Where Were They?

I attended the Board meeting last night (stayed until 8:30 but man, those chairs in the auditorium have got to be the worst ever designed). It was pretty sparse and I'd say there were equal numbers of staff to public. There was a lot of interesting discussion which I intend to write about in a separate thread,

The Times had an editorial this morning about the people who ran for SB and made it to the general election. Half the editorial was spent slamming Mary Bass which, in the least, made it a very uneven editorial. Why not save the space and say, "Don't vote for her, she's no good." if that's all you've got.

Below is the comment I posted online after the editorial:

"I am a long-time activist in the district and write for the education blog, Save Seattle Schools. Just this week the Board started powering up back up from the summer hiatus with various committee meetings and last night, the first Board meeting in months.

Mary Bass had to be there; she's on the Board. But not one, not one of the other 3 candidates who made it through to the general was there. (The room was NOT full so you could see who was there.) Now, maybe they were watching at home but you'd think people who are running for office would want to be seen at the very job they are running for.

I also attended a committee meeting on Monday. At that meeting, there was discussion about the high school math adoption, high school credit for classes taken in middle school and curriculum alignment. The Board meeting had a MAP (assessment) discussion, math implementation discussion, BEX update, capacity management - should I go on? These are ALL things that any new Board member should be coming up to speed on. I have interviewed two of the remaining candidates and I am fairly sure they don't know a lot about all these issues.

Where were these people who want so much to be on the Board? From my viewpoint, it usually takes a year to get up to speed for a new Board member but if you really don't know the district, it could take longer. Children can't wait.

Folks, you better closely question these people on the campaign trail and make sure that two of them are really serious about being on the Board.

This is not a vote for Mary. I respect and admire Mary but I really think she has been on the Board long enough. It will really be a struggle for me to decide how to vote (or maybe not at all)."

Kay Smith-Blum, Betty Patu and Wilson Chin profess to want to serve on the School Board. As Woody Allen says, "90% of life is showing up."

There is one more committee meeting (today); I can't attend. But coming up in September are multiple Board and committee meetings, including a work session on 2009-2010 goals for the district. I'd hope to see all of them at that one or else I really doubt their commitment to this district.

P.S. And, yes, of course Charlie was there.


SolvayGirl said…
Loud audible sigh....

And once again we will have people on the Board who do not have a clue. I voted for Charlie in hopes that he could agitate effectively (armed with his vast knowledge and understanding of the inner-workings of the system). I encouraged all of my friends to vote for him as well. Evidently, I don't have enough friends.

Loud audible sigh....
zb said…
I'm not in the relevant districts, so didn't have the option. But, Charlie, though I've disagreed with you, I would have voted for you, because you care & think. I'm sorry that politics don't seem to reward that, and hope that your dedication will continue.
Stu said…
Hmm. . . who's up for re-election next time and might run unopposed? Charile, move to that area . . . we've got to find a way to get you on the board. While I agree with ZB that I haven't always seen eye to eye with you, though I mostly agree with everything you've written, I want board members who know the issues, will ask the important questions, and will demand results or repercussions. None of the candidates running this time around have the experience, information, or skills that you've demonstrated time and again on these blogs.

Keep fighting for our kids!

ParentofThree said…
I left a comment for Smith-Blum on her blog asking her to comment about not attending meetings.
Stu said…
Do either Kay Smith-Blum, Betty Patu, or Wilson Chin have blogs and, if so, would you mind posting links on the front page of this blog?



(Oh . . . just saw SPSMom mentioned Smith-Blum's blog . . . can we get the link?)
ParentofThree said…
Here's where I posted my question

Chris S. said…
Charlie, thanks for running, and thanks for continuing your scrutiny and advocacy after the primary. I'm sad about the results all around, but it's still refreshing to see someone who is really concerned about the district beyond personal political ambitions.
curlew said…
i would like to e-mail melissa westbrook if someone could send me her email
ParentofThree said…
Off topic Can you start a new Transportation thread. Letters were to be mailed Monday and am wondering if anybody has received one, I have not. And also wondering how everybody's "ride" is looking for the school year.
Maureen said…
Smith-Blum has edited her IB/immersion post to be more or less correct (thanks Melissa!), but she still says: "Our Stretch Goal = 8 IB high school strands in 5 years, and 40 language immersion models in next 8 years."

Wow, really? Eight of our twelve High Schools should have IB? and 40 of our 82 (by my count) schools should be immersion? Really? Do 50% of our families really want immersion? Is immersion the best model for the full range of kids in our District? Where would the teachers come from? What would happen to our current teacher corps?
TechyMom said…
I doubt that means 40 schools that are 100% immersion. It probably means that half the schools would have 1 clas per grade immersion. Since immersion is not an option program and is address-based assignment,this seems the only way to offer equitable access.
I have an e-mail - melrhs@hotmail.com that will be live a few weeks more. Contact me there.

I read what Kay wrote. I think she is overlapping IB and foreign language immersion in ways that are confusing. She's very airy on the money; everything costs more than you think it will. We now have 3 foreign language immersion elementaries (well, some are semi), 2 middle schools (Denny coming on-line in the fall, I believe) and NO high schools. The district refuses to even talk about it and is leaving it to drift and expecting high schools to figure out what to do with students from Hamilton.

She also says that start-up costs could come "from repurposing of certain funds in the general fund possibly from the city or School & Family Levy expansion."

What money? Are there extra funds in the City's budget? And, FYI, Kay, the City controls the money from the School and Family Levy, not the district. The City would have to sign off on such an idea and given how many other things the levy supports, I doubt it would happen.

She can ask, for sure, but I think she is being naive or unrealistic or overambitious. Take your pick.
ParentofThree said…
The whole HS IB concept is interesting to me. None of the current HS IB programs are "bursting at the seam." The Ingrham program is starting it's 6th or 7th year and has plently of spots available.

Parents are fighting for more AP options, and better music programs in all the HSs. Parents are very worried about curriculum standardization at the HS level.

So the IB thing is seems like a disconnect from what the current concerns are.

