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Monday, June 11, 2007

Radio Report/Interview

This story on School Board candidates aired on KIRO 710AM News on Friday.

The link appears on their podcast page

http://www.kiro710.com/getpodcast.aspx?sid=7912&lid=3017&id=419858&source=1&url=http://sea.bonnint.net/2007/0607indepth.mp3

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

For those of us who don't do podcasts, what was the nature of the story please?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link to the KIRO report, Charlie. I appreciate this blog you all contribute to. This is my first post! Here are two reports I filed Saturday with basic rundowns of the four races. At the links you can listen and/or read.

One story lists races that include incumbents.

The other lists races for open seats.

Folks out there, please email me anytime: pfletcher at kuow dot org.

Charlie Mas said...

The general theme was that new people are running for the School Board. Folks with leadership skills as well as legal, management, and financial expertise. There was David Brewster from Crosscut saying how wonderful that was and me saying how those skills aren't much called for in the Board Director job.

Anonymous said...

Charlie,
Don't be so reflexively negative! What skills do you think are needed if not those you cited?

Anonymous said...

Charlie, please do expand on whay YOU think a board director's skill sets should include. I happen to think leadership skills as well as legal, management, and financial expertise, is a great place to start. But since you said these skills are not called for, please finish your comment by adding what will be called for per your perpective.

Charlie Mas said...

I don't think it is negative to say that the list of skills put forward by candidates is not the list of skills needed in a Board. I'm not just being contrary, there really is very little call for them.

The School Board does not perform in a management role. The duty of managing the District belongs to the Superintendent. It would be horribly inappropriate for the Board to try to reach past the Superintendent and manage the District. They couldn't do it anyway because they lack the authority. The Board Directors do not need management skills and, if they had them, they would find it very frustrating to be unable to apply them.

The School Board does not perform the duty of legal counsel; the District has lawyers.

The School Board does not provide leadership. Teachers look to principals, mentors and coaches for leadership. The principals look to the education directors. Each person in the district headquarters looks to their supervisor and through them to the Superintendent. That's where the leadership needs to come from because that's where the authority lies. With no one to lead and little opportunity - if any - to exercise leadership, a real leader would find the role of Board Director extremely frustrating.

I don't care how talented a leader you are, you can't lead if your would-be followers don't recognize your authority to lead. Teddy Roosevelt could not have lead the Roughriders up San Juan Hill if he were the captain of a ship in Santiago Harbor. They would only follow their Lt. Colonel.

There is a limited need for financial expertise on the Board. It should, instead, be in the District's finance and budget office. The Board does not write the budget, the Board does not even vote on the budget. They vote on the total expenditures, but not how it is spent - just the number. They don't approve line items and they can't have any line items removed. The Superintendent can present them with a budget for approval and unilaterally change it the next day.

People often contact the Board with their problems, but solving individual problems is not the Board's job. They should refer all of that work to Customer Service. The Board is NOT the complaint department. Moreover, the Board has no means or authority to resolve individual problems.

So much for leadership, management, legal, or financial expertise. Those are not the Board's jobs.

Nearly half of the Board's votes concern property management in one way or another, but even still, the District's property management expertise and project management expertise should be in the Facilities department, not the Board. How would it be of benefit for a Board member to interfere with the way a project or property is managed by the staff?

The Board votes to approve the contracts and collective bargaining agreements, but it would be very inappropriate for them to introduce significant changes at that point, so negotiating skills are unnecessary.

Nearly half of the Board's votes are strictly administrative. The Board must vote to approve the warrants report and the personnel report. It would be pointless to oppose approval of any of these. These votes don't require any notable skill at all.

The Board's role, aside from various administrative tasks required by law, is to set policy and to provide oversight.

The Board can vote to create a Policy, but they lack any means whereby they can enforce that policy. Consequently, their policies are followed at the Superintendent's sole discretion. If the Superintendent disagrees, they might as well have voted that the sun should rise in the West and set in the East.

