Thursday, June 07, 2007

Darlene Flynn is Running for Re-election

This article from the PI this morning. There are now 4 candidates for the District 2 position.

Darlene is either incredibly tone-deaf or smart like a fox. Tone-deaf because as many here have stated, she virtually never returns phone calls or e-mails and doesn't have community meetings. I find Darlene bright and passionate but I have also seen (again, as others have noted) her sneer at staff in public meetings or break into tears. It doesn't create a lot of good will or faith towards her.

But she could be smart like a fox because now she is in a 4-way race for the primary vote and she's the sitting incumbent. She may believe that she'll come out ahead in the voting because of name recognization. The problem for her is that at least 2 of the candidates are bright and qualified (Lisa Stuebing and Sherry Carr - I don't know anything about David Kelley) and she may just get shut out in the primary.

But it should make for some good forums.


Jet City mom said...

I will admit I like Darlene. Not returning phone calls is unfortunately not unusual for others on the board or in the district ( or in the schools), so I won't hold that against her anymore than anyone else.
I have found her to be passionate, and actually more thoughtful and clear than some of the other board members who either have given pat answers leaving me wondering if they didn't understand what I was asking or if they just didn't want to respond.
I think she is very bright and very quick to get the gist of what the issue is.
Sherry Carr I know from her position in the PTA and I like her, but I am not clear on how she would be as a board member.
I know Lisa Stuebing as well, but while she is involved with other community groups, I haven't seen her at the type of events that I would hope a school board rep would be interested in.
Personally, although Darlene isn't " my" rep, I would vote for her.

( She also got a nice rewording in last night for a board motion re: surplus buildings, while Bass and Soriano just wanted to table the motion, Flynn managed to get agreement toward clarifying that the priority of the district in sale/lease of sites was to retain access for public)

Anonymous said...

Hi Mel, for what it's worth Darlene did a guest blog for me today.


And...any chance you'll be lured into this race? You'd be great!

Linda, aka Educating Mom

Anonymous said...

classof75, it's not just about "not returning phone calls". Director Flynn ran on more authentic community engagement, and hear her election night 2003 declarations:

"Every challenger that's running has made a commitment to better communication, regular public meetings in the community, more inclusive discussions about issues in front of the board," said Flynn, 50. "This is a group of real seasoned communicators. They have the skills to back it up."

Her 3 1/2 years' performance on that commitment (apart from trying to add a public engagement process to the current board public testimony format - which our fellow citizens shot down) has been completely unsatisfactory.

And it's not just about responsivenness: I've watched Director Flynn be astonishingly abusive and/or completely unprofessional to district staff, her fellow board members, and legislators in Olympia (like them or not, think they're effective or not, they are all people she needs to work with constructively to actually get things accomplished for our students - because that's what this is about).

I've seen her completely lose credibility and composure as she cried and stalked out of a public meeting when in 2005 the district put her kids' alma mater Summit K-12 on the proposed closure list. Probably understandable as the authentic, emotional response of a citizen; not acceptable as the response of an elected board member.

I could go on and on.

Yes, she is smart, but often the trouble with being smart is you think you know everything you need to know, and that other people just need to get it. I've talked to friends who encountered the same demeanor when Director Flynn was with Dept of Neighborhoods - she comes in and starts telling people what they need to know, think and do, without listening and often without having read the white paper or done the homework.

Like the children's rhyme says, "when she's good, she's very very good, but when she's bad, she's horrid" and that's not something we can afford in our school board.

We need board members who can work effectively and constructively with Olympia, with the city of Seattle, and the "establishment" (hello? where the money is?)

That doesn't have to mean compromising values or integrity - it does have to mean professionalism and responsiveness.

Charlie Mas said...

I have seen Darlene Flynn abuse staff, particularly in committee meeetings. I have heard her deride them for the quality of their work - as if they worked for her - and I have heard her make vaguely threatening remarks. I was shocked and disgusted. Regardless of the quality of their work, you just don't treat people like that in public - not people you have to work with, not anyone. I can't imagine what she's like with them in less public circumstances.

She often appears bored and listless until a topic of special interest to her arises, then she pounces on it like a terrier on a rat. I'm not sure if that's good or bad.

Once I testified on an action item on the day of a vote urging a no vote. During the discussion of the motion, she said that the day of the vote was too late for people to come and ask for her to vote one way or another on it. I guess she didn't read the emails I had sent earlier on the same topic. Not two months later, when trying to change the public testimony rules, she said that it was on the day of the vote that she wanted to hear from people about the motion.

During my last "conversation" with her, she ranted on unrelentingly about "what you people want", while I periodically asked her, in a calm, quiet voice, "what is it that you think we want?" without response. It was bizarre.

Finally, I think she's a bit too focused on equal outcomes for African-American students instead of equitable opportunties for African-American students.

On the good side... she is smart, she distrusts the staff, she wants them to deliver better quality work, she cares about equity, and, when she isn't wound up, she listens and understands.

Personally, I think either Sherry Carr or Lisa Stuebing could do all the good with a lot less drama. I think they would be more responsive to the community to boot.

Jet City mom said...

I wont disagree she isnt dramatic and unprofessional ( although perhaps you get what you pay for).

I have also been shocked at some of her behavior- although I haven't attended as many events as in the past- so I tend to forget what effect that has on moving things forward.

But I have a personal bias towards someone who is what she is and wears that on her sleeve- take the good with the bad, rather than say little and do less while talking in circles.

I admit that is my personal bias however, and not necessarily what would be good for the board.

Charlie Mas said...

It's now 1:20pm and Darlene has yet to make a blog entry as the guest blogger.

