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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Reader's Endorsement for Sally Soriano

Below are excerpts from an e-mail I received from Ron at ParentsCare. I'm happy to post other points of view as well. Just click on the link at the right to send them to me via e-mail.

*****

"Thanks for keeping up the Seattle Schools blog. Now that we've cancelled our Times and PI subscriptions, we find more truth and honest opinions there. For reasons technically beyond our control, we were not able to contribute to the blog dialogue about the excess contributions that Mel submitted on Friday.

We recently received an opinion from a neighbor regarding the ballot choices and for District 1 position on the School Board, there was a brief message that called for a response. We include our response below as a way for us to vent and perhaps inform others.

While the campaign contributions are legal, it's clear that these candidates and endorsements, especially by Chow and DeBell for Maier, are Let's-Vote-No-For-Sally votes, regardless of the qualifications and experience of either candidate. If Blomstrom were running in Peter's spot, he might actually win.

Thanks again for doing what you're doing - helping us navigate the Seattle public schools with our eyes wide open.

Ron

Respect, Listen, Speak, Collaborate.

ps - this parent had the courtesy and sense of fairness to reply that he would vote for Soriano.

********************

....I'm disappointed that while you took a lot of time to review your of thinking re: Prop. 1, you offered no rationale for your strong support for Peter Maier

...I've attended two of the School Board candidate forums. Peter showed up at the Seattle Special Education PTSA session just before 9 pm, when it was scheduled to close, saying he had a prior function to attend. For those of us who had already made arrangements for childcare and chose to attend this session at the scheduled time, this was not the best way to help us understand his candidacy. For some of us, this showed a tangible lack of respect. In the other candidate forum, Peter lacked depth of current knowledge of the school district and the issues, simply talking the talk. He is taking advantage of the public and Board acrimony over the lawsuit and school closure process. For those who don't like folks rocking the boat, Peter is a suitable candidate since he has no prior work history on a School Board. That appears to be why Chow and DeBell endorsed Maier. We visited the websites of both candidates and there's not enough there to support the belief that Peter can do the job or that Sally has done a poor job. With 4 years of experience as a Board member, 10 years in education, 10 years in policy analysis and public advocacy, and another 10 years in small business, Sally can and should be considered for another term to continue being a respectful, thoughtful and perceptive voice on the Board. Looking at the endorsements of current and past School Board members among other public figures plus campaign contributors to Peter's campaign also doesn't encourage confidence. It simply shows how elections can be bought. Peter and the other new Board candidates now have a lot of Eastside and deep-Seattle money in their pockets. Does that assure an objective Board member? Or will this help future political agendas create rubber-stamp votes of approval for Board policy? More schools will close, charter schools will be proposed again. If you take the time to review questions that have been submitted to Sally, you'll learn more about the person. Or attend a forum.http://www.sallysoriano.org/asksally.html

I think every candidate is sincere in their interest to run for the Board. When I learn about contributions being spread across several candidates and a paid lobbyist position (Pres of Schools 1st) is being touted as experience for the School Board, it means there's a candidate trying to run on a just-vote-no-against-Sally platform that unfortunately has a chance of winning, but for the wrong reasons. Sally is not a rubber stamp. She was labeled a rebel and micro-manager in the lead-in-the-water issue, school closures and lawsuit against the district, which was not her idea but had merit that compelled her to testify via deposition. Ironically, the school where our special-ed son was attending was closed, in part due to her supporting vote for its closure. But we supported her and the Board in that decision when a second solution was offered after parents, teachers and students learned the first solution the district offered was not acceptable for many reasons. In this process, we learned that for our special-ed son and our typical daughter, having the children at two separate schools was, sadly, the safest decision for them to succeed.

Finally, Sally is one of only two Board members who consistently made the effort to schedule and lead a monthly community meeting in her district. On time, rain or shine. A small but sincere step towards earning the respect and vote of her constituents. If I thought Peter Maier would make a positive difference over Sally Soriano, as a School Board member, I would vote for him. The money and endorsements for Maier and the other candidates make this a political fight to create a stronger rubber stamp School Board purchased with patronage money. Sally has done a commendable job and is clearly the better candidate for the position."

