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Friday, June 25, 2010

A Seat on the Alliance Board

It's a funny ol' world, ain't it?

There's a post on the Alliance blog about Development (that's a euphemism for fundraising) in which the author, Mr. Gonzalez, invites folks to make a donation online or to email him with other ways they would like to get involved with the Alliance.

It occurred to me that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson no longer sits on the Alliance Board. I think she used to be on it because the Alliance lists her as a Board member, but it isn't among the non-profit boards listed in her disclosure statement and it isn't in her bio.

Actually, when you think of all of business between the District and the Alliance, there is good reason to think that a seat on the Alliance board would be a much bigger conflict of interest than even her seat on the NWEA board.

Anyway, with her no longer in that role, I reckoned that meant that her seat on the Alliance Board is available.

So I volunteered for it.

According to Mr. Gonzalez, the Alliance's goal is to convene and engage the community in meaningful discussions about education. I have been doing that exact work right here on this blog for the past several years. He also says that the Alliance's wants to rally support to achieve the positive outcomes we are all striving for. Me too! I have been rallying support for about ten years! I have exactly the sort of experience that they are looking for.

Let's see if the Alliance is willing to have me on their Board of Directors. I think I'm qualified. Who else on their Board has more applicable experience than I have?

On top of that, I am a financial professional. I have more to offer than just a deep and broad knowledge of Seattle Public Schools and two fingers on the pulse of the community - as if that weren't enough.

25 comments:

MathTeacher42 said...

Hey Charlie!
You'd better get the backing of people of who aren't down in the trenches,
You'd better get the backing of people with NO clue about what their policy implications are,
You'd better get the backing of people with NO sense of reality when it comes to the nuts and bolts of fixing things,

You'd better get the backing of Big Shots!

http://education.washington.edu/research/

I support you, but, I'm one of those stuck with actually implementing all the idiotic, poorly thought out, unpaid for policies!

Robert Murphy,
Just a lowly high school math teacher.

seattle said...

Who at the Alliance did you contact to volunteer? Was it Mr. Gonzalez? What's his email address? I think I'd be happy to write a recommendation letter on your behalf, and let him know that I would be thrilled if they gave you a seat on their board!

Hélène said...

You know, that's a very good idea... (probably not for your sanity, though)

dan dempsey said...

About the President of the Board:

George has been an especially powerful voice for closing the achievement gap in Seattle’s public schools.

Clearly his voice has been unheard in Math. Does he need a different voice?

Charlie Mas is the man.

Go Charlie!!!

dan dempsey said...

"I have more to offer than just a deep and broad knowledge of Seattle Public Schools and two fingers on the pulse of the community - as if that weren't enough. "

deep and broad knowledge of Seattle Public Schools and two fingers on the pulse of the community

Is likely too much ... folks like that are not needed.

YES MEN please.

Michael said...

It is my understanding that the superintendent is a member of the Alliance Board by default. Why they don't list her is a good question.

Jet City mom said...

The website for the Alliance lists MGJ as on their board- but I have a question- there are people my daughter went to college with who have wikipedia entries- I find it curious MGJ does not.

Charlie Mas said...

The Alliance may list her as a member of their board. If she is, then her disclosure statement is incomplete.

Also, given the amount of work that the District outsources to the Alliance (mostly stakeholder engagement work), I wonder how that could fail to present a conflict of interest.

And, while we're at it, how could the Alliance remain a neutral party when it interferes with the teacher contract negotiations when it has two members of the management side on its board but no one from the labor side?

So her presence on the Alliance board is a conflict of interest on both sides.

Sahila said...

How many conflicts of interest does it take to get a Superintendent relieved of her duties????

What can the citizenry do to ensure she either leaves the job or divests herself of these conflicts of interest, seeing the board doesnt seem to be bothered by it?

dan dempsey said...

Charlie,

I thought that SEA executive director Glen Bafia was very connected to the Alliance. Please check that out.

