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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Fudging the Resume - Does It Matter?

As first reported by Phyllis Fletcher on KUOW 94.9 FM, two School Board candidates fudged on their degrees both at their websites and in the voters' guide. There was an article in the Times today that had some interesting quotes from both candidates. (Judging from the comments following the Times' article, people are not happy.)

From the KUOW report:

"The candidates are Betty Patu and Kay Smith-Blum. Patu claimed a bachelor's and a master's degree from Antioch University, Seattle, in the voters' pamphlet and on her Website. But she only has a bachelor's degree.

Patu says when she filed for election, she thought she'd have her master's degree within 10 days. She says she had to interview people for her final paper and her interviews fell through. So she missed her June 15 graduation deadline."

What Patu said to the Times:

"She said she has removed the reference to the degree from her Web site until she finishes the paper.

"For goodness sake, I'll take the thing off, and put it back up in two weeks," she said. "To me, it wasn't a big deal."

From the KUOW report:

"Kay Smith–Blum said in the voters' pamphlet and on her Website that she double majored in marketing and statistics in college. But the University of Texas says her major was marketing.

Smith–Blum admits that's the only major the university recorded for her. But she also studied statistics and she's always called herself a double major, even though the University of Texas didn't record double majors then. She says she took more statistics classes than she had to, as electives.

Smith–Blum says she has no problem saying it's not accurate to call her degree a double major in statistics."

Her comments to the Times:

"She didn't realize the mistake until KUOW called her. "I am feeling like the stupidest person on the planet," she said. "It was not intentional."

Okay, there's a lot to say here. We can all have our opinions on the seriousness of what the candidates said but here's some issues to consider:

  • The truth would have been fine for both candidates. Mrs. Patu could have written "Master's candidate, June/July 2009" but she didn't. Is it the biggest error in the world? No but she made it far worst by trying to blow it off. My initial thought was "No big deal because it is, according to her and her university, a done deal." However, if she is elected she HAS to think of how it looks, not just to her, but to the public and to the district. And, she can't take it off the voters' guide.
  • Ms. Smith-Blum could have just put down her major. She has a degree so why expand on it? She knew she didn't have a double-major and even if she took a huge number of statistics class, it didn't make her a double-major. There are two problems with what she did. Saying it was not intentional (which I would assume means she didn't mean to mislead anyone) seems false. Is she saying she didn't remember what her degree was? If not, then she knew she had one degree and wrote down something else, and well, then that's intent. Second, saying you are data-driven and then not reporting accurate data is not a good sign.
This brings me to another point about Smith-Blum. She has, in forums and on her website, made some major errors in what she says about programs in the district. At issue is one of her stated "bold moves" - namely more IB (International Baccalaureate) in more schools. She says the district has plans for 9 more IB schools in the next five years and it should be more. She has stated that JSIS and Beacon Hill Elementaries are IB schools.

They are not. And, according to Harium on his blog, he doesn't know where she got the information about more IB schools.

What I believe she is saying is that she wants more foreign language immersion schools. But IB and foreign language immersion are NOT the same and have nothing to do with each other. It is problematic for someone who claims to be data-driven to keep saying things incorrectly. It makes parents and others confused when you have a candidate who makes claims that are wrong. (We have enough confusion in this district about programs; for example, AP versus APP.) (She also has yet another issue incorrectly labeled but I'm not disclosing that one yet.)

She has it wrong (and I let her know last week via e-mail and she e-mailed me back, saying she got this info from an unnamed Board member and it would be the kind of misinformation to correct if she got elected). I haven't found out who the Board member is (but I know a few it isn't). I honestly find it hard to believe that our Board members do not know the difference between IB and foreign language immersion. But whether or not a Director told her, the facts are clear - go to JSIS or Beacon Hill's websites as I directed her to do - neither school is an IB school. There is no plan (not that I know of) to dramatically increase IB. Harium says he doesn't know that either.

I don't mind if candidates don't know everything. Several of them who I interviewed - Helmstetter, Chin, Cullen - have admitted they don't know every single program well. That's okay; I'd like to know, of course, that they are working to come up to speed and they all indicated they were. I do feel, however, that they all understand this district's workings and that's important. But when a candidate says confidently that this or that would be a top priority and has the basic information wrong, it's a problem.

36 comments:

Robert said...

"(She also has yet another issue incorrectly labeled but I'm not disclosing that one yet.)"

Why?

