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Saturday, March 07, 2009

What I Think We Need

As I consider running for the Board in District VII - Southeast Seattle, now represented by Cheryl Chow - I think about what I hope to achieve if elected. If elected, I would do the Board job that isn't getting done now.

The Board is a policymaking body, but they are making little or no progress on the huge backlog of policies that need to be written, revised, or repealed. I would do the work to bring the whole book of Policies up to date. But that's not enough. As I have often said, the Board can WRITE Policy, but if they do not ENFORCE Policy, then they haven't really MADE Policy. The current Board hasn't demonstrated any interest or ability to enforce Policy. Maybe they don't have the stomach for the inevitable confrontations. I will do the work that they aren't doing.

The Board is the elected representatives of the public. They are the only people in the District who are accountable to the public. They are the only people in the District who have a duty to represent and advocate for the public perspective. If they don't do it, no one will. If the Board does not insist that public input be a factor in district decisions - it won't be. The current Board - and some Board members in particular - have not been advocates for the public's perspective and none of them are demanding that the staff consider public input and the public perspective. If elected, I would do this work.

No one wants the Board to micro-manage the Superintendent, but the Board does need to manage her. It is appropriate and necessary for the Board to review decisions by the Superintendent and staff to confirm that they are compliant with State law, Board Policy, the District's Vision and Stated Goals, and the Strategic Plan. In addition to this regulatory duty, it is also appropriate and necessary that the Board review the Superintendent's and staff's decisions to confirm that they are data based, built on sound rationale, and reflect best practices. This isn't second-guessing or micro-management; this is management. This is the accountability that the Superintendent welcomes and wants. The current Board isn't doing this work. If elected, I will.

In short, serving on the Board may be an honor for some, or a stepping stone to or from other political office, but to me it is a job. And the current Board isn't getting the job done. I only want the position so I can do the work. It's driving me crazy to see it undone.

But would that be enough to bring about the change we need? Could one strident voice on the Board drive change? One vote isn't enough. I would have to inspire the sense of responsibility and the courage that the other Board members need to do their jobs. Why aren't they doing these things already? Are they just waiting for someone else to go first?

At the March 4 Board meeting I saw Director Maier (of all people) question the need for Hale to conform to the standard bell time. He wanted to review the decision. He wanted to know just how many students were on yellow buses and how many buses they needed. He wanted to know why they couldn't get to the building at 8:00, extra early for classes that start at 8:30. Director Martin-Morris also pursued this line of questioning. Harium asked if it made any sense at all for 950 students to change their bell time to accomodate 20. But when Tom Bishop had no numbers for them and Ammon McWashington gave the feeble reason "It only takes one parent to complain", they seemed to back off. Worst, of course, was Director Chow who scolded them for "picking at" the decision and second-guessing the staff. The two Board members who were doing their job and trying to review the decision dropped it in the face of that opposition. If Director Chow were not there, or if they got support from their colleagues on the Board instead of opposition, would they have pursued the decision further? I think they would.

And what if the Board actually did step up and do their jobs? Would that fundamentally change the District? I think it would. There is a flaw at the root of nearly all of the District's trouble: Seattle Public Schools is not responsive to the needs of the public it ostensibly serves. Making the District responsive to the public is the Board's job. If Policies were followed, then we would have real interventions for struggling students and schools, we would have regular reviews of our programs for efficacy, and we would have authentic transparency for decisions. If the public's input were considered as a factor in decisions we would see increased community involvement and greater trust. If the decisions were subjected to a proper review the community would see how sound the bulk of them really are, and the District staff would not be so capricious with the rest. That would also build trust and confidence. All of these would serve the students and their educations.

Is this really all we need - just one more Board member who supports public input in place of one who opposes it? just one more Board member who wants to review the staff's decisions in place of one who doesn't? just one more Board member who wants to write and enforce policy in place of one who doesn't? If not, we'll have to wait two years to replace any more. I think the Board is the place where the change needs to be made because the Board the only part of the District that is accountable to the public and public accountability is what the District really needs.

What do you all think? Is there anyone else interested in running for the Board in District VII? It is just about time to declare.

28 comments:

dan dempsey said...

Charlie,

Where do I sent my campaign donation?

Brita Butler-Wall said it best: We trust our hired professionals.