Mr. Manhas did not share the perspective of the Board he served and therefore chose not to adhere to their policies on a number of occassions. Their only means of managing their one employee comes annually at the time for the performance review. All they could do was publicly humiliate him with a bad review. Since the CACIEE report had already listed, point by point, his utter failure to fulfill the executive duties, I'm not sure how much room was left for him to fall. It would be far better if the Board hired a Superintendent who shared their perspective.

So what is the Board's job? Number one: Hire a Superintendent who shares their perspective. That job is done. Number two: Oversight.

Although the Board has no clear means to enforce Policy, they still have that duty. The Board's job is to confirm that the District staff are functioning within the confines of the District Policy and the law. It's a sort of hands-off auditor job.

On rare occassions, the Board needs to make a big political decision, such as school closures, transportation policy, and student assignment policy. Again, these tasks do not require leadership skills or management skills, so much as communication skills and public relations skills. In short, the political skills of coalition building, consensus building, and persuasion.

I may be all wrong about this, but I don't see Board Directors being called upon to manage anyone, do any accounting, reckon any legal angles, or lead anyone. It think it would have been brilliant, however, if they could have come out to the community and convincingly explained the need for and benefits of school closures. Don't you?

Andrew Kwatinetz said...

I don't get your point at all.
Their job is to hire the superintendent, rate her performance, and hold her accountable, but you say they don't need to understand management??
Their job is to set district policies, but they don't need to understand the underlying education, financial, management, or legal issues that are affected by those policies??
You expect them to enact changes to school assignment or big decisions like school closure that affect thousands, and you don't think leadership skills matter??

I agree with you that the Board would benefit from more communication and politic skills.

But without skills in the other areas, great communication and political skills sounds dangerous to me.

As for other skills, I'd add passion for education, listening skills, and abillity to prioritize and make trade-off's.

My two cents,
Andrew

Anonymous said...

Charlie,

you say that the board does not need any finance skills, yet it was Mary Bass who while reviewing the budget caught the 34mil error.

You say that the board does not need management skills, and yet they have to recruit, interview and hire the Supt., last I checked all of these skills are acquired by managing people.

And, I beg to differ with you, but the board does resolve problems. I have called on the board several times, while they tirelessly listened to my community and I tell them what we needed. It was they who voted on the action that we needed. So, in a sense they do perform customer service, and listen to our needs and at times our complaits.

I think the skills of the board should be broad and well rounded. I think more PR and public relations is a necessity, no doubt about it. But to say management, leadership and legal skills are not needed is just not realistic.

Charlie Mas said...

There is a huge difference between recognizing good management and practicing good management. Similarly, the ability to add up numbers and determine whether the total matches the reported total is not financial know-how.

The fact remains that Board Director is NOT a management position. They are not called upon to manage anyone or meddle in the management of the District. Do they need to understand management? Sure. Do they need to be able to practice it? Not so much.

I have no experience as an executive, and I doubt that I have any particular knack for it, but I know what the executive duties are and I can tell if they have been fulfilled or not. Consequently, I would be able to hire the superintendent, rate her performance, and hold her accountable. Of course, that might be true for anyone who read the CACIEE report.

If the Board only needs management skills to recruit, interview, and hire a superintendent, then they don't need them much. They can rely a little more on the recruiting consultant - outsource the rarely needed skill.

I'm not an accountant, but I can add up the expenditures and I can add up the revenues and tell which is the greater sum.

Yes, they need to understand the consequences of Policies, but that doesn't mean that they need to be experts in any of those fields. It simply means that they have to be bright, clear-thinking people who are ready to gather and weigh advice from a variety of experts.

I'm not saying that these skills, management, leadership, or financial, don't matter. I'm saying that they are not what the job is about. Of course it is better to have skills and knowledge than to not have them, but they are not much called upon in the day-to-day fulfillment of the duties of the office.

I'm trying to think of an apt analogy, but the best I can do right now is movie producer. The producer's job is not to direct the movie, but to hire the director. Is it helpful for the producer to understand direction? Sure. Is it necessary for the producer to be a good director? No.

The producer needs to know if the production is on time and on budget, but the producer doesn't need to be an accountant. The producer is the boss, but everyone working on the film looks to the director for leadership.

