Friday, July 20, 2007

Times story on Dr. Goodloe-Johnson

I read the story in today's Seattle Times on the new Superintendent of Seattle Pubilc Schools, Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson, and two things jumped out at me right away.

First, there is no news in this "news" story. The reporter interviewed the Superintendent, but she didn't say anything she hadn't said before. There were no announcements, no change in anything.

Second, the message came through, loud and clear, that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson has little patience for the "Seattle Process". From the article:
"Goodloe-Johnson said she would have little patience for the "Seattle process," shorthand for the inclusive -- but often slow -- way of doing public business."

I think that the recent experience we had with the Student Assignment Plan showed, without a doubt, that genuine, inclusive public engagement can be done and that it can be done easily, quickly, efficiently, and effectively. My view of the "Seattle Process" is mainly public hearings that are neither public nor heard. We don't need any more of the asynchronous monologues like we had with closures; we need real dialog like we have had over student assignment.

Perhaps Dr. Goodloe-Johnson thinks, as a lot of people within the central staff at Seattle Public Schools think, that public input is difficult if not impossible, that it is slow, that it doesn't provide good data, and that people have unreasonable expectations for how it will alter decisions. If that's the case, then she is as wrong as they are. The public input over student assignment has proven it. Yes, the way they conducted public engagement before was all those things, but everyone agreed that they were doing it wrong. When you do it right, the results are good for everyone.

The article was in the Times, so of course it took a swipe at the Board, saying that they struggled over which schools to close. I don't think that's an accurate characterization. They were presented with a motion and they passed it by a strong majority of 5 to 2. I think other people struggled over identifying the schools to close, but I can't say that the Board did.


Anonymous said...


By now the one thing that is clear to me is that the SEATTLE TIMES believes that the District "wastes" too much time with public engagement efforts.

I read the Times stories on the District keeping in mind that the Times believes that the District should be run by appointed Board members and only have interation with the public when the story is juicy, i.e. protests, riots ect.

Keep in mind that it was the very "central staff" within SPS that recently created and implemented the process for "real dialog like we have had over student assignment."

I think highly of Bridgett Chandler, and believe that the communications plan she and other devised for the Student Assignment Plan is where the District is headed for the future, particularly as Mark Green - the driving force being all of the decisions with little or not public engagement for the last ten years, including Phase 0 Closures, Phase II Closures, the Open Choice Plan circa 1996 - is leaving.

Anonymous said...

Seattle Process =

1. Do NO Advance Work On Your Proposals / Resolutions / Ideas

(don't tell anyone what they are, don't tell anyone the pros / cons, don't figure out the costs)

2. Do everything last minute, AND, make sure you act like you've just done something truely brilliant, like inventing the light bulb, or came with something like Habeas Corpus,

3. Howl about inclusiveness or openness or meanness or niceness when the world doesn't stop and dither around for months on your unpublicized, unannounced, brilliant Proposal / Resolution / Idea.

anon on fri.

Anonymous said...

I know this will be unpopular, but I like what Dr. G-J had to say. I too, get frustrated with the "Seattle Process", and welcome a strong leader, who will roll up her sleeves and get the work done. A leader who will not be intimidated by all of the special interest groups and institutionalized racism accusations. I hope that the district will continue meaningful dialog with the public and take our input, but I am anxious for us to move ahead, and get on with the vision that we are chasing.

She is a breath of fresh air!

Charlie Mas said...

The Seattle Process =

1. Make all of the decisions unilaterally in advance without consulting with stakeholders, either internal or external. There is no need to consult with anyone because you are the expert. The decisions are typically determined by operational expediency or internal political brokering. There is no need to base any decisions on actual data. Whenever possible, use nearly all of the time available before the decision deadline.

2. Announce the decisions as a "proposal" or a "draft" plan. Use the draft status of the plan to muffle negative response ("There is no need to protest this plan, it isn't final; it's just a draft.").

3. Conduct highly structured public events. Use small discussion groups, poster-sized Post-Its, and colored dots. Despite your best efforts to narrowly define public input ("President Bush: great President or the greatest President?") the public will come forward, identify the obvious errors in your work, and suggest better solutions. Refuse to respond to or even acknowledge any public input. Do not incorporate any of their suggestions into the plan. To do so would indicate weakness and undermine your authority. Ignore it all as the uninformed ranting of a vocal minority, the chronic complainers. Try to discredit them by shifting the focus from the flaws in your plan to their anger or rudeness.

4. Refuse all invitations for dialog. Never, under any circumstances, engage in any interactive discussion with the public.

5. Attempt to move forward with your original and seriously flawed plan as the community - the community that you are supposed to serve - howls in protest. To change your plan at this point would indicate weakness and undermine your authority. Use the short timeline before a decision is required as an excuse not to make any changes.

6. Leadership, acting either rationally or out of political acumen step in to alter or cancel the plan.

7. Grumble to the press and the establishment about how leadership humiliated you and undermined your authority when they "caved in" to public pressure and histrionics. Never acknowledge the horrible flaws of your plan or your process.