--- by Ron, ParentsCare

21 comments:

Melissa Westbrook said...

I checked candidate websites and I couldn't find that Cheryl Chow and Michael de Bell had endorsed Peter Maier. I saw that Harium Martin-Morris has Cheryl down as an endorser but I couldn't find their names on any candidates website endorsements.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with much of what this poster has to say. I do put stock in endorsements by politicians that I respect. I don't think that such endorsements mean that elections are being "bought." Perhaps it means that Director Soriano's views are so far out of the mainstream that she lacks broad support.

Anonymous said...

Beth, thank you for saying that you are happy to post other points of view as well. I wish you would have solicited some first, and posted them both together, instead of just posting this very biased perspective. Like the above poster I disagree with almost everything that the commenter says.

Brita said...

Hello all,

For the record, during my first year on the board I held monthly meetings in the evening at TOPS and the second year, at Eckstein. I discontinued these due to lack of interest (1 or no people attending by the end of the 2 years).

I did maintain weekly office hours for 3-1/2 years, however, which were well-attended.

Since Mary Bass has had very successful monthly community meetings during her tenure, the poster is wrong that Sally is only one of two board members to hold monthly meetings.

In addition, Darlene Flynn, Cheryl Chow, Irene Stewart, and Michael DeBell have all had evening meetings for the community on an ad hoc basis.

Anonymous said...

Sally Soriano is wreckless, at best. Most of us in Seattle are on the left side of things, some of us even on the extreme. But Soriano stands out as bizarre ideologue. She has her ideological agenda, and she has made it clear again and again that she will put that agenda ahead of all else, including the Seattle Schools.

As a member of the school board, her job is to provide leadership and build consensus to get things done. In key areas, she has failed at both. Look the BEX III Levy. She was unable to foist her idelogical views on the rest of the board to abandon one project, which had already been approved on the BEX II levy. Ineffective at persauding her colleagues, she decided instead to oppose the entire six-year capital plan with 26 major projects across the Seattle School District. Bizarre.

People give her credit for doing something about bad pipes in the schools. Critical to the safety of our kids, no doubt. But her kooky brand of politics on the levy meant that she opposed comprehensive water quality projects at Graham Hill, Lowell, McClure, Mercer, Montlake, Sanislo and Summit K-12 schools. All part of the levy she opposed. She also fought against improvements to indoor air quality at Ingraham, Loyal Heights, Montlake, Rainier Beach, Sacajawea and Whitworth schools. If you have a kid at any of these schools, Sally Soriano was actually opposed to making your kid's school safer. Bizarre.

To say nothing of the whole school closure mess. She didn't get her ideological way, so she actively supported a lawsuit against the very school district she was leading. Bizarre!

Principles? No, irrational and unfounded beliefs are called delusions. It's helpful to remember that Soriano was the Washington State Coordinator for Ralph Nader! We all know how that turned out, and it's very telling of how she approaches politics. Her views first, and damn the consequeces.

Anonymous said...

Whoa! The poster may prefer another candidate, but let's at least be fair. It is way, way off the mark to suggest that Peter Maier's school advocacy work has ever lined his pockets. I can tell you for certain that he volunteered his time to Schools First; the presidency of that organization is NOT a "paid lobbyist position."

In fact, Peter has taken significant time away from his law practice (where he does earn an income representing consumers) to work (for free) for passage of school levies. He could be making a lot more money than he is if he were not so committed to public education.

We may disagree about priorities and approach, but please let's be careful not to misrepresent our candidates. We are lucky that able people of high integrity are even willing to step up, given how hard they must work, how little they're paid, and how often their motivations are questioned and characters maligned.

Anonymous said...

Amen to the above poster, I couldn't have said it better!!!!!

Beth Bakeman said...

For the record, I'm voting for Peter Maier. But I respect Ron and the work he is doing advocating for children with special needs and wanted to share his passionate perspective with blog readers.

Charlie Mas said...

I disagree with no kooks for me.

