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Friday, September 14, 2007

Times Editorial of Sept 13

The Times ran an editorial on the 13th, and I've read it through a few times now, but I'm not sure I understand what they are trying to say.

They are hoping for detente. Detente is a guarded truce between enemies. Is that the best we can hope for from the relationship between the District and the City? Is cooperation not on the menu?

The Times says that the Mayor and other City officials have voiced concerns about incompetence on the School Board. Have they? I searched the Times back issues for a report of such concerns but could not find one. In a Times article of November 7, 2006, reporter Bob Young wrote: "Nickels isn't even talking about his concern for Seattle schools and what he wants to do. At least not publicly."

The myth of School Board incompetence was largely created by The Seattle Times and is actually rooted in the former Superintendent's incompetence - not the Board's.

When I hear people talk about Board incompetence, I always ask them for evidence of this incompetence. I ask them to name something that the Board either should or should not have done. The critics usually fall quiet. They have no specific complaint which can be laid at the feet of the Board. Most of the complaints - lack of action on failing schools, lack of action on poor teachers, inability to raise test scores more quickly, sloppy fiscal controls, etc - are the Superintendent's responsibility, not the Board's. Other complaints which are appropriately directed to the Board - transportation policy, student assignment policy, school funding formula - are being addressed by the Board. These issues are, for the most part, being addressed in a prudent, collaborative, and effective way.

The spark that lead to all of this talk about an incompetent School Board was an unruly Board meeting in October. A few unstable characters appear in the audience at a Board meeting and act out and that makes the Board incompetent? If these folks had shown up at a City Council meeting and acted up would that make the City Council incompetent?

As for the quality of people who run for the Board, I recognize that they don't compare with the some of the heavy-hitters on the City Council, such as Jean Godden, a woman who made her reputation writing human interest stories about chats with her hairdresser and people with aptonyms. But perhaps some of those folks who complain about the quality of Board candidates would like to run for the Board themselves. They had a chance to do that this year, but there were few takers. A lot of people complained about how Director Butler-Wall did her job, but only two people ran to replace her. That doesn't indicate to me that there are a lot of highly qualified people who could replace the existing Board members. I didn't see anyone from the Times toss their hat into the ring.

1 comment:

Melissa Westbrook said...

I thought it was interesting that the Times suggested that the City school levy might be redirected to help any plan Dr. G-J might have. That would need a lot of discussion as the programs the levy support are already pretty important.

Did anyone attend the joint meeting yesterday?