Not As Clever By Half at KUOW

I actually have several other posts to write but something happen this morning that I wanted to share.

First, I received a phone call from Mary Bass. She just wanted some feedback from me on what I think I'm hearing here and other places about her performance as a director. We arranged a time to speak later.

Then, I'm listening the weekly news round-up on KUOW. I knew they would likely be talking about the primary election results so I was interested. There was Joel Connelly from the PI, Eli Sanders from the Stranger and Joni Balter from the Times. They were discussing how Joe Mallahan and Mike McGinn were behind the learning curve about being the mayor and needed to come up to speed. I decided to call in and see if I could mention that the same holds for the School Board candidates (as well as mention my discussion with Mike McGinn about his viewpoint about the schools).

So they were more interested in the my conversation with McGinn and I explained that I talked to him early on in the campaign. My take was that he felt it was important for a mayor to listen to constituent concerns about public education and that a mayor had to be aware of the importance of public education. I also mentioned that he knew he couldn't just take over schools and would need the Legislature. (I also mentioned that (1) Mayor Nickels had already talked about it a couple of years back and (2) that the Legislature could indeed pass a law that would apply to one district only.)

Well, Joni and Joel wasted no time in pooh-poohing the notion that it should be something a mayor should be concerned with (given the lack of power that currently exists). This bothered me because I didn't say and McGinn hasn't said it was the first thing on his agenda. But it is on his radar and I certainly am glad he cares enough to have thought about it (whether I agree with his stance). Steve asked me if I thought that he got votes for that and I said I doubted it as it had not been a central issue (and I don't even know if most people even know that about him).

But then Joel says that the Board is much better since they got rid of the "dingbats" and will be better of they get rid of another one. So Eli or Steve asked who that was and Joel said Mary Bass. He said it would "upgrade the quality of the School Board". Joni opined that Mary's "day is done" and found it puzzling that people keep voting for her. Then Joel says we have a tough new superintendent and a highly competent Board so why would a mayor mess with that? And Joni says it shouldn't be "job one".

A lot of this really angered me. One (and first and foremost) there should be no name-calling. These are supposed to be professional pundits and calling anyone who steps up to public service a name really says more about the speaker than the person they are naming. Mary Bass may be many things but a "dingbat" isn't one of them. I think he was referring to either Sally Soriano, Darlene Flynn and/or Brita Butler-Wall when he was talking about getting rid of "dingbats". These women all served honorably. The Board they were on was the Board who had to clean up the Olchefske mess from the so-called professional Board before them (who allowed the mess to happen in the first place). The Board they were on created a non-commercialism policy for our schools to try to get kids to eating healthier. The Board they were on took on one of the biggest challenges (that previous Boards had avoided); school closures. Whatever you think of these people, name-calling is inappropriate.

Two, I may have confused some people here (and I think Joel shares in that) but Dr. Goodloe-Johnson has a tough (formidable, etc.) demeanor but do I think she really is getting a lot done? There's a lot of planning and renaming and auditing but real things? No. And how is this Board any more competent than other Boards?

Third, Mike McGinn hasn't said taking over schools is job one. I didn't say that either. Joni Balter is the one who said that. It is very sad when they feel the need to rush to judgment just to make a point or be funny.


Robert said…
"She just wanted some feedback from me on what I think I'm hearing here and other places about her performance as a director."

Again I would put reading this blog as mandatory must for any SSB Director or Director Candidate.
ArchStanton said…
Wow. I have concerns about Mary Bass' effectiveness, but she's hardly a dingbat. In fact, I feel that she is in the right on most issues, but can't seem to get enough other board members to come over to her side. Whether it's because she is inflexible or the board is, I don't know. I hoped that Andre Helmstetter might have better luck working with the board while still having a similar perspective as Mary (yes, due in part to race, but also due to economic and social experiences that doubt Kay Smith-Blum shares).

