Disqus

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Election web site update

With the primaries of August 21 three weeks behind us and the general election of November 6 still several weeks away, talk about the upcoming school board elections has gone pretty quiet. And in this quiet, candidates have been working on their web sites.

In District I, the candidates are Peter Maier and Sally Soriano.

Mr. Maier has updated his web site. His picture is friendlier and he has added a page called "Read More" where he lists a few ideas which could serve as priorities for the District. Mr. Maier writes:

"The job of the School Board, through a process of listening, outreach and collaboration, is to establish with the Superintendent a long-term vision, measurable goals, and achievable strategies for the District so that every child in every school has the opportunity for a quality education and a chance to succeed."

Whether you agree with that statement or not, five of the six priorities that Mr. Maier lists (establishing effective financial practices, turning around low performing schools, improving the principal corps, strengthening math instruction, and increasing the rigor of middle school courses) are jobs for the Superintendent and the staff - jobs they should do without direct Board involvement.

Mr. Maier's slogan is "the leadership we need", but Mr. Maier wants the Superintendent to provide the leadership on these initiatives. He wants the Board to offer support. Perhaps his slogan should be "the support we need". And what support should the Board provide for these efforts? Surely no direct involvement. For all of the concern he expresses about a micro-managing Board, Mr. Maier couldn't be proposing Board involvement in these efforts, could he?

Ms Soriano has updated her web site as well. She has added a page called "Ask Sally". She answers a number of questions (with some typos) and allows visitors to submit additional questions. She writes "The role of the school board is to set policy and represent constituents. The only employee that the school board can hold accountable is the superintendent and it is the superintendent who is responsible for implementing the policies of the board and for the management of all personnel within the district."

Disclosure/Disclaimer: There is a quote from me on Ms Soriano's web site. This quote was taken from a blog entry; it was not written for her campaign.

In District II, the candidates are Sherry Carr and Darlene Flynn.

I am not aware of a campaign web site for Director Flynn. Her public communication skills are as strong as ever.

Ms Carr's web site is pretty full. It includes two pages of interest, This I Believe and Platform. She writes that the core responsibilities of a school board are to provide leadership "through Creating a compelling vision, respecting the proposals and ideas of the professional educators, ensuring that the professional educators are set up for success by removing roadblocks and getting them the help and support they need, and holding the professional educators accountable for academic results"


In District III, the candidates are David Blomstrom and Harium Martin-Morris.

Mr. Blomstrom's web site is infamous. I don't think it helps him, nor do I think it helps anyone who reads it. I don't think it's about being helpful.

Mr. Martin-Morris, who will undoubtedly be elected in November, has a small web site with very little original content, but it does have one of the most helpful and valuable pages on any candidate site: an event calendar page.

In District VI, the candidates are Maria Ramirez and Steve Sundquist.

Ms Ramirez now has a web site, which includes a page describing her Vision.

Mr. Sundquist's web site is pretty much the same as it was just before the primary. Mr. Sundquist also uses the word "leadership" in his slogan. The web site has a good page called Questions and Answers describing Mr. Sundquist's plans if elected. I'm not sure what Policies would correlate with these plans; they may be more of a need for policy enforcement. He does mention accountability in three places. Some of his plans, such as the elements of his Focus on the Classroom ideas, are clearly outside the Board's role.

Of all the web sites, I think Mr. Sundquist's does the best job of feeding his base while providing those outside his camp reason to support him. While he appears to be an establishment guy, his tone is conversational and he makes a lot of reference to things like transparency, appropriate processes, a results orientation, responsiveness, data-driven decision-making, consensus building, and accountability. That will increase his appeal among those suspicious of the establishment.

I'm sure these web sites will all be updated again and again before the general election.

27 comments:

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks to Charlie for this update. (As a side note, it is interesting how important websites have become for candidates and are a huge source of information for many voters.)

This is rather a lull. Summer is ending (not that you can tell from these recent temps), school has started and November seems a long time off.

I know who I am supporting and will be writing in support of them as we draw closer to the election. I still want to attend some candidate forums because some forums manage to not ask the same canned questions and you end up learning something about the person from their answer or their reaction to a question he/she might not have considered.