That person wrote:
"As a member of the school board, her job is to provide leadership and build consensus to get things done."

I don't think that's the Board job at all. I know that a lot of this year's candidates are promoting the idea that the Board is supposed to do those things, but they're just wrong.

Let's be clear about this. The Board is NOT supposed to provide leadership; that is the Superintendent's job. How could the Board offer leadership? First of all, it has seven heads, which don't necessarily agree - and aren't necessarily supposed to agree. Second, the only person who reports to the Board is the Superintendent. The rest of the District staff don't have to answer to the Board at all. It's kind of hard to lead when you're not in charge. Third, if the Board were to step in and take the lead, they would be guilty of exactly the sort of micro-management that Director Soriano is accused of.

So, leadership? Not the Board's job.

Building consensus isn't the Board's job either. Do we ask The Congress to build consensus? Do we ask the legislature to build consensus, do we ask the County Council or the City Council to build consensus? No, we don't. The Board is elected by the people of Seattle who - despite what you may read in the popular press - are not all of a single opinion. There is a diversity of opinion in our city and that diversity of opinion should be reflected on the School Board. That's called representative democracy. It's a pretty good thing that has been working well for a while now.

Finally, it isn't the Board's job to get things done. Again, this is the Superintendent's job. If the Board stepped in and tried to get things done, they would be guilty of the sort of micro-management which is so reviled.

So, to recap, no kooks for me is wrong, wrong, wrong about the Board's job.

Perhaps that is part of the reason this person is also wrong about their complaints about Director Soriano.

The Board's job, for future reference is to be a policymaking body, to hire, manage, and, when necessary, fire the superintendent, to provide oversight, to provide public accountability for the schools, and to fulfill a variety of legal responsibilities to the State.

The Board is mostly a regulatory body. They aren't supposed to act, so much as set and maintain the constraints on those who do.

no kooks for me wrote a gross mischaracterization of Director Soriano's vote on BEX III. The description is so horribly wrong in so many ways that they are difficult to count. They reveal just how misinformed this person really is. Let's start with the fact that BEX III is a bond issue, not a levy. Director Soriano's opposition was not based in ideology, unless supporting community engagement, data-driven decisions, transparent criteria, general fairness, and open discussion are ideological positions. She wasn't trying to "foist" her views on anyone any more that everyone who works to persuade is "foisting" their views. She was elected by the people of this City to influence the District with her views. She doesn't need to "foist" them. Her opposition wasn't about one project, and the project wasn't going to be "abandoned". The project had not been approved on the BEX II levy (The New School wasn't even around then). Director Soriano did not oppose the entire capital plan. Her position was not in the least bit bizarre.

- I have to wonder why all the charged language? I guess because the simple facts don't support your position. -

You know what would be bizarre? If no member of the Board ever questioned or opposed any proposal brought to them by the staff. That would be bizarre, yet it is that very questioning and, when finding the answers inadequate, opposition, that no kooks for me despises in Director Soriano.

I'm amused by the way that Director Soriano's action in support of water and air quality are brushed off. At least it wasn't highlighted as an act of micro-management. I guess the person who wrote this wasn't there as the District staff, and the superintendent in particular, stonewalled action on water quality for months and months. I guess the person who wrote this comment wasn't there when the district staff and the superintendent disingenuously swore that they would do whatever it takes to fix the water quality. These water and air quality projects do not belong in BEX III. They should have been paid for from the previous BTA levy.

Of course, a vote by a Director against putting the bond issue on the ballot as written is not a vote against having a bond issue. Opposing the list of projects is not opposing the bond issue. It's not even a very subtle distinction, but it shot right past no kooks for me. I'm sure there is some combination of projects that any of us would oppose. We wouldn't oppose them outright, but would oppose them in favor of another list of projects. There is plenty of room for some of the projects on both lists to be the same.

It is bizarre to suggest that Director Soriano's vote, a vote to draft a better list of projects, was in any way a vote against clean water and air.