I expect the "Yes-Men" (Yes-Persons?) on the board and the Supt. would be glad to replace Bass with Smith-Blum - that alone should raise concerns about checks and balances in the system.

I also supported McGinn and though I was aware of his stance on taking over education, it was hardly a factor that influenced my decision.

I hope the Op-Ed folks aren't that eager to write of Bass and hand the keys over to Smith-Blum
zb said…
Ugh. Dingbat? Referring to any woman? Totally unacceptable.

I thought McGinn fielded the question about his role in schools reasonably -- answering that improving the schools immediately using the tools we have can be combined with a conversation about how to change the structure of the school. And, mind you, I believe that there should be an at least partially appointed school board, and so have a pretty extreme view in Seattle. I also hate our open primary.
ParentofThree said…
Yeah, using the word ding-bat to refer to any women is really unacceptable. I lost alot of respect for Stever Scher today for not calling his guests on that.

It was very disappointing.

This is Seattle, our media can do much better than what I heard today.

You listening KUOW?
Charlie Mas said…
Don't write about it here. Write to KUOW and Joel Connelly.

I'd like to hear from all those folks who think this Board is so wonderful what, exactly, they think this Board does better than previous Boards.

This Board isn't doing oversight.

This Board isn't revising Policy.

This Board isn't demanding accountability.

This Board hasn't improved communication.

This Board hasn't overseen improvements in academic achievement.

What is so great about this Board?
dj said…
Charlie, the only possible argument for this board being a good board is that it is getting out of the way to let the Superintendent do a stellar job.

That of course presupposes that the Superintendent is doing a stellar job, and that the board should get out of her way.
wseadawg said…
Joni and Joel Who? I mean really, who gives a rat's behind what those two washed up nobodies think?

It's humiliating that we can't get a real journalist or someone with grounds or facts supporting their opinions on such shows. "Dingbats." Gee Joel, how original and poignant. How professional. Where would we be without his insight?

It shows how far we've fallen that those two bobble-heads qualify in any way to be taken with more than a grain of salt.
gavroche said…
Wow. That is disgustingly sexist. And it's b.s. Connolly's comment was just a transparent and cheap attempt to belittle women on the School Board who have had the sense, intelligence and integrity to question the many questionable processes of SPS -- you know, like fudging the books and 'losing' $35 million as former School Supt. Joseph Olchefske managed to do.

We owe thanks to people like Director Mary Bass, who noticed the suspect bookkeeping, and former Director and tireless activist Sally Soriano who kept the pressure on the District to hold Olchefske accountable.

This is exactly what our elected officials should do -- keep the Superintendent and the District honest, on behalf of all the parents and children in the District who will suffer the consequences of District incompetence and corruption.

Connolly's verbal flatulence just proves that he is an out of touch gasbag who doesn't know what the heck he's talking about.

As for the effectiveness of the current Board and Superintendent, this past year alone has been riddled with controversy, acrimony, politics and District back-peddling.

First the Superintendent and Board close schools (Directors Martin-Morris and Bass sanely dissenting), now they may need to reopen some, and they are adding portables everywhere. (Great planning.)

Supt. Goodloe-Johnson imperiously fires nearly 200 teachers (while the Tacoma School Supt, lays off NONE) -- and then enrollment numbers come in and the District discovers that in a severe recession people will be more likely to send their kids to public school, so whaddya know, 1,200 more kids than they expected have signed up for Seattle public schools this fall. Mightn't they need teachers?

And then there's the pathetic Board vote to adopt the unsound, Supt.-backed "Discovering" math textbook that has already been tested and rejected by San Diego School District, rejected by the Shoreline School District, and many other intelligent voices in our community.

And then there's the ever-changing belltimes and transportation shuffles, and the sudden musical chairs of principals as the Supt. moved over a dozen principals around, without any community input.

There's been the District's constant cry of 'budget crisis!' followed by the Superintendent requesting MORE administration staff on the payroll in the John Stanford Building -- in a District whose admin. is already bloated.

