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Monday, July 23, 2007

Seattle Times Editorial

This Editorial appeared in today's Seattle Times.

The Times refers to the School Board "mess" even as they note the Board's recent successes. They particularly decry Board members who cannot "refrain from micromanaging the superintendent - or worse, attempting to do the job themselves"

7 comments:

Melissa Westbrook said...

Back to the "less than parttime job" refrain for the Board. Also, a new financial officer and COO? Those people left so naturally their jobs will need to be filled. And I found the part about Dr. G-J changing where she sat ("a diminutive spot")hilarious. Folks, her "spot" was at the end of the dias and it's the same size and placement of where Michael deBell (who sits in the opposite seat)sits.

If this activity is considered progress, then we have a long way to go.

Charlie Mas said...

The Times is, of course, correct in that the Board and the Board members should not try to manage the District or micro-manage the superintendent. The Board does, however have a duty to set a Vision for the District, to oversee the District, to confirm compliance with laws and District Policies, and to enforce those Policies.

So where is the line between the appropriate acts of setting a Vision and performing oversight and inappropriate management?

Where is the line between confirming compliance with policy and enforcing Policy and micromanaging?

Is it obvious or is there a grey area?

Would the line move if the superintendent either repeatedly violated Policy or demonstrated reliable compliance with Policy? Does earned autonomy apply to the Superintendent as well?

These are not theoretical questions. They are very real, and they deserve real, concrete answers.

For example, the superintendent violated Policy when he re-classified about 900 students from 10th grade to 9th grade in 2005-2006. He totally neglected the promotion/non-promotino policy for high school students. What should the Board have done to enforce that Policy and how could they have done it without micromanaging or undermining the Superintendent?

For example, the Superintendent totally neglected District Policy in December of 2006 when he decided to split middle school APP. What should the Board have done to enforce that Policy and how could they have done it without micromanaging or undermining the Superintendent?

For example, the Superintendent neglected the Board's criteria for school closures when he proposed the Phase II closures. What should the Board have done to enforce their Vision and how could they have done it without micromanaging or undermining the Superintendent?

These are all real life situations where the Board had to find the balance between doing their job and staying out of the superintendent's kitchen.

Jet City mom said...

And I found the part about Dr. G-J changing where she sat ("a diminutive spot")hilarious. Folks, her "spot" was at the end of the dias and it's the same size and placement of where Michael deBell (who sits in the opposite seat)sits.

THat is interesting
Its a board meeting- and the supe is not president of the board

The supe certainly should be there- just as a principal should be in attendance at PTA meetings if possible, but to add pertinent information, not to run the meeting.

the discussion is between board members addressing questions amongst themselves for the most part- the physical placement is very interesting- why does she feel she needs to be right in the middle, will we forget who she is if she doesnt?

Anonymous said...

This is another piece of the Times altering reality. Dr. G-J did not "take" a new seat, Cheryl Chow made a big show of inviting her to come sit next to her.

If anything, this was a move on Chow's part to change the image that has been presented of the District being Board vs. Sup and staff.

Jet City mom said...

thanks for the clarification anon
I thought it sounded strange-

Anonymous said...

Charlie,

I didn't understand the reclassification/promotion non promotion piece excerpted below.

Your history lessons help me and others understand

"For example, the superintendent violated Policy when he re-classified about 900 students from 10th grade to 9th grade in 2005-2006. He totally neglected the promotion/non-promotino policy for high school students."

How was policy violated, was it acknowledged by Supt., Board, press, fall-out/changes because of this?

Thanks, this has been alluded to before but don't understand what transpired.

Leslie

Charlie Mas said...

Leslie,

The District has a set of policies on the promotion or non-promotion of students. They are Policies D43.00, D44.00, D45.00, and D46.00.

The one for high school students is D46.00. It is four pages long and requires that students in danger of failing any basic skills class be identified by teachers and counselors by the end of the first quarter and third quarter, that their families be notified, that an intervention plan be developed and implemented, and that the student's progress be closely monitored and reported to the student's family.

In February of 2006, the District announced that 827 students who thought they were 10th graders were actually 9th graders because they failed a class in the 9th grade and therefore didn't have enough credits to be considered 10th graders. Nearly half of the sophomore class at Rainier Beach High School was re-classified. The students received a letter at their home advising them of their revised status. Initially, the District reclassified about 1,000 of them, but nearly 200 were in error and were corrected after the students and families complained.

Here is a news story about it.

That whole procedure described in the Policy simply wasn't done. Instead, the Superintendent and his staff unilaterally re-classified every student in the second year of high school who failed a class in the first year of high school. They based the re-classification entirely on credits earned. There was no notification, no intervention plan, no nothing. Students and their families were advised out of the blue that the student was officially a 9th grader rather than a 10th grader.

The District didn't re-classify any other high school students based on credits earned - no 11th graders were re-classified as 10th graders, no 12th grade students were re-classified as 11th grade students.

The only effect of the change was to remove 900 low-performing students from the grade 10 WASL testing that year. It was done to goose the test scores. Of course, since the re-classified students didn't take the WASL, they didn't get a chance to pass it. They didn't even get a chance to fail it. Failing the test would have counted as one of the two times a student needs to fail the test before they can use an alternative means of demonstrating competency. Worse, failing the test would have qualified them for summer school paid for by a state grant. The District lost out on hundreds of thousands of dollars that the state provided that year for additional classes for students who failed the WASL.

Finally, the re-classification moved the students from the class of 2009 to the class of 2010, the first class for which passing the WASL is required for graduation.

So the decision to re-classify the students was a bad decision all the way around the track:

1. It cost the District hundreds of thousands of dollars in state money for students who failed the WASL.

2. It did not follow the District Policy for promotion / non-promotion.

3. It was not fairly applied to all high school students, just to 10th grade students.

4. It robbed the students of a chance to pass the test.

5. It delayed the students' opportunity to use an alternative assessment.

6. It raised the stakes on the students' testing.

7. It robbed the students of a chance to see the real test and have the testing experience, which could only help them for the next time.

8. It was obviously done to goose test scores. The Board made the Superintendent promise to present adjusted pass rates for this year if he ever presented the WASL results in a historical context - a promise that was broken at the first opportunity. The District staff actually tried to use the goosed scores to claim progress on WASL pass rates until the Board caught them at it.

9. It further damaged the District's credibility with the community and the Board.

The weird thing about the whole affair is how no one ever publicly questioned the Superintendent's authority to do this. Certainly not the press. I think some members of the Board were pretty upset about it, because they didn't know it was coming, because it messed with a lot of kids and families, and because it was a violation of the Policy. Later they were undoubtedly upset about missing out on the money, too.

I can tell you that I didn't see any press reports about a repeat of the exercise this past school year. So apparently someone in the District staff decided that it wasn't such a great idea after all.