actually offended at the poster who continues to speak for all parents when s/he derides and denigrates Mr. Coberly. I teach at that school.

Now hopefully the readers on this board can see how difficult and rude some of our parents can be. Most are wonderful and our parents are what keep our school going and growing."

This poster is in no doubt speaking to the parents who want to see Whittier improve. "Most parents are wonderful" is referring to the parents who do not speak up and cause discomfort at the school.

I am sorry, but I applaud those brave enough to question and think critically. We need more of that in our schools, not less.

Those who even try and question anything at Whittier are usually shot down and now here a teacher is referring to them as "rude" or as another teacher said "aggressive."

What are we teaching our children when teachers have the attitude that parents, who are fighting for a better school for everyone are "rude", just because they don't conform to the Whittier Way of I guess not dare saying our school isn't perfect?

As parents at Whittier we give so much of our time, energy, and money, we pour our heart into our school, how can you be against us? We love our school and are committed to public education. We are on the same side, we want the same things: an always improving school for all of our children.

I would like to say that like you I wish Alex the best, but I have seen too much "overlooked" behavior from him. Finally, it seems, there is some evidence ("charges were filed" our letter said) to back up the view that many of us have long had of him.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for saying this. This is my sentiment exactly. I am the one who was told to homeschool my child in this blog because I said I'd like to see some strong leadership. This attitude is frightening to me. I volunteer my time. I attend the PTA when I can. I donate money to the school whenever it is asked for in the classroom, for teacher's gifts and for the other wonderful activities the pta puts on. To be told to homeschool because I am unahppy with some of the lack of leadership I've witnessed is exactly the problem we've encountered since we began at the school. There is no room to speak out openly and this just isn't healthy. There are a lot of wonderful things at this school that our family supports, but we also recognize that Whittier has problems. We heard about them before we toured the school and they have held true. They shouldn't be overlooked and one of them is the overlooked issues with Mr. Coberly. Sarcsism is not something that works with children for starters.

Anonymous said...

Alex Coberly was charged with indecent exposure.

Anonymous said...

Those of you who posted about saying that the District should have given more details earlier, do you think that they could have given any more information now that you know why he was placed on leave? If he was not charged with a crime at the time, there was no way for the district to give out more information. It was up to Coberly to say or not say why he was on leave. If the district explained why he was on leave then, before the police investigation was done, and the prosecutor did not charge him, his career would have been ruined and the we (the taxpayers) would be paying through the nose for it after he sued the district. I think they did the best they could under the circumstances, and gave the only honest response they could when asked.

Beth Bakeman said...

Yes, I still think the district handled it poorly.

Wippel (district spokesperson) "wouldn't say whether Coberly's leave was tied to a particular incident, whether police are involved or whether anyone is investigating."

Why couldn't she have said that Coberly's leave was tied to an incident that happened outside of the school, no children are involved, and police are investigating?

Anonymous said...

More is coming out about Alex Coberly, hopefully some of the other things will now come out and will help people who have been scared to speak out.

Please parents if you feels some of the things he did just seemed a little wrong, please step forward and tell someone. I don't think it is too late.

Many times sexual addiction goes hand in hand with people who do other things wrong as well. Did Alex tell you something that wasn't true? Were you afraid to question him? Did he force a good teacher out of our school through his inappropriate behavior? Did he manipulate the Spectrum wait-list so your child was skipped over? Did he keep you out of full-time Kindergarten? Did he stop you "by telling you a lie" from doing something to improve the school because it may have made his job a bit more difficult? Did he threaten you not to do something or to ask him anymore questions about something that you wanted answers about.

Please tell someone at the District what you know; if ever they were going to listen it would be now! I know other parents who are already speaking up. Support them with what you know as well.
Don't let him come back to another school.

Anonymous said...

Your behavior is ugly and ignorant.

Anonymous said...

"Many times sexual addiction goes hand in hand with people who do other things wrong as well."

That sounds like a ridiculous statement. Does the poster have some sort of expertise on sex addiction, or scientific evidence to back this up with? I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

As a Whittier parent, yes, I do think the district could have done more. They could have said that this was a private matter, not involving the school. While it does obviously affect his job, we had no clue if this was a personal versus a personnel issue. If we had been told that it was an in-school problem (theft, mis-management, etc.) we could have been taking steps to correct it. If we had been told more clearly that this was a private matter, we could have speculated that it was his health, etc. and left it at that while wishing him the best. As it was left, rumors have swirled for a month, and I can't imagine him being able to come back to this climate even if he is proven innocent. I actually care less about this story now that I know that this is his private business, and the school wasn't involved.