Also, where does the $$$ to buy the text books needed for the IB program, Discovery Math program ain't gonna cut it in the IB world!
dan dempsey said…
Since elections of 2007, I've occasionally seen Sally Soriano at board meetings. I've never seen Irene Stewart, Brita Butler-Wall, or Darlene Flynn after their terms ended. I am not saying they have not been at board meetings, just I've never seen them.

When in office Brita and Sally occasionally exchanged communications with me but ZERO from Stewart and Flynn. Current board members ranked in extent of communication with me over the last 8 months.

Super Duper:
Carr, DeBell, Martin-Morris


Chow, Bass, Maier

It takes time to figure out why this district is failing to deliver an adequate academic program to so many students. The failure of Betty Patu, Wilson Chin, and Smith-Blum to attend meetings this week is not encouraging.

I am hardly interested in having tribal constituencies represented I am looking for significant improvement. None of these three have yet given much evidence that they will offer anything different in the way of structural improvement in the delivery to the academic program.

Loud audible sigh.
dan dempsey said…
"Discovery Math program ain't gonna cut it in the IB world!"

Don't be so sure. IB math cuts a pretty broad swath. Sealth math department head, Amber Nelson, assures me that Discovering Algebra and Discovering Geometry will do just fine for grades 9 and 10. The IB stuff does not happen until grades 11 and 12.

STEM math is currently undefined as far as I can tell. Cleveland may now be a STEM option school but the math will be "Discovering" until further notice.{further notice may be years away}.
rugles said…
At least KSB has a passion for something. Can anyone tell me what Cheryl Chow's was?

It's clear that KSB rubs some of you (including Melissa)the wrong way. I haven't heard anyone say they know her and they think she wouldn't do a good job
Cheryl Chow's passion is kids. Always has been. She has been an educator and a public servant (she was on the City Council, remember) and has been a life-long advocate and leader for Girl Scouts. Additionally (and I say this as one who is also vertically challenged), she coaches girls basketball. I have not agreed with Cheryl on her approach to governance but I don't question her commitment to kids.

Define "know her". Should we ask her friends or relatives? I had an interview with her once. She does not rub me the wrong way. I'll bet she's a fun dinner guest, she has great energy and passion (as I point out over and over) but I believe she is underinformed and naive about what a School Board director does (or can do), I don't hear her talk about teamwork and compromise which is key to being a good Director (see Mary Bass).
ParentofThree said…
"At least KSB has a passion for something."

Agree, my point is her passion is a disconnect from the current realities of the district and from parents current and very real concerns.

And not showing up to meetings to get up to speed and be able to engage on current topics is a concern to me.
Charlie Mas said…
I have been asked about the two candidates for the District 7 position. I haven't spent much time with either of them, but, in general, I would say that if you prefer Director Bass's style of governance, then you should vote for Betty Patu and if you prefer Director Maier's style of governance, then you should vote for Wilson Chin.
rugles said…
"she was on the City Council, remember"

I do remember, thats why I brought her up. I asssumed her passion was voting with the majority.

"I'll bet she's a fun dinner guest, she has great energy and passion"

Hey, she's got my vote right there!

"I believe she is underinformed and naive about what a School Board director does (or can do)"

That sounds like a good thing too. Charlie is overinformed and non-naive but he is also out of the running.

I don't hear her talk about teamwork and compromise which is key to being a good Director (see Mary Bass).

I have no interest in a team of teamworkers and compromisers. The system has been compromised enough. Since you brought up basketball, I wouldn't want a team of all rebounders, or all shooters, I would want a team with a good mix of shooters and rebounders. Theres room on my team for someone who can consistently hit the three, even if they can't play a lick of defense.

Agree, my point is her passion is a disconnect from the current realities of the district and from parents current and very real concerns.

Language and music education?

And not showing up to meetings to get up to speed and be able to engage on current topics is a concern to me.

Not a big meeting guy myself. Seems like an extremely inefficient way to get up to speed, assuming she even needs to get up to speed.
Let me just say, Charlie or I could take on Kay or Betty or Wilson, right now on SPS issues and wipe the floor with them. Not conceit, not bragging, just years of putting in the time getting to know this district. And woe be to the person who does not (1) know the district and (2) know the culture of the bureaucracy in the district.

All three of them do indeed need to get up to speed. And sorry, there is a lot to learn, especially about the players in this district, by going to meetings.

Lastly, Mary didn't work to compromise. The Board is a team - there are no real shooters. Some people are more team captains for sure but anyone who thinks they can get on the Board and start up a bunch of new initiatives, should think again. Your new Board colleagues will likely let you know that no, we already have a huge list of to-dos from the Strategic Plan and oh, by the way, have you met the formidable Dr. Goodloe-Johnson?

Not to say a new Board member can't have an impact or bring something new. But a whole lotta new is not what this district needs. We have plenty going on right now.
Sorry, but last, I hope these candidates DO like meetings because that's 90% of the job.
ParentofThree said…
"Language and music education?"

You are mis-quoting me. Parent concerns at the HS level are:

More AP classes offered at all schools, not just the "big three"
Access to reat music programs at all HS, not just RHS and GHS.

Informed parents are also very concerned about the standardization of curriculum, specifically LA, which could wipe out many elective classes, that are fully enrolled.

What parents are NOT screaming about is the addition of more IB programs at the HS level. So to me, it is a disconnect.

And if Smith-Blum is like you, "not a meeting person" (which I don't think is the case) then she has picked the wrong office to run for!
Robert said…
Melissa perhaps it is just my misconception but I would think that you and Charlie could school most if not all of the current board members on SPS issues. I know this blog could... I would add it to my required reading list for any SB member/candidate.

And to echo Dan's post:

Super Duper:)
Carr, DeBell, Martin-Morris

Chow, Bass, Maier, Sundquist
rugles said…
Not to say a new Board member can't have an impact or bring something new.

Thats it in a nutshell for me.

I'm looking for someone who is not going to let the bastards grind them down, not someone already ground down to round out the set.

As to "the formidable Dr. Goodloe-Johnson", there's nothing formidable about her track record.
Sahila said…
I dont want any more pragmatists on the Board... we have enough of those and look at the poor job they are doing - compromise here, slide down the slippery slope there, making decisions based on faulty data, accepting unquestioningly Staff-provided information, which has obviously been cherry picked to support a staff/superintendent proposal... havent heard one of them take a stand on/stand up for and passionately defend a point of view that's in the interests of our kids, as opposed to what's in the interests of the Superintendent's agenda...