I agree with Charlie; some of these candidates, either because they don't understand the School Board position or are simply putting out campaign rhetoric that they know a Board member can't follow thru on, seem to see roles in areas that are the superintendent's.

Anonymous said...

"The role of the school board is to set policy and represent constituents."

Constituents? These are city-wide electeds, what drives me nuts is the NIBMY focus of some board members on only "thier" districts.

The entire city are the constituents, thus be simply getting elected, you are representing the constituents. Surely Ms. Soriano is not suggesting that the role of the school board is to simply get elected?

Charlie Mas said...

Yes, the entire city are their constituents, but just because they are elected, that doesn't mean that they represent their constituents' interests. There are a number of other interests they could represent, such as corporate interests, special interests, or the staff's interests. Often the interests of the constituents is in conflict with the interests of these other voices. In those cases, the Board must follow one path or the other.

Anonymous said...

Sally Soriano sure seems to support special interests. Almost exclusively.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anon above. I also think Soriano's website statements are totally contrary to her actions. Nice pandering to the same select few that she lobbies for as her annointed constituents.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anon above. I also think Soriano's website statements are totally contrary to her actions. Nice pandering to the same select few that she lobbies for as her annointed constituents.

Anonymous said...

I will be attending some of the candidate forums this fall for the same reason that Melissa mentioned - to try to learn more about the candidates beyond their websites and the voter's guides (which are very informative).

Also, I've recently started writing on education as part of Seattle PI's reader blogs. I'd like to use my blog, Chalkboard, to build on the information provided by this site and others. I'm trying to think outside of the box in terms of both format and questions - I invite you to check it out at http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/chalkboard/

Melissa Westbrook said...

Who do you think are Sally Soriano's special interests? She is one of the few school board members to have regular community meetings and, to the best of my knowledge, they are attended by many different people (they are usually at Meadowbrook CC which is in her district). I'm just asking because I don't know.

Anonymous said...

Sally Soriano strikes me as the weakest of the bunch. She seems to have some kind of agenda here that has nothing to do with schools, and everything to do with her ideology. I'm an old lefty with three generations of union shop stewards in the family, but I really don't see why she is so obsessed with this "keeping public schools public" thing. She sees menacing private interests behind every tree:

There is a movement to turn the management of public schools over to the private sector without any proof that the quality of education improves.

Where is this movement? Who is leading it in Washington State? What are they trying to do? Figments of Sally's political imagination, I think. Somehow NCLB and the WASL is part of this movement. Somehow we would keep our public schools public by getting rid of the WASL? Bizarre. NCLB is a bad idea, but it's got nothing to do with privatization.

She goes on:

There have been three attempts to pass legislation allowing for charter schools in Washington.

True, and the last one was THREE years ago, and it got nowhere. Why is she tilting at windmills of years' past when there are actual problems in our school system? Top of my list: an unreliable transportation system, low achievement at many schools, and persistent budget problems. Not chasing ghosts.

Here's the irony. There is a huge problem of private money in public schools, but it's one Sally won't touch. The real issue of private money in public schools is the worst-kept secret in public education. Weathly, usually white north end parents use their own private resource, and those of their friends and business partners, to raise millions of private dollars at auctions and other events to subsidize their kids' high-performing schools. Some of these schools even have private endowments! All private money, all totally beyond the control of the school and the district. Fine by me, but what are the rest of us supposed to do if we can't raise $200,000 at an auction? Parents in poor, mostly minority neighborhoods don't have the deep pockets, so they have to make do with the pitiful state funding supplemented by money from the odd carwash here and there. There's not an easy solution, but that's the real shame of private funding in public education in Seattle.

I doubt Sally Soriano will stand up on a tough issue like that and anger all those eager, involved north end parents. Instead, she keeps attacking The New School--a successful, overhwhelmingly minority southend school that has found a way to equalize the resource imbalance. Again, bizarre.

Anonymous said...

Sally Soriano strongly aligns her self with special conspiracy theory and special interest groups such as CEASE and SOS. She does not seem to work positive and cohesively with the rest of the school board, and her decisions are often driven by CEASE, SOS and the alternative school community. I don't feel like she sees the big picture. I don't feel like she even cares about the big picture. As long as alternative schools and CEASE are happy and satisfied she is done. She is so often the voice of dissent on the board (often with no real justification) and does not work in a positive cohesive way. In my opinion

Anonymous said...