It wasn't at all bizarre to oppose the school closures. A lot of people were doing it. The majority of Board members opposed the Phase II closures. Does that mean that 5 of the seven Directors are bizarre? That they are out of the mainstream? I don't think so. At the same time, there is nothing bizarre about being in the minority on a vote. Would you suggest that Director Chow and Director DeBell were bizarre for being in a two-person minority on the vote to table the Phase II closures?

There is no cause to refer to Director Soriano's beliefs as irrational, to call them unfounded, or call them delusional. The vituperative screed posted at 12.:24 wasn't exactly a calm, well-reasoned opposition to them. You do a good job of calling names and applying labels, but not much in the way of accurate facts or thoughtful opposition. Instead, we read straw man arguments and ad hominem attacks. If you think that Director Soriano has irrational and unfounded beliefs, then tell us what they are, show that she has them, and show us how they are irrational or unfounded. Just saying it doesn't make it so.

I'm sure you have a valid perspective, and I wish that you had presented it. If this is all you've got, then you're simply spreading misinformation.

So I invite no kooks for me
to take another swing at the ball. This time, speak to facts instead of your imagination, tell us how and why you disagree with Director Soriano's actual positions instead of sticking ugly labels on them, and try to tone down the charged language. If your perspective is well-founded, you don't need it.

Anonymous said...

Soriano may not be a Kook, but she does impede progress, by blocking and unreasonably questioning policy and policy making decisions. Her support of pet issues and small loud groups keeps her from working on policy that supports the entire community as a whole. She is unable to see the big picture.

Charlie says, and I agree with him that a board directors job is to "She was elected by the people of this City to influence the District with her views." The problem is that when Soriano does not use her influence responsibly. By this I mean that she uses her influence to support her pet issues, small activist groups like CEASE, and the alternative community. A board director should be able to see past their own agenda's and work on behalf of all. For the good of all.

She does not do that.

Here is a quote from the original posting "While the campaign contributions are legal, it's clear that these candidates and endorsements, especially by Chow and DeBell for Maier, are Let's-Vote-No-For-Sally votes, regardless of the qualifications and experience of either candidate. If Blomstrom were running in Peter's spot, he might actually win."

Why do you think so many people don't want Sally on the board?

Charlie, even you have to ask yourself why so many people share the same opinon as No Kook's for me. Are they all wrong? Do none of them understand? No more Kook's sentiments reflect a pretty wide spread opinion of Soriano's actions and work on the board.

I agree with no kook's for me. She or he is right on target.

It is time for change.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, you have lost it. You sound like you are ranting and raving.

No kooks for me laid it out pretty well. S/he gave specific examples and facts. You just don't agree with them. Too bad.

And, BTW, Sally Soriano is bizarre

Anonymous said...

I really like the link to the ask Sally page. Wish all the directors had something like this going after they are elected.

Could someone tell me what is the argument against the CEASE position?

Thanks,

Dan

SPS parent said...

Wow, this is an interesting thread. Again, such widely differing opinions, and clashing. Charlie, it appears that you should go easier on No Kooks For Me. This person did in fact post well known facts about Sally Soriano. You may not like them, but in fact, most everything No Kooks pointed out are accurate accounts of documented actions. At least in regard to the affidavit, the "no" for the BEX, and working for Ralph Nader. No Kooks for me was actually not "wrong, wrong, wrong". Charlie, you can tear apart the use of the word Levy instead of Bond (even though we all knew what No Kooks was talking about), and you can tear apart her using the words leadership and consensus. But you can't tear apart all of the facts that No Kook's listed. They are indeed what Ms. Soriano has done, and examples of why so many in the community are "lets-vote-no-for-Sally" voters.

Melissa Westbrook said...

How is Sally (w)reckless? (Ah, there's that spelling problem again.)

How has she put her agenda ahead of district needs (given she devoted a heck of a lot of time to math curriculum, water quality and school closures)?

BEX III does not have 26 major projects (at least as defined by the district); there's 6. The other ones, water and air quality should have (Charlie is correct here) been on a BTA levy. (And I know this from a Facilities Meeting Plan I just attended yesterday.)