If they do that in private, they are doing themselves a disservice and deserve the mistrust we have for them - not enough transparency and communication... they must have personalities, but they all come across as meek as milksops... is that the famed Seattle niceness in action? Stuff that!

I watched Peter Meier last night (AS#1 and Summit board director, for whom I have no respect for several reasons, some of which facts are not printable here) as he was shaking hands with the Chinese contingent... he couldnt even give each person his full attention... his eye contact was broken and he was looking to the next person while he was still shaking hands and speaking to the person in front of him... hardly even a pretense of being interested... I was appalled...
Dorothy Neville said…
Here's an innovative idea straight from Kay Blum's website:

"Language instruction hires leads to an abundance of high quality teachers."

That's a way to get around unions, around seniority and throw all the bums out. Fresh start on a teacher corps! Require all elementary school teachers to be able to teach immersion classes.

So where are these abundantly available abundantly qualified dual language teachers? Are the existing SPS international schools able to always hire great teachers? I thought that at Hamilton there has been some sketchiness to "immersion" due to unavailability of appropriate teachers.

Anyway, I read Kay's innovative list and I see the energy and enthusiasm. But I don't see how it translates into action. Seems she should be running for superintendent instead of board member, with her list of ideas.
Interesting you should ask that Dorothy...they come from China. Last night there was an introduction of 4 Chinese teachers (both what they teach and where they come from) to the Board. It's quite exciting; some are at Sealth and some at West Seattle High. Are they going to stay permanently? Doubtful so I don't know where are these language immersion teachers will come from (Ms. Smith-Blum specifically says Chinese language as one of her top choices to be taught).
seattle citizen said…
You write that "there was an introduction of 4 Chinese teachers (both what they teach and where they come from) to the Board. It's quite exciting...Are they going to stay permanently? Doubtful."

Are these teachers volunteers? Part of some sort of exchange? New hires?...Why were they introduced to the board?
Your post is tantalizing:
Why is this exciting?
Why do you think it's doubtful they will stay?
I believe they are here via the College Board (there were no handouts so this is based on what was said) and I think it is for two years. They were introduced to the Board to welcome them to Seattle.

I think it's exciting because one of them will be teaching Mandarin 3 (which is advanced). I'm glad there are high school students who want to take Chinese and teachers available to teach it. I find that exciting given how many Chinese are learning English versus how many Americans are learning Chinese. I think there may be a lack of teachers available in the U.S. to teach (this is the impression I got).

I'd call one of the principals at those schools for more info.
glovin said…
Charlie, thanks for running, and thanks for continuing your scrutiny and advocacy after the primary.

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Charlie Mas said…
I also caught the end of the Operations Committee meeting on Thursday. Gary Seivert, the man who really deserves the title of wonkiest wonk of the School Board wonky wonks, was the only other member of the public I saw there.

I don't usually go to the Operations Committee meeting, but I went this time because they were going to talk about Meany.

The District moved NOVA and the S.B.O.C. into Meany with their usual "ready, fire, aim" process. Now comes the "aim" part. They decided to update the educational specifications for the programs and the building before they move forward with any more plans for renovation. They also want to stop and think about where the money is going to come from.

There will be some sort of public meeting on September 1 where they will spell out their plans and maybe answer some questions. It seems strange to me for them to do the public meeting a week before school starts. It creates outreach challenges they would not otherwise have, but it's all part of the hurry up and wait standard operating procedure.
ParentofThree said…
Response from Kay Smith-Blum on meeting attendance:

"I did not attend the school board meeting last night for two reasons. #1 we had childhood friends in from Texas, and had planned the evening with them two months ago as it was their only night in town.

Two, I watch all meetings afterwards. That has been my practice for several years. Now that I am a candidate, I do not want any board member to think I am second guessing or judging their decisions in any way prior to possibly being a member of the board.

IF I am elected, then I would work very hard to collaborate with each board member to direct money and resources to the classroom with the clear priority of educating our children for the 21st century. Till then, I am making sure I am up on all decisions and policy proposals.

If you would like to correspond with me in the future - please sign your name to your email. It would also be helpful to know which schools your children attend and what your experience is at those schools since you are clearly a concerned community member.
"Now that I am a candidate, I do not want any board member to think I am second guessing or judging their decisions in any way prior to possibly being a member of the board."

Uh,how does attending a meeting mean you are judging or second-guessing current Board members?

Kay watches them all at home? But part of the reason to be there is to see others who are there and engage in dialog at the break. Hmm.
ParentofThree said…
Yes, thought it that was a bit odd and I did mention that there were several meetings this week, where important topics where discussed, not just the board meeting. She chose to only address the Wed meeting.

In terms of revealing my name and students school, I believe that is my call to make.
Robert said…
Have any of you ever gotten a response from Mary on anything? I haven't and I have sent her emails on a number of occasions. She is my district's director which includes Lowell. I don't recall seeing her at the closure meeting. Dir Carr added the walk zone exclusion for Mary's district and Mary voted ... Get this... For families who live across the street from the bldg to bus 5 miles away... Probably wouldn't have had she attended the standing room only meeting.

Oh and Mary was the first to have outreach meetings... What good is that for new parents to the district. I had no IDEA she was having meetings. Had she replied to just ONE of the my emails that she was, I would have gladly walked over to discuss my issues... Grumpily, as I would have preferred to do it by email... But I would have.

How any of you can vote for more of that I am just left shaking my head.
ParentofThree said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
ParentofThree said…
Honestly Robert, neither one thrills me and it is such an important section of the district given how heavily it was hit by closures and how the student assignment plan will play out at schools like Madrona K-8. Cleveland as an option school will also be very important. And GHS could come into play if either QA or Magnolia students are assigned there.

But since we all know Mary Bass well, I do think it is interesting to get a sense of who Kay Smith-Blum is, outside of her web site/blog.

She did not seem to appreciate my inquiry about attending discrict meetings. Does give you a little insight on how she may react when really pushed on an issue
Robert said…
She doesn't seem to appreciate your inquiry?

