Thursday, May 24, 2007

School Board Forum Last Night

Corrected at 8 am thanks to blogger comment :-)

Last night was "The Future of the Seattle School Board: Why Should You Care?" community forum at Seattle's Town Hall.

See We have the power to make school boards more relevant in the Seattle Times and previous posts on this blog (Washington Appleseed Forum and Board Elections & School District Governance) for more information.


Anonymous said...

It was actually last night. Some notes:

> If you missed it, it will be shown on the Seattle Channel and likely on www.seattlechannel.org

> I'm not a good judge of crowds, but I'd say 100-125 people attended

> I think it was expected to be a rubber stamp for establishment views, and while it was largely unfavorable to the current board (and just a little too easy for moderator, panelists and audience alike to cluck and laugh knowingly), there was a variety of positions on issues, e.g., on appointed vs elected (Pat Wasley from UW wants appointed; most others want elected)

> Similarly unexpected, a few panelists found the Alliance wanting, if not somewhat responsible for the state of today's SPS. Lynn Varner felt that no one is holding the Alliance accountable, and Pat Wasley has resigned from its board as a "moderate protest" against what it is not accomplishing

> Interesting information about Belleview - much less turnover in board and sup (12 years for board chair and sup?). Pat said members about to leave resign before their term is up so board can appoint an interim, which makes subsequent election easier.

> Interesting data from Cathy Allen and Andrew Thibault - about a lot of things: current board approval rating (in the 20's - unprecedented); number of people who fill out ballots (not very much to begin with) but don't make it all the way down to the school board races (in the 20's); the difference between people with SPS students and without in their support of school closures and WASL (another 20-80% split - but completely reversed in the two groups).

> A lot of talk about the need to get more people to vote and more involved in schools - but not much substance as to how

> That very interesting tight rope walk that happens in more public forums about public education - "isn't it awful? But don't leave!"

> An audience member asked if perhaps the media doesn't have significant responsibility for the very negative perception of the board. Lynn Varner ducked it - though I'm sorry to say I can't remember how. She also ducked when someone asked if we couldn't get more substantive information about candidates - by saying the Times is waiting until the filing deadline and besides, they couldn't possibly cover every Tom, Dick and Harry - and I wondered if she knew that there are currently about 8 in the field including incumbents.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, that would be handy for a board (like Bellevue)to be able to appoint who they wanted (and give that candidate a leg up when election time comes around). That's a bit blatant in their favor to be able to pick who they would want.

Also, the low approval rating is coming from (I'm assuming) the Schools First survey. They would not release the questions so honestly, I can't put a lot of faith in the answers. You absolutely need to know what the question was, how it was framed and the language used.

That's pretty funny about the Times not wanting to cover the candidates. Lisa Stuebing ran before so they know some of her background, Sherry Carr is really well-known as is Peter Maier and, of course, Director Sally Soriano (the only incumbent so far to say she is running again).

Anonymous said...

From the discussion it sounded like panelist Andrew Thibault was the one who did the Schools First survey - at least he quoted polling data throughout.

This is totally off the cuff, but he sounded pretty even-handed - and if I had to guess whether he would spin the questions to get a particular answer, I'd guess no - he seemed like one of those respect for data guys, and his demeanor on the panel was earnest and low-profile.

He also cited the same statistics over time, so I'd hope the questions were not designed for this particular board.

It would be interesting to see if you could call him and get any more information - and I think it's worth making a bigger deal out of this with Schools First et al so they might release more information. It makes it look as if they have something to hide. If it's the one I know about, they did it for the levy and didn't want to poison the well by releasing the results, but there doesn't seem much reason to withhold the information now.

Anonymous said...

I asked Schools First and was told no, they were not releasing the questions. And they did not release all the results - there were other questions and answers that were not part of the survey. If this was so vital to understanding our district, they would be open. I see spin here.

Anonymous said...

Both the PI and the Times, and every news outlet for that matter, time local election coverage for after the filing date.

Extensive coverage in terms of news stories and personality profiles of candidates intensifies after filing day. There are, at least there were last year, forums hosted by the media and lest we forget, endorsements right down to water commissioner published several times before Election Day.
Sounds like coverage to me.

Anonymous said...

That is coverage, you're right - it just seems that with the early primary (8/21) and the pressure on candidates to have money, endorsements, and backing now, it would help if the dailies (and the others) kicked it into gear a little bit earlier.