This may seem incredible today, but it used to be that the Board would talk to members of the community who attended Board Committee meetings. Members of the previous Board would usually invite members of the public to sit at the table if there was space available and would often turn to informed people and ask them questions during Board committee meetings. This Board never does that. They didn't even talk to Meg Diaz or afford her an opportunity to speak when they were discussing her analysis. Ivory Tower much?

How I wish they would re-engage with the public this way, but it's a fantasy.

Other fantasies:

I would love it if, during the discussion of a motion at a legislative meeting, a Board member would ask a question of someone who testified on the topic. Wouldn't it be great if a Board member asked Chris Jackins to offer a response to a statement by the District staff?

I would love it if, during a work session or a committee meeting, a Board member had an informed member of the public sit next to them and suggest questions for staff. Wouldn't it be great if Steve Sundquist asked Meg Diaz to sit next to him and whisper in his ear during the next Audit and Finance Committee meeting?

Those ideas are fantasies because they rely on other people taking action. Here's an idea that we can enact ourselves.

Lately, I've had this idea - which doesn't have to be a fantasy - of bringing a whiteboard to the meetings and writing questions on it. Weird, right? Could you just see that? While the staff are showing the Math Pathway I would be writing on the whiteboard: "What about Running Start? What about CTE classes for dual-credit? What about classes beyond Calculus?"

Actually, the whiteboard idea isn't a bad one. We just need a couple folks to hold the whiteboards while someone else writes on them. Whiteboards aren't that expensive and a lot of people have them for their businesses anyway.

So... how weird is this idea?


Anonymous said…
Putting Two and Two Together in Detroit

I’ve been following the story of Detroit School Chief and Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb who was discovered receiving money from the Broad Foundation.

The Detroit Public School Board unanimously voted to file a lawsuit against Mr. Bobb stating that a conflict of interest had developed by him receiving those funds.


Since then it has been established that Bobb cooperated with the Broad Foundation and “charter school backers to draft a plan that calls for a mayoral takeover, and replacing traditional schools with charter schools.”

See: http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/michigan/news.newsmain/article/0/0/1662166/Top.Stories/Schools.Chief.Gets.Grilling.in.Board.Lawsuit

I keep wondering why our Seattle school board can’t put two and two together and come up with the same conclusion for our superintendent.
seattle said…
Brilliant Charlie!
seattle said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
seattle said…
Dora did you notice the open thread a few threads down? Your post would be very appropriate there, but is out of place here. This thread is titled "whitboards", and the topic is how to communicate with our board directors during meetings.
Johnny Calcagno said…
Charlie -

Great idea, and count me in as a sign holder or writer. Of course if the Director's sight is anything like mine, we had better write very large letters!
SSDemp said…
Spot on observation Charlie.

Beautiful part of this form of communication is that I was beginning to think I might be it the only one who this had bothered.

Knowing that I’m speaking to the choir, my thought is that this trend is just what we get when we lose all community elected board members (albeit the last majority were a disaster as well in their own way). When the board is run by the corporate/Alliance/business based community of wealth who can afford to “buy” elections, they aren’t interested in what the broad based electorate has to say.

I am reminded of the way the last “Charter” bill moved through the legislature. When the (“puppet master”) speaker of the house drank the charter kool-aid, the majority of the citizenry had no chance.

In the house education committee, after hours and hours of opposition testimony (on TVW), the chair (a fine, sweet but misguided man) called for a vote. The majority of the committee deafeted the bill. No problem though, the chair promptly called a recess, moved to another hearing room without cameras, and the bill passed by a single vote, in secret session.

Ah yes, another example of public engagement and clear accountability!

We all get the picture.

Let’s do as someone once said: Don’t mourn, organize.

This won’t change until WE change it!
Steve said…
I have several old whiteboards I could give to this effort. They're kind of big (4x5?), but you might need one that big I'd the board is going to see it. Let me know...

Charlie Mas said…
So maybe this isn't such a far-fetched idea.

Yes. We would need big ones (and people to hold them) for the legislative meetings, but smaller ones that the writers could hold themselves for the committee meetings.

