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Monday, June 21, 2010

Yet Another Silly Editorial in the Times

The Seattle Times editorial board should just stop writing about Seattle Public Schools. Every time they do it they just expose their lack of knowledge and lack of understanding. This time they wrote about the Native American program. I suppose this was some sort of effort to make themselves appear balanced regarding the superintendent. They looked for some small issue that wasn't close to her that they could point to as "in need of improvement" and invite her to apply her super-hero powers to fix it.

Unfortunately they were ill-informed about the facts of the situation.

The program isn't supposed to be just "mentoring, advocacy and cultural services". It used to have teachers and the community wants the teachers restored. The community wants an academic program, but the District won't provide it.

The Times suggests that the problems with the program are about counting the students or FAXing the forms on time. They completely neglected the District's failure to comply with the community engagement requirement for the program. The District is out of compliance with the federal law because they don't have a community advisory committee. They don't have a community advisory committee because they all resigned in protest.

The Times either didn't know that or simply chose to ignore it.

The Times pretends that there are only about 377 students who qualify instead of the 1,100 who have been counted. The District has some completely botched the count that the 377 is a horrific undercount and the $82,000 that the District is putting into the program is a horrible underfunding.

So what's the deal with the Times? Do they not know the facts or are they intentionally mis-representing them?

16 comments:

Michael said...

"The Times pretends that there are only about 377 students who qualify instead of the 1,100 who have been counted. I looked at the state audit and found this:
"In a 2007 program audit, the Office of Indian Education, U.S. Department of Education,
found the number of eligibility forms on file did not support the number of students
counted for funding. In our current audit, we again found the District could not
substantiate the number of students counted for funding. The District was able to
provide 927 eligibility forms, 377 of which were found to be eligible for inclusion in the
count."

So that 377 number, for the last school year, was an audited number. Although the Times sometimes does make up "facts" to conveniently support its positions, they didn't pull this mumber out of their magic hat.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I think Charlie's point was not that the Times made up that number but that they didn't make a bigger deal out the ramifications.

What I would say about the Times is that it is both things, facts and caring. My feeling is the editorial board does a limited amount of fact checking, just enough to say they got it right without getting the big picture. I also believe they are a private editorial board that wants to present the picture they want their readers to see. And that's how they shape their editorials.

I think Charlie is right. This editorial is an effort to be able to say that they don't let the Superintendent off the hook (although you don't hear calls for accountability or questions about where the $82k will come from in a district with huge budget issues).

Sahila said...

From Real Change: http://www.realchangenews.org/index.php/site/archives/4199/

"To make up for the error, the district has said it will provide what the program would have gotten in Title 7 funding – $82,000 – a figure based on a native student count of 385 that Huchoosedah Program Manager Arlie Neskahi has arrived at. But that number itself is a grievous error, parents of the Urban American Indian/Alaska Native Educational Alliance say: Enrollment figures on the district’s own website show 843 native students are registered this year.

After his arrival in November, the district says, Neskahi audited the 1,100 federal Title 7 student forms that the district had on file, purging old or incomplete ones. He then sent families new forms to fill out on a short deadline, members of the alliance say, and did little community outreach to collect them, resulting in an artificially low count that, for now, has eliminated Huchoosedah’s after-school tutoring program for the 2010-11 school year.

Problems with properly managing the forms are the district’s fault and pre-date Neskahi, the parents say, but he has to go: In letters dated March 24 and April 6, the education alliance and the district’s newly re-established Title 7 Parent Advisory Committee, which share members, called on district Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson to remove Neskahi and appoint an interim Huchoosedah manager until a better candidate can be found.

In a meeting with district staff on April 19, says Sarah Sense-Wilson, a parent with the education alliance, Goodloe-Johnson dismissed the parents’ concerns as a personality conflict with Neskahi, who is working to improve collection and management of the Title 7 student forms, says district spokesperson Teresa Wippel. He only missed the grant deadline, she says, because the Internet stalled as he was trying to upload the grant application to Washington, D.C. – at 15 minutes to deadline.