Anonymous said...

I agree with that. They could have indicated that it was personal. Not school related at all.

Would have satisfied me and been true.

Anonymous said...

"That sounds like a ridiculous statement. Does the poster have some sort of expertise on sex addiction, or scientific evidence to back this up with? I doubt it."

I thing I can respond to this: It is common knowledge that people who have untreated addictions often do what is in the best interest of that addiction, not what is in the best interest of their job. Why else would we as a society screen job applicants for so many "addictions."

Anonymous said...

"common knowledge"="a common fool"

Anonymous said...

"common knowledge"="a common fool" You would be the fool to think that a hidden or unresolved addiction did not affect his tenure.

Anonymous said...

1. This incident did not take place at school or with children
The media is completely overstepping their place, publicizing this story to such an extreme. This is Mr. Coberly's PERSONAL issue. I know him to be a very caring, determined, good-humored, and intelligent man. Obviously he has a problem, but who's to say they don't as well. Maybe not a sexual addiction, but we in truth all have our skeletons. In addition, think of his wife and two young children... what effect is this having on them? What we as a community need to do is show this man and his family a thing called GRACE. Yes he made a mistake, but if he recogizes that and seeks positive help then why shouldn't we support him?? I'm not saying that he should return to Whittier, but I do feel that holding his fault against him is unfair. Think of yourself in his position. Your life exposed to the world...embarassed, regretful, ashamed. Whether you thought he was a good principal or not, he is a human being just like you and me, and deserves respect and the chance to apologize and be forgiven.

Anonymous said...

I believe the negative and mean posts herein belong to one or two continuous posters. I've been reading for several days and they seem strikingly the same . . . too bad.

Anonymous said...

The ultimate disposition of Mr. Coberly has more to do with his behavior, the facts and related consequences. When he engaged in the behavior and then provided the statements, as attributed to him in the complaint filed by police investigators, he placed himself in personal and professional jeopardy. Irrespective of one's empathy or sympathy for him, the basic issue is one of accountability. When one assumes a position with management responsibilities for oversight of teachers and collective performance around children, one is held to a higher standard. If he was the custodian, most would request that he be separated from our children.

Anonymous said...

This is now a personal issue (I wrote that I felt he did not create a culture of excellence at Whittier and then defended what I meant by that) but I am done posting and will not do so again Maggie. He is not a bad guy and I wish him the best! I would still like to talk about hiring leaders but will do so in the other thread without mention of Coberly.

Anonymous said...

The District could not have just said that it was a "personal" issue becuase it is also a "personnel" issue that he is on admin leave for. Having been an employer for several years at a semi-public agency like the schools, an employer cannot give the reason for why someone is on leave, particularly when it is because that person is under a criminal investigation. I don't think Ms. Wipple called up the media to say she "wouldn't say whether Coberly's leave was tied to a particular incident, whether police are involved or whether anyone is investigating." As an employer, you just plain can't answer those kinds of questions when something is not public.

Anonymous said...

Shame on all of you. It is none of your business why someone is placed on leave. Just because you want to know doesn't give you the right to know. There are laws that require this information to be confidental. Would you really want the world to know why you were put on leave if the matters hadn't been proven just yet? I argue that you wouldn't.
AND STOP comparing your school's scores to other schools. That is lame and puts undue pressure on kids, teachers and the staff. Quit complaining and be happy that you are alive, that your kids are healthy and MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS!

Anonymous said...

I want to discuss Whittier's future.

How do we get passed this? Many things have been said and now I have to admit I am looking at people differently in the hallways.

Is there an issue with Spectrum? Are teachers challenging students? Is there a divide at Whittier between non-Spectrum and Spectrum.

Do the teachers control the school or does the PTA?

Can you have a differing opinion without being shot down. It is my first year, but I did remember when someone wanted to buy a teacher to reduce class size, several people shot him down.

When someone else mentioned giving acknowledgements to families based on how much they donate--like a Whittier mug or license plate frame for those who give over 500 dollars they were immediately jumped on without it even being considered for a moment.

I like that Whittier runs well, but it doesn't stop to check the oil or maybe try a new hybrid engine--if you get the analogy. "We have always done it this way" "You are new, please don't get in the way of our efficiency" is implied if not spoken.

I feel sort of like a bothersome fly that no one invited in when I go to PTA meetings.

Anonymous said...

I too am a first-year Whittier parent, and I feel the same as the above poster. Maybe it's time for new blood all around to open things up?

Anonymous said...