Also, the use of the whiteboards would highlight the way that the District - and the Board in particular - have muzzled the public.
Sahila said…
Love the Whiteboard idea, Charlie... practical, efficient, real, low tech and making a not-so-subtle point at the same time... cool...

and see here - numbers of people singing the Vote of No Confidence in MGJ are climbing... 219 last night when I went to bed, 234 this morning...

something of a contrast to the OSC petition, which has sat immobile on 60 signatures for months and months now...

Please, read, sign and pass the word on to your Seattle resident friends, neighbours, family, co-workers... we'd love at least 500 signatures when we present this to the Board on Wed 16th...

AND - we know its a really busy time of year, but PLEASE join us at the rally we're holding before the Board meeting... see details here:


We'll be having speakers - I'll publish the list as soon as its confirmed...
seattle citizen said…
Bring a digital camera, too. At the end of the session, take a picture of the white board and send it to Board members and other relevant staff to remind them of the questions posed.

Keep a file of these photos, then once a month blow them up to poster size, laminate them, attach them to yard-sign holders, and stick 'em in the ground next to the sidewalk on Lander St. in front of JSCEE
seattle citizen said…
Janice, your comment points to a difficulty with this blog - I know, at least, tend to only really look for updates on the ten or so most recent threads. I suspect many of us do this. This is why Dora, myself, and others sometimes post "OT" comments on threads - if we post on threads that are old it would be pointless.

I don't know a resolution to this, but I don't particularly mind the occasional OT, unless it turns the direction of the entire thread (something I'm guilty of doing...)

I, personally, would be interested in knowing if there are corollaries between the Detroit story and our own...Is our superintendent moving to bring charters, or charter-like Broad reforms in collusion with outside players and/or the city?

What plans are being made behind closed doors? The conflict of interest, like with NWEA, does not have to be based on monies received while the actions are taking place - they could be in the form of quid pro quos or future recompense in cash or jobs, etc.
Dorothy Neville said…
"I don't know a resolution to this, but I don't particularly mind the occasional OT, unless it turns the direction of the entire thread (something I'm guilty of doing...)"

This blog has a separate RSS feed for the comments. It is wonderful and allows me to read every comment no matter where it was posted and I never have to waste time flipping through old posts. If you cannot figure out how to subscribe to the comments using your favorite RSS reader, ask your favorite teen. :)

As for the idea of whiteboards, I just posted a related comment about Wednesday's Math presentation. The staff presents material a mile wide and an inch deep. The whiteboard or other citizen documentation of such presentations can and should point out every time the staff says "This needs further study." The deeper study, the deeper analysis and mastery of the data just never seems to happen.
Good idea on the whiteboards especially at Work Sessions. I tend to pass a note to a Board member with a query (which sometimes gets asked) but I like the white board idea because it would put staff on notice. (Only issue is that at Work Sessions some Board members sit with their back to the audience.) I think staff would say it is disruptive.

The Open Thread post was yesterday; it's not that old. I don't like OT posts unless it's breaking news.
dan dempsey said…
Oh yeah Super Duper ...

Needed this at the Math Work Session.. I had provided all board members with Orbits super 35 page report.

DeBell asked a question that the Staff could not answer ....

I needed that whiteboard for
"Orbits : Page 35 bottom"
seattle said…
SC says "I don't particularly mind the occasional OT, unless it turns the direction of the entire thread (something I'm guilty of doing...). I, personally, would be interested in knowing if there are corollaries between the Detroit story and our own.."

Then please email Melissa, Charlie or Beth and ask them to start another thread with a Broad theme. Or if it is not emergent, breaking news, wait for an open thread (which Melissa has been doing once a week or so).

I've seen Melissa remind people several times to stay on topic. Try to respect her (and the rest of us).....please.
seattle citizen said…
I don't even know what RSS means, but I'll figure it out!
And thanks for the remindor of "Open threads", Melissa, that is the place for OTs. I'll try to post OTs there.
Charlie Mas said…
My email address is available from my profile, which is available by clicking on my name.

Send me an email requesting a thread and I'm pretty likely to create it.
Chris S. said…
This is the first I've heard about the gag-rule at committee meetings being a new thing.

If so, is it due to the board or MGJ? Who decides? Either way, if they are board is dinging MGJ for lack of community engagement, could they request a change?
Charlie Mas said…
This is entirely the Board's choice. They are under no "gag rule". They are free to talk to anybody in the room at any time - whether it's the Board Room or the auditorium. They just don't.