Yeah, great job all round. Can't wait for the New School Assignment Plan to roll out effortlessly.....

I also agree that that Steve Scher should have called Archie Bunker on his Neanderthalism. Why doesn't KUOW invite someone like Melissa on the show when they discuss education, to balance out the perspectives?

One thing Connolly's piggish comment has accomplished is to secure my vote for Mary Bass.

If anyone feels like giving "News Gatherer" Connolly, Steve Scher or their producers some feedback on all this:

Joel Connelly News Gatherer (politics) 206-448-8160

Michelle Nicolosi Executive Producer 206-448-8217

Brian Chin Producer 206-448-8290

Steve Scher
Host, The Conversation, KUOW 94.9 FM

David Hyde
Producer, The Conversation
Brita said…
The dingbat board

a) brought transparency--we started televising board meetings, posting info on the district website, asked for explanations on the record

b) brought inclusiveness--created family partnership policy and committee, created community advisory committees to develop policy, involved public in criteria for new Supe

c) brought accountability --realigned budgets to match resources, restructured relationship to Alliance for Ed and other grant programs, insisted on enforcement of policy (e.g. APP)

d) cleaned up the house--
Reviewed and revised dozens of outdated policies on Special Ed, Bilingual, Discipline

e) Protected students--Developed strong policies on water quality, school nutrition, pesticides, military marketing and strengthened policy on commercialism in schools.

f) Played with others--
Worked closely with state association ; resisted downtown pressure to appoint unqualified superintendent; conducted successful national search for highly-qualified superintendent.

And so on.

Proud to be a Dingbat,
Brita Butler-Wall
Jet City mom said…
With the exception of Harium, who I adore- because he is so articulate, succinct and perceptive, I have felt like previous boards have been more responsive and effective.

While I would admit that Chow could get the meetings to start on time, anyone who allows curriculum to be passed that they don't think is worthy " because it is about the process, not content", has lost any respect I had for her.

I would also say that while I initially was not impressed with DeBell, he is doing a better job than I feared. ( but doesn't go as far as I would hope)

I am appalled that Steve Scher allowed Connellys comment about Mary to stand.
Mary Bass and her family ( especially father and uncle) who have done much for Seattle education and the families who chose to live here. Being dedicated enough to even run for one term on the board, let alone three, should be applauded not scorned, and she should not be abused in that manner.
Mary Bass has called the district on issues when they wanted the board to vote on things without numbers.
She has been the only voice at times, that said " Wait a bleeping minute"- that in itself gets respect from me.

But I don't necessarily feel that KSB, will be a rubber stamper. I have participated in ( a few) education conferences and workshops for the past twenty years , ( not always connected with Seattle public schools) and she is the only person that was not at the time actually on the SPS board, that is running for the board, or that has run for the board, that I ever saw in attendance.

I do admit that I hardly attended all conferences etc in this area.
Heaven forfend.

( I also haven't looked at her site however- and think she needs to come up to speed with facts- that is also that is true of virtually all candidates for the board except for Charlie)
dan dempsey said…

The 2005-2007 board also adopted horrible math programs because they neglected relevant data in making decisions. CMP2 began 2006-2007
EDM began 2007-2008

Lots of talk about disadvantaged learners but absurd action in math:

Check out level 1 ... the clueless level:

GRADE 4 Seattle
Level 1 BLACK Hispanic White LimEgl
06 39.20% 28.50% 5.90% 45.30%

07 40.50% 33.60% 7.90% 52.20%

08 44.40% 40.40% 9.30% 58.00%

09 48.10% 38.90% 7.50% 50.90%

Ms. Santorno said with the adoption of EDM achievement Gaps would be eliminated from the high 2006 levels. The gaps for level 1 are now much higher than in 2006.

