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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Pronouncements From The Times

I love the Times editorial board (at least when it comes to editorials about the school district.) They make these grand declarative statements about the Board and the Superintendent and then back them up with uninformed details. Here's their editorial today about the bell times.

First they intone about the Board (and no editorial about the school district would be complete unless they referenced how little they thought of the last Board):

"It is slowly dawning on the board that many more tweaks of the 46,000-student district will be necessary before its costs are brought in line with its budget. In a departure from past boards, this one is not shying away from the task."

Really? Who closed schools first? Oh yeah, it was the last incarnation of the Board. Also, "slowly dawning" is pretty dismissive. This Board has been well aware of the problem and if only "tweaks" could solve the problem, they would have done those first.

Then they move on to the superintendent:

"Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson is unapologetically aggressive and focused in her pursuit of cost-cutting measures to finance academic improvements. Good."

Really? If this were so, why did she take a pay raise before being here a year? I'd lay money if the Board gives her a good review, she'll take a raise this year as well.

Then comes the funniest paragraph:

"Beyond the budget, Seattle's hodgepodge of start times was never an efficient use of transportation dollars. It never made sense for school A to have a different start time from school B. The exception is high schools, where start times are more likely to be based on other reasons, from circadian rhythms to school safety."

If the Times was keeping up, they'd know that we are going to still have a hodgepodge of start times (albeit in a narrower window of time). Every school (principal and staff) gets to decide when they will start - it's in the district press release. You'd think the editorial board might read this stuff before they write anything.

Also, the start times for high schools are not based on anything but money. The district hasn't done its homework about "circadian rhythms"; heck, they're not convening this transportation taskforce until AFTER they have changed the times.

The Times is nothing if not entertaining when they write these things but they should try to get it right.

18 comments:

SolvayGirl said...

Call them on it Melissa!
Now that we've got only ONE paper (and in my mind we lost the better of the two), we need to watchdog the editorial board of the remaining one.

rugles said...

actually we have TWO daily papers in Seattle now.

seattle citizen said...

one and a half, rugles!

Don't get me started on the cheerleading, pompous pronouncements emanating from the Fairview... the Fairview...the Fairview Flatulator!

And I wonder if, in their news, they report education news neutrally, or if they have an agenda....hmmm.....

rugles said...

Two papers printed daily, Seattle Citizen!

I wouldn't even give PI.com a half.

h2o girl said...

What is the other paper, Rugles? (Pardon my ignorance here.)

Johnny Calcagno said...

I agree that their editorial opinions about SPS have been hilariously ignorant for a long time. Why exactly is that?

Don't be afraid to name names!

Melissa Westbrook said...

I think the Times just has a more conservative viewpoint and tend to be somewhat myopic on Seattle education.

Jim Vesely - I rarely agree with his editorials and that "good" in this piece sounds like him (although I don't think he wrote this one). There was a very "we are one" piece in the Times when the PI closed down about how the Times isn't liberal or conservative and is for all, suburbs or uburbs, blah, blah and then they revert back to writing like this.

Bruce Ramsey - I know Bruce somewhat from when our kids went to the same elementary school. Smart, I don't always agree with him but I can respect his views in a way I can't for Mr. Vesely.

Lynne Varner - I like Lynne. She's a smart cookie and asks good questions but somehow I tend not to agree with where her thinking ends up.

What drives me equally nuts is a venue like KUOW always gets Lynne or Bruce or Joni Balter to be on the Friday morning news roundup and I'm always tearing my hair out when they discuss schools.

SP said...

re: Start/end times
I just talked with the Public Affairs office as to the discrepency of the district's mixing the terms "bell times" with "bus arrival/departure times."

The School Board vote used the specific wording, "Start/dismissal bell time schedules", whereas the district sent out an email notice to all school staff announcing the vote, specifying that "yellow busses will arrive at the schools at approximately 8:15 a.m. and depart at approximately at 2:45 pm" which is completely different (and would make the actual school day shorter by almost 1/2 hour)!