Here is a piece that also says it all: But when Tom Bishop had no numbers for them and Ammon McWashington gave the feeble reason "It only takes one parent to complain", they seemed to back off.

Pre-made staff decisions are supported by nonsense. The SPS board has quite a history of ignoring rational well made public arguments to send us in irrational directions. Everyday Math springs immediately to mind ....Denny/Sealth ... Strategic Plan accountability.

We occasionally get glimpses of rationality from the Board that makes me think they are beginning to get it. I think you would bring a voice that the other members could understand and as Director Mas they might even follow.

I pretty much gave up on this board, when they voted 7-0 to defy their own policy by having the introduction item / action item to extend the Superintendent's contract in one meeting. Both you and Chris Jackins informed them in public testimony that they would be violating their policy but they did not listen. You would have a better voice as a director.

You are a candidate who has a track record of stances on positions with supportive rational for your beliefs. Ms Chow lacks any rational other than do not mess with the way this ship runs.

Where do I send my money?
Have you picked a Treasurer?

Mr. Edelman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Charlie -

I've been zealously following this blog since the closings were announced. I am always gratified to hear your voice of reason. I only wish I lived in South Seattle so I could vote for you. Where can I send my donation?

Mr. Edelman said...

In today's Sea Times article on the superintendent, you are quoted as saying, "She's managing the district as it has not been managed in six years. . . . I'm glad to see someone take the reins of this runaway horse."

Is this quote accurate? Is there a context to this quote we should know about?

Shannon said...

I was about to ask the same question!

seattle citizen said...

I think the quote in the Times accurately portrays that aspect of Charlie's approach: If I read right, here in the blog, Charlie wants the superintendent to be in charge, as in make critical decisions and enact them (with board oversight where necessary. My feeling is that Charlie does not want a superintendent to defer to that over-used cliche', Seattle Process, but move forward with the responsibilities of that position.

I concur. Much as I have doubted, much as even now I dislike this action or that, I am only one person and there are many opinions. I would hope that our superintendent would be strong, knowledgable, and decisive.

Note that he doesn't say in the quote that he agrees with her decisions; he merely notes that the District has been lacking a driver for some time and has run away with itself.

As we know, Charlie also demands board oversight.

But I'll let him speak to this topic; these are only my appreciative understandings of his perspectives.

Syd said...

Article with quote from Charlie

Charlie Mas said...

The Superintendent has a job to do and Dr. Goodloe-Johnson does it. The two previous superintendents didn't do their jobs.

Read the CACIEE report. The whole first half is a list of the executive duties that Mr. Manhas utterly failed to fulfill. He didn't even attempt them. Instead, he relied entirely on site-based decision making. He did not, at any time, feel it appropriate for the District to intervene to assist struggling schools or to provide any sort of quality control.

Joseph Olchefske used to say that he wanted to be "Tight on the What and Loose on the How". Meaning that the schools had to meet the standards and the teachers had to cover the curriculum but he allowed them the freedom to find their own way to do it. The problem was that he wasn't tight on the What.

Dr. Goodloe-Johnson has had to create management structures at the district from scratch because there was nothing there when she arrived. The Strategic Plan, as initially introduced (before it was junked up with capacity management and every other crisis de jour), was a management plan. It introduced performance measurement and meaningful evaluations. It introduced all of the elements of management that the CACIEE report noted were missing.

The District needs a manager and that is the Superintendent. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson is taking on it an enormous task - building all of the systems from scratch - and doing it with considerable good humor and urgency.

When I look at the decisions of the past two years that I thought could have been better I think a lot of them were made by her staff and she allowed them to make those sub-optimal choices in part to see what they were capable of doing, in part to show them some respect, and in part because the district is too big for her to make all of the decisions herself and micromanage everything.

I could be wrong about that, but she didn't really take the lead on them. Anyway, we're not going to agree on everything and I'm not always right.

The key is that the District was un-managed and she's doing the work of managing it. She's doing the Superintendent's job. For that, I commend her.

Mr. Edelman said...

Thank you for your response, Charlie.

Do you believe that the district will achieve its strategic goals with the strategies it is currently employing?

dan dempsey said...

Monica H said:
"I only wish I lived in South Seattle so I could vote for you."