Thanks,

Dan

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

@Sahila: Schools Are Broke. This is the pretext that justifies everything. School "CEOs" elevate themselves when they do the 80s-era Art of War schtick. It's how the revolving door game is played.

Superintendents and principals are reduced to scrounging for change or playing with the big boys and girls, joining Alliances and the like. Branding is key. What we regard as a conflict of interest is a necessary part of doing bidness.

Anonymous said...

Charlie,

Can we get an open thread going again?

Charlie Mas said...

Here's a link to the Alliance Board of Directors. I don't see ANYONE there who represents labor in any way.

Charlie Mas said...

Actually, if you look at the Alliance Board you can see that it is comprised almost entirely of corporate representatives. Most of the folks on the Alliance Board don't represent themselves, but corporations, law firms, and accounting firms.

Here's my tally:
PR Firm reps: 1
Accounting Firm reps: 3
Law Firm reps: 3
Local Corporation reps: 12
Chamber of Commerce: 1
Community Volunteers: 2
Roosevelt High Foundation: 1
School District leadership: 2
Total: 25

So, of the 25 members of the Alliance Board, 20 (80%) represent business interests. That's a pretty interesting way to represent the community.

I see Boeing and Amgen represented, but not other Seattle headquartered companies like Amazon, Starbucks, UPS, or

And who are the two community volunteers, Fay Chapman and Matt Dailey? She is the former chief legal officer of Washington Mutual. He is an executive for Bank of America - or was.

Why don't we see representation from the teachers? from principals? from groups like Powerful Schools? How many of the members of the Alliance Board have a real connection with Seattle Public Schools as a parent?

Unknown said...

Group Health and First Choice Health are both headquartered in Washington. Boeing, while no longer headquartered here, still has significant operations in this region.

I guess you have a choice - - you can decry us "corporatists" and attribute horrible motives to those of us who give to and work with the Alliance, and to the Alliance itself. Or you can find ways to build common ground and work together.

Personally, I'm all for the latter. United we stand, divided we fall and all that.

Charlie, Sahila, is it realistic that you could ever try to find common ground and issues to cooperate on with the Alliance, with those of us who like the Alliance and what it does, or with anyone who has some strong, or even tenuous, link to the broad Foundation? And by "work together" I don't mean "yes, if they just agree to completely change what they've been up to and do what I think is important instead, I could work with them." I mean starting from a respectful acknowledgment that people see different needs and different solutions, and believe different solutions are the "right" ones, but we can collectively agree that the needs are many and here the 2 (or 5 or 6) solutions we could cooperate on?

seattle citizen said...

Rosie, I can't answer for Charlie or Sahila, but I would ask what solutions YOU believe are the "right" ones, and why?

As usual, I'm interested in specifics that are based in practice with proven results, not "let's try this."

There are many practices with proven results already in play in Seattle Public Schools - many students flourish, many teachers demonstrate knowledge, skill and creativity in teaching....

Much of what I see as "reform" does NOT look at existing practices that are succeesful, but rather proposes a whole slew of radical changes that, in my opinion, are damaging to many students and to education as a whole.

I, personally, will always stand vocally against many of these practices advocated by "reformers": THEY have gobs more money and advertising space (via their friends in business and media, whilst I have only my voice.

I wouldn't be "joining" some of these groups because to do so would lend credibility to their agenda, which I will not do. Push-poll surveys, attacks on teachers, a debasement of education to mere playing with numbers....I can't get behind it, children are vastly more complicated than that and they deserve advocates who speak out against those who claim to have some "magic bullet."

Charlie Mas said...

I would be happy to work with the Alliance. What work are they doing?

1) They say that they are engaged in research and community discussions on the Community Schools strategy. Not much I can help with there, is there?

2) They are interfering with the District's contract negotiations as the leader of the Our Schools Coalition. I can't get behind that.