I would say merely responding shows a lot of appreciation for your concern.

Also, I met Kay first when the candidates were announced and as it is perfectly clear now I was shopping for a change... Andre and Kay seemed likely choices. Kay's experience with APP and music programs was a major plus for me but would have supported either had only one got through. I thought Andre did a great job in supporting the TTM families efforts as well and felt he had the right heart to effect positive change. I also feel that about Kay... And if we disagree on an issue she will offer me at least the courtesy of a response.
Stu said…
But since we all know Mary Bass well, I do think it is interesting to get a sense of who Kay Smith-Blum is, outside of her web site/blog.

I wouldn't judge her one one response, or even all the little mistakes that she's made along the way; I am, however, concerned about her seeming confused about the names or the different programs, and how they work. It is a learning curve and I would think that anyone wanting to serve would have thrown themselves into everything they could find.

That said, I've always like Mary Bass and, obviously, found myself in agreement with many of her positions. However, I'm not sure how I would vote at this point. Mary may be right about a lot of things but has shown that she's completely incapable of making her vote count for anything. She doesn't argue persuasively, doesn't offer alternatives, and tends to wait 'til the moment of the vote arrives, the last minute, to get changes made. For the most part, I blame the people with whom she serves but, alas, they're going to still be there.

Perhaps SPSMom, or Melissa, or Charlie, along with other people who really know the district, can get together with her for some sort of lunch meeting, or invite her to an "open house"/"get to know the candidate" function so that she can hear some of the issues first hand. That way, if elected, maybe we'd have someone new who could stand up to the "majority" a bit better.

Just a thought,

adhoc said…
For those who care to get up close and personal with Kay Smith-Blum, you may be interested in attending her house party

Wednesday, August 26th, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. Eshelman residence, Windemere, RSVP ONLY, RSVP to electkaysmithblum@gmail.com

I am torn. Like Robert I have never, ever, received a response from any of the many emails and voice mail messages that I have left Mary Bass, and there is just no excuse for that. Just showing up to board meetings and voting "no", though admirable, is not effective. She does not seem to be able to influence her fellow directors in any way, and as Stu points out she doesn't argue persuasively, and doesn't offer alternatives. That said, I know that Mary's heart is in the right place, and I know that she truly cares about the community she serves.

Kay Smith-Blum seems completely out of touch to me. She seems almost arrogant. She fudged her resume, and she proposes grand ideas like tweeting or texting all SPS families a list of issues that the board is considering prior to a board meeting. It's admirable for sure, but which families, exactly will she be engaging? Does she consider how many SPS families are low income and do not have cell phones? Or who may not be able to afford the texting option? Or don't speak English? She wants public- private partnerships, and an extended school day (until 6PM), and every elementary student to study Spanish or Japanese. Has she polled the community? Is this what the community wants? Do you want your kids in school until 6PM, I don't? And what if your kid wants to take French instead of Spanish? Further, she is not well versed in district issues, doesn't go to board meetings, and does not seem to be making a real effort to get herself up to speed. And her response to SPSmom's inquiry regarding her lack of attendance at district meetings actually scared me..."Now that I am a candidate, I do not want any board member to think I am second guessing or judging their decisions". Do we want a board member who doesn't want to rub anyone the wrong way by going to a board meeting? Will she be afraid to go against the grain? If elected will she be able to stand alone, if need be, on issues that are important to her or to the community? One thing I know for sure is that we do NOT need another rubber stamper.

In the end I will hesitantly have to vote for Mary. She is the less of the two evils. I'll take Mary's lone "no" vote over another rubber stamper any day.
wseadawg said…
Speaking as someone who's kids lives were dramatically disrupted and changed by the current board hell-bent on change, I do not wish to see yet another "change agent" added to this board. That is what KSB proudly touts herself as, and I feel we've had enough of that for the time being.

I also think KSB is both arrogant and incredibly naive to think she will drive all her pet program initiatives down the districts throat. Ain't gonna happen.

I agree with those who says she's extremely out of touch with how the district operates and what's going on within it.

I'm no fan of Mary's, but KSB seems like more of the same of what we're getting from this board. Do people really want more of this?
adhoc said…
"I also think KSB is both arrogant and incredibly naive to think she will drive all her pet program initiatives down the districts throat."

She's a CEO. CEO's generally have arrogant, dominant, personalities. It is a CEO's job to drive decisions, so of course KSB will think it her right on the SB. She is all business woman, even referring to the district as "the corporation" and families and children as "the clients". Not that this is so far off base, it's just hugely impersonal, and gives a bit of insight as to her mentality.

KSB "Imagine if the School Districts had the resources to train every administrative employee in a client based engagement program – like the way Starbucks trains every employee. Going to the Administrative office would be a much easier when the students and parents (clients) are welcomed and encouraged to be there."

Keep imagining Kay..........
Sahila said…
The 'clients' are our kids... the 'employers' are us, parents and taxpayers...teachers, District Staff, the Superintendent and the Board are our 'servants' (in the 'instruments to implement, make things happen' and 'being of service' sense, not in the slavery/indentured/worker sense) ...where is the mandate from the community for all that's been done (in our name) this past year? I havent seen it...

I've been saying for a long time that we have here in Seattle the classic case of the tail wagging the dog and its time that changed...

All the Board/District has to do to fix most of the mess that's happening, is remember these two facts of life - our kids are their clients (so what is best for them, each individual child and collectively?), and we are their employers (what do we want for our kids, what do we know will work and what doesnt) - and build relationships/communicate/collaborate/make decisions based on that reality...

Sad to say, I dont see any signs of that happening without Andre in the mix...

Who are we kidding???? Educating our kids and managing a learning organisation is not running a business... we have here two fundamentally opposed goals - people run a business to make a profit and usually achieve that by lowering costs to the bare minimum... you dont get a profit in educating kids by lowering the costs of that to the bare minimum - what you get are inferior and flawed 'products' that have limited capability, limited versatility and a built-in redundancy because they dont have all the parts and processes contained within them to adapt to changing conditions...