For a "mess" school closures have now gone remarkably well. They did not surface as a topic much in these School Board elections. Sally and Mary Bass did not support school closures, as is their right as Board members, because they felt it unfairly targeted low-income, minority students. You may disagree with her affidavit but she had a right to cast her vote as she wanted. Sally wasn't against school closures. Indeed, unlike several Board members, she did take the time to talk to members of the C&C Committee.

I say this not to defend Sally (as I think we have all pretty much made our minds up) but the keep the record straight.

Anonymous said...

I find it really disturbing that so much mud is being slung first by Ron, then by No Kooks and then by Charlie - - -

See the other posts about Sundquist and Ramierez working side by side each other. Why is this so charged with incorrect facts? Are we truly that polarized?

Charlie - also have a question for you - did you not take Mr. Maier up on his offer to talk, have coffee etc? Sorry to hear that if in fact, true - I think you would and perhaps will find him to be the fabulous person I've known for over 20 years representing consumers, not some rich fat cat establishment lawyer that some folks are trying to portray him as - -

Also to Ron - am sorry Peter Maier arrived at your meeting late - pls. know that the candidates are sometimes triple and 4xs booked an evening and have no control over agendas - they run late, they are changed by the planners on a whim - every school board candidate - including Sally that I've seen out there and seen them all several times this season are working hard to please all the planners all the time - it can't be done and running is practically a full time job.

I hope we can tone the rhetoric down and give ALL these folks a big round of applause for working hard - its a wonder they want to when treated like this and its no wonder that other qualified people do not step forward.

I have issues with Sally's positions, have explained them to her, but would never dream of sliming her or anyone else in the fashion that's being done here. I respect and thank her for her service.

Anonymous said...

Of course people can disagree about the nature of leadership. The school board is governed by majority rule, so to be most effective it’s critical to build support for your views. That’s how I see it. I don’t see Soriano doing that.

On The New School, once and for all:

The school that until recently housed The New School was once South Shore Middle School. After the school closed in 1999, it became the site for temporary program relocation in the South end. BEX II did predate The New School, as Charlie correctly points out. But the Board put the South Shore building on the BEX II levy.

Here's what the February 6, 2001 Special Election voter pamphlet said:

“...Additions and replacements for capacity increases in the southern half of the City, including conversion of the South Shore building into a fixed-hall building instead of an open-concept building...”

After The New School moved in, the initial hope was that the building could be completely renovated as planned under BEX II. As the design work proceeded, it became clear that a renovation would not be cost effective because of the fundamental problems with the building.

At the same time, other BEX II projects were eating up a larger chunk of the money than planned. South Lake High School and The New School saw that as they were both supposed to be funded at the end of the levy, they were in competition for scarce resources. There was not enough money for both projects, and the community was divided over the issue.

There was a compromise. The communities of the schools met, and The New School community agreed that South Lake's project should take precedence, and recommended this to the board.

Here's what the PI reported on November 17, 2005:

"Under the plan, the district will spend $2 million to address urgent problems, such as a leaky roof, at the South Shore building, 8825 Rainier Ave. S. The district also will design two new buildings: one for South Lake High School that can accommodate about 200 students, and one for a pre-K-8 school for up to 900 students.

Construction on the new South Lake facility, which will be paid for with a levy approved in 2001, is slated to begin in July 2007 and finish in just over a year...

The district would demolish the South Shore building to make room for a new $40 million, pre-K-8 building if voters approve a capital levy in 2007. The pre-K-8 building...would alleviate a shortage of middle-school seats in South Seattle..."

The board voted 6 to 1 for this plan.

Now, can we move on? The South Shore building has been demolished, and site prep is underway for a new building.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I don't even know where this issue of the New School came up in this thread but I'll address it because No Kooks did.

New School did not exist in 2001 so to say it was part of BEX II is incorrect. South Shore was to have a renovation from an open concept to walled facility. But after New School moved in, that was changed and expanded.

Also, it's interesting because first South Shore building was a middle school, then a preK-5 but the bond language this time said it was it was to be a either a middle school or K-8. And what is being built - a preK-8 because New School is preK-8. So why not say it in the bond language? Because the district didn't want to look like they were specially building a school for New School.

