Friday, July 06, 2007

Mark Green, COO, Resigns to Take Job at UW

This article is from the District's website. Mr. Green is leaving for a job directing business affairs at UW Medicine. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson has selected Fred Stephens, director of Facilities, to be the new COO. He has quite an impressive resume which makes me wonder what he was doing in Facilities. He may be well-suited for the COO job.

"Mr. Stephens came to SPS from an already distinguished career in the public sector. He served for six years as Director of the Department of Licensing of the State of Washington where he led transformation of customer service standards at licensing renewal offices and implemented an agency-wide program to provide licensing services via the internet. Mr. Stephens also served for two years as Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Gary Locke. In this role, he oversaw 22 cabinet agencies, and spearheaded the Governor's regulatory reform and quality improvement initiatives.

Stephens also served as Chief Administrative Officer for King County; Assistant Secretary of the Management Services Division of the State Department of Health and Human Services; and held positions at Hewlett Packard and Xerox. He holds a BA from Wilberforce University in Ohio; an MA from Yale University; and has attended the John F. Kennedy School of Government Leadership Programs at Harvard University."

Despite this, Mark Green leaves a big hole of institutional knowledge. Mr. Stephens has only been there 2 years, we are likely to have a new majority on the Board, Carla Santorno is fairly new and, of course, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson is just getting here next week.

It does leave open speculation on what exactly will happen especially in terms of how the District will proceed. I'd think Dr. Goodloe-Johnson would want at least a couple of months to get the lay of the land but after that....?

Thinking about the Board I realized that Michael de Bell will no longer be the lone male on the Board. Harim Martin-Morris is practically a shoo-in while Peter Maier and Steve Sundquist are strong candidates. (I know there are other men running but don't know a lot about them yet.) In fact, if all male candidates won, we could have 5 men and 2 women on the Board. Interesting.


Charlie Mas said...

With Mark Green's resignation and with Brita's term ending this year, I will have been active in District issues longer than any member of the District's Senior Leadership. How long? A whopping six years. In that time I have seen fifteen Board members (soon to be at least seventeen), three superintendents, three chief academic officers, four chief operating officers, two general counsels, and no less that four chief financial officers.

By the end of the year there won't be anyone in a decision-making role at the District who will have memories of what was going on there in 2001.

There are a number of ways in which Seattle Public Schools does not act as an institution. A lack of institutional memory is one of them.

Anonymous said...

The insituational memory of any large organization is never in the extreme highest ranks, as those are the positions most vulnerable to the political tide or to staff moving upwards and onwards. That does not mean that there is no one in a decision making role that has been with SPS that has outlasted all of those Charlie references. One that comes to mind is Nan Stavnshoj, who has been a key player for at least the two decades I have been active in SPS issues.

Anonymous said...

And to continue anon 6:19's thought: see Kathy Johnson, Ron English, Holly Ferguson, Hajarah Rahim, Linda Sebring, Duggan Harmon...

Even if people aren't in decision making roles, they surely influence the decisions - and often have an outsize influence because they can sound (particularly to a new officer or manager) packed with facts and emphatic about the way things need to go.

These are the folks who drove the 2005 closure recommendations; the 2006 Phase II closure recommendations; the version of weighted staffing standards that didn't make it past the principals; etc.

To which you could say, "ok, live and learn, everyone makes mistakes" - if you didn't hear them saying things that make you certain they felt those were perfectly good decisions and there is no reason not to push them through again (which is sometimes especially easy with new managers who didn't live the history of the reaction).

Many people don't even know they're the ones driving decisions - so it's hard to reach them to provide more or different information. They tend to be far less visible and accessible than the senior leadership.

Not saying it's a conspiracy or anything, or that these folks are bad or wrong - I just find them pretty insular, and maybe the victims of a culture that talks a lot about accountability but doesn't seem to truly value it or practice it.

I hope the new leadership can change that culture, institute a sense of accountability, responsibility and responsiveness, and maybe shake things up at this level.

I hope we stabilize too - at the Appleseed Forum a month or so ago, someone said Belleview has had the same sup and school board for something like 10 years. The churning we do at the leadership level doesn't serve anyone, least of all the students.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Still Anonymous, good points all. But your last sentence made me remember something that dawned on me a couple of days ago. I, too, had heard about the longevity over in Bellevue.