The producer doesn't take a direct hand in anything that you see on the screen, but if the movie is named picture of the year, the producer takes home the oscar.

Management, leadership, and financial ability is not required to determine whether management, leadership or financial duties have been done or done well. That said, not every movie critic would necessarily be a good producer.

Anonymous said...

"Consequently, I would be able to hire the superintendent, rate her performance, and hold her accountable."

Are you sure about that? What skills do you have, other than your keen interest in the district? Would you be looking for the qualities in the super.that appeal to you and/or CEASE? Or, would you look for qualities that would be in the best interest of the entire district. Because you and I have many differing views, and we would probably seek two very differnt Super's.

Anonymous said...

"Because you and I have many differing views, and we would probably seek two very differnt Super's."

Yes. Exactly. So when we are voting for school board members, we ought to basing our choices on their views to know whether or not we would be seeking similar or different superintendents and whether we would push for similar or different policies.

I think this is one of Charlie's points, that the platforms of those running ought to be more specific on this information. That platforms that say "I have leadership skills and a background in financial matters" are not telling voters what we need to know.

Brita said...

Charlie,

Great analogy. I agree.

Brita

Andrew Kwatinetz said...

Charlie wrote, "I have no experience as an executive, ... but I know what the executive duties are and I can tell if they have been fulfilled or not. Consequently, I would be able to hire the superintendent, rate her performance, and hold her accountable. Of course, that might be true for anyone who read the CACIEE report."

I have a great deal of respect for your well-researched and informed opinions, but this is not one of them. If you have no experience as an executive, how are you so sure you know what it takes to do the job? Sure, anybody can see when everything is swimming along smoothly or complain when it is not. But how are a bunch of people without an understanding of executive management supposed to manage the Superintendent when times are tough as they are bound to be (e.g. decide when she should be held responsible for subpar results and to what extent? decide when corrective actions are needed vs. support to stay the course? set priorities for her job performance and fair, measurable goals that will be tied to compensation?) I hope nobody elected to the Board adopts this flippant attitude toward management (and other skills) because it certainly won't foster a good working relationship with the Superintendent or staff. Sure, you can pay for consultants to hire the Superintendent, but then the real work starts.

I happen to have executive management experience and training. And I wrote much of the section on executive management in the CACIEE report you referenced. It is certainly true that the Board members are expected to set policy and not micro-manage. I would argue that someone who is actually experienced and trained in management (as opposed to someone who just thinks he can do it) is LESS likely to meddle in the affairs of the Superintendent because they actually understand what it takes for an organization to succeed.

I think your movie producer analogy was a bad analogy for many reasons: producing is a full-time job, they do a TON of work coordinating, and they are the executive (more like the superintendent job than a Board job). A good producer simply delegates to the director, much like a good superintendent allows her CAO to own academics -- but the buck stops with the producer and they will fire a director and/or change a movie if they see fit. That's why they collect the academy award, just like a superintendent often (deservedly) gets credit for great work done by her staff. But, let’s consider a different movie analogy: Why do you think actors prefer to work with directors with acting experience? It’s because many directors think acting is easy and they don’t respect the craft. Maybe you should talk to some Superintendents since you agree that they play the primary role for the district. Ask the good ones who they would want to work for: someone who understands executive management, or someone who thinks they know how to manage an executive because they know what good results look like?

Charlie Mas said...

"What skills do you have, other than your keen interest in the district?"

I am not running for the Board, so the question is strictly academic. That said, I'm an investment analyst. I review the performance of money managers every day using analytical tools. I ask them due diligence questions reviewing all aspects of their strategy and practice. Although I don't pretend that I can do what they do, I can judge the quality of their work.

"Would you be looking for the qualities in the super.that appeal to you and/or CEASE? Or, would you look for qualities that would be in the best interest of the entire district."


School Board directors are responsible for seeking the best outcome possible for every student. It's not that tough. There are fewer situations in which the benefit for student A comes at a cost for student B than you would imagine. These zero-net-sum situations are actually less common that some people would have you believe.

I would be looking for a Superintendent with the qualities that get the job done. I would be looking for a competent executive who would fulfill the executive duties. I don't particularly see the need for someone with an education background. The Chief Academic Officer position was created to carry that expertise.

