Thursday, June 24, 2010

Desperately Seeking Susan (Or At Least Someone Who Thinks Like Her)

I had written to Susan Enfield, our CAO, at the beginning of June to ask some questions. Here was my e-mail to her:

"I was reading the Times recently and they had an editorial on Congress and the emergency public school aid. They referenced the school improvement grants here in Seattle and said this:

"In Seattle schools teachers at Hawthorne Elementary, West Seattle Elementary and Cleveland High have agreed to be evaluated under a new system that holds them accountable for meeting student academic growth goals. In exchange, the teachers are eligible for extra compensation."

I reviewed the SPS press release on this along with each school's fact sheet and I didn't see anything about extra compensation. Could you tell me where I might find information on this or did the Times get something wrong?

Also, you may have heard (or read) that I pointed out my disappointment in your report to the Board on the Native American program issues. This is a pretty important thing to get right given how the district hasn't been doing due diligence especially around the federal grant. I was very disappointed to hear you say at the end of May Board meeting, ""I think we want to get to a place where we are not reacting to things that crop up as perhaps a 'pseudo-crisis'".

Is what happened truly a "pseudo-crisis" to you? I find that hard to believe but you that's what your statement seem to say given the context in which you were speaking. It was probably hard for the Native American parents in the audience to hear that from the very person they would think would support and help them."

She was gracious enough to set up a meeting to talk and so we did this week.

On the issue of extra compensation for teachers under this SIG grant, YES, there will be extra compensation. (Now why this wasn't in the press releases about the grant and/or how the Times found out, I don't know.) She said it will be a "group compensation" meaning the whole staff will get paid extra for meeting goals. She also said there would be school-wide professional development (as opposed to individual) and that the money for the compensation would come from the grant. In addition, there would be opportunities for individual teachers to pursue career ladder opportunities (leadership but not necessarily as a goal to leave the classroom).

It's a lot to take in and I just have to wonder what the SEA thinks and how other schools will feel and well, it's a way to pilot compensation for results.

As for the Native American issue, Susan pointed out that she has met several times with NA parent groups and feels they are making progress. She realizes that there has been damage to the relationship and is working to repair it.

Where her wording about a "pseudo crisis" was flawed was in that she was trying to say that there has never been a real long-term plan for the Native American program and rather than just muddle along, they are creating a 5-year Plan so they won't have these issues just popping up and then reacting to them. She agreed she could have phrased it better and has gone over her remarks with the NA parent group. She also said she is moving the program out of "Intervention" and under "Academics". She said she wants permanent and sustainable programs.

We spoke briefly about the new Ed Directors and she did say that each region would have a Special Ed person assigned to it. We didn't go into logistics but she seemed sincere about making sure that Special Ed was being watched over.

This is the second time that Dr. Enfield has given me time to talk to her without feeling rushed or pushed. I find that she and I seem to have common ground and that even when I don't fully agree with her, I see her points.

That said, she has commented to me that she came to Seattle based on the Superintendent and her vision for the district.

I have said elsewhere in this blog that I would be fine if, for whatever reason, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson left the district that Dr. Enfield would make a good interim Superintendent. She's a fairly calm, reasonable person who is easy to talk to on a number of subjects. (Dr. Enfield also went to a superintendent academy/charm school - this one at Harvard.)

I bring this up to report on the issues I raised in my e-mail to to Dr. Enfield but also to point out that we do have some good talent on-board and hypothetically speaking, we would not be adrift if the Board made a decision to not extend Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's contract.


Charlie Mas said...

I wonder what will be measured as student academic growth at Cleveland. Will it measure the academic growth of the students, or will it measure the difference between cohorts?

Actual student academic growth would be measured by the change for the continuing students - how they did in grade 10 versus grade 9, how they did in grade 11 versus grade 10, etc. If the "student academic growth" is instead measured by this year's 10th graders versus last year's 10th graders, then it isn't student academic growth that's getting measured but school recruiting strength.

How much ya wanna bet it's the latter rather than the former?

Charlie Mas said...

I've thought about this, but there's just no nice way to say it.