Charlie Mas did an analysis once of the private fund raising dollars going into some of the wealthiest North end schools VS South end schools with weighted student formula, LAP, Title I money and all of the other government assistance lower income schools get.

Surprise:::: There budgets were very very close, in fact some of the lower income schools actually had a larger budget that the pitiful ones alloted to the higher income schools, even including their lavish fund raising.

Please compare apples to apples when you compare North to South. It's getting old.

Anonymous said...

A quote from Chalie Mas a couple of threads down...

"This compensatory education money (LAP, Title I) is often in the six-figure range for schools in low-income communities. It is the equal if not in excess of what a middle-class or even an affluent PTA can raise for a school. You can find the numbers by school in the District's budget Blue Book."

Anonymous said...

Charlie is quite right to report that Title I and LAP funds are non-trivial, but neither is the private fundraising. It can go into six figures, too. I don't begrudge the schools that are able to do that. It's a lot of hard work, and they are supporting public schools. But to target poor schools for raising money, as Sally Soriano does, is just mean-spirited.

Look at the funding report that the school board had the grant office put together last year. That report is intriguing reading, but it doesn't pass the sniff test. Look at the school that supposedly has the worst per-student funding in the district: Whittier Elementary. It also happens to be one of the top-performing schools in the district, based on WASL scores, anyway. Does anyone believe they are making outstanding results without funding?

If you dig into the data, their additional funds are reported at just $106,000, mostly from I-728. Self-help funds, of the type I mentioned, are reported officially at $7,965. That seems really implausible. And it turns out to be totally wrong. During the 2005-2006 school year, at their auction alone Whittier set a goal of raising $100,000. None of that gets reported, presumably, unless the PTA writes a check to the school or the district.

The grant office report just doesn't tell the whole story. As Seattle Council PTSA noted about the report: "Though it states that all PTA or parent group grants are in the Self Help column and this is mostly correct, it does not cover all of these grants." As the Whittier example shows, there is a ton of money off the books. Schools in poorer neighborhoods will tend to have funding that is ON the books because it comes from official sources.

Charlie Mas said...

First, there IS a movement to privitize education in Washington state and it is not dead and three years cold. It is very much alive and active. The WASL and NCLB are tools of that movement. They may serve some other purposes as well, but they are unquestionably beneficial to the privatization movement.

Second, Director Soriano has been as active to resolve transportation issues as any other Board member. If Director Soriano strikes you as the weakest of the bunch, then who stands out as the strong ones on this issue? Same with low achievement. Which Board Director is taking effective action on that? Same with persistent budget problems. Which Board Director has done signficantly more than Director Soriano to daylight budget issues?

"Parents in poor, mostly minority neighborhoods don't have the deep pockets, so they have to make do with the pitiful state funding supplemented by money from the odd carwash here and there."

Yes, the pitiful state funding, the proceeds from the odd carwash here and there, and - oh yeah - the compensatory education funding.

Compensatory Education funding by school:

Brighton: $249,999
Cooper: $175,160
Concord: $284,549
Dunlap: $369,470
Gatzert: $355,126
Hawthorne: $179,920
Highland Park: $309,474
High Point: $146,755
TT Minor: $205,644
Roxhill: $207,660
Thurgood Marshall: $279,877
Van Asselt: $405,449
Wing Luke: $237,902
African American Academy: $345,043
Aki Kurose: $427,054
Madrona: $ 276,817

It's pretty clear to me that a lot
of overhwhelmingly minority southend school(s) (have) found a way to equalize the resource imbalance.

How many "Weathly, usually white north end parents use their own private resource, and those of their friends and business partners, to raise" this much money annually for their children's schools? Is it sixteen of them? The New School received $1,250,000 from the Sloan Grant.

I don't begrudge these schools this money. I think it's wonderful that they get it. Let's just not act like they don't get as much or more than affluent schools get. When my kids attended Lafayette I believe the PTA there - and it is a big, active PTA - raised about $40,000 a year for the school. That was with an auction, bake sales, scrip, and book fairs.

Director Soriano is personally responsible for getting the District to take action on water quality. Without her personal intervention and advocacy, our children would be drinking water with unsafe levels of lead. I happen to think that work was pretty darn positive.