8. Repeat the entire exercise exactly as before. Use the repetition of your decision as proof that you were right the first time.

I can certainly see why folks would want to avoid that process.


I think the process used for the student assignment plan is far superior. If this represents the beginning of a new trend, I heartily applaud it. If Bridgett Chandler is responsible for it, then I applaud her.

Anonymous said...

Data vs. spin? Charleston neighborhoods are among the most racially intergrated in the US but its public schools are more segregated today than they were 30 years ago. Regardless of the reasons, failing schools in Charleston consistantly are found where the public school system has directed a high percentage of minority students with a similarly high percentage of students from low income households. Nothing changed during Goodloe-Johnson's tenure except they closed several failing schools and combined those schools with other already failing schools. The number of students in failing schools remained the same. Only the number of failing schools declined. Nothing's changed.

Anonymous said...

Charlie Mas's description of the Seattle Process is remarkably similar to the new superintendent's well practiced approach. "We've already made that decision, let's move on."

Anonymous said...

I interpreted Dr. G-J lack of patience for the "Seattle Process" to mean something very different than you did Charlie.

I interpreted it to mean that we over process EVERYTHING.

We have a meeting to discuss a meeting.

In addition Seattle is full of very loud activists who want it their way or no way. Different activist groups fight for different things, and we go round and round and round and round. It usually leads to the board caving, and starting all over again. Or tweaking things like school assignment preferences to appease such groups.

If any minority group does not get what they want, they call the district institutional racists, and the buck stops there. Any time the race word comes out, Seattle freezes, without even investigating the appropriateness of the accusation.

I welcome Dr. G-J., and as I said in my earlier post I hope that she continues with public engagement. I hope she processes and considers it. However, when it comes time to make a decision, I want a leader who will do so in face of opposition (there will always be opposition), special interest groups and activists.

After all of that meaningful "Seattle Process" on student assignment, we still have a lively debate on the subject. One wants transportation to every school in the district for every child, while another poster wants service only to the neighborhood school. The current board and district caved to this type of disagreement. I hope Dr. Goodloe-J will be able to make the tough decisions and march on.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, will you give Dr. Goodle-J a chance PLEASE!!! The dust hasn't even settled yet.

I hope she doesn't give your negativity the time of day.

Charlie Mas said...

Hey, anonymous at 1:24, I have not said or written a single negative word about Dr. Goodloe-Johnson.

Show me where I have.

Your suggestion that I have is a false and feeble effort to discredit me. Nice try, though.

I hope no one gives your negativity any credibility at all.

Anonymous said...

I call attention to this from Charlie's Seattle Process rule #3: "Ignore it all as the uninformed ranting of a vocal minority, the chronic complainers. Try to discredit them by shifting the focus from the flaws in your plan to their anger or rudeness."

--you see, Charlie, they are proving your point right here. Watch G-J, she will, too. That's a positive statement.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I spoke before Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson and the Board at the last board meeting. I told her to please listen to parents, teachers, administrators, civic leaders and community leaders as they all have knowledge and ideas that might help her further her work. I told her that she will likely not succeed if she does not allow input from stakeholders. But I followed by saying that her success is our children's success and that I stood ready to help if I could. (My husband watched me speak on tv and he said, "What a suck-up you are." - and he was teasing - but I was completely sincere because I want her to succeed for the good of our district. But she won't if she doesn't listen in a meaningful way.

Anonymous said...

I saw you speak online Melissa. I thought you did a great job.

Anonymous said...

"I have not said or written a single negative word about Dr. Goodloe-Johnson."

"Perhaps Dr. Goodloe-Johnson thinks, as a lot of people within the central staff at Seattle Public Schools think, that public input is difficult if not impossible, that it is slow, that it doesn't provide good data, and that people have unreasonable expectations for how it will alter decisions. If that's the case, then she is as wrong as they are."

Jet City mom said...

The Seattle process explains why IEPs are often ineffective.
I wish I understood that years ago- I might have stayed on the Eastside.

Establish that the student has a disability.

Decide if they need pullout or self contained.

If pullout- determine most minimal goals- to be met with grouping of 15 other students at one hour a day.( all that is required is that for the other students to need same amount of time- doesn't have to be same disability)

Have this written up before meeting with parent.

Upon meeting with parent- apologize that the students teachers can't attend, but that they have already signed off.

Ask for feedback from parent and add it to IEP-
Tell parent to sign- stating that it is just that they were at the meeting, it doesn't indicate approval of IEP.

Afterwards, white out the portion that the parent asked to have added, before the IEP is copied for the records.

In administering the IEP- don't ever measure or test that progress is being made- even though required by federal law.

When- parent finally raises a ruckus about lack of testing- test the last week of the school year.
When your results show that zero progress was made- say- that the test is inaccurate/not important.

Repeat- until parents move student out of school.

If G-J is going to change that process- I am all for it.
When we implement a new "plan"- lets reevaluate it to see if it is working or not-

Can we look at something regarding how it is affecting learning FIRST before we look at how it will affect adult employment?

Anonymous said...