Achievement Gaps at Level 1 grade 4
year BLACK Hispanic Lim English
2006 33.30% 22.60% 39.40%

2007 32.60% 25.70% 44.30%

2008 35.10% 31.10% 48.70%

2009 40.60% 31.40% 43.40%

GRADE 7 Seattle
Level 1
BLACK Hispanic White LimEnglish
06 59.60% 46.70% 12.70% 68.20%

07 52.60% 43.90% 12.90% 71.30%

08 54.20% 48.90% 11.80% 77.70%

09 59.40% 41.50% 13.90% 76.60%

Achievement Gaps
Level 1 grade 7
year BLACK : Hispanic Lim English
2006 46.90% 34.00% : 55.50%

2007 39.70% 31.00% : 58.40%

2008 42.40% 37.10% : 65.90%

2009 45.50% 27.60% : 62.70%

There were many things the board did prior to your replacement in the Fall of 2007 that were meritorious. The method of rubber stamping horrible math recommendations instead of using empirical evidence has Seattle with the about the worst k-12 math programs possible for disadvantaged learners and others.

The board abdicated their responsibility to provide effective instructional programs in math for Seattle's children. Unfortunately this legacy continues.

The above mess took place with Math classes increased to 75 min per day and lots of coaching and professional development.

The current board is just as ineffective as was your board if that is any consolation.
Charlie Mas said…
I don't think you can fault the board of four years ago for their math textbook adoption (and the implicit pedagogy adoption that came with it).

While it is true that it did not pan out, there was no way of knowing that at the time of the decision. Back then, everyone still believed the academics who were promoting inquiry-based math instruction. We had just heard all of the good things about inquiry-based science instruction and this seemed parallel.

The current Board, however, has the results and has an obligation to act on them.

I will add that it was the "dingbat
" Board that also gave us Readers Workshop and Writers Workshop which are delivering positive outcomes.
wseadawg said…
I agree with Charlie that this board has no excuse for the continuing adoption of discovery based math.

Anyone, and I mean ANYONE who watched the comittee's presentations and the Board vote saw what a political sham and total collapse and forfeiting of duties by this Board. Carr and Maier particularly disgusted me with their "we have to do something" rationales and stories about textbooks falling apart. So what. What a lame excuse to adopt the wrong curriculum.

Gee, is it more important to teach Materialistic values to kids than subject matter? Clearly Carr and Maier weren't up to the task and reached for excuses to just "get it over with and move on." We cannot let them forget that vote as parents accross the district struggle every night with that ridiculous curriculum, instead of the proper one we should have.

How does making a subject more difficult to understand easier to learn?
dan dempsey said…
I certainly will fault the old board for the Everyday Math adoption. Over the span of 5 months I presented them with more than enough empirical evidence for them to make an informed decision. Brita at the time said she would follow the advice of the hired professionals on the Central Admin. Problem was the Central admin experts already had about a decade of math failure for a track record at that time, why would anyone listen to them. The testimony on May 30, 2007 was much the same as the HS math adoption testimony in 2009.

This time HS defeat was 4-3 instead of Elementary 6-0 (Irene Stewart not present). Michael DeBell punted on the EDM vote with a yes .. telling me the state would take care of math in the long run. {Keep in mind Bergeson was still in office.}

Rampant excuses abound as no one takes responsibility for using relevant data to make intelligent decisions. Same old story replays again and again. Notice how on August 19 Ms. de la Fuente never mentioned what would happen for those struggling learners in HS....
"Differentiated Instruction" what a sorry sad joke.
gavroche said…
Brita -- while I respect many of your other accomplishments on the Board, I strongly question your claim to this one:

"...conducted successful national search for highly-qualified superintendent."

For all the reasons stated in my previous post, and the countless comments and observations all of us have made here and offline for the past year or more, it's hard to believe that your Board found and hired the most "highly-qualified" Superintendent for our schools.

This past year alone has been one of disarray and uncertainty for thousands of Seattle Public School families, questionable decisions, fiscal shell games and fiats from this Superintendent.