CEASE and SOS are community organizations. Since when is the community a special interest? What concerns do CEASE or SOS have which are not concerns shared by other members of the public?

CEASE did oppose the school closures, but so did a lot of other people. Shouldn't those people also have representation on the Board?

CEASE speaks in support of alternative schools. The outside expert who reviewed alternative schools for the District decried the District's lack of support for them. Alternative schools are usually in the most decrepit buildings with poor support of all kinds from the District. How long has Pathfinder waited for an appropriate building? What kind of shape is Pinehurst in? People have said that they wouldn't want Lowell as a neighborhood school because the building is pile of rubble. Given how long these programs have waited for their space to be improved, isn't it odd - isn't it a bit inequitable - that the New School, a program that is only five years old - skips to the front of the line? The District wanted to close three alternative schools (Marshall, Pinehurst, and Pathfinder) based primarily on the poor state of their buildings - yet The New School skips to the front of the list for a new building. When there are two newly empty buildings in their neighborhood? When the District doesn't really own the space (shared with the City)? When there is another elementary school literally across the playground? It would be weird if someone on the Board did NOT question that decision.

Anonymous said...

Poor schools get money from offical sources, but the amounts of private money coming sideways to schools in posh areas is substantial, too. At Bagley, the PTA raises enough money to support core programs that should be available at every school:

Choral music teacher
Instrument music teacher
Art teacher
After school dance, science, and Spanish programs
Artist-in-Residence program
Teachers' aide

Also, the normal stuff: field trips, assemblies, etc.

All of that, according to the grant office report, was funded with just $106,000. Yeah, right.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, this is strange. You're all excited about the great job Sally Soriano did for the lead in the pipes, but you weren't a couple of weeks ago. Or it must have been some other Charlie Mas who complained on August 30 about the disctrict's "Inaction and stonewalling on water quality issues."

???

Melissa Westbrook said...

"NCLB is a bad idea, but it's got nothing to do with privatization."

You don't seem to be keeping up with the Republican agenda. NCLB has EVERYTHING to do with privatizing public schools. It works this way: you set up a system with very difficult benchmarks with strikes to be made against schools who don't reach them. The third strike is a takeover and allows the school to become something else (a voucher school or charter school). This, in turns, makes public school less public AND allows companies to make money off of education (and look how well private industry has done with our health care system).

Go and look at the websites for Republican candidates for President. You'll likely find vouchers and charters for parents to have "choice".

Anonymous said...

Hello, anonymous @1:51 and 2:23 who's poring over the Office of Grant Services report on total funding sources from a couple of years ago - no one (not the Grants office OR the PTAs) is saying it's a comprehensive account of a school's total PTA $ or trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes.

As you say, the Self-Help column includes only the PTA dollars that flow through the district to pay for PTA-funded staff positions and other expenses.

For one thing, there isn't any way the Grants office (or anyone, for that matter) to accurately capture PTA $ - if your PTA sold $10,000 of scrip that it paid $9,500 for, should you show the $10,000 as "PTA budget", or the $500 net? (The latter, obviously - but there is very little consistency as to how these kinds of programs are accounted for, even in the 990 tax returns.)

Re PTAs funding "programs that every school should have" - please go to the blue book budget download at the district's website and confirm (by FTEs) that most if not all high-poverty schools (esp in the south end) HAVE the music, art, and teachers aides funded by PTA $ in lower-FRL schools.

Or pick up the phone and call one.

In addition, all but a few of the south end elementary schools have brand new buildings with huge libraries, computer labs, conference rooms, etc - few and far between in the low-poverty schools.

No one is begrudging high-poverty students those resources and, in fact, I'm glad (as a north-end parent) they go first to high-poverty schools and their students.

Just please can we stop flogging these tired old canards - at least where the elementary schools are concerned?

Anonymous said...

"Mr. Blomstrom's web site is infamous."

Why, thank you.

"I don't think it helps him, nor do I think it helps anyone who reads it."

On the contrary, truth is the only antidote to corruption. Lazy thinkers won't get much out of my websites, but intelligent citizens can only benefit.

"Mr. Martin-Morris, who will undoubtedly be elected in November..."