I dont want to be greeted with a 'drilled' cliche by someone who's been trained a la Starbucks.... I'm not buying a coffee when I'm advocating for my child's one shot at a good education...
ParentofThree said…
In terms of not responding to emails sent to directors. Personally, when I email them it is just to lobby them on an issue, closures, start times, math adoption as examples. I don't have a specific "crisis" that I need a directors help on. I don't expect a response.

However, when I email Mary Bass, I do get a response, yes it is an auto-response, but it does contain her cell phone number, which I have never used.

So I guess my question is, what do you expect from a director when you email them saying, please vote for or against XXZ because bla bla bla?

Has anybody ever had a true emergency where they have gone thru all the district channels and really felt they needed a board director to troubleshoot AND not gotten any individial help?
reader said…
Amen Sahila. SPS is NOT a business. If it were a business, it would be "out of business". Staying "in business" and making a "profit" are the driving forces of businesses, both absent in SPS. There's never going to be a "profit" or a "loss" in any business sense. Perhaps she thinks it's a business in the modern sense of current, large business operation. Where businesses operating exclusively to enrich the upper echelon of management employees. In that regard, SPS IS similar to a business.

I also find it questionable that she sent at least one kid to Seattle Academy and was on the board there. Why? Is she too good for public school? She couldn't hang with the masses and/or fix the issues? We don't need any more Bill Gates "I went to Lakeside, let's make it all Lakeside." It's a really broad base out there, and she doesn't address that.
Hippy Goodwife said…
SPS Mom,

You asked: "Has anybody ever had a true emergency where they have gone thru all the district channels and really felt they needed a board director to troubleshoot AND not gotten any individial help?"

I have. Last year we had a serious problem with a teacher who disregarded district policy. After no response from the teacher, and none from the principal, I went to our Board member. Who told me he not only did not know if the district had a policy ( they do) he really couldn't get involved.
He is not up for re-election yet. But he will be and I will remember. In this case at least District staff was very helpful in finding and defining the policy.
Stu said…
reader said: also find it questionable that she sent at least one kid to Seattle Academy and was on the board there. Why? Is she too good for public school? She couldn't hang with the masses and/or fix the issues? We don't need any more Bill Gates "I went to Lakeside, let's make it all Lakeside." It's a really broad base out there, and she doesn't address that.

I don't hold it against her that she sent a kid to private school and I'm not sure what's wrong with wanting schools that offer the programs and quality of a better private school. As someone else wrote a while back, every parent needs to make the best choice for their children. If my son were heavily into foreign languages or science, I would try to find him a program that nurtures that interest. The Seattle Schools would be the wrong place for him. I would continue to try and make SPS the RIGHT place for him and hopefully, when that time comes, we'd be right back in public school.

Private schools tend to spend more money on their programs but I truly believe that many of the problems that are discussed on these blogs have nothing to do with money; they have to do more with the mismanagement of money and an unclear statement about what schools are for. Too often, I get the impression that the district is in the business of teaching to the lowest common denominator . . . when you teach to the bottom, no one rises to the top.

Pick a quality curriculum, or at least some sense of direction, and offer it to every student in every area of the district. Teach our children to demand their education and don't just spoon feed them the minimum allowed by law.

I don't know Smith-Blum; I've only read about her here and on her site. I think Mary's wonderful but completely ineffective. I don't like voting change for change's sake but something has to be done to break through the current majority that thinks we're on the right path. It's not just that I disagree with the majority of the board decisions, and that I think the Superintendent has no idea of how to fix the problems, it's that I don't understand their interpretation of the facts.

adhoc said…
SPSmom asked "Has anybody ever had a true emergency where they have gone thru all the district channels and really felt they needed a board director to troubleshoot AND not gotten any individial help?"

No, I have never had a "true emergency where I went through all of the channels", but there have been several times that I have asked Mary specific, pointed questions, requiring an answer. The questions generally were on board policy, upcoming board votes and/or actions. She is our representative and is voting on our behalf. Shouldn't we be able to lobby her, ask questions, meet with her (within reason)? She has NEVER responded to me. Not to email, voice mail, or messages left with the board secretary. There was a time when a SB vote would greatly affect our school community, and a committee from our school requested to meet with each board director individually to alert them to how their vote would affect our school. All directors with the exception of Irene Stewart and Mary Bass met with us. Irene at least responded, but was to busy to fit us in. Mary never even responded, despite several attempts to reach her. And when we went to her town meeting to talk with her, she told us to email her. HA!

I'm sorry there is just no excuse for that. None.
adhoc said…
Just FYI, reader, Andre Helmstetters kids also went to private school up until last year.
adhoc said…
And Andre's kids home schooled before they were in private school!

I don't see anything wrong with families making decisions that are appropriate for their children and circumstances.

It is clear that both Kay and Andre are committed to working hard for the good of public education as is evident by their desire to be on the SSB. Being a SSB director requires a huge time commitment and attending never ending meetings. All unpaid and with little political clout. Anyone willing to do that clearly has a strong commitment to public education (whether their kids ever attended private school or not).
reader said…
Anyone willing to do that clearly has a strong commitment to public education (whether their kids ever attended private school or not).

Should we just elect anyone in that case? I mean, they're all signed up for all the meetings. I can believe they're all probably really committed. Why not keep who we've got? True, having sent your kid(s) to private school isn't reason enough on its own not elect somebody.... but it's just one more piece of evidence pointing to a diletantte. Somebody who only values a few programs... or somebody who thinks only a few things are good enough for their kid... but OK for others... perhaps.
wseadawg said…
Sick of hearing SPS compared to a business? (What would MGJ know about running a business, by the way? What next? "If I were an astronaut...")

The Brits are way ahead of us on this reform stuff. Here's further proof: (Required reading for anyone on this blog!)


Nothing personal, but I thinks its asinine to continue to compare a public entity to a private business. It gets us nowhere. They aren't parallel in mission or outcome, as if privatization zealots would care, of course.

I long for when we here, and the board, will stop relying on anecdotes, rhetoric and analogies, and start acting empirically and relying on facts.
wseadawg said…

I know Charlie, Melissa and many others put forth tons of facts. I meant when we "all" would do that. Sorry. No offense.
Andre home-schooled his kids for part of the time. I have no problem with someone choosing private for part of the time or for one child. You have to do what is best for each child.
Stu said…
Since it’s come up a couple of times in this thread . . ..