I don't trust Susan Enfield.

She back-pedalled and explained her way out of the "pseudo-crisis" comment. She also tried to back-pedal her way out of a remark she made about high school APP not really being a program.

She has been intentionally obscure about her use of the word "curriculum", trying to confuse its meaning with materials, with pedagogy, and with content.

She has not presented herself as a forthright person to me.

She misrepresented STEM. She misrepresented advanced learning. She misrepresented ICS. She misrepresented RTI. Her oversight of Program Placement has been perfectly dreadful and dishonest.

She has overseen the substitution of Standardization for curricular alignment. She has opposed waivers on any grounds.

She has been in conversation with the Alternative Schools Coalition and, I fear, she has been leading them down a garden path, telling them everything they want to hear but not committing to anything they want.

I don't trust her and I don't think anyone else should trust her either.

She may, over time, earn my trust, but she's a long way from there right now.

Someone - anyone - remind me of the times when Susan Enfield has fulfilled a commitment.

Sahila said...

Schools Matter calls out Harvard's Graduate School of Education:

MathTeacher42 said...

about that SIG stuff at the SEA.

pardon my stuffy end of school cold -

There was a vote to approve this SIG grant stuff in April? ONE detail I am positive about this is that we got the email with all the details on Sunday afternoon, for a Monday afternoon meeting.

The WEA / SEA? leadership can't do won't do don't do anything online cuz ... our Hanford caliber secret weapon stratergery will escape and

they'll see The Big Board!


Therefore, we get to vote on stuff like this at the last minute cuz some bureaucrat in DC or Oly or Twisp was dilly-dallying, or is playing hardball, or ... who knows - BUT, it is all in that last minute email!

During these kind of contentious votes, one of the common themes coming from the top (see the May 2010 SEA Unity Newsletter
http://www.seattlewea.org/static_content/unity2009.pdf ) is fear of what the dissemblers at places like the League of Alliances For Arne's Phantasies will say -

"How will your community react if the Association refuses to participate in this program?"

Ah - given the messaging incompetence from worker "leadership" for 30 years, our community will react as they're told to react by the League of Alliances of Billionaires.

(remember all those UAW workers who voted Raygun ?? How did that work out for all of you? WHY is union "leadership" still incompetent on messaging? )

So, in conclusion, the SEA did have a last minute vote on RTTT SIG ... stuff ... and it did approve ... the SIG? The MOU of the RTTT SIG?

M-i-c, K-e-y, M - O - U - S - E!

My day job was hopping back then, so, sorry for the vague memories.


dan dempsey said...

WOW!!! Cleveland STEM and all the trash maneuvers that produced that incredibly poorly researched approval expenditure. {another 4-3 vote on 4-7-10 ... Carr, Sundquist, Maier, and Martin-Morris again ... unable to provide certified correct transcript of evidence again}

Charlie, I cannot help with "remind me of the times when Susan Enfield has fulfilled a commitment."

NTN Contract Appeal filed on 4-7-10 HERE

Project Based Learning = why?
It sometimes marginally works but when used as the principal instruction method (as required in the NTN model) = NOPE.... Minimally Guided Instruction does not work see HERE

Anonymous said...

Charlie said: "I don't trust her and I don't think anyone else should trust her either."

It's fine for you to say you don't trust her, but I think you should be careful saying that others shouldn't trust her either. I've spoken with her on more than one occasion and have found her to be both accessible and responsive. FAR more so than the superintendent (of course that's not saying much), and far more than most of our Board members.

She, along with many staff members truly serve the wishes of their boss, our superintendent. She was hired by the supe and clearly needs to do her bidding without making huge waves.

Think about it. You might disagree with your boss and (if you have a great relationship) even say so directly to his face, but I doubt you'd call him out in public. Triply so in such a hugely visible position like superintendent of public schools.

There are a number of staff members that deal with the community at large that need to be very careful what they say in public. But I trust that many of them are both dedicated and capable. Tray Libros comes to mind.