I am a first year parent there too and feel like the some of the PTA members are a bunch of snobs. They beg for your money but don't even acknowledge your existence. We are all there for the same reason because we care about our kids education. Parents of the younger kids are the future PTA, shouldn't we be welcomed?

Anonymous said...

I am in my third year and feel exactly the same. But I have to go get my kids to sleep now. I will try and revisit soon.

Anonymous said...

Further to M/M "Mind your own Business" at 9:08, a more measured response would be to consider the fact that his admitted sexual, deviant behavior is material for anyone in a position of influence over constituents that include children and women. Accordingly, he has compromised his standing and ability to lead in this environment. Unfortunately, this is our business only to the extent the school district elects to retain him in his current position.

Anonymous said...

There's a huge leadership gap at Whittier and it's amazing to me that the school has functioned as well as it has for as long as it has. We're in the first year there as well - we came from another school with some very different issues than Whittier, but the PTA was very, very open and inviting, if overstressed.

Are there any active PTA members reading this? Does this ring a bell or is it coming as a surprise to you?

Anonymous said...

The man has not been convicted, and according to today's paper, appears to be chanllenging the idea that he confessed. Deciding if he committed a crime is not up to the posters on this board, the "Whittier Community" - I hate how people use that phrase, btw because who the "community" is wholly dependant on status, as the above posts explain - district, it is up to a jury.

Anonymous said...

I am a former very-active PTA board member at Whittier, whose children have moved on to middle school. My wife and I are extremely pleased with the education our kids got at Whittier. The teachers were terrific and the PTA - snobs or not - has done wonderful things for the school.

I am probably in too much shock after reading this morning's paper to comment on the Alex situation. But I did want to respond to the newer parents feeling unwelcomed by the PTA.

When I was there, and I believe it's still true, there was a New Parent Tea each year put on by the PTA, as well as a volunteer fair at the first General PTA meeting. All PTA meetings are posted well in advance, and all PTA Board meetings are open to anyone wishing to attend. PTA Business is reported on in the Flash, and the website. There are constant pleas for volunteers coming out in the Flash for all of the many PTA-sponsored events and programs. And I know current PTA presidents - Christy Higgins and Ellen Hastings, both very warm and approachable people - would be thrilled to hear from you on any PTA business. Despite the majority of the board working full-time jobs, significant attempts are made each year to welcome everyone in the school into the PTA community.

Yet, each year the PTA survey comes back with comments about parents not feeling welcomed. In some quarters, it seems like the PTA is viewed as some exclusive clique. Well, if so, here is the password you need to be in the club:
"Can I help?"

Sign up for something. I guarantee you will immediately make several new friends who will welcome you to help out over and over again. That's what got me started, and that's what got most of the people I got to know as very good friends started.

It is really as much up to you to invite yourselves into the PTA, as it is for the PTA to invite you in. The 'snobs' already in the PTA might be too busy running a program or an event to stop and ask you to join.

You are welcome. Jump in and help. You won't regret it.

Frank Perron

Anonymous said...

As one of the first-year parents frustrated with the PTA, I will say that I HAVE volunteered for activities this year. Four or five, actually, a couple of them on-going. I still feel like a hanger-on, not a welcomed active member of the group.

Anonymous said...

I would say keep on hanging-on then. It's great that you're volunteering. You are helping to make the school a better place for your children and other's, which is really the point anyway.

I do sympathize with your feelings of being "out of the group". I felt the same way as a first year parent. But "the group" might be made up of parents who have been working at this stuff together for many years. It could take some time to break into that social circle. For my own part as a Whittier supporter, thanks for pitching in.

Anonymous said...

I am at Whittier, in my third year and at Whittier you are welcome to volunteer you socks off, but not to change anything or speak out about different ideas (well if you do it won't be voted on or discussed.
On the plus side, things do get done and we are not bogged down in discussions like Salmon Bay.
I do long for something in between.

Anonymous said...

I am a very active volunteer at Whittier, I have my hands in a little of everything. I did feel our old leader stifled conversations and did not encourage dialogue.
I also was on a committee a year ago trying to do something positive for Whittier. We had a very good chance to hire someone and wanted some information from Coberly about how to do it. He was very off-putting and then said something that some of us found hard to believe. We asked to speak to the person (higher up) who he got his information from.
He then said, "Don't look into this or you will loose XXX (the program at the school)." So we didn't look into it. But I did feel threatened out of doing something that may have help Whittier students.
Maybe all these feelings trickled down from his leadership. He was always at the PTA meetings and seemed to discourage discourse and looking into new things.
Maybe this atmosphere will change under a new leader.

Anonymous said...