Allow me to extend the movie producer analogy. In a film, the Director has the Vision - not the producer. But if the producer doesn't like the Vision, then the Director is fired. I would be satisfied for the Superintendent to develop the Vision, provided it was approved by the Board.

That's not how it has worked at Seattle Public Schools of late. The Board stepped in and articulated a Vision in part because the Superintendent had not, and in part because they wanted to give the Superintendent clearer direction. Unfortunately, the Superintendent never really adopted the Board's Vision and chose not to try to realize it.


"Because you and I have many differing views, and we would probably seek two very differnt Super's."

That may be, if we do have many differing views. I suspect, however, that our views are not as different as you imagine. My expectations are fairly plain - that every student gets what they need.

I think I've been very clear about my views:

I expect the District to live up to their rhetoric. I expect them to pursue academic achievement for every student in every school. I expect them to establish and maintain a culture, processes, and structures which are open, honest, transparent, engaged and accountable.

I want to close the academic achievement gap by bringing every student up to Standards. I think that means we need to end social promotion and we need to develop an extended, intensive, and enriched remedial program for students working below Standards.

Families should have the expectation that they can enroll their child at their neighborhood school and having their child well-served there.

Families should have the option of enrolling their child at another school if the neighborhood school does not serve their child's academic needs. This may be because the child has special needs or because the family prefers an alternative educational philosophy.

Families also need the option of enrolling their child in a school other than their neighborhood school if the family does not have confidence in the academic program at the neighborhood school.

If a signficant number of families do not have confidence in the academic program at a neighborhood school, the District needs to intervene and take steps to inspire that confidence.

Similarly, if in the course of an annual review a program or school does not meet their established benchmarks, the District needs to intervene and take steps to improve the outcomes at that school or program.

Those are the main points. Not only can you disagree with them, you have the opportunity to convince me to your way of thinking. Just make the case for the alternative view.

Charlie Mas said...

Andrew Kwatinetz wrote:
"I would argue that someone who is actually experienced and trained in management (as opposed to someone who just thinks he can do it) is LESS likely to meddle in the affairs of the Superintendent because they actually understand what it takes for an organization to succeed.?"

- By the way, Andrew, it's wonderful to have your voice again. -

I would suggest that a person who knows their role is not to micro-manage, and who does not presume (based on a personal history of successful management) that they can manage better than the manager is the person who is LESS likely to meddle in the affairs of the Superintendent.

I don't mean to sound flip. The Board role is not to second-guess the Superintendent or even to act as a management advisor to the Superintendent. The Board has no management role at all. They should not even be tempted to step in and manage.

Andrew asks:
"If you have no experience as an executive, how are you so sure you know what it takes to do the job?

Andrew, by that reasoning I am unqualified to hire an attorney, an investment advisor, or a plumber. Tell me, Andrew, do you have experience as a plumber? If not, how are you so sure that you know what it takes to do the job?

It's not that hard. You talk to the plumber. You ask the plumber what it will take. You question the assumptions. You ask the plumber to explain. You exercise critical reasoning skills. You consider possible contingencies. If the plumber is able to answer your questions to your satisfaction, then you hire that plumber. Do you need plumbing experience? No.

In fact, wouldn't you say that modesty about your plumbing ability reduces the probability that you will second-guess the plumber or tinker with the plumber's work? Would you have that modesty and hands-off attitude if you had a successful plumbing career?

Everyone tells me that it is easy to sweat pipe and that I could learn how to do it in ten minutes. I'm satisfied to leave it to the professionals, but I know what it is supposed to look like. I can ask the plumber if it doesn't look right. If I get a candid, cogent and confident response, I'll accept it.

