Ballard High Tennis Coach Fired

Ballard High School's girls' tennis coach got fired (he wasn't a teacher there). I wasn't surprised because if you had read the Seattle Weekly article on him and his team, you could see it coming. First, this one of the longest, weirdest articles I have ever read in the Weekly. I kept waiting for a point but basically, it was a New-Age coach and his team of what seemed to be whiny, less-than-competitive girls. Second, I came away thinking it was very odd but maybe this is how coaching is today. But mostly I was troubled about how the relationship between the coach and the girls came across. So I visit the Weekly website today and find out that the coach got fired. I'm not sure I believe he should have been fired. I'm not sure he did anything wrong except read somewhat inappropriate poems to the girls. A brief blurb about the firing appeared in the sports section of the Times on Wednesday.


Roy Smith said…
I read the article, and found that Silverberg came across as someone who was at turns very empathetic about the challenges that high school girls face and at other turns very frustrated because they aren't enough like boys.

Even though it may be that nobody will go on the record and admit it, I think this firing probably is centered on the fact that our society is very, very uncomfortable dealing with the issues of sensuality and sexuality, particularly when it comes to teenage girls. It would not surprise me at all if there are parents that took offense to the way the photograph of the team was posed, or of the description of the poetry reading, or of the fact that Silverberg equates "full-blown spirituality" with "full-blown sexuality", or this little exchange, in which Silverberg refers to "sexual energy":

The girls eventually pick up their racquets and return to the courts. But just a few minutes after practice resumes, junior Lucy Miner freezes in the middle of her serve. "Oh. My. God," she says, zeroing in on a trio of muscular, shirtless, blond construction workers walking to their truck.

"Are you serious?" Neah says.

"I was wondering if anyone else saw that," chimes in junior Julia Canty.

"I did," Lucy breathes.

"Ow!" Neah squeals. "One of us should definitely get their numbers before this week is over."

Silverberg overhears the conversation and halts play. "Focus on tennis," he lectures. "Don't deplete your sexual energy on those guys, or anything else. None of that shit. That's out. You're samurai."

This quote (from Silverberg) particularly caught my eye: "Girls get big-time double messages, and they need good information, but young men don't know how to be allies to women — they objectify them." I think that there is an awful lot of truth in that statement, particularly the fact that young men (even those who don't objectify women) do not know how to be allies to young women. I know I certainly didn't when I was at that age. I think this is good food for thought when we think about the messages that we give both boys and girls as they are approaching and passing through adolescence.
Anonymous said…
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Anonymous said…
"Fire" was the Times' phrase, the reality was that he was not given another contract, as no coach as a guaranteed job beyond a year. I.e. Ray Willis.
Anonymous said…
A Coach is fired big deal.

I wish someone would just focus on one unifying issue. We are so divided in our focuses and the school system and city know it and so they don't have to act as we talk on and on about, what is alternative, APP, Closures...

Anonymous said…
I think that the comments Silverberg made were inapropriate, and I would feel very uncomfortable having a daughter playing on his team, personally. I wonder if this was an ongoing issue, and if had been councelled prior to his contract not being renewed? It sounds like something that might have been resolved through communication between admin. and the coach.
Roy Smith said…
anonymous 9:47: Do you mean to suggest that if class sizes are reduced, then every other problem that we have in SPS will just go away?
When I read the comment about class size, I thought the same thing as Roy. Is class size the holy grail of education? Studies show mixed results. What I thought I understood was that, according to studies, teacher ability trumped class size. Meaning, a great teacher with 25 kids is better than a poor/medicore teacher with 20 kids. Having said that, as human beings whether we are teachers or not, it seems logical that you can better help/get to know fewer kids and have an opportunity to do better if you have fewer students.

But I feel that post's pain; has anyone really seen the benefits of I-728? It was touted as a class size reduction measure but it turns out schools and districts can use the money for various things under the guise of class reduction. There's a list somewhere on SPS's website about what the money is used for but I think that it discourages parents both in and out of the district when it seems like many class sizes hover around 25-26. You could look up the average class size in each grade level in SPS and it probably wouldn't look horrible but I think when it's your child's class, you worry.
Anonymous said…
While class size does not trump a good teacher like Melissa points out it does have an effect. A good teacher with 20 kids will be much more effective than if she has 32 kids. They will cover more, and move at a faster pace, with more individualized instruction. On the other side of the coin a poor teacher with 20 kids will be much worse with 32 kids. So class size does matter. I have no idea how this relates to this posting about the Ballard coach though???
Anonymous said…
I have two children one entering 3rd grade and one entering Kindergarten. These are the class sizes of the third-grade 28 for k, 27 for 1st, 28 for second.