Maureen said...

Melissa, thank you for pointing out Kay Smith Blum's IB/immersion confusion. I have returned to her website a few times to see if she has posted a correction or clarification (Michele Anciaux Aoki pointed out her error in a comment on July 18th) and have found it telling and discouraging that she has not.

rugles said...

(She also has yet another issue incorrectly labeled but I'm not disclosing that one yet.)

Is this incorrectly labeled issue bigger than a bread basket?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Good point Robert. I waited to see what she would do when this error was pointed out to her and I thought maybe she might correct her second error.

I'll think about it.

wseadawg said...

If they have to inflate their credentials to pump up their profiles, then their personal ambition has already devoured their concern for their community at large.

Next.

Robert said...

I agree whole heartedly if that was the case wseadawg... But that isn't necessarily what I see to be the issue at hand. First off, Kay says she made an unwitting mistake.

A bit of over informing: I told my parents, family and friends I was pre-med at the UW... Small problem is that the UW doesn't have such a degree (other schools do). I graduated with all the pre-med requirements but it says psychology on my diploma. Maybe I'm just too liberal but I don't think I misled anyone. For those who are speculating Kay was attempting to pad her resume... It could just be a clearer way to communicate (albeit incorrectly) what she studied at school.

As I look at the candidates I don't even consider these decades old academic credentials an issue... If Kay had made other misrepresentation like: if it was found out that she didn't have a couple of kids that graduated from Garfield, or that she wasn't CEO of a successful business or that she wasn't instrumental in raising 10's of thousands of dollars for various SPS programs.... Then of course I would have a problem with it.

Again, Kay says she made an unwitting mistake... Are we so cynical that we can't take her at her word.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Okay Robert but consider:
are we are looking at Betty Patu's credentials because they more recent? Does that matter more? I would agree with you that I, too, don't care what the degree is in or how long ago but it should be what you were awarded.

Also, you said you told "family, friends and parents" you were pre-med. That's fine for that group of people but if you are running for office and there are people who may not have any other info on you but what YOU wrote in the voters guide, it might matter what you wrote.

In the end, that's why I titled the piece - does it matter? - because only the voters can decide for themselves.

Robert said...

On Betty: she has completed the work or will shortly. Is the word tragic or again am I just too soft?

Agreed; Folks should review all these candidates and issue as a whole and what they offer for the future of SPS' students. Having read the comments at the Times and other blogs were posters are saying that they would not vote for someone that has made this error seems ridiculous to me.

WenD said...

Looks like resume padding. Would I hold it against them? Yes.

KSBlum is all about marketing, so expect her to overstate and oversell everything. Given that SPS has a math problem (both budgetary and academic), it makes sense for her to claim a double major with extra work in stats. RE: Betty Patu, I agree, she didn't need to claim the degree. Advanced work can be a laudable credential on its own. Padding and back pedaling, not so much.

Melissa, thank you for the due diligence. It's ok to be "creepily obsessive" if you focus on the subject at hand. The Stranger hasn't done any significant investigative work lately, unless you count their profile of Susan Hutchinson as barrista bully.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Please give that credit where it is due and that is to Phyllis Fletcher at KUOW who is doing the job a reporter should do.

Patrick said...

Yes, it matters. The resume is supposed to be 100% true. The applicant had plenty of time to think about it, check the facts if necessary, and reword so as not to be claiming anything that isn't true. When I hire people, anything nonfactual on the resume is a quick way into the 'regrets' pile.

Sahila said...

If a self-identified 'data person' fudges her own data, how can I trust her to analyse and act on the data that forms the basis of decisions which affect my child?

You know what they say about stats - you can get them to say whatever you want...

From Wikipedia:
"Lies, damned lies, and statistics" is part of a phrase attributed to the 19th Century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli and later popularised in the United States by Mark Twain: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." The statement refers to the persuasive power of numbers, the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments, and the tendency of people to disparage statistics that do not support their positions". I think the SPS Staff and Super operate from this perspective - that its a legitimate device to use dubious stats to manipulate/persuade, to bolster their weak arguments and to disparage opposing points of view!

Apparently the phrase was coined much earlier, with references cited indicating it was well known before 1891...

Stu said...