There are five comments. Three of them ask questions and two of them thank Director Flynn for her service but say that they will vote for another candidate because Director Flynn doesn't work and play well with others. They specifically mention her treatment of staff and her failure to communicate with constituents.

Anonymous said...

"I can't imagine what she's like with them in less public circumstances."

Same as what you see times 100.

Anonymous said...

A few years ago, when my son was in an alternative elementary school, I worked with a group of parents in resolving an ongoing program placement issue. We met with 5 of the school board members (the other two members were unresponsive - Mary Bass and Irene Stewart). Though Darlene did make time to meet with us, probably because she is committed to alternative ed., she came with a bad attitude. A "you priviledged white north end parents" kind of attitude, and she let us know it loud and clear. She was degrading to us, and insulting. When we left the meeting we felt as though she would not support our issue, and thought we were bothersome. We were shocked that when the topic came up for vote at the next board meeting, she wholeheartedly supported our position, and spoke eloquently on our behalf?? I don't like Darlene's attitude, nor do I like the way she relates to people, but I do think she has a lot of integrity, and is extremely intelligent. Given all of the facts though, she will not get my vote in this election.

Charlie Mas said...

UPDATE - It is now after 4:00pm and Director Flynn has yet to enter a post as guest blogger.

People have begun to notice.

The failure to communicate with constituents charge is sticking hard.

Anonymous said...

Darlene is bright, but she is also incredably erratic. I would rather have a stable voice than a bipolar one.

Anonymous said...

Erratic is right. Beautiful rhetoric, and often opposite votes.

Some good stuff: voted no to continue Manhas' contract after she was elected, unlike Butler-Wall and Stewart who gave us four more years of the same incompetent and corrupt administration. So much more could have been accomplished if they had all moved to clean house like they promised.

Voted for the resolution against charter schools.

Having failed to get a new superintendent, tried to get a senior administrator who would impact institutionalized racism. Though that was interfered with by the hiring of someone with skills for training staff and soothing social differences instead of someone who would intervene when closures, principal hires and other administrative decisions came up that keep institiutionalized racism entrenched. The administrator began at a position parallel to Manhas and was later demoted to near the bottom of the org chart.

Some bad stuff: After voting for the resolution against charters, voted for the contract for a charter school-the New School, and then voted for the building to house it at a cost of $64 million dollars while there were buildings that could have housed it in its own cluster.

After running as an anti oppression candidate, voted for closures that would disproportionately affect children of color and low income.

Claiming publicly that she had no high schools in her district when in fact John Marshall High School is there, and is to be closed with no advocacy coming from her until a teacher showed up at a board meeting and explained how SPS had allowed Seattle Times reporters to enter wearing SPS name tags, took pictures of students and not only printed them without permission but misrepresented them. Even then the advocacy was momentary.

Lisa Stuebing says Marshall is her favorite school. She has spent time there, and as a past high school drop out, understands the real need for appropriate re-entry and alternative education to keep kids engaged.

Sherry Carr seems to be ok with closures now that her school is safe.

Charlie Mas said...

The day finished and Darlene Flynn did not make an appearance as guest blogger.

Jet City mom said...

OK mea culpa!

She is too ADD to sit on the board.
( I didn't actually vote for her originally though- I voted for Steve Brown- even though he said wacky things like "why don't we commission a study to examine past studies"

I understand the reasoning of having board members represent neighborhoods- in theory, but I actually have gotten much more action from board members who aren't in my district.
Irene Stewart to be exact.( I live in north Seattle)

Its pretty frustrating to rarely ( ever) hear from someone that is supposed to represent you.
( especially when that is combined with lack of communication from the classroom, the school and the district)

My daughter has been in SPS for almost 9 years. A board position is, what 4 years?

Soon the 4th superintendent in 9 years will start her position.

Will she stay as long as some of the board members?

It is interesting however- to look at the sum of Ms Flynns term on the board, aside from my personal opinion, and to wonder what she wants to accomplish that she couldn't with less work and more sleep, off the board.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised everyone let stand the comment about Brita and Irene voting for the superintendent and four more years of corruption. Technically accurate in every sense but this: I can think of many adjectives for Raj Manhas but corrupt? Examples please???

Anonymous said...

12:08, we let it stand because it sounded like a member of CEASE, an org'n which sees conspiracy, corruption, racism, and evil in almost every action by every person not associated with them - and resistance is futile.

ok, I'm exaggerating, but my experience is they are determined to see things in their way and information or data is not likely to change their minds.

Anonymous said...

You're right, Raj has done some things that many might not agree with or support. But corrupt??? I don't think so. That's absurd.

Charlie Mas said...

I am a early and longstanding member of CEASE and I'm active on their Yahoo Discussion Board. This blog has benefited from information posted there before it appeared here.

CEASE is a coalition so, by definition, the membership does not share a single voice or vision, but, as a coalition, we stand united. I know that a number of them do not share my perspective on Advanced Learning programs, but in honor of the coalition, they stand with me. Likewise, I stand with them.

I understand that some of the CEASE members take positions which are perceived as outside the mainstream, but they are earnest, hardworking activists and advocates. They were early to this work and have labored long in it. They have produced a number of successes, and they have earned our respect, if not our agreement.

I don't know if it was a CEASE member who described the Manhas administration as corrupt, and that's not important. I do know that however ridiculous you may find CEASE, we deserve your courtesy.

Anonymous said...

It's hard to give a "Coalition" like CEASE courtesy, as they do not seem to give courtesy to anyone (outside of CEASE) that does not share their opinions. They appear unwilling to work with the district, and insult, belittle and berade district authority. They do the same with the school board members with the exception of Mary Bass and Sally Soriano, because these two board members feed into their paranoia, and focus every vote and decision that they make around institutionalized racism. CEASE is extreme. To extreme for many to support. That is why you hear people refer to their post as just noise, and posts to ignore. You can't reason with a CEASE member, you can't share your views with a CEASE member, and so it is best to ignore them. As frustrating as that may be. Sorry, Charlie

Anonymous said...