I think Andrew had a splendid idea. Let's ask Superintendents what sort of Board Directors they prefer to work with:

1) someone who thinks they understand public sector executive management because they have extensive private sector executive management experience and expertise

2) someone who believes they know how to manage an executive because they know what good results look like

3) someone who does not presume to know better how to manage the District than the Superintendent, who provides oversight through pre-determined mutually accepted means of reviewing measurable results, asking challenging intelligent questions, and really listening to the answers


The key to the analogy was the extent to which the Producer delegates to the Director. It does break down because movie producers have a full time job. Serving as a School Board Director, however, is supposed to be a part-time volunteer gig. A job that people have done with great success for hundreds of years all across the country WITHOUT the benefit of executive experience, management expertise, or financial acumen. The job isn't designed to require them. The job is designed to be accomplished successfully by a sober, disciplined adult with common sense, critical reasoning skills, and the courage to question things that don't look right.

Andrew Kwatinetz said...

Choosing the Superintendent is not like choosing a plumber. If the lives of so many children depended on the performance of your plumber, OF COURSE you would want fellow citizens with plumbing knowledge to not only help choose the plumber but also to provide guidance along the way on the priorities and feedback that are given to the plumber. (That is not to say they would show up with a single tool, but their experience would add perspective on the job that non-plumbers would lack.)

Choosing a Superintendent is not like the work you do choosing amongst money fund managers. We don't have the luxury to watch multiple Superintendents operate in the same market, and then pick from the ones who have the best measured results. We’ve got one and there’s a high cost to switching. I’m all for using more measures to assess specific progress. But, it takes great understanding of the job to choose which measurements to use, in the first place. Seattle is unique in enough ways that you can’t just rely on the data… it will take judgment that doesn’t require but would be greatly enhanced by some people with an appreciation and understanding of the tasks required by the job.

You keep forgetting that the Board does have one very important management task, and that is managing the Superintendent. They have a lot of influence since they can fire her, they decide on her compensation (including bonus and raise, or not), and they write her performance review. Raj was very influenced by them, in the approach he took and areas he focused on. A very highly regarded local Superintendent (Dr. Mike Riley of Bellevue) went so far as to say he would not be interested in the Seattle Superintendent job and his reason was the Board. So, don’t underestimate the importance of the Board’s role in hiring, and also in creating an environment in which strong Superintendent can succeed plus are challenged to grow and motivated to stay.

We agree that the Board’s job is not to do the work of the staff or meddle in a way that undermines the Superintendent’s authority. And I want to see more skills with communication and community participation. We should jump at the chance to bring in people with the skills that add to their collective potential to understand the Superintendent’s performance at a more detailed level than the measurements alone.

Producers are executives (like a Superintendent or CEO). The closest comparison we have for School Boards are Corporate Boards and Non-Profit Boards. And it is consistently a NO-BRAINER that groups want their Boards comprised of people with the experience necessary to assess the performance of the Executive with a particular eye out for the constituents they represent.

Sure, Board members often don’t have this experience and many work out just fine. And I have a great deal of respect for all people who step forward to volunteer for this often thankless task. But why ask us to aim for less at a time when urgency has compelled more people to run who have these skills. The SPS Board affects tens of thousands of children and their opportunities for success in life. They oversee a budget of roughly a half-billion dollars. The health of the city of Seattle is affected by what their choices. if I can choose between people with the necessary experience and those without, of course I will choose those with -- especially in areas where I think the Board has holes in their collective experience.

Yes, I’ve been quieter on the blog than in the past, but I’ve still been checking it daily and posting comments now and then. You can take my quietness as I sign that I’ve been agreeing with you a lot lately… up until this topic. I thank you (as others have) for keeping us all up-to-date on so many issues.

Andrew

Andrew Kwatinetz said...

Here's a shorter response to your plumbing analogy:
Of course, out of necessity, I hire plumbers without being a plumbing expect. (I also never can tell for sure how good of a job they did or not.)
But if I had the option (as we have with the Board) to hire someone else to hire plumbers for me, I would DEFINITELY choose someone with plumbing experience. Ideally someone who I trust to understand my plumbing needs.

Charlie Mas said...

Let's total things up here.

We appear to agree that the Board's most important duty is to hire the Superintendent.

We definitely agree that the Board should not take a direct role in managing the District or second-guessing the Superintendent's management of the District.

We agree that the Board does manage the Superintendent and assess the Superintendent's performance, but I think we also have a difference of opinion in this area.