Honestly I find it very weird and de-humanizing. It's like when people stand next to each other on an elevator and each pretend the other person isn't there. The normal, human response is to acknowledge other people, not to theatrically ignore them.
As I mentioned previously, Harium, at his last community meeting, left the door open for other groups/individuals to make presentations at Work Sessions. He said to ask the Board.
Charlie Mas said…

Here we go. The first opportunity to use a whiteboard is coming up tomorrow.

The Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee is meeting at 4:30 on Monday afternoon.

They meet in the Board room, which is not a big space. Even a small whiteboard, such as one used by a family to leave messages on the refrigerator, would probably do. A poster-sized one (2' by 3') would be brilliant.

Here is the agenda for the meeting:

a. Performance Management
- How/when will we allow waivers?

b. NWEA Contract

c. Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook

d. Policy C 32 & Procedure C 32.01

e. Project Lead the Way BioMedical Curriculum

f. 150 Instructional Hours per Credit

g. Policy Calendar

We have a lot to say about many of these things.

a. Performance Management
The incentives are upside-down. There is additional money for failure and no reward for success.

As for the waivers, let's remember that none of the reasons for standardizing texts is legitimate. We could write a counter to each argument as they mention it. So when Cathy Thompson says that standardized materials facilitates professional development, we can ask why the professional development is material specific.
We'll also need a small one to wave every time someone says "curriculum" when they really mean "materials".

b. NWEA Contract I don't really understand why the C & I Committee is discussing this. Isn't this for Audit & Finance?

f. 150 Instructional Hours per Credit

If seat time isn't important, then why do we pay for (and tout) the extended day?

d. Policy C 32 & Procedure C 32.01
This is a policy that allows people to complain about instructional materials and, if their complaint is successful, have the instructional materials replaced. This would extend even to basic instructional materials approved by the Board. It appears that it could be a backdoor way to overrule material adoption.

g. Policy Calendar I want to know when we're going to see the review of Policy D12.00 that the Board voted to direct the superintendent to conduct over a year and a half ago. What does it mean when the Board votes to direct the superintendent to take a specific action and she doesn't do it?
Anonymous said…
Charlie found: "Policy C 32 & Procedure C 32.01
This is a policy that allows people to complain about instructional materials and, if their complaint is successful, have the instructional materials replaced. This would extend even to basic instructional materials approved by the Board. It appears that it could be a backdoor way to overrule material adoption."

Awesome stuff, everyone should read these two documents.

Obviously the pitiful math materials need to be addressed ASAP. But there should be some careful discussion about how to best make use of this policy before people start running amok.

Perhaps a death-by-a-thousand-cuts method would be effective (hundreds of people file complaints about the math materials, staggered continuously at all schools around the district). Since this is about basic instructional materials, it can be pursued all the way up to the Board, who must hear the appeal(s) in open session. That would be great, since the Board would need to make their decisions "in full daylight" (sort of). The danger, of course, is that abuse of the policy would almost certainly result in it being re-written. We've seen a policy revised/rescinded when it didn't meet the current administration's agenda.

On the other hand, can you imagine the backlash the Board would get if it killed this policy or made substantive changes that watered it down? Not saying they wouldn't do that, but unlike D12.00 this is a policy that potentially affects every family in every school.

This is a great find. How shall we make best use of it?
seattle citizen said…
Janice, As I wrote to Dorothy and Melissa, I agree there are ways to avoid writing OT and I'll try 'em out more often. Not to be snippy. BUt your first comment on this thread consisted soley of "Brilliant, Charlie!" (when we're all quite aware that Charlie is sometimes brilliant) and then TWO posts regarding off topic, the last one asking me to respect others on the post! I mean, c'mon. Skip over my "disrespectful comments."
Okay. I'm done.
dan dempsey said…
Death by 1000 cuts I like that one.

NWEA/MAP is supposedly about curriculum and instruction. The fact that $450,000 gets spent and it does nothing to improve either curriculum nor instruction is about par for the MGJ Team.

(initial letter)
See my Blog for my letter to OPSI about Math and SIG grants ... Somebody might consider running it off and handing it out to C&I folks.
Oh YES one of the thousand cuts.

As always D44.00 and D45.00 should be mentioned to the C&I folks.
Charlie Mas said…
I got a little whiteboard at Goodwill yesterday and some dry erase markers from Office Depot.