(One example:

So what made her the best qualified candidate you could find?
What in her past experience made her a good choice for Seattle's schools? I honestly would like to know. From what I have read, her record in Charleston was mixed:

I have also heard that the Superintendent doesn't have much experience with alternative schools and therefore doesn't understand the purpose and value of our alternative schools (which many of us value deeply, and which are crucial for many kids and which include some of the District's top performing schools, such as Nova); she has said that class sizes don't matter and consequently the school closures and mergers and teacher layoffs she demanded have resulted in larger class sizes (when we voted for money to ensure that class sizes are kept smaller); she has been willing to layoff teachers when we still need them; she initially proposed merging two Seattle schools until she learned that they harbor rival gangs; she commissioned audits and then ignored the recommendations of at least one them; she supported a math textbook (the controversial "Discovering" series) that has already been tried and rejected by the San Diego School District and Kirkland and rejected outright by our neighboring district, Shoreline; and, as has been discussed in detail here, she is on the Board of Directors of the Broad Foundation (, an organization that supports and funds the privatization of public schools via privately-run charters, and whose ideology preaches the corporatization of education, while Washington voters have voted down charters multiple times and have not requested that our schools be run like corporations.

This clearly represents a conflict of interest, for she cannot do the bidding of both Broad and Seattle's Public School families.

I would also like to know when this irrational national trend of hiring 'guns-for-hire' Superintendents from clear across the country -- for very large salaries -- to run local school districts about which they know nothing, and which they can and do abandon after their three or four-contract is up, will end.

Why don't we instead hire someone local to run our local schools? Why don't we hire a respected community leader -- a beloved retired principal perhaps -- who already knows, respects and values our schools, parents, community and kids, and will not take off to another state after a few years, but will remain in the community where s/he will be held accountable?

Surely such a Superintendent would be less likely to make uninformed, potentially destructive, decisions and will be more likely to be responsive to the community.

If nothing else, a local Superintendent would get up to speed much quicker since s/he would already be familiar with SPS and the community.

I have strayed off topic, perhaps. Returning to the original subject: While I may disagree with you on some things, Brita, I still believe that Joel Connelly owes you, Mary, Sally and Darlene a public apology.
dan dempsey said…

You are absolutely correct. The hiring of MG-J can hardly be considered an accomplishment.

There are a huge number of other problems with the superintendent's autocratic often extremely poor direction. Extremely clear from reading the Newsless Courier blog in Charleston that MG-J was not going to be rehired.
dan dempsey said…
MG-J has totally ignored the Phi Delta Kappa curriculum audit. Her solution of "Differentiated Instruction" for difficult instructional situations is absurd. The data does in fact show that class size is not a major factor in student achievement but few states have as large a class size as WA and this year the WA sizes are even larger.

MG-J seems totally off base when it comes to what empirical research reveals about instruction. The current board is equally clueless.
gavroche said…
Whoops! HTML snafu. Here are those links again:

McGinley Praised in Teacher Survey

School's Success Gives Way to Doubt

Analysis Reveals Scores Don't Jibe

Goodloe-Johnson faced "brutal realities" as Charleston schools chief

Rapid changes taking toll on some teachers - Charleston County educators say demands leaving them overwhelmed, exhausted (see #13)

Garvoche, thanks for those links. Some of the comments from the Survey story are priceless.

From the article:

"Seventy-three percent of the 817 Charleston Teacher Alliance members surveyed believe McGinley is an effective leader, compared to just 48 percent who said the same about former Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson, according to the teacher advocacy group's report."

"McGinley outscored Goodloe-Johnson on every issue, including her visibility and accessibility to teachers, her communication with teachers and whether she seeks their input."


"From what I hear, doing better than her predecessor would not be a hard thing to do."

"How about a follow up to the predecessor and what her new district thinks of her??"