I don't think that the annual performance evaluation - with the opportunity to set a compensation offer - is as useful a management tool as you appear to find it. My underweighting of this opportunity is based on my observation of the Board's reluctance to replace a Superintendent. Look how CACIEE pulled their punches in the leadership section of the report. The report practically screamed "replace the superintendent!" but never actually said that. Similarly, the Board pulls their punches in the Superintendent evaluation for a variety of perfectly valid reasons. The Olchefske Board publicly supported him to the end and gave him a favorable review even after the financial mess was exposed.

Another point of difference comes in the perception of how actively the Board manages the Superintendent on an ongoing basis. I don't think that they do or should. They can legitimately focus on measurable outcomes - not much management skill required there. As for process, they should only be checking it to confirm that it conforms with District Policy and the law. I don't think it is appropriate for the Board to delve into the Superintendent's mode of operation beyond that sort of regulatory compliance check. Again, not much management skill required.

This could be a real point of difference in our perception of the Board job. District Policy is very clear on the division of labor between the Superintendent and the Board, and I'm pretty sure that the Board's oversight of the Superintendent does not go beyond checking to be sure no rules are broken and reviewing reports of outcomes.

You believe that an experienced manager will know abstain from meddling in the management than someone without management experience. I happen to believe the opposite. I wonder if there is any data on this. I know that Seattle has seen both extremes. There was a Board that got too involved in District management when William Kendricks was the Superintendent and there was the Olchefske board who didn't oversee enough. Which of them - if either -had experienced managers and leaders?

The corporate board analogy seems natural, but we both know that it is not. I'm sure you were reluctant to suggest it. I find it inapt because I am not aware of many active corporate boards. Rather than managing the CEO, they are more commonly in the CEO's pocket. Corporate boards are elected by the shareholders with one vote per share. Consequently they tend to represent the interests of a few insiders rather than the broader community. We need a more egalitarian and activist model than that.

In fact, a number of activists specifically fear a Board dominated by the Alliance for Education - such as the Olchefske board was reputed to be. Personally, I think the Alliance is wonderful - how can I oppose an organization that raises money for schools? - but I don't want them to exert any undue influence anymore than I want anyone else to exert undue influence.

On the whole, I suspect that we agree that there are a number of skills and abilities that Board members should have. We can disagree as to the exent that management or leadership or financial knowledge are among them. I certainly don't mean to suggest that they are totally useless. I would, however, rank them significantly lower than communications skills, critical reasoning skills, an ability to make principled decisions based on data, courage to address wrongs, discretion to forbear from meddling, and, of course, a strong drive to provide every student with an appropriate academic opportunity.

When a candidate tells me about their management and leadership experience, I'm neither impressed nor interested. I want to hear about the things that are significantly more important in the day-to-day work of Board Director. Will you listen to people and respond honestly? Will you give weight to what they say? Will you fulfill your duty of oversight? Will you be appropriately skeptical of what the staff tells you? Will you be appropriately skeptical of what the public tells you? I'm seeking wisdom in a Board candidate. A part of wisdom is knowing what is important and what is not. For a candidate to lead with (what I regard to be) minor qualifications troubles me and makes me question their wisdom.

For the record, I believe that it is always better to have skills and abilities whether you need them a lot, a little, or not at all. I really should learn how to sweat pipe. It would be nice for the Board Directors to have management or leadership or legal or financial skills, I just don't think they are critical or even particularly desirable.

Charlie Mas said...

Here is a link to a candidate questionnaire by Peter Maier in which he provides some additional information about his intentions if elected to the school board:

link

Anonymous said...

Thank you Charlie, for sharing this link. I had not seen this before. I like Peter Maier. I think he will be a huge improvement over Sally Soriano, and has already proven himself to be dedicated to public education. He is intelligent and articulate, and I am very happy that he is running. Definately has my vote.

Charlie Mas said...

Peter Maier is guest blogger today on Linda Thomas'Educating Mom blog at the Seattle P-I.

Anonymous said...

It occurs to me that I'm curious, Charlie: who do you believe are the most effective Seattle school board directors, and why?

Charlie Mas said...