I was assured that the wording in the updated memo now posted on the home page is correct, that start times can be between 8:10am and 8:20 am (as determined by the school) and busses would be available to depart by 2:45 pm. but that every middle & high school needed to have the FULL 6-1/2 hours bell-to-bell in their schedule, no matter what variance in their schedule they might choose.

Charlie Mas said...

The Times gets their information from District insiders without any skepticism about the bias those insiders might have. They believe all of the honeyed talk despite decades of it being proven consistently false.

They believed that Raj Manhas was trying to do his job but the Board wouldn't let him when the truth was that Manhas wasn't doing his job and was deliberately sabotaging the Board's efforts.

The Times doesn't seem to recognize the highly politicized culture of the District and doesn't seem to realize that they are being used as a pawn in the internal struggles at the JSCEE.

For people who are charged with seeing through exactly that kind of baloney, they fall for it all the time.

SolvayGirl said...

Agreed Charlie
That's why I am still mourning the demise of the PI.

And I think we should all write to KUOW and ask them to start hitting harder when it comes to stories about the District.

seattle citizen said...

Welll....they say that the blogosphere is the new news...Anyone want to be our advertising account executive?

rugles said...

h20 girl,

Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce is the other paper.

Charlie Mas said...

I'm starting to see that, in some instances, we truly are journalists. This is particularly true when we do our own research, when we bring facts to light that were not brought forward previously in other media, and when we report on events. That goes for ALL of us.

Any time we dig up facts instead of just comment on them, we are journalists. We just don't have the obligation to appear unbiased or the obligation to dig up new facts instead of commenting on those already in circulation.

momster said...

one of the things about district intelligence (meaning, what you know about the district) is that it gets stale and out of date quickly unless you continuously challenge and refresh what you know - by living with their policies, by going to meetings, by seeking out other opinions and stories as the blog posters do.

people whose kids are out of k-12 (like bruce ramsey, sounds like) tend to think they know how it is when mostly, they know how it was.

and i agree with charlie in that the ed board does a few candidate interviews during elections, brings the sup around once in a while, talk to a few people at parties or events, and think they're good to go, too.

lynn varner will sometimes call people on things no one else could (e.g., giving people charging 'discrimination' the big smack down during the last few closure rounds) but she too is way too certain she knows all there is to know (and has never had a child in the district so is especially viewing it all from the outside.)

the times has sure written some cockamamie stuff about the district and i expect they'll continue to.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Bruce Ramsey does have a junior in Seattle public schools.

dan dempsey said...

Charlie said dig up facts and do research.

Here is some:
A National Science Foundation Funded math program myth buster.
http://mathunderground.blogspot.com/2009/03/letter-about-aera-study-of-3-01-2009.html

dan dempsey said...

WOW do I agree on the Times just being a pipeline for SPS admin to broadcast through.

I sympathize with Melissa on the KUOW sessions.

Freedom of the press was to give us a watchdog on the abuses of the powerful. I have not seen much watching ... well it is sure not accompanied by any dogging.

Unknown said...

re kuow hitting harder (solvaygirl 3/25), i wish they would 'hit smarter' - i got some flack some time ago for being snarky about phyllis fletcher, but i really do think she (as the primary seattle schools reporter) has some weird reflex to see everything through a 'discrimination' lens - whether it's race, class, or poverty, i can't quite figure out. she seems like a pleasant person but i don't really have any use for her reporting.

steve scher, ross reynolds and marcy sillman seem earnest - with them it's just that it doesn't go deep enough more than that it's biased.

unfortunately they have a city to report on, not just a "beat", so you can't really expect them to go very deep on schools.

i actually generally find the callers in to be more useful and informative than the reporters/hosts - both in terms of the information they supply and the questions they ask the guests - though when the host lets the guest off the hook (as is often the case, e.g., with sup), there's not much the caller can do.