To clarify the voting for school directors:

If no more than two candidates file for one of the three positions, then that election will need no (August) primary and both candidates advance to the November election (at which time every voter in the city may vote for each position.)

The August primary is restricted to voters who reside in that section of the school district. The November election has no restriction. Thus all Seattle voters can vote for Charlie in November.

Example: Harium and David Blomstrom were the only candidates for a position so they both advanced to the November election.... where most folks wisely voted for Harium.

Charlie Mas said...

My guess would be that 10-20% of the strategic plan initiatives will be total failures. Some of them are well on their way.

In some cases, I don't think the District can even tell you what they are trying to do, let alone figure out a way to do it. The math and science curriculum alignment project is an excellent example.

Another 30-50% of them will only be qualified successes. In these cases the District will declare success even when a lot of work remains unfinished. See if they don't hang a big "Mission Accomplished" banner on Capacity Management despite the fact that they didn't even touch high schools. They said that they would take care of them in Phase II, but Phase II may never come. Has anyone seen anything lately about the response to the APP Review - or has that quietly faded into the background? That work has never really been defined, so don't be surprised if they eventually define it as successfully splitting APP - with their own definition of success.

Most of the rest of the projects will get done but sub-optimally. The elementary capacity management provides us with an excellent example of a sub-optimal result. Still, they will get done. That's a good result - finished - and I will be happy for it.

There will, however, be 2-4 projects, 10-20% of them, that will be done really well. These projects will be the ones we hear about over and over and I will be really happy for them.

I would love, love, love to be wrong about this. I would love it if the rest of the projects were completed on time and with extraordinarily good results. I hope that I will be proved unduly pessimistic about the strategic plan initiatives, but we have already seen so much revisionist history about them that we can already count some of them among the losses.

Cara said...

I can't support MGL because she is taking a heavy handed approach to managing the school district and is not listening to her constituents. I agree that she inherited a mess but she seems to have a pre-set agenda of what will work here in Seattle, disregarding real improvements in schools she had targeted for closure, such as Summit, Cooper and Meany.If you support that approach I'll find it hard to support you, even against Chow.

Central Mom said...

I have seen no evidence that Chow is an effective director. None. The last straw was when her biggest public concern during the school closures was whether/how to keep or rename school buildings. Argh. I would welcome the chance to vote for a different voice.

You have to promise, though, that if you run and win that you will carry on w/ blog posts either here or on your own blog like Harium's. The chance at community discourse with (and around!) a director is proving invaluable in giving at least some power of voice to the community. I wouldn't want your participation in this type of forum to go away if you were to take a position "within" the system.

Charlie Mas said...

I believe that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson has only seven constituents: the Board members. She is accountable to them, not to the public. It's not her job to listen to people except insofar as the Board makes it her job. They haven't done so. This is an example of how the Board has failed in their duty to act as advocates for the public's perspective.

If her decisions are faulty, it is incumbent on the Board to review them for soundness.

That said, I should be clear about my position on the closures. I believe that the District should manage its capacity and not maintain more schools than we need. So I supported the closure of Cooper, T T Minor, and Meany - not based on the quality of the schools but on my considered conviction that they represent excess capacity for the District. Summit did not represent excess capacity for the District and should have been relocated - good choices for a new location as a full- or half-city draw include Wilson-Pacific, Lincoln, and John Marshall.

Given the opportunity, I would have made some other changes in the plan. Van Asselt should have stayed in place and The New School should have moved into the AAA. Any AAA student who wished to remain in the building and join the New School should have been allowed to do so. The district should have created a new international middle school at South Shore and closed Aki Kurose. The District should have found a north-end location for north-end elementary APP students - possibly at B F Day or McDonald. The SBOC and NOVA should not be moved to Meany until Meany can be made high school ready. There's no urgency to moving them from their current locations.

I won't pander to folks by lying about my support for the closures. My record on it is pretty clear from this blog and other sources.

My question remains:

Is this what the District needs or does the District need something more or something else?

Mr. Edelman said...

Thanks again for your detailed answers, Charlie.

In my previous question, I was mainly thinking about the high-level district goals stated here:

http://www.seattleschools.org/area/
strategicplan/sps_goals.pdf

Your answer shows a grasp of detail that is certainly beyond my range of knowledge.