And this one:

"She took everything that Goodloe-Johnson taught her and gave it a new name, then had the guts to call her own. I have no ill will towards Nancy, however, Maria brought CCSD out of the educational stone age that Zullinger, and McWhirt had it in. Then we get the nerve to say that Goodloe-Johnson did not do a good job. She hired Nancy and prevented you fools from searching the nation to bring another dead head like Zullinger or McWhirt in as Head of CCSD. If Nancy was smart, she would have followed Maria to Seattle where she may be making twice the salary as Maria is today."

That last sentence is very telling.
WenD said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
WenD said…
Brita: I appreciate your post, and hope you'll keep posting. The KUOW comments were crass and uninformed. That said, I agree w/Gavroche and Dan. MG-Js hiring was by default, not an accomplishment.

The big question, the one that loomed large during your time as a director, was this: will closures save money and increase service to students? The answer to this question will prove whether or not MG-J was the right choice. We’ll have the answer before the completion of this school year.

When former directors speak up, their historical perspective can help prevent the repetition of past mistakes under the guise of reform.

As passionate as your were about removing advertising from schools, I’d value your opinion on the influence of the Broad Foundation. Were you concerned about Broad when evaluating MG-J and Gregory Thornton? Was it a plus or a minus?

I know I’m asking for hindsight, but Broad appears to sustain itself without helping the population it claims to serve. As a Broad board member, MG-J represents a new breed of principal, whose career is fostered less by academic circles, and more by an opportunistic foundation milking a crisis and staking a stream of influence. Where are the results they boast of?

I’m not blaming your decision making, just curious if you saw the potential for a questionable and self-serving influence when faced with selecting a new sup.
Chris S. said…
I too have been curious about the hiring of MGJ - I was in the district but kind of out of the loop b/c I had a young child at the time.

I've thought about asking Mary, but maybe Brita (or anybody else)can help. What were they looking for? A centralizer and standardizer? Is that what the constituency wanted? Or just anyone iron-willed enough to close schools?

There have also been stories floating around recently that Manhas predicted the current capacity problems, and he didn't get no respect...
Charlie Mas said…
Raj Manhas did NOT predict the current capacity problems. He wanted to close schools in the north-end for strictly political reasons.

I would also like to point out the fact that, by making Cleveland an Option School, the District HAS merged Cleveland and Rainier Beach.

They haven't merged the schools, but they have merged the neighborhood and the population the two schools draw from.

In the new Student Assignment Plan all of the students living close to Rainier Beach and nearly all of the students living close to Cleveland - the populations of the two schools - will get a default assignment to Rainier Beach. None of them will be automatically assigned to Cleveland because Cleveland will be an Option school.

The two schools - and the gangs in them - have been merged.

The only way that the merger would not happen would be if a lot of the members of the Cleveland gangs make a specific request to attend the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program at Cleveland. If they just take the automatic assignment that now sends them to Cleveland, they will end up at Rainier Beach along with the student gang members from further south.
Hey Charlie,
About the capacity issue and Raj. In the 05 round of closures, Raj requested at that point that Summit be re-purposed to a neighborhood school and that portables be added at 3 NE schools to handle the incoming students. The PI and others tore him apart for opening schools in the north while closing in the south. The 06 round of closures that put Sac on the closure list was the politically motivated round that followed.

I never really understood that round but because no portables were added as requested in the 05 recommendation that is most or many of the PCP rooms in the NE were subsequently converted to classroom space.
Dorothy Neville said…
My memory is the same as North Seattle Mom's here. That Raj's first list took capacity issues into account in a location-neutral non-political way. But there was a hue and cry over the perceived disproportionality. That then the School Board decided that the closures would be balanced throughout the clusters. That's why Sacajawea ended up on the closure list but then the numbers showed there would be no place to put those kids. So then Sacajawea got a reprieve, and that ended up making some cry foul as well. Way back then there was definitely talk in the NE about crowding and how it was going to get worse.

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