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Monday, October 22, 2007

Seattle Times endorsements

The Seattle Times printed their endorsements for the Seattle School Board on Sunday and they were just as you would expect.

The Times endorsed votes for Peter Maier, Sherry Carr, Steve Sundquist, and Harium Martin-Morris. The Times advocated for a "board filled with professionals steeped in leadership and policymaking' instead of "Single-issue activism".

In support of Peter Maier, the Times lauded his promise of "steady, responsible and focused leadership, qualities needed to support, rather than supplant, the superintendent". That said, I think that what the Times likes best about Peter Maier, and the issue that he runs on most heavily, is the fact that he is not Sally Soriano.

The Times characterized Director Soriano's tenure as "marked by a fixation on misguided causes". They characterized her "no" votes on budgets in two of the past four years as political rather than principled.

In support of Sherry Carr, the Times wrote that she had "a skill-set necessary for thoughtful debate on the district's $500 million annual budget". I think this odd since the Board doesn't debate the budget. They also tout her "understanding of district operations and... thick Rolodex of relationships". They dismiss Darlene Flynn as angry. Does Darlene Flynn not have an understanding of district operations? Does she not have a rolodex?

In support of Steve Sundquist, the Times touts his "policy and organizational know-how" and his "knack for quietly getting things done". Maria Ramirez apparently lost their endorsement when she chose not to vote in the recent school bond and levy election. From the perspective of the Seattle Times, failing to vote in a levy precludes your service on the Board, but sending your kids to private school does not. Good to know.

The Times encourages voters to reject the "discord of the last four years". How much of that "discord" was the product of Joseph Olchefske's fiscal mismanagement - thanks to a rubber-stamp board that the Times supported and COO Raj Manhas' failure to supervise? How much of the discord was the result of Superintendent Raj Manhas' refusal to follow Board direction? What discord was there other than that churned up by the closures? And how much of that discord was either unavoidable or attributable to an atrocious job of public relations by the District staff?

I think there may be reasons to vote as the Times suggests. These are all excellent candidates and the City, the schools, the students, and the District would be well-served by any of them. I don't really have a beef with the Times' choices, but I'm mystified and a bit troubled by the Times' stated reasons for their choices.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I know you'll know the answer to this, Charlie - I've never been quite sure.

What is the function of the board's Finance Committee? It seems as if I've seen them review monthly financial statements and discuss the fiancial implications of things like school closures and the weighted staffing standard, but I can rarely get to their 3-5 pm meetings or track down their minutes.

What do they do with the budget, if anything?

Thanks -

Anonymous said...

"Maria Ramirez apparently lost their endorsement when she chose not to vote in the recent school bond and levy election. From the perspective of the Seattle Times, failing to vote in a levy precludes your service on the Board, but sending your kids to private school does not."

I agree with the Times on this one. Acknowledging that the public school system does not meet the needs of your child, and electing to send your child to a private school is understandable. Nothing at all wrong with that in my opinion.

Electing not to vote for a school bond/levy is inexcusable. It is irresponsible, at the least, and deceiving, at the worst. A candidate could hide their political views by not voting. After all, to come out against the bond, as Melissa courageously did, would be a political nightmare.

Steve Sundquist only sent one of his two children to private school, and then only for middle school. His kids attended Pathfinder K-5 for elementary, and are currently at Chief Sealth HS, where he chaired a non profit board and helped to establish their IB program. I hardly think we should crucify him for his choosing not to send his daughter to Madison or Denny with their abysmal performance, do you????

We all know that middle school is the weak link in SPS. Why should the Times condemn someone for opting out of the weak link????

S Sterne said...

Hard to imagine dismissing a school board candidate because she's "angry" - seems like most of the parents in the district are angry too, and it's hard not to be angry when our state ranks 46th in funding for education. Darlene has asked the staff to be accountable, and in the instances I've witnessed, her strength and clarity were welcome.

Darlene is a good, effective board rep, in no small part because she is direct in stating her views. This makes some people uncomfortable, but I think that too much comfort prevents us from doing what needs to be done.

Steven

Charlie Mas said...

I've never been to a Finance Committee meeting. I read their agendas and I read their minutes, but I haven't been motivated to attend a meeting yet.

I don't believe they have any sort of decision-making role on the operating budget, they just get updates on spending and revenues vs. the plan.

They do review and discuss the financial consequences of big decisions - such as those you mentioned and capital spending. When it comes to those expenditures that require Board approval, this committee is where the Board is informed, there is discussion, and the staff can get some direction about what will or won't meet with Board approval.

I don't think I know much more detail than you, ultimate fan.