In any case, I have a follow-up question: if, after the layoffs downtown, the John Stanford Center has excess capacity, do you think the district should consider closing it and moving into a smaller, less expensive building for central administration?

anonymous said...

Does anyone know why there are no longer enrollment centers in the north (Wilson Pacific) and south (Meany)? Was this a budget cut? What are they doing with Wilson Pacific now? I find it irritating that there is no way to enroll online and that you have to go downtown to the JSC (If you want your application date stamped).

rugles said...

I would vote for you against Cheryl Chow.

But then I would vote for everybody here against Cheryl Chow.

Manhas and Olchefske are history, not benchmarks by which to judge Dr GJ. Since we are not going to rehire them, it doesn't matter to me if she is not as crappy as they were. Is she getting the job done now?

Is are kids lernin?

You are critical of so many things going on in the district, yet, to hear you tell it, it is either the Boards fault or her staffs fault or Manhas and Olechefskes' fault. This makes no sense.

You also seem to put a high value on things like stategic plans, policies and management structures. I don't. To me, "Creating management structures" is what Dilberts boss would be doing if he were the Superintendent.

anonymous said...

I'd not only support you Charlie, I'd work on your campaign. Just say the word.

Anonymous said...

Charlie said: "...it is also appropriate and necessary that the Board review the Superintendent's and staff's decisions to confirm that they are data based, built on sound rationale, and reflect best practices... ...This isn't second-guessing or micro-management; this is management. This is the accountability that the Superintendent welcomes and wants."

You mean this is the accountability the Superintendent SAYS she welcomes. All of the executive staff would love to be without oversight, but the system is not set up that way, so they must work within the boundaries of the system. Part of being successful in such a system is throwing the audience a bone now and then. But there's no way you'll convince me that she really, truly wants to be held accountable for her mistakes. People rarely do.

Many of the decisions that have come down from the district staff recently (and not so recently, for that matter) have clearly NOT been based on "sound rationale and best practices". It would be absolutely wonderful to have a diligent board member who will hold the the staff's feet to the fire when they push out total garbage like this:

Standardizing school start times will bring a number of benefits to our students and families.
• We will create consistency throughout the District.
• This will also reduce the amount of time that students spend riding school buses, particularly for elementary school students.
• The changes will provide more consistent pick-up and drop-off times.
• We will be able to streamline bus routes for increased efficiency.
• In addition, uniformity allows for the same bus driver to drive the same route consistently, creating a stronger driver/student rapport.

Is our bus system perfect? No way. Could it be improved? Sure. Does this "rationale" explain and justify the proposed changes? No, it's a joke. It's merely an attempt to justify a poor decision, which seems to be the M.O. of the district in general. Staggered times make far more sense, and in some cases can save on drivers/money without causing start times to shift to 8am for elementary kids. I digress.

Charlie said: "...I only want the position so I can do the work. It's driving me crazy to see it undone. ...But would that be enough to bring about the change we need? Could one strident voice on the Board drive change?"

There's no way to know for sure, but it might. It would certainly be one more voice than we have right now. The quality of questions the board posed during the closures was dreadfully weak. And when answers came back that were weak, instead of pushing back, we heard "thank you". Puke.

I think the parents/families in the district are ready for a change. Especially with the closures and dismantling of programs that has just taken place. Director Chow has shown zero leadership whatsoever, and you have a proven track record of diligence, a knack for research, and the ability (and desire) to dig in and do the hard work that most of the current board doesn't seem to have the stomach for. Go for it!

TechyMom said...

Yes! Please run.
We need people on the board who can analyze data and ask good questions. A third person doing the job, as you put it, will gel Harium and Mary Bass when they stand up. 3 out of 4 (and getting rid of rubber-stamp Chow) might just be enough to change the culture of the board and get them all to do the job.

On the specific issues of closures, I agree that the distict needs to manage its capacity and should run schools it doesn't need. BUT, where I differ with the recent closures and the district attitude is this: we have empty seats because we're not meeting the needs of families. It's crazy that we closed schools in Central with its high growth, high birth rate and dozen bursting private schools. With the economic downturn, and thrift back in style, SPS has a real opportunity to increase market share. Yet, the staff is only talking about cutting costs. They need to be thinking about filling those seats before they think about closing them. This seems like a policy shift, or at least a vision change (what managers are supposed to do). Will you push such a policy?