Charlie, I had no idea you were a CEASE member?? Unlike most CEASE members, you seem reasonable. You seem open to hearing and sharing different views and perspectives.

Does Don Alexander think you are a racist (you are white)? Or, does he excuse your racist tendencies (you are white) because you are a member of CEASE?

Anonymous said...

Looking to broaden my perspective on CEASE - I searched for common ground with them early on but have to say not much they say resonates for me - it may be because I find them unwilling to do the same and because the collective voice is about 5 notches too shrill.

E.g., Raj Manhas - corrupt? You could probably argue that if he signs memos and then disavows them, that's corruption of a sort - but if you're CEASE and trying to be strategic about advancing your issues and convictions, calling Raj corrupt does not seem very astute.

To be honest, tags like that don't come off too far down the spectrum from the guy running from Brita's district calling her a w* - you'd like to dismiss it as pure crackpot but you start to wonder about grasp of reality if not mental illness.

Not to say CEASE are mentally ill, but you wonder sometimes about what it is they really want since their tactics are so confrontational and generally unproductive.

That probably seems incourteous but it's hard to summon a lot more beyond respect for their having convictions and following them.

Charlie, what successes have they accomplished? (Not a facetious question.)

Beth Bakeman said...

While not a CEASE member like Charlie, I also appreciate what that group has done and respect many of its members.

Bashing CEASE, or any other group or individual (like Don Alexander) working to improve Seattle Public Schools is not productive.

Anonymous said...

Is CEASE's continual bashing of the school board and district productive?

Maggie Metcalfe said...

Ok, so it was me. And I'm with CEASE...I recognize most of you. Your tone and positions are characteristic as well. I didn't actually say Raj was corrupt, and I don't think he is. I do think that elements of his administration are however, and I also think some elements are just incompetent. I should have been more clear. The result for our children is that not much has changed in 4 years, that was the point.

Raj was COO when the 35 million or so went missing. There were no significant changes in his admin after he became Supt. There was never a fraud audit. I don't necessarily think someone pocketed money, its possible that the money counted on paper never existed as is the claim-but there was never an audit that proved that and there was never any culpability assigned for the disaster. The audit that was done was designed to side-step that issue and it did. It did however say that many in the administration are in positions that exceed their level of expertise. It also identified a culture of dysfunction that had nothing to do with the board.

I'm very impressed that you outed yourself Charlie, not that you were a secret CEASE member, but we do not require that anyone identify as a member because we know we are contraversial. Thanks for your support and your constant activism.

We may seem paranoid and overly worried about racism, classism, corruption and yes, sometimes even conspiracy. But I don't recall anyone ever using the word evil. And I don't think determination and insistance about things like equity are shrill. Using words like that however is a classic way of silencing the voices that make you uncomfortable.

I know that sometimes in my passion or desperation I over-reach, but maybe not so far as the person who compared us to David Blomstrom and suggested mental illness...

What I know is that there are a disproportionate number of children of color in this city who get less than an equal share of educational opportunity. They get targeted by the police and the military, they go to jail and die in war. That's something to be shrill about.

I have been honored to work with Don Alexander for the last 5 years, and do not apologize for his methods in trying to speak for his community. He is very passionate and one of those annoying "loud" voices that make people so uncomfortable. Good for him, you would think our society would have gotten a little farther along the road of equity by 2007. A few months back I thought he was going to loose it for real in a school board meeting, he was louder and angrier than usual. It turned out he had visited Monroe prison that day and saw the young men he used to visit at Garfied High School. They were not the AP students, they were the black men from his community.

I live with four teen foster girls, all youth of color, various races. They are in therapeutic foster care with issues ranging from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, debilitating anxiety, chemical dependency to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Each of them needs something different in a school, a teacher. There is nothing standard about them. They live or die according to the supports that can be provided for them. I've worked with 36 in the last 8 years and many have become permanent family members. All have survived so far.

These children maybe don't "look" like yours, but there are more of them than you may think. They must be served adequately and so must all the others in public schools.

I get "shrill" when I see resources squandered, favors paid to the powerful, systems manipulated for financial gain. I get pissed when I see a school that helps desperate kids survive and thrive get closed for no good reason when a school supported by private millions gets a brand new building.

I know that comfortable establishment folks don't like me. It's ok, I don't like them either. I have no patience for fluff when children are dying.

If people want me (and I don't speak for the whole coalition because as Charlie said, we don't speak with one voice) to work with them, they need to get serious. You can spend a lot of time stroking your own ego and admiring how important you are, or you can defend the closures of all of our schools at least until the work is done humanely and openly. Until all of the students with the least voice are taken care of.

Viewlands elementary was a carefully established inclusive environment for extreemly autistic children. The kind of children that can't tolerate change. It had a special room with a swing for kids to go one at a time and de-escalate when things got too intense for them to deal with. The school is being smashed into another, no guarentee that it will be inclusive, no special room with a therapy swing. Most importantly, they have no advocacy group except maybe our "shrill" voices if we can make them heard somehow.