I read this post below on another site, but I know more teachers read this site and I am concerned about what they are saying that may give kids the message that they would support him coming back to Whittier. Please teachers and staff, if you do support him, don't tell the kids. Just stay neutral. I think they are already getting mixed messages and some like mine are too young for this.

"Yes, teachers and parents do not tell my child we hope he comes back. This is beyond dysfunctional and I think could damage children who do see things in black and white. He broke the law and all Whittier kids know it or will by the end of the week.

Please do what is best for the kids and keep your "Christian values" of forgivness to yourself and for your private relationship with Mr. Coberly. My little girl just wanted to know, "Will he be coming back?" "Will I have to talk to him anymore?" And then, to show how young she is, "Is he going to dress up as Clifford again and come back in a disguise?" (He dressed up as Clifford one day).

Please just let the kids at Whittier feel safe and not confused."

Anonymous said...

STOP WORRYING HE WON'T COME BACK. If they have to give him a job back they will do what they do with all the others. They will give him a better job (think tank type) at a higher pay away from kids.

Anonymous said...

Oh God, I picked up my kindergartener from school today, and he knew the whole story. And all he keeps asking me is, "Will he be coming back?"

What do I say? I want answers but I don't know who to ask. Do I ask the PTA? Who? This is now a nightmare. I was so careful when I chose Whittier, I could never have imagined I would have to deal with this.

Anonymous said...

I doubt that your kindergartener needs to know any details about this. I have a kindergartener at Whittier also and I told her that Mr. Coberly is on vacation and that we have a new principle filling in. She has not asked any further questions and I doubt that she will. Five and six year olds are much more concerned with more immediate things relevant to their daily routine. Given that Mr. Coberly was not part of that routine (other than occasional sightings in the hallway or whatever)I think you may be over-reacting just a tad.

Anonymous said...

of course our kindergarteners do not NEED to know the details but they are finding them out, that is the point. So much for keeping adult conversations our of earshot. We can tell them whatever we feel is right but it is what they are hearing at school we should be concerned about

Anonymous said...

For those of you who don't know what to tell your kids, simply say "I don't know. We'll have to wait and see."

Why all the drama? Kids will accept an I don't know. They learn how to react from you and the more drama you incorporate in everything, the more worry they will exhibit because that is what they are picking up from you.

Let it go, people. We have a long wait to find out what's going to happen. Let's make it a happy and positive time.

I don't understand wallowing in stuff like this. It does no good.

Anonymous said...

I feel just as frustrated as the parents above who expressed their thoughts about getting involved. However, those on the PTA really do work hard and are there a lot more than I am able and probably willing to be. I think that it does appear closed to other parents with different ideas, but this is a result of people who work hard for the school and spend a lot of time together probably. I guess I want to say thanks to the PTA board, but Whittier could be more welcoming.

My child is in first grade and he hasn't asked a single question and doesn't seem to have heard anything. I plan not to discuss the lawbreaking until he brings it up or until we receive definitive work that Mr. Coberly isn't coming back. He will trust the wait and see answer if he asks.

Anonymous said...

We also were not going to discuss the details with our second grader, but everyone at the school should be aware that it is a place with many older siblings.

My son found out the very private details from a boy who has an older sibling in fourth grade.

Once confronted by my son, I didn't deny that what he heard was what was in the newspaper. But I agree with the poster who said they really were hoping that they would not have to discuss this with children so young.

Stealing or cheating are much easier to explain to young kids, (some of the above posters and the school gossip speculated on this) and now we are either forced to lie to our children or be straight with them. I chose to be straight but really---I am mad I had to make this choice.

Anonymous said...

Think about how you would handle it if it were someone in your family . . .you never know when it could be.

Uncle so and so . . . if you personalize it a little, you might find a way to talk about it with more compassion and more objectivity.

You may not feel it for Coberly, but this kind of behavior is out there and none of us is immune. Who would have thought Coberly?

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Mr Coberly was wearing his seatbelt? Probably another law broken.

Anonymous said...

I haven't yet discussed the issue with my child (not at Whittier but for various reasons likely to hear the story) but I think what I'm going to say is along the lines of "They *think* Mr. Coberly may have done something wrong and stupid. Even if it turns out it's not true that he did it, it's been such an embarrassing situation for him that he's probably not going to come back." I think I would explain the exhibition thing by saying that people who do this get a kick out of disgusting and disturbing others. I wouldn't focus specially on it being sexual, but rather concentrate on how it makes people feel powerful to do something that provokes other people, a kind of bullying. I think young children can understand that part of the psychology very well.

Anonymous said...

"I wonder if Mr Coberly was wearing his seatbelt? Probably another law broken."