Your IEP commentary is not my experience at all, but a lot if it is dictated by state and federal law, including that goals need only be minimalistic. Under the federal law changes, all special education students are guarenteed is enought to make "some" progress.

If you are having all of the issues listed, particularlly having IEPs "whited out," then you should file a Citizen's Complaint with OSPI making your allegations offical. The District has to respond, and OSPI will either investigate further, rule that nothing happened that violated the law, or rule that something did happen that violated the law and then they mandate that the District take steps to fix it. I made a complaint before, and to my surprise, not only did the District acknowledge that a mistake was made right away, they offered there own corrective actions that were far more than what I wanted.

Jet City mom said...

I did contact the district- and the state- which prompted the year end review- but was advised that by filing a complaint I was becoming adversarial, and that if I wanted to leave my child in that school- it would be in my best interests not to.
It was just a question of where I wanted to spend my time- did I want to spend it trying to bring it to court, or did I want to bring my effort to something that would directly impact my daughter?

I expect that is where many parents in SPS find themselves- they are mostly concerned with what affects their kids.
It is difficult to think in broad long range terms- when you see your child in a program that isn't meeting their needs.

I read her comment about getting the principals and teachers to reapply for their positions ( does this apply to administrative positions as well?)

I can't imagine that going down smoothly anywhere- especially in Seattle- but I do hope that schools that are failing kids- get a closer look.

For example AAA, our neighbors kids attended for a few years- and have scathing comments about their education. They just yanked them out, they aren't going to be motivated enough to attend community forums and speak at board meetings- but if half the things they said were true- it really needs an overhaul.

Anonymous said...

Wow, we had really different experience. I can't imagine that OSPI would advise you not to file a complaint, you have every right to and it is not a court action. It is less than a due process hearing as far as adversarialness goes, it is mostly done on paper.

Mine issue was just this last year. I know that the person in charge of Special Education and the lawyer in charge of Special Education were new to those position starting last year, and both followed up after the complaint was resolved to make sure that things had really changed at the building level. I was appreciative of the response, and felt like even though I filed a complaint, the people in charge were glad I did because it helped fix a big problem

Anonymous said...

I too think that this district wastes too much time with public engagement. I think we go around and around and progress slows to a crawl or gets shelved all together.

Now, that's not to say that we should minimize public engagement. I think it is a huge and important part of the process. But, I think there is a time and a place for it. There should be a structure built into the process for meaningful engagement, including a time frame for which input will be taken. After that, it is time to move on, let the decision makers mull through the input and their own data and make a decision. And then stick with it. The current climate of unending and constant barage of input is actually destructive to progress. I think that Dr. Goodloe is on the right track!

Jet City mom said...

I don't want to bring this thread anymore off track- but it wasnt OSPI that suggested that I try and work harder with the school- it was the district and the liasion .

I had consulted with the mediator/attorney/outside evaluator, many times- but as my child was "passing" her classes, she obviously wasn't in crisis as was required to get change.

The fact that she is "gifted" propelled her to scrape by, the school wasn't obligated to provide enough support so that she thrived, just that she had "some" benefit.

The courts have said that a child must receive "some benefit" from his education, but schools don't have to maximize your child's potential. (That's what's meant when you hear that the schools have to provide "a Chevrolet not a Cadillac" education.)

I felt that for my daughter it was more important to find the resources that would help her- rather than to force the school to do so- since she was already passing her classes, even though she wasn't passing the WASL.

I had felt for years like I was pushing a lead ball up a hill, only to have it roll down again, after going through 3 principals in 6 years- at one school, after having one liasion then another, after having both Corker-Curry and Stump give me some response, then dropping the ball & while attending many workshops on how to get an effective IEP, without support at the meeting- it was impossible to change the way it was written or implemented.

Ironically, once I had her removed from SPED and once we changed schools, she made more progress in ( in her "specific disability") three years, than she had in six, .

Anonymous said...

Class of 75: I'm sorry about the frustrations you've had with your child's IEP. You’re not alone. SPS has a record of being sued for denying accommodations. Lots of districts do it.

I also believe what you were told about being adversarial. A similar thing was said to me. In hindsight, I wish you’d called a lawyer the minute this was said to you. (But then, you were told not to be -that- word!) There are firms in Seattle specializing in disability law. They also take cases related to denial of IEPs. From what I've been told, one letter to SPS if often all it takes to make a difference in how you're treated.

With Mark Green gone, things might get better in this area, or not. We still have to keep advocating for our kids. WenG

Anonymous said...

OSPI puts decisions on its website.

I must say, compared to other districts, not all that many cases against SPS end up getting to the point of having a hearing, which surprises me given that SPS is the biggest district in the state. If they have has mant Sp Ed issues as WenG indicates, I would think that would not be the case. It also doesn't look like SPS has lot a hearing in several years. To me, that means that SPS either has a good lawyer, or that they stay within the law. The real problem with Sp Ed law is how low the bar is set by congress and the courts...

Anonymous said...

Seattle process to me = debate decisions so long that the status quo wins out, simply because the time to make a change passes.

Anonymous said...

Seattle process = Seattle over process.