Now, if you were Dr. G-J and were keeping up with Seattle education (via the newspaper websites, blogs, etc.), you might realize that you were in a very good position. (She's probably been VERY busy moving - it's a headache - so she isn't likely to have read much.)

You will likely have a new Board who does not want to, under any circumstances, look like they are not supportive. Indeed, the majority of the may be newbies and be facing their own learning curve.

You also are likely to the have support of the newspaper editorial writers and the education community in general because everyone wants to support you in moving this district forward.

You have a friend in Carla Santorno. )I know that despite the length of time that they have worked together, they have remained friends.)

So, on the good side, Dr. G-J comes in with a lot of support and goodwill on her side. She is the first searched-for superintendent since John Stanford so there is already investment in her. Despite the presence of so many newbies, the stage may be set for good things to happen.

If everybody is on the same page.

However, if they aren't, Dr.G-J is kind of in the catbird seat because the Board doesn't want to look unsupportive, nor do the editorial boards. Simply put, she will (unless she does something colossally stupid) be here at least 2+ years because there would be no way to get her out without a lot of unhappiness and embarassment.

I'm not looking for trouble; if she succeeds, our schools succeed. But it's worth looking down the road, watching the players and thinking about what the outcomes could be.

Anonymous said...

Mark Green's qualifications for being the COO appear to be his having the General Counsel. Two of the people Still Anon listed, Holly Ferguson and Ron English are attorneys who now do adminstrative work.

Attorneys by nature are supposed to be defensive and rather secretive. Perhaps part of the problem is that that these people still act like lawyers even when they are in non-lawyer roles? What are people's experiences with Ms. Ferguson and/or Mr. English?

And, isn't ironic that its seems like some of the most responsive people at SPS are in the legal department? In Charlie's post about his public records request everyone is very complimentary of Joy Stevens. I personally have gotten the fastest responses from Robin Wyman and the attorney who replaced Holly Ferguson, Shannon McMinimee.

Anonymous said...

I have not had experience with Holly Ferguson, just Ron English. This has only been my experience, but have heard the same from District insiders: Mr. English is not perceived as collaborative. Personally I did not find him open to exploring new ideas. I agree with the "insular" comment above.

Charlie Mas said...

I would agree that, while there has not been much stability in top level management, the next tier has been around for a while, if not in their current roles. I would add Tracy Libros (enrollment) and Dave Anderson (transportation) to the list of long-term staff in critical positions just outside public attention.

In a number of cases these long-time employees appear to be the product of the Peter Principle, in fact, the Peter Principle plus one.

In the Peter Principle a person who does a good job in their position is promoted. So long as they continue to do good work in each position of increasing responsibility they continue to be promoted. This continues until they are promoted to a job they cannot do - and there they stay. In the Peter Principle, each person is promoted to the level of their incompetence. In the Peter Principle plus one, each person in the organization is working at the level of their incompetence when their boss leaves the organization (retires, gets fired, dies, whatever), and the person is promoted once more to a position two steps beyond their skills and abilities.

I acknowledge that all of these second circle staff members make decisions, but none of them are the official decisionmakers. The way that the District works, all of the official authority is hoarded at the top, so - officially, at least - the decisions are all made by the people in the few top positions. The irony, of course, is that the official decision makers have no direct knowledge about the issues they are deciding and cannot discuss them in any detail.

How often have we heard that the Board is voting on something they have only recently read about and only had access to a scrap of information? Does anyone believe that the Superintendent has any actual knowledge of the program placement decisions he has officially made? How often has it been clear that the Chief Academic Officer, Steve Wilson in particular, didn't have any familiarity with any of the details of the decisions he had purportedly made?

Unless the authority, and the responsibility, gets distributed down a bit, I'm not sure if that can be fixed. I don't see how we can have any accountability either. How can the Superintendent be accountable for a decision when all of the information he had about the decision came from the same person who gave him the recommendation? He should, of course, seek responsible opposing views, but he doesn't because it would appear insulting to his staff. Look how the staff responded when the Board reviewed the decision to split middle school APP. Were they ashamed that their decision was so obviously unsupportable and capricious? No, they were insulted, angry and frustrated that their decisions and recommendations were even questioned.