My two cents:

For some reason, I'm more disturbed by the Kay Smith-Blum "mini-lie" than the Betty Patu one. In my job, I've run into some pretty advanced deadlines for printed materials and her assumption that her paper would be finished by a certain date isn't that ridiculous. Yes, she could have put "Master's Candidate" but I don't know that there was a real intention to mis-lead. If she's taken it down on her web site, that's fine . . . however, she should finish the paper immediately.

The Kay Smith-Blum lie bothers me more because it's developed over time. This wasn't an up-against-a-timeline-it'll-be-true-by-publication kind of error; she distorted something that happened long ago to pad her resume. It was an unnecessary lie but one that took thought to create. It may be a small lie, it may be big, but it's a lit nonetheless.

When it comes down to details, though, the mis-information about the IB programs, and the refusal to fix that information on her site, is much more disturbing. It shows a lack of understanding AND an inability to admit a mistake; these are qualities that don't work well on a school board.

stu

reader said...

The problem with Smith-Blum is that it's very premeditated. She's says has a degree she doesn't because she values that skill set, thinks others value that, but knows she doesn't have it. Come on. Who would say.. yeah I have a degree, when you really just have a few classes. And yes, it matters. Yes she's out.

Brita said...

For what it's worth--my understanding is that the International Baccalaureate (worldwide) system limits the number of IB programs in a given district, so I'd be surprised if Seattle even has the option to expand as erroneously reported.

On the bright side, they also require their specially-trained teachers to teach in both IB and regular programs within a given school--something APP does not require.

wseadawg said...

Yes Robert, I think you are too soft. KSB's lie was deliberate and targeted to make her look more competent at interpreting data than the average candidate by claiming she had a degree in something she didn't. I took lots of statistics in pursuing my degree, but wouldn't say I "majored" or "double-majored" for a very simple reason: I didn't. Saying so would make me a liar.

Sahila said...

Ms Smith Blum got a mention in the Weekly today...

http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/dailyweekly/2009/08/great_sign_but_whats_that_race.php

no mention of her resume fudging and website inaccuracies/mistakes...

I wrote: As Andre Helmstetter pointed out to a couple of parents - billboards aren't the only way to campaign. He says his bannering is creative and community driven - two concepts that are at the core of this campaign. School governance is NOT about just how much money can be raised and spent on the same old bad ideas. It's about making good policy and advocating for our students and families.

And I'd add to that that the SPS District Staff and Board seem to think that change is all about money - not being able to change things in a positive way without having more money... they change things in a negative way, using the shortage of money as an excuse...

What they suffer from is not lack of money, but lack of imagination and creativity in coming up with 'out of the box' ideas about how to give our kids a 21st Century education, an education that turns out people who have a passion for learning, can think for themselves, use both their logic and intuition to create a new world...

The current system, which big business is so keen to gets its hands on, is an Industrial Revolution-era fossil, focused on turning out widgets for the production line/economy, not on nurturing and growing the next generation in such a way that they will be able to fulfil their unique potential...

Dont talk about charters - more of the same dressed up in shiny new clothes, but ripping the guts out of public education and siphoning off scarce public education funds into the pockets of business...

Talk about education best practice - small schools, vertical curriculum, independent education plans for all kids, not just gifted or special needs... what Obama is giving his daughters at Sidwell....

Dont all our kids deserve what Obama's girls are getting?

And yet Obama and Arne Duncan and Gates and Broad and the SPS District, Superintendent and Board et al are telling us we should settle for something so much less, and be happy about it....

Race for the Top? A race means winners and losers... there can only be one winner and there has to be lots of losers... do you want your child to be a loser?

rugles said...

Speaking of Andre, you might as well add him to the list. He claimed in the pamphlet he was a business owner, yet failed to mention that the business was closing. Kind of a Betty Patu situation in reverse.

http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2009/07/23/mezzaluna-closing

On top of which, the article doesn't make it seem like he contributed much to the operation of the business.

Melissa Westbrook said...

FYI, I checked and Andre did still own his business when he filed. He and his partners made a business decision. It happens. As to the article, it doesn't mention him at all and I don't see where it says he did nothing. It says that people didn't support the business (for whatever reason).

Sahila said...