My five year old, I am told by a letter from the principal, will be introduced to his 32 classmate in the Fall.

I sort of feel right now it is all about class sizes. If we could just get that issue resolved to permanently reduce them with no loopholes then I could focus on some of the larges issues.
But many of these issues just seem small compared to the size of classes in the most important years of our kids lives (learning to read).

How come at McGilva and Lauralhust the classes are 18 and 20 and at my child school they are so big?

I read Jonathan Kozol's, Savage Inequalities in college but I just thought that applied to inner-city schools. I live in the North-End with a strong PTA but we can't seem to raise enough money to buy down class sizes (although it was our first priority).

An auction take about 20 people working all year and then we only raise enough to keep the programs we have. We are very far from being able to buy a teacher.

Maybe for a lot of us with little kids, it IS all about class sizes.
Anonymous said…
I agree with anonymous. Class size is the biggest issue that we face right now. Class size will even help close the achievement gap. Less kids = better instruction, more individualized attention, and more classroom behavior control (desperately needed).
Roy Smith said…
anonymous 9:47's quote seemed to imply that the firing of the Ballard High School tennis coach was not worthy of discussion because class size is the biggest issue we face now.

Some people may agree (I don't happen to be one of them, but that is beside the point) that class size is our single biggest challenge. However, that does not mean that other topics are not worthy of discussion, particularly if there is disagreement over what our highest priority is.

As for me, class size is not really a huge issue. The reason for this is simple: There are schools (including reference area schools in all parts of the city) in which class sizes are much more reasonable. Many of them are underenrolled and considered by some to be underperforming. If class size is one's only concern, then they can almost certainly find a school which meets this criteria. Of course, small class sizes are just one thing parents want; they also want high academic performance, art, band, sports, after school activies, and any of a number of other things. There's the rub. You can get small class sizes, but you may have to give up something else.

Short of implementing involuntary assignments of students to underenrolled schools (a solution which I think would be universally condemned), popular schools are always going to be filled up to the brim, and they will probably have bigger class sizes.

Other points regarding class size:
1) I suspect that in some schools, class size is limited by the physical number of classrooms available. In this case, there are only two ways to reduce average class size: reduce total enrollment at the school (bound to be an unpopular option at popular schools), or else build more classrooms which might means portables (also not generally popular) and will almost definitely involve large capital construction expenses, which is not something you can implement in a month, the way you can with hiring more teachers.

2) There is a section in the annual report for every school that details where I-728 funds are used at that school. Reading these is instructive.

Some sample statements:
-- "We hire three half-time teachers to teach basic school in the morning." That's very nice, but that doesn't sound like increasing the number of classes for a given student population, which is what people generally think of when they think of class size reduction.

-- "Remaining funds were used to provide professional development that supports increasing academic achievement for every student in every classroom." That isn't class size reduction. It may be valuable, but it isn't class size reduction. This school did hire another teacher in a separate classroom, so this statement might just be indicative of the fact that the schools appear to get a block of money and after hiring staff, usually have some amount left over which is too small to be used for hiring more teachers. Maybe SPS should mandate that these odd leftover amounts should be returned to the district, where the aggregate could be used to hire additional teachers specifically for struggling schools.

This was the oddest one I found, from John Stanford International, at which the amount from I-728 funds allocated to class size reduction is $68,318 and the amount allocated to full-day K was $0 (apparently I-728 include some funding for full-day K). "We used this funding for a .96 FTE Kindergarten teacher for full-day K, plus $410 for supplies." In other words, exactly 0% of the funds went to their allocated purpose. Full-day K may be a very worthy goal, but this still seems odd to me.

The bottom line is that a fair emount of money from I-728 is being used in ways which do not translate into what are necessarily visible reductions in class sizes, even in cases where the money is used to hire staff.

