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Monday, August 27, 2007

Times' Editorial Today

The Times printed this editorial today about Dr. Goodloe-Johnson. They want the same specifics that I have previously posted about. I agree; it is very early in her tenure and we need to give her time to learn about our district. It's just interesting that they, too, would like to hear more.

7 comments:

Charlie Mas said...

It is the 49th day since July 9 when Dr. Goodloe-Johnson became Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools. She said that she would listen to people and gather information before she announces any plans. She has yet to meet with many community groups.

She said:
"I am ready and eager to listen and to learn about our schools, our students, our families, our staff, and our community. I will analyze the information gathered, and then share plans for improvement and outcomes of our efforts."

The Times is far too impatient if they expect her to announce plans about how she will improve communications with the community before she has even spoken with the community.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Charlie. Forty nine days is hardly enough time to have it all figured out. As anyone who has taken a new leadership position knows, there is a learning curve. She has to familiarize herself with this district before she can change it's direction, and make focused statements. School has not even started yet!!!! Give her some time...at least through Jan/Feb to see where she is going, and how she handles critical decisions, and community engagement.

Anonymous said...

The Times gets it right when it all but begs Dr. Goodloe-Johnson to improve communications. I haven't the slightest clue what the structure of the district's communications department might look like or who staffs it. However, it is abundantly clear that the communications happening now (and that have been happening for the past several years) is horrendously ineffective, if not downright dangerous.

It's interesting that Melissa had beef with the Superintendent's calendar message and nobody picked up on the obvious. It's doubtful that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson wrote that message herself and more likely that the same folks who have been churning out the words for past superintendents wrote it. It will be impossible for Dr. Goodloe-Johnson to differentiate herself and her leadership using the same communications staff as her predecessors.

Robin H.

Charlie Mas said...

The person now in charge of District Communications and Public Affairs is Bridgett Chandler. She is pretty new, I think she just started this year.

There has actually been a lot of turnover in this position. The person who had the job before her was in it for maybe a year.

The District's public affairs communications has been very bad, no doubt about that. Ms Chandler appears to sincerely want to improve it. Her predecessor wanted to improve it also, but was thwarted by the administration. Let's hope the current administration will support efforts to connect with the community instead of opposing them. It is too early to draw any conclusions yet.

Communications and public affairs was a big part of the CACIEE recomendations and a big part of what is wrong with Seattle Public Schools. Let's hope that Ms Chandler can bring improvement and that she is supported in that effort by the new administration.

Anonymous said...

Brita,

If you're out there can you address the communications plan and audit going on now - when can we expect to see some results of that review?

My thinking is that the communications and engagement part is more than half the battle by bringing people up to speed and into the tent to work together.

The other question I have is where is the analysis and review on the implemented public input on the board meetings changed this last year? Are constituents being contacted about their concerns - is there a log of that contact somewhere or ????

Perhaps we can encourage Ms. Chandler and others to contribute to this blog?

Thanks very much.

Charlie Mas said...

The Communications plan is like a lot of plans at Seattle Public Schools. It is representative of the reason that a lot of people are talking about restoring or building public confidence in the District. Several of the Board candidates are talking about it and the new superintendent is talking about it. My problem is that I'm not sure what people mean when they talk about "confidence". I suspect they mean trust.

People don't trust the District. They don't trust the District to provide their child with a quality education, but in a much more fundamental way, people just don't trust the District. If a District official says something, you don't presume the statement to be true. That's distrust.

For all of the talk about restoring or building public confidence, I don't hear a lot of people defining what they mean by "confidence", talking about how that confidence was lost, or laying out specific steps for restoring it. I would like to fill in some of these gaps.

First, as I mentioned, by "confidence", I believe people are referring to two separate things. One is the confidence that their children (and other children) will be well-served academically and otherwise by Seattle Public Schools. The other is the confidence that Seattle Public Schools is telling them the truth and will keep their commitments.