From Andre Helmstetter, in response to questions about the closure of his business:

"The decision to close the business came after the campaign had started. It was a decision made in the beginning of july between myself and my two partners. It had to do in part with the economy, and part with the three of us doing different things in our lives ( school board, wanting to get back into a 9 to 5 for me, possibly starting a family for one of the partners, and school and a better paying job for the other ). As for my participation, I was the primary financial partner, did the books, and worked there every weekend and some evenings. I also did a lot of the advertising. I never recieved a paycheck. These are things I shared with reporters. Every interview and forum I have done since the decision, I have said that the business was closing. If you or any one else has more questions, please give me a call. And feel free to share this.
Andre"

Vote Andre For Schools! http://andreforschools.org
to contribute or volunteer
-------------------------------------
Andre V. Helmstetter
phone: (206) 579-7169

rugles said...

Times article has him cooking in May, Slog made it seem like he is nowhere around in July.

Please do not add him to the list. Apologies to Andre, sounds like it has not been easy for him the past couple of years.

Lauren says that it came down to finances and exhaustion. She and co-owner Kim have worked in the store almost every day since it opened last fall, and the revenue never reached a point to where they could bring someone else on to help out.

In March...

Helmstetter also went back to his software job, but he lost it abruptly last fall when his employer shut down. "Now I'm cooking and making fliers and going to community meetings."


http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2008795071_coffeeshops01.html

Anonymous said...

bbwall said: "On the bright side, they also require their specially-trained teachers to teach in both IB and regular programs within a given school--something APP does not require."

Wow, can you explain that sentence?! Allowing teachers to specialize is what makes various programs work well, whether it's language immersion, APP, whatever. I really am curious about your answer.

[for Melissa, et all] I held off writing this reply yesterday for fear of falling into the "off-topic" category, but unless it takes a life of its own, it doesn't really feel like something worth asking for a fresh thread. On the other hand, this is how it starts. I don't think there is an easy answer, just wanted to point out that I considered it before posting.

hschinske said...

I think bbwall means AP, not APP -- though all the same, many teachers do teach both regular and AP classes.

Helen Schinske

gavroche said...

Andre was also T.T. Minor Elementary's PTSA Vice President and created the Save T.T. Minor Web site (http://www.savettminor.org/) in his various tireless (and tech savvy) efforts to save his daughter's school from closure.
("School closure fight goes online" http://www.seattlepi.com/local/394886_schools06.html?source=rss)

He was an eloquent spokesperson against the rushed, poorly thought-out Capacity Management Plan and would make a thoughtful, smart and committed School Board member who would know firsthand exactly where parents are coming from and how to represent the parents of District 5 and the entire city well.

gavroche said...

Kay Smith-Blum courts the Ride-the-Ducks Vote!

Meanwhile Kay Smith-Blum has yet another (Clear Channel) billboard up, this time on Denny Way at 5th Avenue North.

Those do not come cheap.

Plus, that's not even the district she's running in. --It's in District 4.

Maybe she's going after the Ride the Ducks vote! (Although that wouldn't make much sense either since Duck-riders are primarily tourists, not local voters.)

But seriously, if spending such hefty amounts of money on passive, non-personal (and uninformative) forms of advertising in a district which can't even vote for her in this primary election is any indication of how Smith-Blum would manage and allocate resources as a school board member, one could argue that these billboards alone convincingly demonstrate her incompetence for the job.

(Lying on her resume doesn't help either, and is actually her more disturbing and disqualifying trait.)

Robert said...

probably just you and i gavroche but i really do think quite a bit about andre and his comments at the closure meetings... Actually I think a lot about all of them but to slam Kay on her ads is not understanding that she is running a low resource campaign. my daughters and i have spread the word on recylced paper small biz cards. thats the deal .... i really wish folks could focus on the facts that they know verses the fears that they expect. (( sorry for the mis-spells no typo correction on my kid's wii) vote for who you want to direct the future for your kids!

Anonymous said...

http://wa-demchairs.org/kcdems/2009/bpatu.q1.pdf


Interesting how Patu's questionairre which was filled out on the 19th of June, still states that she has a masters. In fact that is one of the reasons she lists as to why she is better than her opponents!

According to KUOW and the Seattle Times, she expected her "masters" on June 15. Yet even after that, she didn't seem to have any problem keeping it on her website or using that information when trying to get endorsements!

I simply can't stand someone lying about their education in a SCHOOL BOARD election. She lost my vote, although I can't say she really ever had it. Mas or Chin seemed to have the brains. Or at least they were honest...

gavroche said...

Robert said:
"...to slam Kay on her ads is not understanding that she is running a low resource campaign..."

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by "low resource," Robert. Multiple billboards are expensive. And according to Nina Shapiro at the Seattle Weekly, Smith-Blum has raised more money than any other School Board candidate.