Neskahi, who formerly worked as the multicultural and family outreach coordinator for the Edmonds School District, has submitted a Phase 2 or “second-chance” Title 7 application in hopes of getting any leftover funds. But that grant proposal, alliance members say, calls for changing the very focus of Huchoosedah from culturally relevant academics to social work. The parents plan a rally to call attention to the issues during the School Board’s next meeting on May 19."

Michael said...

MW said "I think Charlie's point was not that the Times made up that number but that they didn't make a bigger deal out the ramifications."

I agree. Thank you.

Sahila said...

oh dear, Charlie, Rabbit, Bob, Seattle Citizen...our own little blogosphere playground over at the Alliance for Education site has been censored...

No sense of humour at all, these money-types...
http://alliance4ed.blogspot.com/2010/06/community-schools-update.html

seattle citizen said...

Sahile, they left up Charlie''s comment about "inappropiate comments" and my comment commenting on OSC and how they got the names. I guess that means they're thinking about it and will "engage the community" via their blog on that issue soon. Right? Right?
ha ha ha ha!
(sorry for the OT, people, it's just a hoot.)

Sahila said...

OT... No Confidence Votes:

Word out of West Seattle High has it that teaching staff have voted No Confidence in MGJ...

preliminary votes are:
Out of 42 ballots turned in, 4 voted to abstain; 3 voted "confidence" in the superintendant; 35 voted "No confidence."

That makes 11 schools now:

Ballard, Franklin (straw poll), West Seattle High, Schmitz Park, Sanislo, Laurelhurst, Maple, Greenlake, Ida B Well, Orca and John Rogers (signature #340 on the Community Declaration here: http://www.petitiononline.com/mod_perl/signed.cgi?S3B62010&1 , which stands at 364 votes of No Confidence...)

seattle said...

Well it was great talking curry while it lasted!
Rabbit

Sahila said...

I tried to post the latest "No Confidence" news on the A4E blog... my post is "awaiting approval".... :-)

wsnorth said...

I just can't read the Times on public transport any more. I know why I am gagging in disbelief at these editorials, but those around me might not! And $82k is nothing compared to the $$ wasted on NSAP, closures (reopenings, portables), performance management, lawsuits, lousy math books, money lost in the rugs, etc.

Charlie Mas said...

I was thinking of the report from Real Change when I wrote that the 377 student figure was incorrect. The community reports a much higher number.

Josh Hayes said...

What irritates me the most about the Times is that they, like the good doctor, practice the art of lofty ignorance of us hoi polloi.

No matter how many times one kvetches about their lickspittle attitude toward G-J, they sail on serenely, confident that anyone who disagrees with them can be ignored, because, after all, they're disagreeing with them. So they can be ignored.

A good editorial board has some diversity of opinion: if everyone is just saying "You're right, boss!", there's no information there. It's unfortunate that the Times has nobody who's willing to, and I know this is a corny phrase, speak truth to power.

I fully expect the next editorial about SPS to be titled "Splunge".

seattle citizen said...

OT....sort of (Times and Alliance are BFF)

Sahila, they "allowed" your post of no-confidence onto their thread, and they "allowed" Melissa's recent post...but not mine (on the OSC survey)

I think it's ironic that they have a blog for "community engagemnent" that a) they don't engage in, and b) they are now censoring (and not for cuss words, etc, but for content)

So much for "community engagement"

Charlie Mas said...

On the good side, we now know that the Alliance is reading the blog.

seattle citizen said...

But if they're reading but not engaging in their own blog, doesn't that make it a sort of solo activity? Like navel gazing or something.

seattle citizen said...

at least, for a brief and glorious moment, the Alliance blog had SOME engagement when it became a coffee klatch for commenters with some wonderful stories from their lives. THAT'S engaging!