Or shall we say "undoubtedly GET APPOINTED"? If I was allowed to make up the rules, I'd consider kicking M&M out of race for one simple reason alone: He HAS NO ISSUES. For crying out loud, the word "issues" doesn't even appear on his home page!

"...has a small web site with very little original content, but it does have one of the most helpful and valuable pages on any candidate site: an event calendar page."

Ah, yes, let's all go watch M&M participate in "Speed Politics" (an adaptation of speed dating), along with all the forums only candidates favored by Microsoft and Boeing are invited to.

My website - www.seattle-mafia.org - will hopefully be updated after this weekend. (I'm working on it now.) It will have several new pages, will discuss the issues M&M ignores in more detail and more, but I will never pander to the muddled masses. Reform is impossible without intelligent citizens with independent thinking skills, and supporting an utter nothing like Harium "no issues" Martin-Morris offers little evidence that the citizenry has matured to that point yet. Indeed, we've apparently gone nowhere since 9/11, nowhere since the late derelict general John Stanford, in fact.

But that's exactly what my campaign an website are all about - educating the muddled masses. I can't stop the Seattle Chamber of Commerce from appointing M&M to the school board, but I can use my campaign to educate any intelligent people who actually give a damn, beginning with the realization that there is a "Seattle Mafia."

And after board member M&M has helped his colleagues on the board screw thousands of children thirteen different ways, I'll be able to say "I told you so," just as I did during my first campaign in 1999, when I was the first candidate in Seattle history to make derelict principals a campaign issue...just months before Garfield High School principal Al Jones blew up in the establishment's face.

By the way, I do not agree with that long-winded definition of a school board's duties, partly because I'm sick and tired of hearing corrupt board members whine, "That's not my job!" when asked to do something to help children or the community in general.

A school board member's first and foremost duty is to help children, and if the superintendent is corrupt - or merely an incompetent idiot - then one can not support children by supporting the superintendent.

Anonymous said...

FYI - there is also "sideways" private money that goes to high-poverty schools without going through the district, e.g., last year the 5th graders at a north-end school went to Islandwood for camp and paid for it via parent tuition, special purpose fundraising, and a $50/student contribution from the PTA.

Kids from Dunlap (near Rainier Beach) also went to Islandwood, but the cost was almost fully subsidized by Islandwood - a nice service, but one that represents a donation to Dunlap not included in any district accounting or any "total school funding" analysis.

Similar resources and services come to high-poverty schools from Powerful Schools, Americorps and other non-profits - and like PTA $ do not get counted in a school's total funding.

Charlie Mas said...

The District staff, the Superintendent in particular, were guilty of inaction and stonewalling on water quality issues. Director Soriano got them to take action.

This is an excellent example of how it can be positive for the Board to oppose the District staff, and of how representing the constiuency can put a Director in opposition to other voices within the District.

Anonymous said...

Is Sally ever going to pay the District back for all of the time the lawyers spend getting the closure suits that she supported in violation of the Board Ethic's Policy that prohibits Board members taking action that is contraty to the interests of the District?

Once she does that, maybe I will think that she is not soley insterested in her self own image as opposed to meeting her ethical and fiducary duties as a board member.

Anonymous said...

Is Sally ever going to pay the District back for all of the time the lawyers spend getting the closure suits that she supported in violation of the Board Ethic's Policy that prohibits Board members taking action that is contraty to the interests of the District?

Once she does that, maybe I will think that she is not soley insterested in her self own image as opposed to meeting her ethical and fiducary duties as a board member.

Anonymous said...

Re Charlie Mas'and others: "Poor schools really get the same as the rich school's fund raising because poor schools get Title 1, Lap, free lunches etc".


But, poor schools actually need WAY MORE than rich schools because the kids have much GREATER needs. DUH!!!! The educational needs of poor students aren't just "basically the same as rich kids". A funding policy which is to "minimally fund" poor schools with Title 1, etc... and let the rich schools fill in this minimal funding with private money... isn't really equitable at all!

If poor schools really end up getting the same amount of money(which is doubtful).... it doesn't close any gap, and it doesn't truly meet any needs. However, a plethora of private funding does encourage wealthy people not to vote for any additional public funding for education... since they won't really be needing it.

No wonder he wasn't elected.