3) Do reference area schools have site-based budgeting? (I get they impression that they do, but I'm not sure - somebody please enlighten me?) AS#1 does have site-based budgeting, and even when the school was filled to capacity and had a waitlist, class size was maintained in the 18-20 student range. The school does not get any money from SPS outside that provided to any other elemntary in the weighted student formula, and doesn't get enough from our parents group fundraising (less than $30,000 per year) to make any real impact on staffing, and this money isn't intended or used for that anyway. AS#1 has accomplished small class sizes by hiring enough teachers to get there and then being extremely sparing with hiring any other staff, such as a librarian, PE teacher, music or art teachers, etc. This results in sacrifices in terms of having staff available for various sorts of enrichment of the school experience that other schools may find unacceptable. This is a very long way from being a perfect situation; again, it wouldn't hurt if the legislature were to provide more money to schools in general.

If the school's leadership values small class sizes enough when writing the budget (and has enough classrooms - see #1 above), then they can have smaller classes, even given current fiscal constraints. However, they will have to sacrifice something else in order to make it happen, although they might be able to get by with less sacrifice than AS#1; with just over 200 students, fixed staff costs that it would be extremely difficult to discard (i.e., a principal and a secretary) take up a bigger percentage of the budget than they do at a larger school.
Roy makes some salient points. One other way to reduce class size is to have another teacher/aide in the room. With two adults, kids get more attention. Even if the teacher/aide was half-time, you could concentrate that time on reading and math. That was always my expectation because we weren't going to magically have more classrooms for more teachers. It hasn't happened.

Yes, Roy, most schools have site-based budgeting but I think it may be on the way out or restricted by our new superintendent. I personally believe it has gone amok as some principals, beyond being the academic leader at their school and managing the school, got budget forced on them. I know many talented principals who were able to figure out the ins and outs to stretch those dollars and some who just didn't have the know how or ability. I believe in earned autonomy whether it's budgeting or academic progress. Every school should have to show the superintendent that they can manage their funds and show academic progress and then they can have more autonomy to make decisions. A lot of what happens in the schools is NOT being overseen by the district and I think that is why we can't get a grip on some of our problems.

Yes, no one knows a school community like the people who inhabit it but the district has lost control and lost its ability to gauge what is happening in schools. Just my opinion.
Jet City mom said…
I have been involved in writing a budget for my childs previous school along with teachers other parents and principal.
Quite an interesting process.
Twice the principal was outgoing, so the budget that was being written, was not going to have to be adhered to by them.

I don't believe in either case the budget was legal ( in particular regarding IEP money) and in the last case, I don't believe the district even reviewed it closely as it was the very last school in the district to submit a budget well past the deadline.

Class size never even came up, although in virtually all cases, the classes were at union limited maximums.

Instead, money was used for "teacher training", however I would love to see how having another workshop or whats even better, flying teachers to the east coast to observe charter schools or another tutorial on how to access email, improves student performance.
Roy Smith said…
melissa westbrook said: One other way to reduce class size is to have another teacher/aide in the room. With two adults, kids get more attention. Even if the teacher/aide was half-time, you could concentrate that time on reading and math. That was always my expectation because we weren't going to magically have more classrooms for more teachers. It hasn't happened.

It is disappointing to hear that even that small step hasn't happened.

Even if it has happened, should this be considered a reducation in class size? It is definitely a reduction in the student teacher ratio, but I suspect that a lot of parents that have a child in a class of 30 kids which has a teacher and a half-time certificated aide would focus on "the class has 30 kids", not on "the student/teacher ratio is 20/1" (or more accurately, 15/1 for half the day and 30/1 for the rest of the day).

Melissa, I think you had a very realistic expectation of what we got, or at least should have gotten, out of I-728. However, I think that many voters thought they would be getting classes where there was 1 teacher and a class of 20 children in their own separate classroom. This would have required finding or building more classrooms in addition to hiring more teachers.

This also brings up a side issue regarding building capacity. Some folks like to trot out building capacity numbers as reasons why programs should be where they are or why changes in program locations should be made. However, class size (as in, number of children per classroom, not student/teacher ratio) obviously makes a huge difference in what the capacity is.

The Jane Addams building is a case in point. It was designed for 1,250 students. At one point in the early 1950s, enrollment was over 2,250 students (they had to put the school schedule on shifts to make that work). Some current SPS documents list the current capacity of the building at around 1,100. Some folks I have talked to at Summit K-12 (whose program currently resides in the building) say that they were pretty crowded there when enrollment was over 800. The building floorplan (with the exception of the addition of two gymnasiums) has changed very little over the years. So what is the real building capacity? How many other buildings in SPS have similar tales of varying estimates or experience of how many students could fit?

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