I'm not going to start marching around with a big Susan Enfield for President flag, but at this point I'm still inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt, and I wholeheartedly agree with Mel's assessment:

...hypothetically speaking, we would not be adrift if the Board made a decision to not extend Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's contract.

And that's really the point of why I'm bothering to write. I'd love to see the supe's contract not extended. Let her walk. Then let Dr. Enfield step up to bat, even if only on an interim basis, and see how it goes. My gut tells me that we'd see a huge improvement.

Charlie Mas said...

My observation has been that the superintendent is actually a good manager in at least one way: she delegates a lot of authority and then backs up her people when they make a decision.

I have seen this a number of times, starting with the Denny/Sealth thing. Not only does she expect her people to close ranks and support her decisions, but she closes ranks with them and supports their decisions.

It's not always easy to determine the source of a decision, but there are subtle hints. A lot of times it is not the staff supporting the superintendent's decision but the other way around. The superintendent delegates well and she does it a lot. That's one of her virtues as a manager.

Unfortunately, it also contributes to the District staff's fortress mentality.

Let's not presume that every bad decision that Susan Enfield has supported was not her own.

I believe that she has the authority to make a lot of those decisions and that a lot of those decisions were hers. Program Placement, for example. I don't think the superintendent reached down and dictated the location of Spectrum programs. I think that Dr. Enfield has been given the authority to address the Alternative School stuff and to run the Curriculum Alignment inititiative (along with Dr. Thompson).

I also suspect that Dr. Enfield may have just been making soothing noises to Director Chow when we spoke of working towards a time when high school APP can be dissolved, and she may have just been speaking out of peevishness when I questioned her on it. Then again, maybe not.

Again, can anyone remind me of an example of Susan Enfield keeping a commitment to students, families, or the community?

Melissa Westbrook said...

One thing I do know is that she is continuing to meet with Native American parents to better organize the NA program. Are they making progress? I'll have to make some phone calls but she is meeting with them on a regular basis.

Dorothy Neville said...

"That said, she has commented to me that she came to Seattle based on the Superintendent and her vision for the district."

Your next question to her should have been "Can you please share what that vision is in your interpretation, what specific aspects grab you and in what ways has the superintendent fulfilled that vision so far?

I have reservations about Enfield as super because I have reservations about her as CAO. If I were CAO, I would want all sorts of data and analysis, yet with the PSAT thing, she claimed total ignorance of it all. Had not bugged Brad for data, had not asked for details. She seemed to have no notion of what a PSAT even was. And Brad's very shallow presentation for the math work session had some tantalizing bits, like the state data analysis of schools performing better or worse than expected. If I were CAO, I would have pursued that doggedly, having Brad and/or other staff dig deep into that data for possible answers. I don't see that sort of curiosity or tenacity.

Regardless, I don't see her as a numbers person. Frankly, I don't care if the Super stays, but Don Kennedy ought to be let go and a qualified accountant without any ties to the super or Broad or the Alliance or reform at all ought to be hired. I don't see why he hasn't been fired yet. Why aren't more people seriously alarmed at Meg Diaz's digging and the audit. I have decided never to vote for any school levy --- including operations --- until I see a clean audit report and/or someone like Meg asserts that they've cleaned up their act. Since my husband will follow suit and my son will be voting age soon, that's three votes.

Charlie Mas said...

I'm sorry but I can't give credit for meetings and talk. I'll wait until there are decisions and action.

dan dempsey said...

About STEM NTN PBL and who says what:

I've clearly not had enough training in interpreting the unseen to guess at who makes the real decisions and who does not.

Here is what I saw at the Cleveland Open House. MGJ and Dr. Enfield gave a presentation to a small group on the second floor.

They said the plan was for a 1000 student school with 250 at each grade level. When I asked them how they arrived at those numbers as most NTN schools had 11th grade classes less than 70% the size of 9th grade class size, it took each of them a long time and more explanation from me to comprehend my point.

Neither of these folks do enough research to be (in the words of GWB) "The Deciders" in many respects they are inadequate presenters.

If MGJ chose to slow down the flow, she might have a chance to have everyone be more informed. I doubt having either a fully informed public or school board is part of her plan.