Successes? I don't know that we can claim any independently of the many other advocates and workers out there. I think you have to have extremes in some places and I don't mind being extreme if thats what it takes. Here's some things we have worked on:

Exposing Olchefske's missing millions
Getting rid of Olchefske
Campaigning for the four board members who got elected in '03
Campaigning against charter schools-several times, we remain one of only 4 states without charter legislation
Supporting a board resolution against charter schools
Demanding the removal of lead, cadmium and other toxins from the water in our schools
Demanding the removal of mold from our schools
Demanding accountability from the administrators for expenditures of levy money
Demanding a home for South Lake High School
Creating a procedure for principal selection that would allow schools a voice in the selection
Demanding a focus on institutional racism as an underpinning of all adminstrative decisions
Demanding a place for the public to
express concerns to the board (under constant pressure currently)
Demanding relief from the WASL
Demanding military recruiters out of our schools
Demanding that the 3 district appointed task forces on disproportionality recommendations be put into place (a many year demand still not realized)
Demanding an end to the rigged (corrupt) superintendent search that brought us 4 privatizers and ended up with all of them pulling out because we exposed their record as we found it on-line
Demanding that we have an open search for a new superintendent (ignored when Raj was appointed)
Opposing the appointment of a non-educator for superintendent
....there is more, we are always busy. And I know, we are oppositional and demanding. I'm ok with that.

It is the role of someone else to be nice, I don't have time for it. I'd like to be nice, but not while folks are trying to close my kids schools or my neighbors kids schools or privatize them.

Mary and Sally? You would do well to look at their records. Sally got the lead out of your kids water, the following week Ron English, atty for the district was at the state legislature arguing for state water quality standards to be lower than the school district. Mary found that millions were missing and exposed it to us in her public community meetings months before the board would give it up to the press. Without her, you still would not know.

There's more, but I'm sure you're either bored or shut down by now.

Anonymous said...

Maggie, you said...

"Raj was COO when the 35 million or so went missing. There were no significant changes in his admin after he became Supt."

How can you make this statement??? We are now 35 million in surplus. Isn't that a change??

You say "they have no advocacy group except maybe our "shrill" voices if we can make them heard somehow."

Are the parents of these students not their advocates? We are all advocates for our children, aren't we?? Is this group excused? And you say the board is doing a great job, where are their voices?

You show CEASE's successes. Did you realize that you used the words "we demanded" eleven times? This is the precise reason that CEASE has such an awful reputation. You are agressive, and accusatory and paranoid in your approaches, and they don't work. I can't tell you how many times I have spoken to board members and whenever your names come up, they roll their eyes. You have no credibility anymore. More of an annoyance actually. And it's not due to the issues you tackle, they are all worthy. It is your approach and aggression. Your anger. It doesn't work.

Anonymous said...

As for Mary Bass, her uncovering the missing $$$ was awsome, and showed her commitment to the job. That was a long time ago though. The Janet Jackson song comes to mind "what have you done for me lately"

Anonymous said...

"What I know is that there are a disproportionate number of children of color in this city who get less than an equal share of educational opportunity. They get targeted by the police and the military, they go to jail and die in war."

All I can say to this is that we are an African American family. I have never been targeted by the police, or been to jail. Neither has my husband, our teenage children, or our parents who grew up in the 40s. We have not been targeted by the police because we do not break the law. People who are targeted by the police break the law. Our white neighbor's teenage son has been in jail twice in the last two years. He broke the law.

You are only targeted if you make yourself a target. Sure, there are stereotypes, but if you don't prove them right there is nothing to act on. For instance, if a security guard follows you around a department store, but you don't steal anything, then you have nothing to worry about. Right? This is 2007, it's time to stop using the crutch, and let african americans stand on their own two feet.

Beth Bakeman said...

Maggie, Thank you for posting and for the work you do trying to improve Seattle Public Schools.

I believe we need lots of different people with different approaches all working for better public education in Seattle to have a chance of making a positive difference.

Some people don't like my approach. Some people apparently don't like your approach. My feeling is that doesn't matter. The point is to work for change in whatever way each person or group believes is right.

Anonymous said...

Mary Bass did not identify the 35 million budget gap. She did vote against the budget that was ultimately shown to be full of "plugs" and errors that caused the deficit. She took that vote because the budget seemed suspicious to her, something did not feel right. She had a good instinct on that vote.

However, Mary often votes against things with scant or difficult-to-discern justification, i.e. she and Sally have often played the role of nay-sayer on the board. How one feels about that role depends on your perspective.

Maggie Metcalfe said...

Me again,

easec-there is no 35 mill surplus. Admin claimed a 27 mill shortfall and said they had to close schools because of it, then when the time came for a levy campaign there was suddenly a 20 mill surplus. when asked to account for it, a list was produced that showed money not spent that was supposed to be spent. I've lost track of it for now, but it included things like money for katrina survivors. It was very questionable in any case.

The Marshall kids don't have advocates because they are mostly disenfranchised from their own parents. I am a Marshall parent right now, my (foster)child is very well served there at a time when she would not and could not engage anywhere else. Many of the kids there are re-entry students who have been expelled from other schools, some are gang members. Being removed from their usual turf, protected and supervised by African American men who are hired as security but who behave like mentors-makes all the difference for them and their teachers are able to engage them in learning and to return them to mainstream schools. One teacher told me that the last time he called a parent, identified himself and said he wanted to talk about the teen, the parent hung up.

We really have some incredible talent in Seattle Public Schools. that environment serves kids with huge issues and does it beautifuly-yet it will be closed. We are not done fighting for it, so let me know if anyone wants to help.

Thank you Beth for your kind words. I think you are absolutely right about a need for different approaches. It may be that what some people see as our shrill voices actually open the way for the more generally accepted ones.

I don't count any success as ours alone, as I said before. I do think we had a signifcant effect on many issues however, not the least of which was exposing the supt (he was heavily supported by the Alliance for Education and the Seattle Times and 6 of 7 board members) it took a lot of letters to the editors, radio interviews, talking, writing, public testimony, to create enough pressure for a change of leadership.