TechyMom said...

Oops, make that "shouldn't run schools it doesn't need"

Sahila said...

LA Teachers Warehouse....

I suggested to Ruth Medsger last week in a conversation about other issues, that the District/Staff move out of the John Stanford building and occupy some of the empty school buildings on the periphery of the city centre... they could break themselves up into say three or four compatible/functionally-related groups and take a building each... They'd still be central and with today's communications processes, there should be no loss in productivity...

Even in this economic situation, the JSC is prime real estate that could be leased or sold... the empty buildings are costing money to sit there unused...

(Its my opinion that public entities - and churches and other non-profit bodies - ought not to own real estate. The money tied up in owning real estate is better spent working to provide services to their constituents)...

Ruth's reply was that they wouldnt fit anywhere and besides, it would cost too much to bring the buildings back on line...

So what are they going to do with all that empty space that is bleeding them dry? Why cant some of these savings we're being told are so necessary to make come from cutting loose some of these liabilities (they're not assets - an asset 'feeds' you, a liability costs you).... if our kids have to pay the price of the 'use it or lose it' game(closing schools), then the District ought to apply the same rules to its own operational and logistical situation....

And as to the centralisation of the enrolment/registration process - how arrogant/insensitive/discriminating is that... the information packs stress that the best way to ensure a mistake-free enrolment process is to hand-deliver your paperwork to an enrolment centre and to get it date stamped... and what do they do? Force everyone to come down town to deliver them... great if you have the savvy, time, transport, money... not so great if you work, are a single parent, rely on buses, dont know the process, dont know the language, dont have computers etc, etc, etc...more (unconscious?) classist, racist fiddling, all in the name of saving money....

Robert said...

Without a doubt Charlie please do!

TechyMom said...

yikes, I must have been asleep when I posted this morning. ... "will HELP (not gel) Harium and Mary bass" and "3 out of 7 (not 4)"

suep. said...

In addition to being able to vote for our School Board members, we need more public say in the hiring of the Superintendent--and then public accountability from her/him. Speaking of which, tomorrow Supt. Goodloe-Johnson is up for Evaluation. I wonder if the Board plans to give her another secret pay increase or more perqs for a mess well done. I agree with this statement from ESP Vision that that would be pretty hypocritical--in this economic climate and after all the cuts she is making at the expense of our kids. She should share the pain, don't you think? This could be a good litmus test for this year's School Board elections--any Director who votes for more pay or benefits for the Supt. will not get my vote. (Maybe we need a separate post for "Superintendent Evaluation"?)

MEDIA ADVISORY
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: espvision@googlegroups.com
March 10, 2009

On the Eve of School Superintendent Evaluation, ESP Vision Announces Opposition to Pay Raise for Superintendent During Fiscal Crisis

Parent and teacher group also asks Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson to return last year’s 10 percent pay increase in a show of solidarity with district children and teachers whose schools are being closed or jobs lost through SPS budget measures

SEATTLE - On Weds. March 11, the Seattle School Board will meet in an executive session to conduct an evaluation of School Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson (http://www.seattleschools.org/area/board/calendar.dxml?month=3&day=11&year=2009&caldb=).

ESP Vision (Educators, Students and Parents for a Better Vision of the Seattle Schools) urges the school board to refrain from offering the superintendent another pay raise during this time of local and national fiscal crisis.

ESP Vision believes it would be fiscally irresponsible and ethically inappropriate for the school board to award the superintendent a second pay increase in less than 12 months, and after less than two years on the job, with few tangible results to show for her work.

Moreover, at a time when the superintendent and school board are forcing as many as 3,500 of Seattle’s public school children to bear the brunt of budget cuts through drastic school closures, co-housing, elimination and breaking up of programs, teacher layoffs and larger class sizes, it would be inappropriate for the school board to increase the superintendent’s already generous salary.

In fact, ESP Vision invites the superintendent to return her 10 percent raise from last year in an act of solidarity with the city’s 3,500 impacted public school children, and the teachers and staff who will lose their jobs through the district’s recent capacity management plan.