3) They are making a lot of nonsensical noise about "Teacher Quality" - an expression they cannot define or quantify. I can't get behind that.

4) They say that their community engagement efforts bridge the work of Seattle Public Schools and the communities it serves through constructive dialogue. I would support this, but I don't see any evidence of it.

A big part of their community engagement effort is their Community Engagement Task Force, which hasn't issued an update on their activity for about a year and a half.

The Alliance does not engage people on their blog.

So it is difficult for me to join with the Alliance in their work when it seems to me that they don't do any work. Most of their work appears to be serving as fiscal agent for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Broad Foundation. I don't really see the Alliance doing any work - certainly no work that they would care to share with anyone else.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Charlie, Sahila, is it realistic that you could ever try to find common ground and issues to cooperate on with the Alliance, with those of us who like the Alliance and what it does, or with anyone who has some strong, or even tenuous, link to the broad Foundation? And by "work together" I don't mean "yes, if they just agree to completely change what they've been up to and do what I think is important instead, I could work with them."

I just had to smile. This is pretty much what Charlie and I have heard for years. "If only you would work WITH X entity." Charlie and I have done that in spades. Personally, I have reached out and offered to help, asked how I could help, etc. But to not much avail. Once you get burned or fooled and then go back for more because people tell you "to just try to work WITH X entity" you do reach a point when you finally say, enough.

But I haven't burned any bridges (that I know of) with most groups. I simply choose to be pragmatic and realistic about what parents can do to work with these groups.

I know several people at the Alliance and do believe they have good intent. But smiling faces and good words get negated by actions that are not explained and by a list of people on the Alliance's Board who aren't very representative of the educational community in Seattle. That would seem odd to anyone given they are an education foundation.

Charlie Mas said...

It used to be that the Alliance was just a fundraising organization. They just raised money without trying to influence the District.

They never were very good at raising money in the first place, and lately they have all but abandoned the effort. They raised less than $300,000 with their Community Breakfast this year. That sort of pales when compared to the $7.2 million they processed for the Gates Foundation. Why go through all of that trouble and effort to raise $300,000 when it si so much easier to get twenty times that from Gates or ten times that amount from the Broad Foundation?

And how much influence should $300,000 buy? How much influence would it buy a handful of PTAs? I'm pretty sure that the money raised by the PTAs in the Eckstein Service Area exceeds $300,000, so why don't they have the influence that the Alliance has?

I don't dislike the Alliance. I don't think they are the debil (I have friends who do). I give praise and credit to any person or institution that raises money for schools, but I'm not sure that's what the Alliance is about.

They say that they want to support innovation and they want to level the playing field for low-income communities. So how's about the Alliance pays for alternative materials in schools that want a waiver but can't afford to buy textbooks that aren't Board-adopted? I could see the benefit there. I don't see the benefit to children that comes from attacking teachers.

Charlie Mas said...

I just scheduled a meeting with Solynn McCurdy of the Alliance to learn what they are working on and how I can help.

I'll be talking to him this week and I will bring an open mind and a positive attitude to the meeting.

Sahila said...

Rosie - speaking only for myself, I look carefully at who I choose to "do business' with - personally, professionally and from a social-change perspective...

In the first place, I'm not really a "joiner" per se... I do what I can where our values and goals are aligned and when they aren't I step back...

I've found from experience that joining leads inevitably to a situation where one is asked to back a decision, action, policy that runs contrary to one's own values and one is required to 'prove' one's loyalty by going along with the group; if one doesnt, one is considered to be a "stirrer", a "trouble maker", "difficult", "uncompromising", "unrealiste" etc, etc...

I connect the dots and follow the money... I look at what the group and who its linked to do in other arenas. I make sure I am clear about its agenda... I see if its an autonomous, sovereign group or a "front' for something/someone else...

I see what are the outcomes achieved by the group/organisation...

Is it walking its talk...