Its ok that people roll their eyes. Not everyone does however, and many people have approached me and others in CEASE to thank us for taking a stand and helping them to know how to speak, call, go to committee meetings or whatever it takes to get their issues dealt with. they ask us to help speak to their issues and often they end up joining our efforts. I'm sure some contact us and then choose to work in more traditional venues, like in the PTA or with CPPS.

I think it takes a whole spectrum of voices to create enough pressure for change.

Hi Summer, I was at Mary's public community meetings 3 months before the Olchefske mess hit the papers. mary had a giant timeline drawn on paper and posted on the wall. On it was a picture of when she came to the board, when she saw the budget numbers did not add up, and when she realized how big the problem was. She put serious pressure on the rest of her board until they finally forced the release of the information. It was her that discovered it. She thought however that it would turn out to be closer to 60 mill and maybe we still don't know.

To anon: I'm glad your family has not been targeted. I think that a society-wide problem does still exist however. Just the fact that a security guard would follow a person of color when they don't follow the white folks tell it all. If you are not looking for white crime, you will disproportionately affect people of color. I don't think any group should be babied or felt sorry for, but in the school district there is a responsibility to create equity wherever possible. One of those places is to add extra supports where needed. An example would be to do a fair and accurate assesment of the reason kids get expelled and what services they need before doing a rigged review of a school like Marshall (that's another story and I have copies of the reviews done so far, I believe done in an attempt to justify closure. If there are deficits in the program, you fix them, you don't close the school or outsource the program.

What has Mary done for us lately? I don't know where to start, I do know that as a marginalized board member, it might be better for her to work quietly, and let others take her ideas and use them as their own. Like the Assignment plan-an evaluation she has been calling for for 6 years. Tracy Libros was working with Mary on the plan until Cheryl Chow became president and took Mary out as committee chair. Now I hear Michael and Irene are calling it their plan. It's still getting done however and all of our kids will benefit as long as it gets done in the way Tracy is recommending which is not to limit choice.

Mary will listen to any community member from any part of the city and work to find solutions to the issues they bring. People come to her from all parts of the city, because they often don't get help from their own directors. When she was board president, she did not try to silence the public and she required the superintendent to answer to the public regarding the issues they brought forth. Now that has been changed to a cheerleading moment followed by an information session that would be better as a 15-30 minute SPS TV spot. It seems to me it does not belong in a public business meeting and the energy in the room never feels right for it, it feels like a distraction from the concerns of the public.

This district has some great assets, teachers, principals and devoted community members. It remains a problem that the district has no abiltiy to collaborate honestly with all of those people let alone the board. I think it is due to a conflict of interest. Administrators are more motivated to protect their positions than to serve the community.

Anonymous said...

Beth, I've generally appreciated this blog in part because of your neutrality and your hosting a space where differing opinions and perspectives can meet and possibly learn from each other.

That balance is tipping for me when you scold people for "bashing" CEASE based on a discussion of perspectives and observations which to me where no different in character from things said about Steve Sundquist (most recently) or other candidates and their websites or district staff - and I don't think I've ever seen you respond to those posts in the way you did re CEASE.

You note that "Bashing CEASE, or any other group or individual (like Don Alexander) working to improve Seattle Public Schools is not productive" -

though it's hard to see what is productive about Maggie Metcalfe's position (among others):

"I know that comfortable establishment folks don't like me. It's ok, I don't like them either."

This isn't a matter of liking or not liking - it's questioning tactics given their apparent effectiveness, which ought to be fair game on this blog. When almost every person who speaks about CEASE rolls his eyes, you can probably assume their influence is marginalized and there are better ways of making their points. You can rationalize that away and say that's what oppressors always do, but the proof is in the putting.

Don Alexander is heroic if he's following kids to prison and trying to save every one who might end up there, and good on him for going to all of the district meetings, but when his only contribution while there is to deride the participants for there not being more minority faces in the room, and seems to do less to actually get them there than the district does - to me, that's shrill and non-productive.

But interesting that we agree on Darlene Flynn...

Anonymous said...

Beth, it's interesting because I have heard you defend CEASE and Don Alexander several times during the past year. Is it not OK any longer for bloggers to share their opinion on a particular group? How about the board, district, Admin? Is it only OK to share an opinion if it is an agreeable opinion? If you disagree then you should refrain from posting? PLease clarify the rules of the blog so we may follow them.

CEASE should be ashamed of themselves. Especially Don Alexander. While their causes are valid, their tactics are outrageous. They insult, belittle, berade, accuse, lie, contort and twist the truth. The conspiracy theories that they spin are worthy of a novel, but have no validity. You can't believe a word that any one of them say. And yet, you defend them so strongly Beth. Why aren't you defending the other groups, schools, board members, admin etc that people share negative opinions about every day on this blog??

Anonymous said...

Beth, why not defend all of the people that CEASE bashes every single day. They bash anybody who differs in opinion with them without hesitation, including other parents, other groups (Kate Martin is relentless in bashing CPPS), district staff, admin, our Superintendant, and anyone else who may differ in opinion. And some of them will bash you just because you are white. Beth, if you are going to take a position, please be fair.

Charlie Mas said...

I think it is perfectly legitimate to write that a specific CEASE member said or wrote something offensive or outrageous or counterproductive. That is certainly well within the mainstream of appropriate discourse.

And if CEASE were to issue a statement as a group, as we have done from time to time, that statement would be open for discussion.

Please remember that CEASE is a coalition which does not usually speak with a single voice. Please take care with attribution.

I don't think there is any intent to squash discussion of perspectives, effectiveness, or even credibility. By all means, let's discuss these topics.