Second, this confidence was lost (if it ever existed beyond the benefit of the doubt that we grant people upon introduction) through bad actions on the part of the District, District officials, and school staff. When our kids aren't taught math, we lose confidence in the District's ability to serve our children academically. When a sexual assault in the schools isn’t reported we lose confidence in the District's ability to care for our children. When District officials tell us that they can't do something because it is against the law, but then we learn that it isn't, we lose confidence in their honesty. When District officials tell us they will implement a plan, but then they don't, we lose confidence in their word.

Third, this confidence can only be restored or built through doing the work.

If the District wants us to be confident that they will serve our kids academically, then they have to actually serve our kids academically. More than that, they have to demonstrate to us to that they have done it, they have to celebrate the accomplishment, and they have to impose consequences on those members of their organization that fail to do it. We already have regular reports on WASL scores and such, but that's not enough. Let's see news releases about the academic achievement of Seattle Public Schools students, as individuals and as a group. Let's see news about interventions where students are not achieving.

If the District wants us to be confident that they will care for our kids, then they have to actually care for them. More than that, they have to demonstrate to us to that they have done it, they have to celebrate the accomplishment, and they have to impose consequences on those members of their organization that fail to do it. Let's see reports about school safety. Let's see news releases about effective safety programs and progress towards safer schools. Don't suppress adverse news, but put it in the proper context. Take some steps to regulate student behavior. And let's see some real, concrete consequences for failure to keep students safe.

If the District wants us to be confident that they are telling the truth, then they have to actually tell the truth. More than that, they have to demonstrate to us to that they have done it, they have to celebrate the accomplishment, and they have to impose consequences on those members of their organization that fail to do it. Let's see some real concrete consequences for District officials and school staff who are dishonest. Let's hear some acknowledgement and apology for past dishonesty and – more than that – some steps towards making things right.

If the District wants us to be confident that they will keep their promises, then they have to actually keep their promises. More than that, they have to demonstrate to us to that they have done it, they have to celebrate the accomplishment, and they have to impose consequences on those members of their organization that fail to do it. Let's see a big scoreboard where they list all of their promises and track the progress towards keeping them.

The Communications Plan is representative of a lot of the past failures. The plan was part of the CACIEE recommendations, one which the District adopted. The Communications Plan appeared in Superintendent Manhas' Mid-Year Report on Progress. It appeared as "on track for completion by late Spring". It was not, in fact, completed by then. It remains incomplete, but the District has already crossed it off their To Do list and taken credit for it. This abuse of To Do lists is endemic throughout Seattle Public Schools. It may be endemic throughout the public education culture.

The Mid Year Report had other To Do list no-nos. The District added items to the list after the tasks were complete so to pad the list, especially with completed actions. They also took things off the list when it became embarrassingly clear that they had not made any progress on the task. Check out the Community Engagement elements on the list. None of them involve engaging the community.

Speaking of To Do list no-nos, at the Board meeting on August 15, the Superintendent described steps that would be taken around the new public testimony practice. She listed a number of changes that they would introduce. Some she described as done when they were not, in fact, done. She doesn't seem to distinguish between "action taken" and "action completed". She says that things are done when they are, in fact, only started. Watch it for yourself on The Seattle Channel. Skip ahead to the 44th minute. The two that amused me the most were her assertion that customer service staff were set up at Board meetings to take complaints – this was patently false as we were all sitting in a Board meeting at the time and the Customer Service staff were nowhere to be seen – and that responses to Board testimony was posted on the District web site – it wasn't and it isn't. A few days after her false assertion a link appeared on the Board page that takes visitors to the District's Issues page. It's not responsive to the request.

While these things are funny and sad, they are also telling. It tells us that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson didn't check it out for herself before she stated that the work was done. It tells us that she is quick to check things off her To Do list before they are done. She checks them off when someone takes responsibility for doing them or when the first steps are taken. She should wait until they are completed.

Charlie Mas said...

Here is the link to the video of the Board meeting. You can also search for it on the City of Seattle web site.