And as a journalist and PR/marketing consultant, I have something of an advantage (depending on what side of the fence you're on) - I've been trained to recognise and decode "spin"...

So, with all of that and how I relate to the Alliance and the question of whether or not I could ever work with them while they're on their current "mission", I'd have to say the answer is "No"....

Sahila said...

One of my LinkedIn connections posted this comment today:
"If you limit choices only to what seems reasonable, you disconnect from what you truly want; all that is left is a compromise."

To which I replied:
"And the problem with compromise is that its a slippery slope, becomes a toxic 'power over' game and in the end, no one is happy..."

to which this person responded:
"You are so right..and I hate compromises! Go for what you want and never say die."

Now, some might see this as an arrogant and unrealistic stance to take, both in one's personal, professional lives and in society...

But really, if your values and goals do not align, who will be happy and what will work well with a half-arsed solution that meets the full needs of nobody, with conflict, resentment, dysfunction rumbling under the surface, only to explode with greater force at some point in the future?

And the Alliance and its big-money backers dont share the same vision, goals and values as most of the people they purport to be wanting to help... if they did, they'd speak to us all in clear plain language rather than manipulative PR spin, they wouldnt hide their connections and intents, they wouldnt be trying to put in place such de-humanising top-down "solutions" and riding rough shod over those of us who disagree with them...

They have taken and been given far too much power seeing they dont represent us and they dont have to live the "solutions they're trying to impose...

WenD said...

@Rosie: Please check me if I'm wrong, but the Alliance was started by John Stanford. He knew schools were broken financially, so of course he thought that drafting Joe Olchefske to be his right hand man was a good move. He saw the need for concentrated fund raising. Makes sense, right? A few years go by, some great ideas actually made it off the drawing board (immersion at JSIS), but then change stopped. Stanford died too soon, Olchefske turned out to be an incompetent fraud, and SPS continued staggering forward, spending more than any other district, remanufacturing excuses while continuing to do the opposite of what even Suze Orman would've told a family of 5 to do. For years, SPS has refused to listen. They don't like audits. They're allergic to them. Stanford is gone, but the Alliance wasn't disbanded. As Charlie has pointed out (and really, why can't Joni Balter or Lynne Varner do the same?), the Alliance is a fundraising failure. Why is that? Is there a lack of trust from the usual targets? Possibly, since SPS is guilty of years of mismanagement. This is where your call to "work with them" is curious, because as Melissa and others have documented, PTSAs aren't just having bake sales; they're paying for maintenance at schools.

For me, the Alliance has more than outlived it's original mission. They launder donations. That's it. Gates won't give monies directly to SPS, and given their years of notorious mismanagement, this is understandable, but at no time has the Alliance earned the right to enter into teacher contract issues. They're supposed to raise money and support schools. The people riding their bench know nothing about education, but they know a lot about money. As we have seen, SPS's relationship with money is tortured at best. It isn't all their fault. Look to California to see how tax cuts have been a rolling disaster for schools for almost 3 decades.

In conclusion, I think the drive to "reform" covers up the failure of A4E's original mission. They can't fix a deadbeat system, but the boosters can't let on how broken it is. The answer is reform, and it's a twofer: create income streams for edu-biz, while making it easier to manage a failed model that's bleeding cash. These volunteer board members aren't necessarily schooled in how to educate, but they know all about management. The irony is that many of the economic policies these board members live by are the same policies that have driven schools into the ground.

The same local boosters will keep praising the only sup who stuck around for the job. What other choice do they have? They will never admit their mistakes. Sit back and shut up. How is that working out?

dan dempsey said...

Worth repeating:

"The answer is reform, and it's a twofer: create income streams for edu-biz, while making it easier to manage a failed model that's bleeding cash.

These volunteer board members aren't necessarily schooled in how to educate, but they know all about management.

The irony is that many of the economic policies these board members live by are the same policies that have driven schools into the ground."