Anonymous said...

anon @ 9:45 - huh?

"if poor schools end up getting the same amount of money (which is doubtful)" are you reading anything here? Do you have any data?

and who said "the educational needs of poor kids are basically the same as rich kids"? No one here that I can see.

when people start talking about real numbers, maybe we can truly have the conversation we need to have with each other, the city and the state about education funding - but as long as writers like you are somehow staking out the moral high ground with knee-jerk reactions and no data, we never will.

I wonder how far your moral high ground will get us toward closing the achievement gap or educating all kids.

Anonymous said...

to anonymous at 9:45

Nobody said poor schools don't need more. You obviously did not read Charlie's thread on the Weighted student formula as he laid our his vision of what under performing students and schools need.

What I was replying to was the poster who said the following post made by anoymos at 10:55:

"Weathly, usually white north end parents use their own private resource, and those of their friends and business partners, to raise millions of private dollars at auctions and other events to subsidize their kids' high-performing schools. Some of these schools even have private endowments! All private money, all totally beyond the control of the school and the district. Fine by me, but what are the rest of us supposed to do if we can't raise $200,000 at an auction?"

This is what I responded to. It is simply untrue that wealthy schools wind up way ahead of low income schools, budget wise. I never said they get all they need. I said they get as much and sometimes more than the wealthy WHITE north end schools. And, BTW, using the word DUH, is just rude. Let's try to express opinions without demeaning and insulting each other, even when the opinions differ.

Anonymous said...

Just FYI, here is Charlie's post that appeared on the WSS formula thread. It outlines his vision of what under performing schools need.

"I envision a program for students working below Standards. Any student who does not meet the Standards for their grade by the end of the year doesn't get promoted, but doesn't get held back either. Instead, they are routed into a special program designed to quickly bring them up to Standards and return them to their general education classes. This program would be intensive, extended, and enriched.

Intensive in that the students would be in small classes and would be working hard on an accelerated curriculum.

Extended in that they would work for extended periods on the core subjects - 90 minutes each on reading, writing, math and science. Extended also in that they would have an extended school day. They would arrive early for breakfast (to make sure they get one), and they would stay late doing either homework (to make sure they have a structured, supervised, supported and secure space to do it) or for enrichment. There could also be an extended week including Saturdays and an extended year, starting early and running into the summer if necessary.

It is key that the program also be enriched. Studies show that a signficant source of the academic achievement gap is a result of economics. Students from low income homes don't have access to the same sort of enriching experiences as affluent students. So the program would use a couple afternoons a week or the Saturday for field trips to plays, museums, concerts, factories, and libraries or for music, art, dance, and drama at the school. It can't be all work or the program will seem too much like a punishment.

There are two more critical elements: how students enter and exit the program.

They enter the program when they are working below Standards. That determination can be made at the end of the year, at the beginning of the year, or at any point during the year. At the end of the year it would be driven by their progress report evaluation. Get anything but a 3 or a 4 and you're enrolled. During the school year it would likely require participation by the school SIT team. Students of any grade level K-12 could go into the program.

A student would come out of the program just as soon as the student is working at Standards. Everyone, the school, the student, and the student's family should be working towards that and to make that happen just as soon as possible.

While this would be powerful for the students in the program, take a moment and consider what it will do for the other students. Imagine a general education classroom where every student in the class is working at or beyond Standards. Imagine what could happen academically in that classroom. Imagine the high expectations the teacher could set and maintain. Imagine how well that teacher could support work beyond Standards. Imagine the reduction in behavior issues when all of the students in the class are ready and able to do the work and find it challenging.

That's what I'm suggesting. It's more than targeted class size reduction. It's fulfilling the promise of closing the academic achievement gap by getting every student working at Standards. We get every student working at Standards by identifying those who are not and accelerating their education until they are. It doesn't have to be any trickier than that.

We have Spectrum for students who are working beyond Standards, what do we have for students who are working below Standards? Shouldn't they have a systematically different academic experience than the general education classroom. Particularly when you consider that the general education experience has already failed them?

Promoting students who aren't working at Standards doesn't work. It doesn't serve anyone well. We do need to enforce our promotion/non-promotion policies. But I don't know that holding the student back works all that well either. We need a third way."