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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Can't We All Just Get Along?

I had planned to post an account of the forum last night (and I will) but I feel the need to address the tone in this blog. (Note: this is me talking but I defer to Beth. She started this blog, I consider it her blog and I refer to it as her blog even if people say to me "your blog". She may have something to say on this subject.)

1. This is a blog and not a chat room. Personally, I feel there is a difference. A chat room is where you go in, remain anonymous (or even pretend to be someone else) and say whatever pops into your head on any topic. This is an education blog that relates to Seattle Public Schools. I'd like to think we'd do better than chat room smack-downs.

2. I love sarcasm (probably why I like the Daily Show). I do try with all my heart not to do it here because I know some don't like it.

3. I appreciate that people want to be positive.

I thought of this today reading about a young SU student who died in Chile in an accidental fall during a hike. There was this sentence in a PI article that struck me,
"A blog entry Michaela Farnum dashed off in April says much about her personality: "I love everything, per usual."
What a sweet young woman. It probably is easier at 20 to be positive and have a sunny outlook. It is tougher when you are older, have a job, children, work, etc and are worried about your child's education.

In terms of this blog, it's hard when you have tried for years to be positive, look for positive ways to interact with district staff and be ignored, misled or waited out. I think Charlie and I do try to acknowledge positive movement forward but to forget the past or forget that some of the same people who misled you in the past are still there is not possible for me. I keep my guard up and maybe it comes across in my writing.

I am always hoping for better. Early on, I really thought a lot of staff were just awful. But I have gotten to know some of them better and whether I like them or not, they are human beings doing a tough job, getting criticized from all sides. Just like the Board. But, that doesn't mean they can't be asked to be more clear in their communications, their methodology and give us meaningful outcomes.

4. The thing that really prompted me to write is this "elitist" rap. We all want the best for our kids and yet that is clearly not one and the same for all of us. That doesn't make you elitist or right. It makes you a parent.

I think Roy has tried (over and over) to explain that there may be ramifications to redrawing boundaries and just as long as everyone knows that, good. You won't be surprised if your area doesn't get exactly what you expected. You will understand that everyone might not be on-board with overcrowding schools. And that the middle or high school you might perceive to be "your" school, might not be at the end of the work being done on the student assignment plan.

5. The person who wrote:
"That's just me. Entitled and elitist, and proud of it!!!! elitist that I am."
That's a kind of "nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah" remark. We need to be more adult than that.

I have said before that because I am willing to sign my name to everything I write, I tend to take anonymous postings with a grain of salt. I mean, we've even asked people to make up a moniker (Princess Leia for all I care) just so if you make a point we know which Anonymous to reference. Somehow this isn't getting across. I do understand that teachers can't sign their names and whatever it is that stops the rest of you, so be it.

But I ask you, if you wouldn't say what you write out loud in public, say at a a Board meeting, don't post it. If you feel really upset about something, wait an hour and see how you feel. Then post. Several people have remarked about the tone of this blog and I just shrugged but now I'm beginning to see their point.

I talked to many candidates last night and mentioned the blog (thinking that the assignment discussions might be something they might want to read). At least 3 said, "Oh yeah, I read that blog." We can have these discussions. They are important. And people who are decision-makers are reading it.

Let's give them something good to read. Let's all try to be civil and find common ground.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

"That's a kind of "nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah" remark. We need to be more adult than that."

I agree that this type of posting is imature and negative, and that this blog should remain positive and productive. However, I sympathise with the poster who was obviously frustrated with being called an elitist. Roy and several others constantly use the elitist, and entitlement titles on anyone who happens to be middle class.

Middle class are parents just like any other. We want what we perceive is best for our kids just like everyone else does. Sometimes our perceptions of what's best may differ from yours, but that is our right as parents. We are not elitist. We do not feel entitled to anything more than anyone else. We are middle class families that work hard. Most of us can't afford private school, or to move to a new neighborhood to get into a "good" school, but that doesn't mean that we should quietly accept sub-standard schools, or be labeled elitist.

Beth, please ask Roy and the other posters to stop the name calling and labeling. That would be a good first step to tolerance of one anothers views (at least on this blog).