Something that can be fixed by a change at the top is culture. Institutional culture flows down from the top. I think that the problems that still anonymous discusses with the decisions by these second circle staff, and the fix for that problem - also provided by still anonymous - is culture.

The culture of Seattle Public Schools is to build fiefdoms and defend them, to not share information, to not seek collaboration, to horsetrade - exchanging political capital for decisions, to never have any accountability, to never explain your decisions, to never examine the decisions of others. In short, it is the antithesis of the open, honest, transparent, engaged and accountable culture that the Board has been pushing for, that Mr. Manhas has claimed to support, but which Mr. Manhas never took a single step to implement.

But culture flows down from the top. Directed by the Board, Tracy Libros did a spectacular job with the conversations about the student assignment plan. I cannot say enough good things about it. What did she do? She facilitated conversation and she incorporated what she heard into the decisions.

The key was conversation - not one side delivers a time-limited monologue, then, a week or two later, the other side responds with a brief monologue of their own which may or may not address the points made in the first speach. And so it goes, back and forth without any actual sharing of information or perspective, each side becoming further entrenched in their position, more strident, and further convinced that the folks on the other side are ill-informed, idiotic, or evil.

Instead, there were conversations at the Student Assignment meetings in which people EXPLAINED why they thought something was a good idea or a bad idea - workable or un-workable. It was interactive. I heard someone pose a suggestion, learn how it was flawed, and then make an altered suggestion that addressed the flaw. That never would have happened in the alternating howitzer model of communication.

Not only are we getting excellent results from this process, but Tracy Libros is showing everyone that conversation is not only possible and productive, it is easy. For years the nay-sayers on the staff claimed it would be increadibly difficult and non-productive. They wouldn't know. They have never tried it.

Yes, there was some argumentative statements made at these meetings. There was some time taken up listing the District's past bad faith and bad actions. Ms Libros let that happen, denied nothing, and then brought the conversation back to a productive topic of discussion.

I don't know if the second circle staff will all adopt a new culture if the new top leadership brings it in. Some of them will get onboard; some of them will leave; some of them will be asked to leave.

I think I have a new top question for School Board Candidates: how will you work to improve the culture of Seattle Public Schools and to foster conversation between the District and the community?

Anonymous said...


Tracy Libros has only been with the District for a couple of years. More importantly, the communications piece related to the Student Assignment plan was not made up by her. She implimented a plan that was created by, I believe, Bridget Chandler and Holly Ferguson.

Not I not meaning to deminish her role, but it is not accurate to say that she was out doing this at the Board's direction. The Board was probably happy to learn about the porcess the staff created, and that Ms. Libros facilitated, but process was by the very staff you are being critical of above.

Anonymous said...

Note - Tracy Libros has been with the district more than a couple of years (assuming 'a couple' is two), hasn't she? I could swear I remember her at "criteria" forums in the fall/winter prior to the April 2005 closure recommendations.

Bridget Chandler is even newer to the district (in the role she has as public affairs director - I think she has been a consultant or contractor at times).

If she designed the public engagement part of the assignment plan, that would make sense (as it's her job and expertise) - and also highlights a case wherein things are being done differently in large part because there are different/new people doing them (Tracy, Bridget).

In any case, Tracy was taking the lead at the forum/conversation I went to - so even if she didn't design it, she executed it - and could have done so in other ways that weren't as collaborative in spirit.

I didn't read Charlie as being critical of individuals as much as the culture and the whole - and I agree with him about the Peter Principle being at work in the district, where the culture has often seemed too "nice" or too complacent to hold people accountable, and by virtue of their longevity they rise.

Carla might be different in her expectations and her actions - I don't know.

Anonymous said...

Couple meaning 2003/04 ish, but certainly less than the 6 years in Charlie's intial post, and not something I would qualify as being "long-term."

My point was not to dimish Tracy's role, it was instead to point out that she was not "Direct by the Board," she was implementing a plan that the idea of others, many of whom are being maligned in the prior posts.