However, let's focus on the action or the words instead of the person. Even if you do not think that CEASE or its members have earned your respect, we are entitled to your courtesy. Not the common courtesy of "please" and "thank you" and having the good taste to avoid intimate topics of discussion, but the Marquis of Queensbury sort of courtesy, to fight fair. You can be rough, you don't have to pull your punches, just no low blows.

This may seem strange coming from me - in a variety of ways. For one, I suspect that my longtime involvement and participation in CEASE surprises some folks. I doubt I am the image of a CEASE member that many folks carry in their head. CEASE is a broader coalition that you might presume. I am often a minority voice within CEASE, but they have never censored me in any way and, despite vigorous discussions, I continue to maintain friendly relationships with the other members. To tell the truth, I think they find my participation enigmatic as well.

For another, there are those who think me guilty of the occassional cheap shot. I'm no angel, but I have been pretty good about addressing myself to people's work and their choices rather than to their character. I think my example shows how hard you can hit without striking below the belt.

That said, I'm sure that someone will step forward with a quote from something I've written that violates the very rule I've just outlined. I've written a lot, some without allowing time for cool reflection. So I will save you the research and freely admit my hypocrisy and vow to redouble my efforts to resist those temptations in future. I will benefit from your policing my future statements.

All I would ask is that you be specific in your attribution when discussing statements by CEASE members and that you address your discussion to their product rather than their personality.

I've made a review of the posts here, and I'm not sure that this caution was really necessary. Actually everyone has been pretty well behaved. If the line was crossed, it wasn't by much or for long.

Finally, in answer to a specific question: No, I don't think Don Alexander regards me as a racist, but I suggest that you get his definition of the word.

Charlie Mas said...

Also, let's not be so sure that I am White.

I'm not entirely sure what it takes to qualify as White these days, but I don't think that the folks who are most interested in defining White would include me in that definition.

Beth Bakeman said...

Anonymous, Puzzled and Anonymous,

My position about what is appropriate for posting has been consistent from the beginning. Whether or not it is "fair" or has been clearly communicated is probably a matter of opinion.

Puzzled writes "Is it not OK any longer for bloggers to share their opinion on a particular group? How about the board, district, Admin? Is it only OK to share an opinion if it is an agreeable opinion? If you disagree then you should refrain from posting? PLease clarify the rules of the blog so we may follow them."

Okay, here you go...It is absolutely OK to post dissenting opinions and information--in fact it's encouraged. Post as often as you want, with as much emotion/bias/attitude as you want, as long as the post focuses on the issue/opinion/policy in question and not the person or group.

For example, writing "Beth is a spineless, poorly informed, inept blogger" would not be okay. But writing "Beth's views on the assignment plan don't seem to be connected to reality. What she is suggesting makes no sense." is perfectly okay.

I obviously have not enforced this rule perfectly because, especially recently, I have not had the time to monitor and respond to all posts.

But I feel extremely passionately about this issue. People who have spent time (volunteer or paid) working to improve Seattle Public Schools have something of value to offer in this conversation. If we insult or shut them out of the conversation because we don't like what they say or how they say it, we all lose.

Anonymous said...

This thread is fascinating, and I believe it has, for the most part, remained civil and productive.

It’s funny, the only post I really objected to was “we let it stand because it sounded like a member of CEASE, an org'n which sees conspiracy, corruption, racism, and evil in almost every action by every person not associated with them - and resistance is futile.” Not so much because of the characterization of CEASE, but because it was attributing an anonymous comment to an organization without proof. However, it turns out that the comment was from a CEASE member, so the poster had a point.

I agree that CEASE’s communications methods seem to work against them and that it would make more sense to build alliances instead of alienating the mainstream. But maybe it is enough that the voice is heard at all, even if it doesn’t seem like it produces action right now. More and more, in the broader political arena, I have been feeling marginalized and underrepresented. I keep wondering why people aren’t getting angrier and shriller.

I also think it’s interesting that the original topic of this post was a fairly negative conversation about Darlene Flynn. No one called this bashing, even though she was accused of being “too ADD” and “bi-polar”. I have had no personal dealings with her, so I don’t take a side. The fact that she didn’t show up for her guest blog is a serious error. At least CEASE is appearing at the discussion.


Anonymous said...

Don Alexander's definintion of the word racist is white. Period.

I was in a meeting at AS1 once, with many CEASE members in attendance, and Don Alexander came in, interupted, and called every white person in the room a racist. He ranted, almost incoherently about us all being racists for over a half hour, and nobody stopped him. I was embarrassed for him. It was really horrible, and I have no tolerance for him. He knows nothing at all about me or most of those people in the room.

As for Maggie Metcalf, she has a huge heart, and good intentions. But she twists and contorts facts, and manipulates them to make every single thing the district does like a conspiracy, nazi attempt at sqashing minority children. She gives the district no credit. It is tiring.

Kate Martin, has attacked CPPS publicly for over a year. She accuses them of being privatizers, even saying that CPPS stands for communities of parents for privatizing Seattle schools. CPPS, for goodness sake. A group of volunteer activists! She was so ugly with her correspondence that I hear she has been banned from their yahoo group. A first for CPPS.

I was shocked to hear that you were a member of CEASE, Charlie. You are coherent, and reasonable. I don't always agree 100% with what you say, but you are clear and articulate, and you do not manipulate facts or slander people to prove your points. I appreciate that, and always read your posts. And, at times have changed my views based on what you post. If all CEASE members could correspond with members of the community the way you do, or at least without being slanderous and offensive, they would gain so much more respect. Maybe someone at CEASE should lay some ground rules for common respect, and courtesy to use when representing CEASE. And, Don should retire.