And, Melissa, thanks to you and Beth for all of your hard work!!!

Anonymous said...

I think this is a good post. I do get tired of the negativity.

I did want to say that you chose to point out the person who posted "yes I'm elitist, etc etc." - when I read her post I understood, she expresses her feelings and is labeled.

I used to post under my name and stopped because I felt like I was being labeled and attacked as some kind of elitist. I have been attacked as an anoymous poster as well. Maybe I'm not a very good writer that people are taking from something I write as completely different from what I feel. I start to feel defensive and so what do I do - I stop posting because I don't want to be attacked anymore. I even joked to my husband that I should just stop visiting this blog - that even though the information is so useful, the attitude was getting me down quite a bit.

I edit my posts like crazy - not because I'm worried that I'm going to offend someone because I do not post negative posts. It is always to make sure that what I post doesn't seem to appear that I feel like I am above others.

Thank you for all your hard work and hopefully this can become a more positive place.

Anonymous said...

How about if everyone (including the contributing writers) refrain from name calling and labeling in their postings. You can certainly voice your opinion, and challenge the opinion of others without calling them "elitist" or labeling them.

How about if we start there??

Jet City mom said...

couplethoughts

I post on several blogs- or message boards-journals whatever they are called this week.

On all of them I have a screen name. Actually on most of them I have the same screen name- as some of my interests overlap- and I don't say anything that I am afraid of being traced back to me.

I know several people who either just read or also post on this blog anonymously, then post using a screen name referencing this blog elsewhere.
Annoying.
Feels like tattling to me.
Why can't we require a screen name to post?
Is it really that hard to do?

I take with a grain of salt references to " the wealthy north end", "middle class" or "elitist".

For one- if I was really elitist I would still be living up from the lakeshore south of Bill Gates as I was when I started my family, instead of moving to a blue collar neighborhood in a major city.

Yes, both of my kids have attended private schools- some of us have found at one point or another- that we couldn't afford not to

That includes our household- made up of a factory worker and a part time community college student, friends that included a writer/actor & a landscaper, a teacher and a nutritionist & an artist and a day care worker.

If you are committed to public schools and that is why you are fighting to have something that works, then say so-
but if you feel that you can get a more appropriate education if you pay up front, do not feel that it is out of reach- most likely it is more affordable than just living in Seattle.

Re middle class- I bet some of you are not what I would call middle class. Having gone through the college application and aid process & getting to know many other parents in the same situation- Ive learned that families might consider themselves middle class if they earn the national median income $43,200 or that their family income is middle class if it totals the national median of $70,000.

But many consider themselves middle class- even if their income is double or triple that.
They are shocked to find that what colleges expect them to pay is roughly 1/4 to 1/3 of their before tax income.
Thats middle class.
I also agree with those who bristle at being called elitist.
That is a put down & what is heard are other words that often go along with it.
If SPS did not have parents- that some call elitist- who would be the parents that are involved in teh schools?
How would kids go on field trips without soccer moms to drive them?

Who would be volunteering in the schools and the community, if it was not the parents who have education as a priority and the foresight and means to rearrange their schedule to do so?

We need more elitist parents, because many of them are working to improve education for all of Seattles kids

Anonymous said...

Class of 75:

Amen

Anonymous said...

My hope is that more candidates and more current school board members come out from behind the curtain and give us their thoughts and reactions as well.

This is a super site and I've gained a heck of an education from it.

Thus far, have only seen Brita and Michael DeBell posting - I know for a fact others are reading it - pls. step up and enlighten us!

Charlie Mas said...

Now it's my turn to come forward and testify.

I have a long history of being a total prick online. I have, on a number of occassions, tried to fillet people in blogs, forums, and discussion groups - often with devastating effect. So I'm not without sin and I won't pretend that I am.

For some time now, however, I have been trying to stay positive, particularly on this blog and in other education related forums. I've also been trying to stay positive in my communication with District staff and about the District. Sometimes it is really, really difficult not to go Hulk on folks. I will acknowledge that I'm not always successful, but I am making a sincere effort.

I often find my discipline challenged, and most often by anonymous posts. When I think that someone has taken a swing at me, it hard for me to turn the other cheek. It's not my people's way.