Goodloe-Johnson was hired by Seattle Public School District (SPS) in 2007 from the Charleston, S.C., School District , and offered a salary of $240,000. In July 2008, the school board voted unanimously--and without public input--to award the superintendent a 10 percent pay raise, bringing her salary up to $264,000. She also receives a $20,000/year retirement fund and $700/month car allowance. (“School chief gets big 10% raise – Her $264,000 salary is more than even the governor’s” Seattle P.I. http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/370241_schools10.html; http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2008043020_webpayraise09m.html)

As the Seattle P.I. pointed out last year, Seattle ’s school superintendent is already paid significantly more ($264,000) than the mayor of Seattle ($150,000) and the governor of Washington ($164,000).

ESP Vision believes that last year’s closed-door vote to give the superintendent a pay raise during a recession was already questionable; another would be outrageous now.

ESP Vision also believes that the jury is still out as to whether the superintendent’s “Plan for Excellence” for the city’s schools has accomplished what it has promised. So far it has resulted in the upheaval of as many as 3,500 children, the closure of five schools, the elimination, division or relocation of successful or beloved alternative schools and programs including the district’s gifted Accelerated Progress Program and T.T. Minor Elementary’s popular Montessori program, questionable cost savings, four legal appeals against the district, and nearly 200 formal civil rights complaints filed by the NAACP with the Department of Education against the district for discrimination against minority and special needs children.

ABOUT ESP Vision

Educators, Students and Parents for a Better Vision of the Seattle Schools (ESP Vision) advocates for justice and equity in public school resources, smaller class sizes, individualized instruction, curricula that reflects all children and learning styles and an ongoing communitywide commitment to demand full mandated funding and close the resource gap in our district.


ESP Vision’s goal is to save Seattle schools from decades of mismanagement and failed vision. We value children and educators first and oppose balancing school budgets through building closures, educator lay-offs and cuts to essential programs, services or facilities.

ESP Vision formed at the end of 2008, a coalition of concerned parents, teachers and students and supportive community member who felt an urgency to unite all schools facing closure or disruption due to the Seattle School District 's ill-conceived capacity management plan. In January of 2009, ESP Vision launched an online petition against the proposed school closures and program discontinuations, which garnered more than 1,700 signatures district-wide, and organized a march and rally of hundreds of concerned community members.

For more information: http://www.espvision.org or contact: espvision@googlegroups.com

Anonymous said...

Charlie,

It often feels like the Superintendent and Board have already come to some kind of agreement before they engage in public dialog.

It's not surprising, since they do need to work together, and it's not always best to put things out in front of the public half-baked. But as a "customer" of this organization it can be quite frustrating to see done deals put out for discussion because it's obvious that the decision has already been made. It's false public engagement.

But leaking early ideas or privileged information could sometimes be detrimental as well. How would you propose to balance these needs? What kind of criteria would you use to decide what information reaches the general public?

dan dempsey said...

none1111 said:

"It often feels like the Superintendent and Board have already come to some kind of agreement before they engage in public dialog."

It is more than feels like in many instances where a truly data driven decision making process would yield the exact opposite decision of a 7-0 school board vote.

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data.

The Superintendent's slam dunk 7-0 pay increase with only one meeting( that was both introductory and action at one meeting in violation of board policy) stands as a shining example of a pre-made decision. Clearly no public input in fact no public awareness was wanted on that one.

Charlie Mas said...

none1111 asks about the information that should be made available to the public.

On matters that come before the Board, I suggest you take a look at the Board Action Report form. It has sections where the Superintendent (or whoever is bringing the motion) is supposed to describe the motion, its rationale, the policy implications, the fiscal impacts, the community engagement done around it, all of the information that the Board - or a member of the public - would need to review the motion for compliance and soundness.

If there are other questions about the motion they should be asked in a public forum - even if the questions were already asked and answered privately - so people can hear the questions and the answers. If they can see and hear the rationale and the data that support the plans then people will have greater confidence in the decisions and will support them more. Or, at least they will raise more informed and insightful questions about them.

It is the Board's job to reject motions for which the Board Action Report is incomplete or inadequate.

For matters that do not come to the Board for a vote, I would expect the staff to adhere to the Board Policies on Communication with the Community, E20.00. This policy requires more vigorous enforement.