I'm always surprised & disappointed when the "elitist" or the "lakeside" card is played. And now, dear "reader" writes "but it's just one more piece of evidence pointing to a diletantte (sic)." It's amazing how much venom can be found in such innocent phrasing. Usually, there's a perfectly civil discussion going on when someone says something like "the elitist APP parents” or "why would you want your school to be another Lakeside" and it all dissolves into name-calling.

My son goes to Lowell; we've been happy there. We've discussed the idea of moving to private school for middle school, if someone will give him a scholarship, because we’re not sure he'll get what we feel he needs with SPS. I know people, low-income people, who've gone to Lakeside and Bush, and other schools, who love it. They are neither elitist, dilettantes, nor rich, nor any different than you or I; they've made difficult decisions about doing what's best for their child.

So for the fun of it, after a great conversation with a Lakeside-parent friend, I decided to take a quick look at the Lakeside site:

Some 5the Grade stuff:
All students are required to take a musical instrument;
All students are required to take a language;
Art, Music, Gym, Languages, and Science, are taught daily;
After school sports are on a no-cut policy: if a student wants to play, he plays.

And the school?
45% students of color;
20.5% faculty of color
Average class size: 16 students;
27% of students get financial aid;
100% go to college.

I don't pretend that this is an equal playing field. Schools like Lakeside have endowments, donations, fewer students, and can pick and choose whom they want to attend. However, looking at this, it really spotlights just how much we supplement our son's education because of what’s not offered. We're on a tight budget but still spend a considerable amount per year on music lessons, various sports clubs, after-school language classes, math and science camps . . . not because we're trying to get ahead, because these are things missing. (That is, unless you live near certain buildings.) If you want to surprise yourself, make a quick list of all the "extra" activities you pay for throughout the year!

Yes a school like Lakeside, with only 750 students, costs 3 times what the state gets per student for public schools, but it seems to me that there's so much waste in the administrative side of things at SPS, we're depriving our children of what I consider basic educational needs. The PTA/Boosters fund art and music, languages are fee-based after school, "physical education" is every three weeks and rarely "physical;" there has to be a better way to run this district.

This isn't an argument about the haves and have nots; this isn't a fair comparison between equal programs. Schools like Lakeside, Bush, Northwest School, etc., charge a lot of money for a quality education. However, my friend's son came from the Seattle Public Schools, was accepted at Lakeside, and gets approximately 80% financial aid. Their family, and the families we’ve met through them, has been from all walks of life. As I said, they are neither elitist nor dilettantes; they're people who made the best choice for their children. To do any less would be bad parenting.

Reader: I don't know what happened in your life to make you feel like a perpetual "have not." First "elitist," then disparaging remarks about private schools, then they're all "dilettantes." I hate to think these are the values you're passing on to your children but I know, because you spend so much time on this blog, you would do everything in your power to give your kids the best education that money, private or public, could buy. Although I don't always agree with your positions, it's the differences and discussions that keep this blog relevant. I would just love to hear you build up your arguments without putting down people who disagree or have made different choices.

gavroche said…
Well-said Stu (above) and well-said Adhoc (In the end I will hesitantly have to vote for Mary. She is the less of the two evils. I'll take Mary's lone "no" vote over another rubber stamper any day. 8/21/09 10:04 PM

I'd add that Kay Blum-Smith's talk of the District as a "corporation" and kids as "clients" and 'training like Starbucks' kind of gives me the willies.

She sounds disturbingly like the Broad Foundation's
indoctrinating jargon as it explains its vision for corporatizing school districts and privatizing public schools.

In other words, she is echoing the current "education reformers" (who are hawking failed privatized charters and merit pay as the panacea for school district challenges).

No thanks.

Those 'Starbucks training sessions' she speaks of also sound suspiciously like the Broad Foundation's various indoctrinating retreats that SPS Board Members and others are sent on.

Now if she really does mean Starbucks, I find it rather amusing and extremely ironic that she chooses as an example of a successful role model a corporation that is currently floundering, and is in fact carefully studying genuine local independent versions of itself (local coffeehouses) and attempting to copy them while it hides its own brand which it spent so much time and money to create!


Bringing the analogy back to schools, Seattle already has locally grown community supported independent schools in its midst -- its alternative and 'nontraditional' schools. Why don't we cut out the corporate middle man ('Starbucks'/Broad/KIPP/Green Dot) and support and expand the genuine schools we already have?

Rather than abolishing (Summit), splitting (APP), threatening (AS#1), or moving them (Nova) into unsafe buildings, that is.

Oh and Robert, I think you are right -- I don't believe Mary Bass was at Lowell's January 2009 closure meeting. I understand your frustration, but I just don't trust Kay's instincts on how to run the District. Which brings me back to Adhoc's comment -- the District 5 seat appears to be shaping up into a lesser of two evils vote, I'm afraid.

(Can anyone else run as a write-in candidate in the General Election?)
gavroche said…
Sorry -- I meant Kay Smith-Blum.
Stu said…
Can anyone else run as a write-in candidate in the General Election?

Actually, an interesting question . . . since the position is now voted on by the entire seattle area, does the person running still have to come from the specific district? Charlie . . . how quickly can you move to that neighborhood?

Sahila said…
I've been looking further afield - out of district, investigating private options - for my son's education also, though no final commitments have been made...

I hate that I am doing that, but my first responsibility is to him and building a foundation for his future, and its not acceptable to me that he gets so little exposure to deepening and broadening activities (even at an alternative school - nay especially at an alternative school), such as music, art, drama, sport etc, unless I fill every hour of his non-school time shuffling him around the city; besides, we're on a very limited budget and I cant see how to give him all that unless its built into his school experience...

He spent some time at Evergreen this past three months, at camp... wow - what $17K/year buys in life-forming experience for a child... it breaks my heart and manifests as anger to see what SPS children DONT GET compared to what the children at Evergreen do - and its not all because of the price-tag of what's provided at Evergreen - a lot of its because of the appalling financial and organisational mismanagement of the District and the lack of vision, creativity, commitment to the best possible outcome (the commitment rather seems to the easiest, LCD outcome) and problem solving skills...