I often joke that English is my second language and that the language spoken in my home growing up was Sarcasm. I'm used to a rougher sort of give and take than many of the folks around here - think of how the play fighting of puppies or small boys can appear to be real fighting to those who don't understand those cultures. So sometimes I find that I have hit people harder than they were expecting - though I wasn't meaning to really hit them at all but just playing with them because I thought they were engaging in that sort of play with me.

Anyway, if a total jerk like me can try to reform, then I think it is possible for anyone.

I will say, however, that I have almost always posted under my real name or the pseudonym "coolpapa" (it's a self-deprecating satirical reference to Coolpapa Bell). Even when posting as coolpapa, I haven't made any secret about my identity. To help facilitate discussion, please take ten seconds to check the "other" radio button and type in a screen name.

Roy Smith said...

Thanks for the post Melissa.

I too enjoy a good bit of sarcasm, and I have undoubtedly overindulged in sarcasm from time to time. I am working on keeping my sarcasm confined to people I know, as it usually doesn't go over well with strangers.

I will admit that I get more than a little impatient with folks that want every last thing that is wrong with SPS fixed, and want it fixed yesterday. I get even more impatient with people who assume that their particular problem should be the absolute highest priority for the district to fix, and who get upset when it is pointed out that there are other, even more urgent issues. The reality that we have to live with in SPS is that we have limits on our resources and that, because of our history, we have an awful lot of messes to clean up.

I believe we have the resources to create a consistently good school system, as long as we have focused leadership and effort that can accurately identify the most pressing needs and commit the leadership and resources to those needs. We don't have the resources to create a perfect school system, and I think it would be more than a little misguided to devote resources to try and create a few perfect schools for the constituencies that are the loudest or who can most realistically threaten to leave the district.

Finally, I will say that having my views (on whatever subject) being attacked because "Roy's an AS#1 parent" is getting more than a little tiresome, particularly when no other evidence against my view is offered aside from that fact which is usually irrelevant to the actual discussion at hand. I will not always be an AS#1 parent; for all I know, my family may opt out of AS#1 for middle school since a small K-8 doesn't have some of the same middle school opportunities that are available elsewhere, and my child will almost certainly go to a comprehensive high school. I also do care if the system is so broken that large numbers are fleeing to the suburbs or private schools, as that weakens SPS as a whole, and, being a believer in the value of public schools, I find that more than a little bit troublesome. Believe it or not, the fact that I am an AS#1 parent does not mean that I share none of the concerns of others in the SPS community.

For all of those who have felt attacked by some of my previous comments, please be aware that I am taking the criticism to heart and will try my best in the future to avoid framing my opinions in ways that others will take as personal attacks.

Anonymous said...

It is also important to realize that some of the readers and contributors are SPS employees and feel uncomfortable"revealing" their identities. As an employee, I have read this blog with interest. I would say that many of the issues discussed have "more to the story." Without such contributions this blog would only have a parent or outsider perspective.

Anonymous said...

To sps employee - i appreciate the 'more to the story' that we need to know to have a better understanding of what's going on and why - please add it whenever you can, and thanks.

To roy smith - to me, your status as an AS#1 parent is actually very germane to your views on capacity, overcrowding, resource allocation, and entitlement.

Your defense of using an SPS building for a very small (and declining) enrollment in a very capacity-constrained geographic area (NE) and resource-constrained system (SPS as a whole) - and seeming to resist alternative solutions to that imbalance - to me detracts from your generally well-researched analysis.

WenG said...

To Melissa, Beth, Charlie and others, I would like to say thank you. I appreciate this forum and the effort you put forth to keep it going. This blog is one of my regular morning reads. It's the first place I turn for updates on what's happening with SPS.

Our schools are going through a huge transition. There will be frustrations on all sides, but we need to keep talking.

(And after several errors, I've taken up the call and will use a screen name for all future posts.)

Anonymous said...

Roy

There is a difference between sarcasm and name calling.

You get "stuck" on your ideas and ideals, and try to overpower people to accept them. It frustrates people that don't necessarily agree with them.

Try to understand that not everybody is going to see things your way. We all have our individual opinions, and that should be respected.