Reports Shapiro: "It's apparently a sign that Smith-Blum, co-owner of the Butch Blum clothing store, is serious--and also that she's got some money to burn. As of the latest report with the state Public Disclosure Commission, she's raised $26,600--more than any other school board candidate, including incumbent Mary Bass, whom she's challenging in the Central Area's District Five. Bass has raised $6,900. The second biggest war chest among school board candidates is that of Wilson Chin, an HIV researcher who is running in Southeast District Seven."

[http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/dailyweekly/2009/08/great_sign_but_whats_that_race.php
]

At any rate, of course what really matters is who the candidate really is and what s/he will do for our kids. By that measure, Andre still has has my vote over Kay.

Melissa Westbrook said...

According to the expenditures section of the public disclosure report, the billboards cost $6500 each. That's hardly low resource.

Also,Betty Patu's work at RBHS with students must have made an impression with at least one student. NBA player Jamal Crawford (who went to RBHS) donated $5,000 to her campaign.

FYI, for some reason (and I'm trying to find out the reason), School Board candidates don't have to follow what other City candidates do for campaign donations (normally capped at $700 per individual over both the primary and general).

Robert said...

Sorry. low resource = green.

Oops there I go again! I mean environmental.

Kay decided not to print Hundreds of yard signs (which also cost money) and purchased billboards instead to get her name out. Her only other mediums are electronic or recycled paper business cards. Thoughtful I think...

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks for the clarification - I went old school in thinking resource meant money.

I personally don't like mailers because they tell you very little. Yard signs do give you some indication of what others think but they too can be wasteful. It sure would take a lot of billboards, though, to get the message out(and some people consider billboards to be visual pollution).

You almost can't win for trying.

Robert said...

No your not old school; I was unclear... after I googled low resource it came up with Low $. Oh well I knew what I was trying to say!

My pet peeve is yard signs in vacant lots!

I do believe that Kay was hoping to do a yard sign competition for the kids... Only rule is that they had to be made on re-used cardboard. Winning designs would be her banner ads. Maybe in the general? ;-)

Charlie Mas said...

I got a call at home (my home phone number is listed as the campaign phone number) from a man asking me about my education. He noted that it says in the voter's guide that I attended UC Davis. I told him that was true. He asked me about my degree and I told him that I did not complete one. I was studying fermentation sciences - winemaking - which sounds romantic but is actually biochemical engineering. It turns out that I am a dreadful chemist. Who knew?

He asked me what I do for a living and I told him that I'm an investment advisor. He asked if I had a CLU or a CFP. I told him that I did not. Although I have a basket of licenses I don't have any letters after my name at all. I'm not a CFA or a CIMA either.

You don't have any certifications? he asked. None, I told him.

That was pretty much the end of the conversation.

I probably lost his vote, but that is the truth about my education and professional certifications. It doesn't say anything about how I would perform in the Board role; it doesn't say anything about my analytical skills or people skills or knowledge of the District.

I don't care how much education people have - it just isn't a factor for me.

I want to know where they stand on reform math.

I want to know where they stand on community engagement.

I want to know where they stand on standardization of texts, pedagogy and lessons.

I want to know where they stand on access to language immersion programs.

I want to know where they stand on accountability.

My positions on all of these issues is clear and on the record. What are the other candidates' positions? Can anyone say? Have they said?

I don't see how claims of higher education will polish a candidate's appeal. Ms Patu's appeal isn't her education but her hands-on experience. Ms Smith-Blum's appeal isn't her education but her demonstrated ability to bring money to the district and run a business. I don't understand why they even mention their educations. Does it really matter to anyone - other than the fellow who called me?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie I don't care really about the education level (or letters after a person's name). I think that what you have done (are doing) in your life that qualifies you to be a School Board member is what counts. As well, the answers to those questions you raised matter as well.

That said, a person's education level may influence the path they take in life so I give that some credit.

What I don't like is people who do not tell the truth, as it stands the day they file, and who embellish their resume.

You were honest in what you wrote when you filed, you've outlined your positions, told us what you would focus on. You can't ask for more from a candidate whether or not you agree with their positions.

Robert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert said...

Melissa if you are still following this thread what disclosure form had the billboards at $6500?

I ask because I got an email from Kay's campaign and they said that the billboards were much less than that (under $1200) making them far less expensive than any mailer to the district as well as more environmentaly sound.