I'm bringing them to the Curriculum & Instruction Policy Committee meeting this afternoon if I can get out of work in time.
Anonymous said…
I just came back to this thread and read the comments.

I thought that we were talking about the board and their lack of response to what we, as parents, say or to the information that is swirling all about them at any given moment that they do not care to respond to.

I didn't know that this was a thread only to vote yes or no for the whiteboard idea.

My vote,then, is to go for it! We have nothing to lose.
Charlie Mas said…
I did it.

I went to the Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee meeting this afternoon and I brought my whiteboard. I wrote on it and held it up.

Steve Sundquist and Harium Martin-Morris were there, but Betty Patu didn't come to the meeting. She continues to make a consistent impression of absence - even when she is there.

Steve saw the whiteboard and, though he may not have wanted to, he couldn't help reading it. Harium spent the whole meeting not looking in my direction - possibly to evade seeing the whiteboard.

Neither of them said anything out loud that I had written on the board, so I can't say that the technique was effective. Other people read the board (Susan Enfield, Cathy Thompson, Jessica deBarros) and I suspect that I connected a few times.

I'll try to bring the whiteboard with me to the Advanced Learning work session on Wednesday if I can get out of work.

It would have been helpful to have someone on the other side so there would be a whiteboard no matter where they look.
Charlie Mas said…
Yeah, I know. I can be a real stinker sometimes.
Anonymous said…
Now that Janice seems to be off to other threads, I am going to add another link to the Detroit issue.

The reason that I have been following this is because this closely parallels what is happening in Seattle. Any doubters who think that the Broad is just some benign or benevolent presence in Seattle should be able to understand now that that is not the case. They have an agenda and it began with our supe.

This Robb "Broad bought" guy in Detroit has been marginalizing the school board since he took office and doing what he can to bring mayoral control to Detroit. That has been documented and presented to the court in Detroit during his trial. With mayoral control it is much easier to control the landscape of the public school system through folks like Broad. This happened in LA and New York. Once that conrol is in place, you can bring on the charter schools, as rotten as they are, and completely privatize the school system of an urban area.

It happened in Oakland, before they took back their schools and almost happened in San Francisco but the school board kicked out their Broad superintendent.

Anyway, the school board in Detroit, along with BAMN, a group that has been trying to get all of this out to the public in Detroit, have banded together with others to get rid of Robb and the Broad influence.


Check it out.

"Foes of mayoral control for Detroit schools to protest"

From The Detroit News:


The Broad and Gates' idea of education reform is unsustainable as is starting to become apparent in Detroit as well as other cities.

For more information on other cities, check out:
and scroll down the right hand column. You'll see different cities listed around the country and what has been happening elsewhere.

But, shhhh, don't let Janice know I was here.
Anonymous said…
Oops, sorry Charlie, I thought that this was the end of the thread.

Writing my last post I felt like a kid on the golf course in the early evening when all of the grown up's have finished their games and gone home and then the kids get to play.

Anyway, what did you write on the whiteboard? And, will you do that at a school board meeting.

It would be cool if several people brought in whiteboards at a meeting and wrote comments as the meeting went on.

It would be entertaining and possibly informational for all.
dan dempsey said…
We need two people in the front row. One with whiteboard = "FACT"
The other = "BS"

Then during Staff presentations they can inform both the Board and the audience as to the veracity of the evidence in support of claims made during staff presentations. Naturally the whiteboard holding folks will need to be linked by intercom headsets to our intensive interactive research crew watching on live TV (or NOT).
Charlie Mas said…


There is a seat, it's on the left side of the aisle two rows ahead of the big post in the middle of the room which is on camera when people are speaking at the podium.

A person sitting there with a whiteboard could broadcast to the home audience and become part of the official record of the meeting.

It's not so important when people are giving testimony, but it would be CRITICAL when the staff is speaking.

Damn! I wish Wednesday were not my bowling night. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to be in that seat with my whiteboard for the next meeting.

Who can do it?
Dorothy Neville said…
Charlie, what about the meeting? How much of the agenda did they get through and did they discuss the materials complaint policy C32? I tried to find where you actually started a thread about this very interesting thing and all I could find was where you discussed it inside this thread. hmmm.

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