Did you post this? Don't cheapen this site, with snide comments that don't say anything of substance.

We are discussing how this principal (and the situation) may or may not have affected his school. Was it an open school? Was he hot-tempered (several people above mentioned this) because of this hidden addiction? Did he objectify others at the school in non-sexual ways? Did Whittier start taking sides for and against him? How are these two sides going to resolve this? Does every school (even the good ones) have deeper issues that only surface when the leadership changes?

Anonymous said...

"I wouldn't focus specially on it being sexual, but rather concentrate on how it makes people feel powerful to do something that provokes other people, a kind of bullying. I think young children can understand that part of the psychology very well."

Thank you poster. I have read this site about Coberly for days, but I didn't know what to say. I have mixed feeling about his time at Whittier. However, I have agreed with the posters who write about his hostility and temper, and in general his feeling of, "I know what I am doing, step out of my way parents" always bothered me but I didn't have a word for it. Now, however, I realize he was BULLYING us parents.

Anonymous said...


"I wonder if Mr Coberly was wearing his seatbelt? Probably another law broken."

Did you post this? Don't cheapen this site, with snide comments that don't say anything of substance.

"We are discussing how this principal (and the situation) may or may not have affected his school..."

I am certain the seatbelt comment has not "cheapened" this site. I have really been disgusted with many of the postings that are nothing more than GOSSIP, SLANDER, BACKSTABBING,OR ATTACKS ON OTHER GROUPS OF PARENTS. A large part of the comments have not had anything to do with Mr. Coberly at all.

As a parent I really loved this school. The thing that has been most disturbing to me is the infighting. At least the "seatbelt comment" focused on the precipitating act itself and did not add insult to injury in Whittier's little civil war.

It has been interesting to observe how the actions of one person can so profoundly affect the entire school community. Frankly I am very surprised and saddened that it has. I thought we were better than that.

The district handled things poorly, Mr. Coberly did a stupid thing, and parents are against parents. Let's take a deep breath, try and rise above the incident, and get back to helping our kids have a great educational experience.

Bad things happen, lets not make them worse.

Anonymous said...

I so agree with the common sense in this last post. People seem so quick to meanness.

Four hundred twenty sets of parents will have differences. Frank was so right when he said to come on in and help even if it doesn't feel right at first. By the time your child is a fifth grader, you will have become one of that old group that all the new people resent . . . it always happens that way.

The small mindedness, pettiness and meanness that has been evoked by this incident will pass. Our school, resilient because the teachers and children in it are resilient, will survive.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the suggestion that parents suggest to children that Mr. Coberly did something "stupid" and "disgusting" . . . why not just tell the truth. Mr. Coberly should have kept his private parts to himself. He didn't.

He was foolish and now there are consequences.

Kids would really get that because they don't always keep their private parts to themselves. We try to teach them to, but they sometimes don't. Kids are kids.

Using words like "disgusting" and "stupid" that are so judgmental and emotional are best left out of the discussion. Children know that their private parts are private. They'll get it without all the layers of emotion and assigning of values. Some of us eat too much. Are we "stupid" too? Some of us keep messy houses. Are we disgusting too?

Let's not open the door to intolerance like that. Help your children make decisions based on facts and not emotions. You never know when they might find something you do disgusting because you've taught them that anything they don't like is "disgusting."

With children, just stating facts is usually a more honest and less confusing strategy. They know what is right and wrong. Let's not encourage them to become intolerant and prejudging of everybody.

Keep it simple and straight. Also, let's not teach them to think their bodies are disgusting.

Anonymous said...

You make an excellent point about not teaching kids that their bodies are disgusting. However, to me the disgusting part of the allegations are that he exposed himself to women, while he and they were driving. If he did this on Aurora, as the complaint states, he was travelling between 25-40 mph, and if it was 25mph it was only because there was traffic ahead. This is incredibly dangerous behavior, putting not only himself at risk, but the poor women who I can only assume suffered no small distraction, as well as anyone who happened to be driving nearby. If the allegations are true, this is no victimless crime. It is stupid and disgusting.

Anonymous said...

If you choose to continue to wallow in the "disgusting" behavior, you may. But, please, don't drag your kids through that need of yours.

Let them - for their sake - move on unimpaired.

Anonymous said...

RE: Anonymous

Regarding the post about infighting among parents, backstabbing, etc that has been the hallmark of this and other blog sites...THANK YOU for your thoughtful and wise comments.