Anonymous said...

Gabrielle - I'm the anon who posted the "because it sounds like a member of CEASE..." comment but do note I went on to say "ok, I'm exxagerating..." Apologies if I offended - it was a poor attempt at tongue in cheek.

For me what what has become the issue in this thread is not what CEASE does or doesn't think or say (and Charlie, I hear your point about its being a coalition but it's pretty abstruse to draw the distinction between individual views and CEASE views when its members tend to identify themselves as CEASE - if anything, celebrate the fact that they broke through all of the noise we live with and are identifiable as an entity!)

It's been more about Beth putting an editorial foot down and perceiving something as bashing, and (I think) not applying that same standard universally.

It's important to me because I refer people (often "establishment" types, including district people) to this blog a lot, encouraging them to see beyond Charlie's and Melissa's sometime reputations as district bashers to the thoughtful discussion that frequently goes on here. If the balance is going to tip to CEASE (or to the district, or to any one end of the spectrum), it loses its value for me (and everyone, I think, to some degree), and I can't continue to refer people here.

Thanks -

Brita said...

Hello all,

Charlie and others have noted that Darlene has not posted as a blogger in response to community comments on Linda's blog. However, Linda says:

"We have a race folks! District 2 for the Seattle School Board has four candidates running. I've given all candidates an opportunity be a guest blogger. Darlene Flynn gave her reasons for running again as a comment on another post. I'm re-posting here as a guest blog to make sure it doesn't get lost:"

It is conceivable that Darlene does not realize her original statement has been posted on Linda's list and that she was then expected to continue participating that day.

Anonymous said...

To clarify, I'm not advocating for Blomstrom as a candidate and see nothing that qualifies him. That said, I remain intrigued by the body of information he presented against SPS. Rantings of a verbally abusive crank, or grains of truth? I think there's both. But as a viable candidate, no. WenG

Anonymous said...

(Sorry, the post my addendum was in reference to...)

RE: CEASE, Maggie, I appreciate your post.

To the Anon who asks what Mary Bass has done for them lately, considering that she was the only board member to dog Olchefske about the budget, I think she's continuing what she started.

In general, I'm quite comfortable with the charge that SPS is corrupt on some counts, and incompetent on many others. It's unfortunate that David Blomstrom presents as rude and outlandish, because his old website on his geobop domain contained quite a laundry list of what he called "deadbeat principals" and charges of corruption that to my knowledge, SPS has never denied.

Again re: CEASE, I would suggest that this is how revamping schools in an equitable fashion is going to start. With new activists coming to the table. And it's going to take some time, but in the end, if you view the district in a less than friendly light, and see that it's not just personal interests, but the interests of all students that have to be met, we're going to have to move toward a more cohesive coalition.

Parties that may not like one another, respect or understand one another will have to make some adjustments and pursue some common goals, or business as usual down at the old post office will prevail.

RE: racism, I'm white. If someone casts a wide net and calls every white person in the room a racist, I don't have a problem telling them to take another look, that I can acknowledge past injustice but I’m not practicing now. Are they? I can’t answer for every bigoted loser in the world. I can only stand behind what I’m all about. I hope everyone who wants a better school will do the same. I know from experience that often the person entering a room, making challenges, expects to be challenged, to see what you’re really all about.

We have to become as cohesive as possible in lobbying for the needs of *every* student in SPS. We cannot afford to be divided. WenG

Anonymous said...

How in the world do you give any credibility at all to Blomstrom???? I'm actually scared now. Have you looked at his website.

He calls Brita Butler-Wall a conniving whore.

The Stranger (newspaper) labeled him "the resident looney".

His web site says that he is using his website to attack the entire Seattle Mafia, specifically Bill Gates. Says he is also using his campaign to attack George Bush. Says he hates liberals and Right Wingers.

He says during his last campaign The Stranger neglected to endorse him and chose to endorse former SPI Judith Billings instead, because she has HIV.

He calls the Alliance for Education an "organization out to screw children" and also says their board of directors is "The who’s Who of Seattle’s sleaziest scum"

He uses profanity throughout his website.

I won't go on any further, you can check out his web site for yourself it is seattlemafia.org. Suffice to say that this lunatic should not be given an ounce of credibility.

The scariest part is he used to teach in Seattle Schools. Imagine your child being exposed to this psychosis.

Anonymous said...

i'm exhausted from reading the mudslinging about whether or not CEASE is credible. dang, folks! i'm a CEASE member. i'm proud to be a CEASE member and among things i've been called shrill is not one of them. passionate, too direct, angry maybe. but i'm not even sure how one gets the label of shrill. sounds as if there is some disagreement and that there are those who do not like the nature of the disagreement. hard as i try i cannot remember when maggie or any other CEASE member has been anything other than focused and hardworking. maybe the scope of what they work on is not broad enough for many in the community, but i for one, am very, very glad that there are groups such as CEASE who are as dedicated as the membership has been in really trying to develop equity within this district. i honestly have not seen any mudslinging, although there is definite disagreement. but, even when there is disagreement, there is very little of the nastiness that is so common in much of public discourse. what i have seen is honest research, analysis into issues that others either have given up on or have accepted the administration's version of. i keep trying to figure out why there is such venom directed at such a dedicated group of individuals. is it because some of them are on the other side of an issue? an issue, with negative consequences to one's own interests? heck, that's what democracy is all about. we, each of us, working according to our consciousness. the work of CEASE is ultimately work that benefits us all. a school district which supports our most vulnerable students, is a school district which will also support our high achieving students. there cannot be equity unless both of these are held sacred. CEASE is trying to do this. as i've always said, woe be the individual who, in their hour of need, is relying on that individual who was not adequately educated. one way of another we will all pay for the educational injustices done to our children. better that we hear these loud voices now, than the even louder, more wretched voice of a wasted life later.