I dont want to turn my back on SPS and public education - I've invested a lot of time and energy in my ONE year's association/participation, at school, going to Board meetings, lobbying through various media, holding meetings, meeting with other groups to communicate and collaborate, signing on to a law suit... all this in one year, as a single parent working to build a new life here....

And that's not coming from a 'poor me' or 'look how great I am' space - its coming from the: "f**k, what a stuff up... how can this be like this in the 21st Century, in the richest country on earth, in arguably the most highly-educated, richest city in the US... where is the common sense, the vision, the creativity, the best practice, the commitment to maximising ALL children's unique potential?" How could I see all this going on and not get involved?

But you know what? I'm not sure I should be sacrificing my son's educational opportunities on the altar of my responsibility to work to make things better here - especially since this neanderthal behemoth running amok (like a bull in a china shop) seems deaf to all reason, logic and data/history....
Sahila said…
GAVROCHE - you made me laugh with that reference to Starbucks and its current difficulties...

Starbucks has brought out its version of instant coffee...

Most days driving around the north end I see a Nestle billboard, pointing out that Starbucks has 'invented' instant coffee, something Nestle has been selling for more than 70 years (Nescafe)...

SPS/Broad etc could take a few pointers from this ... why bother 'reforming' education/imposing a failing model, when other countries, systems and research have already done the work for you and best practices/successful 'products' have already been identified....

That to me would seem the logical process to follow, to solve some of our problems, IF we had as our intent a desire to give our children the best possible educational experience...

HOWEVER, its not a logical process IF we have as our intent privatising public education (bringing in charters) and making the most PROFIT we can in the process, on the backs of our children....

I know I see the elephant in the room - any else see it?
Stu said…
He spent some time at Evergreen this past three months, at camp


I don't know the age of your son, and I certainly feel the pull of private school, but our son (5th grade) has been doing Evergreen camps since he was 4 years old. We've known a lot of people who've gone to Evergreen and it's a wonderful program. I remember looking at all the books in the 1st and 2nd grade rooms . . . history, math, novels . . . the people we've met there have been great and it's a good example of a solid education. We considered sending our son there years ago but, unfortunately, couldn't afford it at the time. Had I thought to add up all of the "added on" expense of public schools, I might have tried harder to pay for Evergreen.

As I wrote in an earlier post, what appeals to me most about sending our son to private school, which we're considering when middle school begins, is that we would start getting some of the"necessities" IN school instead of having to do everything before or after school. I strongly believe that art, music, science, sports, and languages, are essential skills that need to be introduced early in a child's education. Part of me feels as though we've wasted a number of years sticking with SPS out of a sense of duty.

Whatever you decide to do, where ever you decide to send your son, I'm sure you'll continue to work to better the Seattle Schools.

reader said…
Stu, if you follow education at all, you'll know the Gates foundation has tried to insert itself into our public education. It isn't simply random "elitist bashing" to bring up that up. If you cringe when somebody mentions "Lakeside", doesn't that say something about you? The Gates foundation staff has publically stated it wants the education of students to be more like "Lakeside", more "small academies". Why? Because... well, "we noticed it worked at Lakeside, and everyone gets a good education there." Its development director came out a few years ago and directly said that on KUOW.

The problem with that attitude is that, no, Lakeside doesn't take everyone. Yes, they have some hand-picked minorities. Yes, they have practically unlimited funds for the select few they choose.. but basically, it is a highly privatized and selective school. That is not what we have in our public schools. And, we never will. If you like small, private, exclusive education, that is perfectly fine and great. Really. And by all means, sign up and attend. You do not need to defend yourself. BUT, do not come back and proclaim yourself an expert on education because you attended. Or proclaim yourself an expert because you ran the bakesale to support the music program. (KSB) Those same principles do NOT apply to public schools for obvious reasons. And it's pretty clear the Gates' initiatives in Seattle haven't amounted to a hill of beans.

And, btw, just to get your facts straight, the differential IS indeed huge. For the type of student attending Lakeside, the district receives $4,000 or so... and less trickles down to your individual school. Lakeside will "get" a factor 6X or more or probably more like 10X, after you count in tuition, annual giving requirements, endowement, donations, etc. And, those parents spend on all the same things you do Stu... and more. So, I agree with you on the differential, it's just way, way, more. And the students educated, are actually easier.

The issue with KSB, which seems dilettantish, in absence of a lot of information... includes her focus. Since you asked for the whole build up:

1)"I get a lot of donations"
2)"I love music, and IB.. whatever that is. Everyone should have it, it's important to me."
3)"I lie on my resume in ways that please other dilettantes. You know, I'm a statistics expert (really smart)... not a marketing weenie (less smart)."
4)"I'm send my kids to private schools, when they can't get into programs I like... probably to avoid those I don't like"
5)"I'm a CEO of my little company"
6)"There's no difference between CEO and business owner."
7)"I know other CEO's"
8)"Schools are busisnesses, and I'm the right CEO to run them."

I just don't think that package, reflects the values and priorities we need in a school board member... laudable and sincere though they may be in other contexts.

And Stu, you are quite correct that it is simplistic (and unfair) to boil a person down to a overly simplistic "elitist dilletante"... but, in the end, we all, as voters, boil the person down to an even smaller word: "no".
adhoc said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
adhoc said…
Stu said "sending our son to private school, which we're considering when middle school begins, is that we would start getting some of the"necessities" IN school instead of having to do everything before or after school. I strongly believe that art, music, science, sports, and languages, are essential skills that need to be introduced early in a child's education."

Stu, I don't know what your middle school options are? Mine are Eckstein, Hamilton, Jane Addams, and Kellogg (Shoreline). All of these schools offer after school sports teams, some cut, but many no cut, and all offer PE (mandatory) during the school day. All offer one period of science (55 minutes) every day. Art and band/choir/orchestra as well as an array of other electives (pottery, tech support, office assistant, yearbook design, photography) are electives and offered as a class (55 minutes every day), which all children can choose to take. Eckstein offers three foreign languages, Hamilton offers 2 including immersion offerings, Kellogg offers 2, and even JA with only a 100 kid middle school offers Spanish.