Obviously, the Principal, the school, a teacher, the PTA, the decor (?) has offended at least one person on this blog so profoundly, even before the recent events hit the media, that they still have not gotten over it(I refer to what seems to be multiple postings by one person, who, for their own mental health, needs to move on)

Whittier is a good school - it is constantly changing and evolving - like ANY other public or private school in ANY city.

People who seem to think that the school, the PTA, the teachers are going to be all things wonderful to them, need to realize that public schools have to serve more than just your family or small social group: they need to serve ALL the children in the school. This may result in periods of time where you may not be completely happy with a program, a teacher or class. Things usually even out in the end, and parents learn to relax a little bit as the kids get older. IF the parents are committed to the education of their child, you will all succeed.

Touring Parents: I hope you tour all the schools you can, and truly wish you the best in your decision making process. Good Luck.

As for Alex - his career is shot, his family is suffering. He will not be back, Whittier will survive, and, hopefully, we can all choose to move forward, and stop looking backwards.

Anonymous said...

I told my 9 year old son that Mr. Coberly did something outside of school that was inappropriate, I'm not sure what he did but he won't be coming back. He could care less--what does that have to do with his science lab or tetherball game at lunch?

I have a feeling that that kids who are upset and maybe obsessing over what happened are getting those vibes from their parents. Believe me I am completely creeped out by his actions (exactly how does he know he didn't flash a 16 year old girl?) and disgusted by his lack of judgement. But there is no reason to taint my son's perception of principals or his school by Coberly's actions. Rant and rave with your friends, spouse, co-workers, other parents but have discretion around your kids.

I'm sure his teacher has not let this situation affect her class at all. They've got more important busineess to attend to.

My husband and I have never "liked" Mr. Coberly. We felt he was inappropriately sarcastic at school events and didn't respect the kids enough. He had no reverence for occasion or milestones that are so special to young kids. He wrote some bizarre school and PTA newsletter articles too. But we thought he wasn't doing any harm and Whittier's teachers are wonderful. He truly has caused great harm by his lack of judgement and self control now.

BUT we know how great the school support staff and teachers are. The PTA is also great. Those people spend a ton of time and really pour their hearts into raising money and advocating for the school. We've seen the same people from Whittier step up to roles in middle and high school in Ballard and I for one am very thankful for them. We help out when we can but aren't active volunteers and we're always welcomed when we can help.

My son was 4th on the Spectrum list one year and moved to 1st on the list the next. I know there was no room in the class until the class jumped in size the next year and he got in then. I was never worried because a) my daughter didn't get in Spectrum but got in ap classes in middle and high school and b) I loved his teachers those two wait-list years...they were the best possible teachers he could have those years.

Any other parent notice the irony of the PTA newsletter being named the WildFlash?

We've got great students, great parents and we'll find a great new principal. AND now, thanks to TV news, my grandmother finally remembers the name of her great-grandchildren's school!

Anonymous said...

Great post and an even better way to inform your kids! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Wow - You said pretty much all I would want to say. And now I can break away from my addiction to this post. This has all been sad, bizarre and so NOT the Whittier Way. I wish all Whittier families the best as they move on. And that most definitely includes the Coberlys.

Anonymous said...

"Also, let's not teach them to think their bodies are disgusting."

Huh? I don't see how you get that attitude out of what I said, which I thought implied quite the opposite. I said exhibitionists get a kick out of disgusting and disturbing others. I said NOTHING about whether naked bodies were disgusting or disturbing when in a more ordinary situation. I didn't even say whether people SHOULD be disgusted or disturbed by seeing an exhibitionist. Just because the exhibitionist tries to manipulate people's feelings doesn't mean it always works.

You might as well say that if I told my child that a guy who went around grabbing people's shirts and shaking his fist in their faces was obviously trying to intimidate them, that I was trying to teach my child to be ashamed of his hand and his shirt.

Anonymous said...

The word "disgusting" is an extremely emotional term and its meaning somewhat ambiguous. Yes, children will generalize - they do that all the time.

Leave such pejoratives out of the conversation. They'll get it without internalizing all the emotions such words engender. Try to be more objective in your judgments.

Words like "inappropriate" and "private" are much less emotional. I once heard a child in a school lunchroom tell another child her lunch was "disgusting" because it was an Asian lunch with unfamiliar foods. That child was just repeating words she heard her parents use and her feelings at looking at the food matched what she saw on her parent's faces when they used that word. That could be your child.

Take a lesson from the excellent poster above who uses "inappropraite." No emotions there. That's a child that will grow up without the need to judge everyone and everything.

Your child will thank you for it some day.

Anonymous said...

Alex was a bully. I speak from experience.

Hi, I am Sally Jo and after much thought, decided to write.