It is probably unwise for me to offer an answer to this question.

First of all, who the hell am I to put forward any sort of opinion on the topic? I'm just another citizen in the crowd. Maybe I have a larger voice on this blog because I can type fast and compose quickly, but I'm no authority and I don't claim to be one.

I may be completely wrong in all of my perceptions. This is, after all, an opinion based on my expectations, my priorities, my selective memory, and my observations. I don't have full information and it isn't reasonable to expect the Board members to conform to any model that I might project.

So, as pointless and foolish as it may be, I'll share what I think. Of course, now that I've acknowledged that what I'm doing is stupid, you should also discount my opinion for that as well.

I think that Brita Butler-Wall does a lot of good work. She is accessible, attentive and responsive. She fulfills the Board's oversight role without micromanaging. She works well with the staff in committee, and I think she focuses on the right things, such as her current effort to update policies.

I think Michael DeBell is working well. He is responsive, he applies good critical reasoning skills, treats the staff and his colleagues with professional courtesy, and is working through the stuff that needs to get done in the committee he chairs. He is willing to put forward ideas on how to resolve complex problems, which is pretty darn courageous.

Despite her rambling talking style and those "no" votes that I find inexplicable, I think Mary Bass has done a lot of good. She established the practice of community meetings. During the discussion on action items, she will actually ask staff to answer concerns raised in public testimony - something few other Board members do. Both of these practices are incredibly valuable. In this, she is unquestionably effective. I have always found her courteous and professional in her conduct towards the public and the staff. I am not troubled when her vote, voice, perspective, or opinion is in the minority - I don't understand the folks who seem to think that the Board is supposed to be unanimous on everything. Her lonely opposing votes do no harm.

Sally Soriano is personally responsible for getting the District to take action on the water quality issue. In that case she was indisputably positive and effective. The Superintendent would never have taken any action on it by himself. I don't know if that alone is enough to pronounce her effective for the past three and a half years, but it is something real. It could be argued that the policy sets the standard too high, but the negligence shown by Facilities and the Superintendent was borderline criminal. As with the others mentioned above, I have only seen Director Soriano be professional and courteous in her communication to staff and the public.

I haven't seen much good or bad from Cheryl Chow. It's probably too early to say. She didn't properly implement the changes in public testimony and she wasn't too concerned about cutting off public input on the Superintendent choice. Pragmatic, yes, but she didn't even express remorse. I don't really like her demeanor towards the public in meetings, and I have seen her be downright snippy to her colleagues, but she is the Board President at a time when the Board happens to be working very well - they got rid of an ineffective Superintendent without having to buy out his contract, they hired a new Superintendent, they appear to be doing a bang up job on the Student Assignment revision, they are moving forward on transportation, and tightening up their oversight. I don't actually see her hand in these things, but as Board President she must be due some credit for them.

That, of course, leaves Irene Stewart and Darlene Flynn.

I'm not sure what Director Stewart wanted to accomplish while on the Board, but I hope she's done it. I have seen her talk to staff in a discomfittingly dismissive manner. I don't know that she's been particularly accessible and responsive, but she hasn't been bad. She does keep things precise and moving along, but I'm having trouble thinking of what she has accomplished. Perhaps someone else can fill that in.

I'm afraid that I have little positive to say about Director Flynn. She is not accessible or responsive to the public. Her demeanor towards the staff, her colleagues on the Board, and the public is simply shocking. It goes beyond discourteous; it is belittling and threatening. She is erratic, saying one thing on one day and the opposite on another. I cannot think of any one accomplishment for her in three and a half years of service on the Board. She has not contributed positively to the new Student Assignment Plan or to transportation issues. Moreover, I am troubled by her vision of equity.

So there it is. I will probably come to regret every single word of this. It is just my view, I don't make any claims of authority. Opposing views may well be equally valid.

Anonymous said...

Charlie,
Thank you, and I agree with most everything that you said. Would you be willing to share your opinions of the candidates currently running for school board. Who you favor, and why? As you said, you are just another parent like many of us, however, you are much more involved and on top of things than many of us, and I would find your opinion valuable.
Thanks,
North end mom