My advice to everyone on this blog would be:

When posting try to JUST state your opinion, ideas, etc. Try not to disprove someone elses theories or combat their opinions. They value what they believe in as strongly as you value what you believe in.

Roy Smith said...

Your defense of using an SPS building for a very small (and declining) enrollment in a very capacity-constrained geographic area (NE) and resource-constrained system (SPS as a whole) - and seeming to resist alternative solutions to that imbalance - to me detracts from your generally well-researched analysis.

I am all for moving AS#1 out of the north/northeast part of the city. That makes sense on a number of levels.

The question is, where? Moving AS#1 into the Jane Addams building did not make sense because:
1) The building is 8 teaching stations short of the total number that AS#1 and Summit in combination were currently using, not to mention that the configuration of the building would not have supported a successful co-location without an extensive remodel.
2) Two of the three all-city draws would still have been in the extreme northeast part of the city.
3) It does nothing to actually increase capacity in the northeast - it just shuffles the existing capacity.
4) It would absolutely have precluded any possibility that AS#1 and Summit could grow back to sizes they have historically had. Does it make sense to assume that because enrollment is currently declining that it will not ever increase again? AS#1 has had a waitlist some years - I'm not sure about Summit, but they have certainly had more students than they currently do.

If you have a suggestion of a place to move AS#1 to that is further south, I am all ears. It would be a nice change of pace, as far as I am concerned, to have some other small program in the Pinehurst building (since it's never going to support a big program) and let them be criticized for the fact that they are a small program in a somewhat more expensive to maintain (though very poor condition) building.

Michael Rice said...

Hello

As most of you know, I teach at Rainier Beach HS. I have never been shy about who I am or how I feel. It think it is so sad that other SPS employees have to live in fear of their jobs because of their opinions. When Ms. Santorno was first hired, she came to a staff meeting at RB. We were deep into the TAF issue. I had a question for Ms. Santorno. I introduced myself, told I was a first year teacher and because of that, if she wanted to, she could make sure I did not get a second year to teach. That did not stop me from asking a very pointed question about her intentions towards RB. I asked the question in a polite and respectful manner, but it was a question that had to be asked.

When I read and write at this blog, this is the thought that I keep in mind: Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead.

Anonymous said...

Michael Rice:

Thank you for being a teacher. Thank you for writing thoughtfully about Rainier Beach High School.

I would like to hear more from teachers who are in the "trenches" and educating our children.

Your quote from Margaret Mead is right-on.

Anonymous said...

I'm here, reading this blog, because Melissa, Beth, and even Charlie (who I frequently disagree with) have convinced me that they care about educating the children of Seattle, in addition to educating their own children.

There are people who post on this blog (most of whom are not anonymous) who are trying their level best to care about everyone's children (even while they realize that their individual interests may skew their analysis). Ron, Melissa, Beth, and Charlie (to name a few of you whose posts i generally try to read) all have interests in educating their own children, interests that influence their world view. But, they try very hard to think about the impact of their ideas on everyone, as evidenced in their posts.

I admire that, and I keep coming here to read, because I too care about educating all of Seattle's children.

Some parents think a parent's only responsibility is to the education of their own children, a view I do not share. Like Ron, I find it extremely frustrating to talk to those parents. The charge of elitism and entitlement applies for me to those people, the ones who don't care what happens to anyone else, as long as it doesn't affect them.

Anonymous said...

nssp - it is easy to judge on an online forum/blog/message board, but it is not fair to judge unless it is blatant "I am better than you and therefore I deserve this" etc etc.

Therefore, you are free to feel certain people may be elitists, but if you could just express your opinion on topics without calling names, I believe that is what this post is asking.

I don't think this topic is about whether certain people are elitist or not, it is about posting opinions without putting down other people. I'm not sure if you are one of the people who have called others out as elitists, but all I think the post asks that we all stop the labeling.

Anonymous said...

Stick with being civil to each other.

Don't worry about everyone getting along - that is childish ;)

IF you have 2 people, THEN you have politics.

Embrace it.

For example - to test or not to test.

I went to a competitive prep school for my jr. year of high school, 76-77.

EVERYONE was focused on the SAT.