I successfully taught at Whittier over 10 years with four principals with whom I never had problems with. Then Alex arrived. To this day I don't know why he disliked me and he used every kind of bullying behavior towards me for two years before I gave up and quit. I hated leaving Seattle and my friends, but mostly my teacher friends from Whittier. Seattle had been my home for 52 years. It was very scary to jump off that cliff and fly to somewhere I had never been before.

I love where I live and teach now. It is the exact opposite of Seattle. The school has no PTA. The rural students are mostly poor, living on reservations. Hot water and a flush toilet is a luxury to many of my students. 92% are on free or reduced lunch. But these kids are (mostly) the sweetest kids around. They don't go home to play with a gamebox. They herd sheep, carry water, chop wood. The climate is desert, but we are tucked under the Zuni Mountains and the mountains, stone arches, rock art, and cliff dwellings abound. The Navajo language is spoken fluuently by most adults. The only radio station I receive is spoken in Navajo. How bizarrely (?) wonderful to hear Carl Castle on NPR translated into Navajo! My community's population is 400 and the nearest town for groceries is a 90 mile roundtrip. I live 10 miles up a dirt road in a log home and it's simply gorgeous.

But Mr. Coberly gives me nightmares. When I saw his mug on the KING 5 news site, I about gagged. He turns my stomach. I want to go to a wedding this spring in Seattle, but I will not go if he is invited. I fear each time I am called to the office; real fear, thinking Mr. Coberly found the name of my school and called the principal to tell lies about me. I shouldn't have these fears but he haunts me. Is this PTSD?

I know that some Whittier staff feel that Alex has grown and matured since I've left. They can think that. I left when he was young and immature and a bully and that's how I will remember him.

I, for one, hope he gets thrown in the slammer. I just want Alex Coberly to go away, for my peace of mind.

Writing this has helped me.
Sally Jo

Anonymous said...

Take Sally Jo's post with a grain of salt. There are two sides to every story.

I wish the best for her. Her new home sounds beautiful and peaceful.

Just another Whittier teacher.

Anonymous said...


Just Another Whittier Teacher is correct. There are two sides to every story. I wrote responding to the poster that alluded to Mr. Coberly being a bully. I should have been more clear. The last thing I want is this blog to become a Sally Jo -vs- Alex Coberly blog. I wanted to relate that yes, I feel that Alex did bully me. I left specifics out on purpose.

Getting through all this will be difficult for the students, staff, and parents of Whittier. I feel for all of you. But I have no doubt that you will all rise above this with integrity and dignity. It's the Whittier Way!

Sally Jo

Anonymous said...

Sally Jo: Sounds as though you're the one with PTSD. Listen to NPR or whatever... just ask the tribal elders what their word for "resentments".
Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping the OTHER fellow dies!

Anonymous said...

"Words like "inappropriate" and "private" are much less emotional. I once heard a child in a school lunchroom tell another child her lunch was "disgusting" because it was an Asian lunch with unfamiliar foods. That child was just repeating words she heard her parents use and her feelings at looking at the food matched what she saw on her parent's faces when they used that word. That could be your child."

So, it would have been a whole lot better if the child had said "Your lunch is inappropriate"? or "Please eat that lunch in private"?

Anonymous said...

They wouldn't likely have said that now would they. Because such words are unaccompanied by strong emotions. They would have looked at the lunch and said that looks icky or what is that. But, the word disgusting wouldn't have entered the conversation. And icky is a word that children tend to leave behind quite early. Quite possibly, they wouldn't have judged it at all.

Parents teach children to make emotional judgments. Parents who refrain from that practice usually have children who also refrain from judging others and their customs.

Knowing how to make correct choices is different than judging people.

That should be obvious on its face.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the child doesn't need to make any comments at all. Sounds like you are arguing what the child should say if not "disgusting."

How about not saying anything at all?

Anonymous said...

Thanks Sally Jo for writing this. This is the number one word we group of parents came up with about a year ago when we were trying to figure out why we feel so disappointed after working with him on different school issues.

It is Bullying. I do not think that he does this to everyone, just like I doubt he "flashed" at every woman in every car.

Something about us women must set him off. In my group of moms we are all pretty liberal and educated and well-read and most of us have advanced degrees. In other words pretty strong women who do have opinions on things.

I am also friendly with other moms who really like him. I would describe these moms as overly nice, polite, apologetic, and more passive. I think the truth is he doesn't know how to deal with strong women.

Anonymous said...

Kind of an interesting take there. I am a very strong woman and like Mr. Coberly. But, he and I have had our differences . . . and they get pretty brutal!