Even the district's own minutes show that Facilities staff believed the building was viable for several more years. If we had waited, then another project like an elementary in the north end needed for capacity or a really bad condition building like Pathfinder could have been done.

And I just happened to find this news release from New School Foundation that is very ironic.

"With the Foundation’s grant ($1.35M), the New School will operate with one-third more funding than most other public schools in Seattle. At this level, the funding for the school is comparable to
other well-funded public school districts across the nation, such as Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and
Newark. “The New School Foundation’s board and donors believe that the level of funding
available to public schools in our state is just not enough to achieve great outcomes for all
children. We hope this partnership will show that additional funds, strategically invested, can
assure that all children in public schools will excel,” said Laura Kohn, executive director of the
New School Foundation."

Well, yes, it would be good to be able to pour more than a million dollars into every single school in the district. I have no doubt we would see better outcomes for those students. Will it happen? No.

"Together, the rebuilt New School, the new facility for South Lake Alternative High School, Dunlap Elementary School, Rainier Beach High School, and the Rainier Beach
Community Center facilities, will constitute a remarkable Pre-K to 12th grade educational and
recreational complex for families in that region of our city."

Well, it would be great if the South Shore building was being redone in its entirety. I learned just this week in a meeting with Facilities with someone from Parks that the Parks department is hoping in 4 years to redo their part of the South Shore building. (Just to clarify, the South Shore building is owned jointly with the City and has the weirdest dividing line ever.) If the district had waited for the City, they could have a better, more cohesive design AND likely saved money because it was a joint project.

And the list of all the schools around New School leaves out AAA (just a mile away with plenty of middle school seats) and does mention Dunlap whose population New School is slowly draining.

Certainly we can move on but let's not forget what came before. It might make it easier for some but forgetting history is always a bad idea.

SPS parent said...

Melissa said "Well, yes, it would be good to be able to pour more than a million dollars into every single school in the district. I have no doubt we would see better outcomes for those students. Will it happen? No."

Melissa, why? Why doesn't a world class city like Seattle, that so highly values education, do what Pittsburg, Newark and Buffalo are able to do? These cities fund their public schools adequately. Why can't we? What stops us?

I don't know enough about funding, and am truly curious how some cities, even these working class, blue collar cities, can fund their schools adequately, and we can't?

Anonymous said...

Personally, I am grateful that the South end finally has a great elementary school choice. I am happy to see them receive the private funding that it takes to have a school serving low income, mostly minority children thrive. They are succeeding on every level!!! They should be an example, and we should reach out to the private sector to make this happen across the district.

Melissa Westbrook said...

NE Mom, that's the $64,000 question. Why doesn't our Legislature fund us properly? I think it's a cross between old thinking ("it was good enough in my day"), believing it's the teachers union's fault (seriously, it comes up in a lot of discussions) and, with no disrespect, but a lot of Republican legislators in the eastern part of the state. It doesn't matter how low we rank in national standings, it doesn't seem to matter what Bill Gates or any other business person says, it doesn't matter how many parents go to the Legislature (although if we massed in the thousands it might help).

I almost wonder if the presence of Bill Gates and the other billionaires hurts us. Maybe the legislators believe business will step up and fill in the gap. Why should they and how long is that really possible?

I think New School is a wonderful school (I've toured it with the principal). And, I have no problem with the issue that one group of kids is more resources than others because better one group than none. My unhappiness has always been with the issue of New School (itself, not its building) getting to the front of the BEX line ahead of many other schools in worse condition or who have waited longer. They get extra resources AND a new building with another K-8 in a relatively new building a mile away? It seems vastly unfair and no amount of progress can change that.

Anonymous said...

"I almost wonder if the presence of Bill Gates and the other billionaires hurts us. Maybe the legislators believe business will step up and fill in the gap. Why should they and how long is that really possible?"

In a sense, yes, they should. Businesses used to pay a vastly larger share of taxes than they do now.

Helen Schinske