And, Kellogg offers offers all MS and HS students their own Macbook laptop to take home and work on all year long! Same as Lakeside, only the district pays for the laptops, instead of the families.

Public school is certainly not comparable to private school, but our kids have had plenty of the arts, sports, language and science to satisfy us.
adhoc said…
FYI check out the Nathan Hale course catalog to get an idea of what is offered in HS (I couldn't find a MS course catalog online).

Sahila said…
Languages ought to be taught from kindergarten; children's brains at birth are wired to learn every language on the planet... with specialisation (exposure only to the mother tongue), that ability is slowly pruned back. So, logically, children ought to be taught other (multiple) languages from the first days of elementary school, when their brains are still almost optimally receptive..

Talking about elementary school in SPS again, subjects I consider are essential elements of a good education, and the reality of availability to our kids:

*Art - how often a week? Once if you're lucky...and you're not at AS#1 if you're in kindergarten - perhaps if you're in middle school...

*Music - how often a week? Once if you're lucky...and you're not at AS#1...not at all in kindergarten (never mind the fact that the teacher has a degree in music and instruments - keyboard and guitar - sitting in plain sight in the class) unless you sign up for private music lessons...

*Physical education - how often a week? Three times if you are lucky, or you get it every day for a short period and then rotate to another 'core' subject....

*Science - how often a week - none at all yet for my son at AS#1...not sure what the middle school kids do, but the science lab looks as though it's hardly ever used and the equipment seems very basic, dated and shabby ...

*Other Language - how often a week? None at all at AS#1, unless an outsider comes in and offers it as an elective...

*Library - how often a week? None at all at AS#1 because the library space now doubles as a computer lab (though I never see students in there working), there is no room to bring kids into the library and there is no librarian...

*Electives - core to the pedagogy at AS#1 - I would have thought once a day, but though kindergarteners were supposed to have electives (and lots of field trips), none for my son's class this past year and field trips only began to happen past the mid-year point, once frustrated parents took on the job of making them happen...

Now, I'm not bitching about AS#1 specifically - the school has had a horrible time over the past handful of years and its resources and energy have been stretched to breaking point through repeatedly fighting off closure actions, enduring a culture change that's brought conflict and now this restructuring and only a stay of execution from SPS, not a commitment to its continued existance...

BUT - I was talking with a principal in Shoreline (who used to be a teacher in SPS and was also a math coach for the District here), and she told me that SPS gets more per pupil funding from the state than any other District, and less of that money finds its way into the classroom than in almost any other District... proportionally, more of it gets siphoned off into administration at the District level...

We could have all of these core subjects for all of our kids as part of their every day experience, if we dealt with that issue.... if other Districts can do it, so can we...
Charlie Mas said…
As difficult as regular campaigns are, particularly for down ballot offices like School Board, I cannot even imagine the difficulties of mounting a write-in campaign for School Board.

Nor do I want to move from my home on Beacon Hill to West Seattle (though I love it), or North Seattle.

Instead, I will hope that the person elected from District 7, whether Betty Patu or Wilson Chin, focuses on doing the Board job, engages the community, and holds the superintendent accountable. If they don't, I'll run again in four years.

Let me offer some advice to anyone thinking of challenging Director Maier, Director Carr, or Director Sundquist in two years: Learn from the misfortune of others. There's a lot of stuff that I would have done differently that could have made a difference for me.

Get started now. They should start visiting the schools in the District and dropping in on the PTA meetings. All they should do is listen. "What are the issues here? What are your problems, your concerns, your needs, and your wants?" Ask them what they want and need from the Board, from the superintendent. Don't presume you know. After you ask the PTA, ask the teachers. Principals turn over a lot and there aren't as many good ones as you might hope. Also, they tend to be much more jealous of their time. So I would only ask principals if they have been at the school for a long time - five years, say, or if the teachers or families mention them as a driving positive force in the building.

You should also start attending the meetings of the local Democratic Party. Go to your District's monthly meetings and introduce yourself to folks. Go to local Democratic party events and introduce yourself there also. You will meet people who can give you valuable help and advice.

You can let people know that you're thinking about running. I would start telling them that you're running in January of 2011. Seriously. At that time your first order of business should be to get a pro to work as your campaign manager. You should have met a few of them at Democratic Party events.

Do some fund raising. Gather endorsements. That means talking to people who are movers and shakers in Seattle education circles - folks from League of Education Voters, folks from the PTA, folks from SchoolsFirst, state legislators, folks from the SEA and Local 609.

Start to build a volunteer organization with people in various neighborhoods who will distribute yard signs and door hangers for you. Many hands make light work.

After your announcement in January, get out and start doorbelling. Spend a few hours on evenings and weekends knocking on doors, shaking hands, and talking to people about schools. If you start in January and put in five hours a week, you can cover a whole lot of your District.

From all of this you'll get stories. Lots and lots of stories. Everybody has a story or two to tell you about their experience with Seattle Public Schools.

Here's another tip: you don't need to talk about issues unless the other person raises them. Neither of my opponents ever mentioned a single position on a single issue. Neither did Cheryl Chow when she ran and won in this district four years ago. That may be unique to District 7, but I don't think so.
Charlie's right; running for School Board is an interesting race. I think of it as very genteel but frankly, I think it might get more rough between Mary and Kay. Mary will be busy defending her record and saying what she would focus on going forward.

Kay will have to explain how she thinks she can make her goals happen in the timelines she has set coming into a district that already has a lot going on.

They are reasonable questions on both sides.

I think they both have issues that they will be asked about so it may become more pointed than in the primary.
Robert said…
Melissa when you sit down with Mary are her issues and ideas off the table? And did she not meet with you previously as all the other candidates did to discuss these already? I ask because she doesn't have any that reflect the 8 years of experience on her website.

View her site and you will see that Mary details her concerns for gay rights, single payer insurance and a progressive tax structure... not much she can do as SBM nor do they reflect her 8 years of experience.

Sorry don't know how to add a link better than this:


I just think that we need a more focused effort for our kids.

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