Never thought of it that way before. Still, he's been a very good principal. Sometimes parents and teachers see the actions of principals differently.

Can't speak for all teachers but Alex has made teaching at Whittier much better for me. He tends not to take favorites or give over power to a few teachers. I've taught at several schools and he's been the best at that. Also, he has turned our office staff around. They are much friendlier than in the past.

I see so many positive contributions. He's quirky but his tenure has provided many good changes at Whittier.

Just speaking for myself here.

Anonymous said...

It could be having to deal with strong women teachers all day was just too much and he let loose on the strong women parents.

Anonymous said...

"Actually, the child doesn't need to make any comments at all. Sounds like you are arguing what the child should say if not "disgusting."

How about not saying anything at all?"

Exactly. My point was that you CAN'T say such a thing in ANY words without it being an insult. "Inappropriate" can carry a pile of emotional weight, every bit as much as "disgusting." It's also far more judgmental, not less, as the implication is that the behavior in question is against some code of conduct, whereas "disgusting" is about a personal, visceral reaction. (I don't myself see a penny's worth of difference between "icky" and "disgusting," and am puzzled why anyone thinks "icky" would be a normal childish reaction and "disgusting" wouldn't.)

In any case, my point about exhitionists' motives was that they try to make people feel various unpleasant emotions, and it's no more correct to say you SHOULD feel those emotions than to say you SHOULD give a robber your money. You may not be able to help feeling those emotions, any more than you can always help losing your money to a robber, but the very fact that that's what they want you to do is a good reason for trying not to. People with healthy senses of self, particularly sexual self, will be more resilient about handling such encounters.

I base this analysis partly on http://www.uplink.com.au/lawlibrary/Documents/Docs/Doc81.html

“Lefton (1997) notes that feelings of anger, hostility, shame, doubt, or a deep sense of inadequacy are often present in people who suffer from this sexually deviant disorder, which in turn produces a compulsive need to prove themselves by frightening others. It is suggested by Kapardis (1994) that by this crude insistence upon virility, the exhibitionist hopes to produce a response within the victim that will insure them that even though they cannot command love, at least they are powerful enough to produce some kind of reaction.”

Anonymous said...

I was at the Whittier PTA meeting last night and I asked them to discuss some of the things that are being claimed and spoken about in this blog.

I said that I feel it is best to get things out and open them up for discussion. The PTA said, it is not their business, it is not their job to advocate for the children at the school and it is not their place to discuss the Coberly situation.

When I tried to bring up some of the issues that people were mentioning about not feeling welcome, and about the Spectrum issues, they said they are too busy to deal with it or think about it.

So to those of you who wrote about your issues (I wrote before and defended the PTA). I think maybe you are right. I am sorry to say I thought they would have handled things more openly.

What this tells me is we need more people at these meeting to remind them that it is our PTA (attendance was very low), and we are not going to let our school shut us out. Please try and come back to the meetings---your school needs you now more than ever.

CS-Whittier Parent

Anonymous said...

Wow, I am new to this blog. Everone kept saying there was a blog on Whittier...and I guess this is it. It took me a hour to read all this.
I sure hope we can get all this out in the open.

Anonymous said...

In response to parent request, Carla Santorno has scheduled a meeting from 6:00-7:00 pm on January 18th to meet with parents who would like to speak to her. There will be no new information shared that evening. As this is a personnel issue, she has given you as much information as she can.

Anonymous said...

Six folks showed. Ah, the power of the BLOGOSPHERE! Now go to bed.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it was such an inviting meeting. "no new information" "personal information" How about "just don't bother becasue she wont tell you anything?"

What I would have liked to have been told was that Carla will be available to answer questions. She for confidentiality reasons, she may not be able to answer all your questions, but she will do her best.

Doesn't that seem more inviting and a better way to manage and operate our schools?

Why put off parents when you don't have to? Why wait a month and a half to make yourself available and then send the message that there is really no reason to come to a meeting? How stupid is this district?

Anonymous said...

Can anyone speak to the issue at West Woodland? My understanding is that several families have pulled their children from a second-grade class after complaints about the teacher were ignored.

Anonymous said...

Good for them! Vote with your feet if the staff is sub-par

Anonymous said...

Regarding West Woodland. It is a second grade teacher at West Woodland. A little boy got a concussion from "falling out of his chair and hitting his desk." The teacher didn't take him to the nurse or clean up the blood but said, something like show your mommy what happens when you don't know how to sit in your chair.

She is the worst--throw her out!!!
They also have a K teacher who shames all the kids. Beware touring parents. How come we can't get rid of these inept teachers???