Is that right? no. Is that how should things be? no.

Has ANYONE figured out how to change it AND pay for the changes in 30 years? Not that I've seen.

I want my kids - my students - to compete with ALL kids, and that means doing well on these tests.

Got a different idea? PAY FOR IT.

;)

bob murphy
franklin high school math

Anonymous said...

I second anonymous at 2:26 plea.

Just stop calling names and labeling.

You won't agree with what everyone has to say, and they won't agree with everything that you have to say. You may feel that their approach is elitist, they may feel that your save the world approach won't help their child. Both sides have the right to their opinion, and they have the right to share it (in a polite manner) on this blog, without the threat of being labeled and called names (elitist, entitled) etc.

I talk with my freinds about this blog and most of them think it is an anti-white, anti-middle class blog. Not because of anything that Beth or Melissa or Charlie post, but all of the anonymous posters who tend to label, name call and get down right vicious.

Behave yourselves, including you too nssp.

Anonymous said...

nssp said "Like Ron, I find it extremely frustrating to talk to those parents. The charge of elitism and entitlement applies for me to those people, the ones who don't care what happens to anyone else, as long as it doesn't affect them."

YOU ARE DOING EXACTLY WHAT THIS POST IS ASKING THAT YOU NOT DO. CALL NAMES AND LABEL. GEEZ, SOME PEOPLE JUST CANT HELP THEMSELVES.

Jet City mom said...

The charge of elitism and entitlement applies for me to those people, the ones who don't care what happens to anyone else, as long as it doesn't affect them.

So if a school had new parents moving in who were trying to expand offerings at the school for everyone- those parents/staff who made them feel unwelcome and argued that they didn't want anything to change- they would be elitist?

If a parent is lowish income- no high school diploma and trying to get a better education for his children than what he received & had that as a primary focus- rather than what would affect the whole school/district, that would be elitist?

I really don't think there are parents who don't care at all about other kids in the city or the district- but we do only have blank amount of years to make sure our kids are educated.
For those of us who have seen our kids get shortchanged in the district- we may also be fighting for change to happen soon enough to help our kids. I see that if changes happen- then other kids will benefit- but if what is required is one pot of money get more fairly allocated( with accountability), then some people who don't value those criteria that I am concerned with, may worry that other kids will be shortchanged as a result.
I don't see it that way.

Anonymous said...

Interesting -- I really didn't mean to call anyone elitist or entitled; (honestly, I didn't think anyone could see themselves as the target of my comment, "people who don't' care about anyone but themselves". I thought that was a hypothetical person!) My goal was to to compliment the blog owners (and Ron) on their non-anonymous posts which have convinced me that they care about Seattle's school system as well as the education of their own children, not to call anyone names.

nssp (not a seattle school parent)

Jet City mom said...

nssp
I don't mean to single out any particular comment- but as a parent who is trying to hold onto being middle class- who didn't graduate from high school, but who is white and who does live north of the ship canal- it is tiring to labor under the burden of having it easier than families in other parts of the city- if that family is ethnic in appearance.

I am reading a book by Professor Daniel Gilbert( Harvard) based on numerous studies & explains, the one thing that separates man from beast- and that is that humans are the only animals who think about the future.

I wonder if Caprice Hollins has read that research.
I would guess not.

Anonymous said...

We are also white, and live north of the ship canal. We are lower-middle class, and work very hard for what we have. We were lucky enough to buy our house before prices became so exorbinent. If we were buying a home today, we wouldn't be able to live in any part of the city, we would have to go far out to the burbs. While we can afford to feed our kids, and they are in what we consider good schools, and we live in a decent neighborhood, we still live pay check to pay check. We have no savings, no retirement, no nest egg. We pay our mortgage, have an old car, pay our utilities, buy food, and that's about it. We can not afford private school, nor can we afford to move to the shadows of Roosevelt to get our kids "in".

The funny thing is most of our neighbors are in a pretty close predicament. They all work hard, and are good people.

Where does the north of the ship canal come from??? It is inappropriate to judge half of the city merely on the location of their home. There is a big difference between Wallingford, and Lake city. Big difference between View Ridge and the motels of Aurora. You get where I'm going??