Anonymous said...

Please re-read the above posts. It has been said over and over again that CEASE fights worthy causes. Nobody disputes that CEASE should not be advocating for minority children. That would be ridiculous.


They attack, accuse, hiss, yell, berade, insult and use any other aggresive tactic they can find. The members that I have met are unwilling to hear any point of view that differs from theirs. They contort and manipulate facts and figures and down right lie in efforts to prove conspiracy theories. And they slander people all the time.

Anonymous said...

RE: David Blomstrom, I want to clarify that I'm not advocating for him. I think he's foul-mouthed and unqualified.

The charges of SPS incompetence he published on his old domain interest me only because they've been corroborated elsewhere. I think his current writings hold little credibility. WenG

Anonymous said...

Brita, re whether Darlene knew to respond to her Educating Mom guest blog, Linda Thomas said she gave all candidates that information (but did it by email, so if Darlene didn't read it that day she wouldn't have known - you'd hope one of her supporters would have told her).

Brita said...

Hello all,

Darlene does not regularly read email. She has made it clear to her fellow board members that if we have sent an important email message, she needs to get a phone call to alert her to that fact.

Even if this were not the case, I question re-posting someone's statement and then complaining that the person is not responding. I would be surprised if Darlene has time to read blogs, either.

Each of us copes with the over-abundance of school board related tasks in different ways.

Maggie Metcalfe said...

Just to be clear, I often praise the work that goes on in SPS. Usually it is at the teacher and principal level and often it is the work of the communities involved in their own schools or people working to change policy for the district. Often the board has done good work. There have been some major disappointments with the board-keeping the superintendent on when the administrative house should have been cleaned after the "03 election for example.
I have often thanked the board for policy decisions and often written about the heroic job teachers and principals are doing-often without the support of the district and sometimes while being undermined by district administration.
I do admit that my statements are not perfect, I have made mistakes and misjudgements, but I do not lie and I do take responsibility for my statements as is evidenced by the fact that I put my name on them even as I risk the slings and arrows of all the "annons".
I continue to work to make my judgements and my actions more accurate and effective.

Anonymous said...

O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us
It wad frae monie a blunder free us
An' foolish notion
What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us
An' ev'n Devotion

Robert Burns

Anonymous said...

Leslie here -

Brita -

Though I hugely appreciate the time spent by boardmembers on their duties and balancing them with their "other lives" I truly don't understand how one can be a boardmember that doesn't "regularly read email" or even do business with fellow boardmembers unless given a heads up phone call first, nor have time to "read blogs" and still have a pulse on constituent feedback and have authentic dialogue.

Are there other boardmembers who "don't do email?" Am afraid will add that to my list of questions of all potential candidates and sitting boardmembers running for election in the future - I wrongly assumed it was part and parcel of the position, especially with so few ways to dialogue with boardmembers and with so much of the public access input for closures and consolidation being done by email - does this mean it was not read?


Please advise. Thanks so much.


Brita said...
Hello all,

Darlene does not regularly read email. She has made it clear to her fellow board members that if we have sent an important email message, she needs to get a phone call to alert her to that fact.

Even if this were not the case, I question re-posting someone's statement and then complaining that the person is not responding. I would be surprised if Darlene has time to read blogs, either.

Each of us copes with the over-abundance of school board related tasks in different ways.

7:42 AM

Brita said...

Leslie and all,

What I have tried to explain is that for the past four years, I have done nothing but school board, full-time, and still have not been able to attend all the community events to which I have been invited, read all the background papers, and respond to all the emails and phone calls I get.

The only reason I have been able to devote this much time is because we are a two-income family that decided to forgo one income for this purpose.

Most of the board members work fulltime at a day job. They have given up countless evenings and weekends and most of their vacation time to do school board work.

Our board does want to be transparent and responsive and we have put mechanisms in place to improve in this area.

However, until board members are staffed, it is unreasonable to expect the same level of customer service that one gets from city council (each gets 2-3 staffers) or state legislators (each gets 1-2 staffers).

Until the position of school board pays more than the per diem capped at $4800/year, the only people that will be able to serve will be those who are independently wealthy, retired, or have a spouse who can support the family (i.e. the good old days).

Yes, I wish all school board members read my emails to them and your emails to them. I don't blame them, given the phenomenal service they are giving to our city.

I did personally read every bit of public testimony and email regarding school closures and student assignment and it was time-consuming to do so.

In a large urban district, where any issue can generate hundreds of emails, school board service can easily be full-time, particularly when there is a high value on inclusiveness.

That is why some urban school board districts around the country pay their directors.

Anonymous said...

Brita, thank you again for all of the time and effort you have put into being a board member. You have served with integrity and I wish you would run again.

Thanks also, for opening our eyes as to the extent of time and work behind the scenes that goes into being an effective board member. It is a thankless job.

I 100% agree with you that each board member should be paid a living wage, and work full time, with an assistant. It would be money VERY well spent.


Anonymous said...

Because it may not be humanly possible to do the job as it should be done doesn't excuse someone for taking it, not doing it as it should be done, then having it said on her behalf, "it wasn't possible".

If Darlene can't do the job as it should be done (and like others, I think at minimum that requires reading emails from your board member colleagues), she shouldn't take it - and shouldn't be running for reelection.

There is a big difference between not responding to every email or phone call, and barely answering any -

The very sad thing is that so few people care about these races, know the issues, and know the candidates, she'll probably be re-elected, by people who think she's a champion, or just recognize her name.

If that's the case, we get what we deserve.