A Couple of Things

So I like to check in regularly with other blogs. I look at LEV's blog, the Alliance's blog and Harium's blog. One interesting thing I've noticed is that, when challenged or asked about information on their threads, you can rarely get an answer. Charlie asks a lot of pertinent questions in a respectful, albeit blunt, manner and rarely gets an answer. Harium does occasionally but most of his replies are that he supports the staff. I noticed that when Charlie started asking questions at LEV, there stopped being replies.

So what are these people afraid of? I can get Harium being busy and not able to reply to everything (but then, why have a blog?). But LEV and the Alliance say they want to engage and talk and yet there's silence. I think there are two issues.

One, they confuse lively discussion with arguing. If someone disagrees with you, there's no need for shouting, swearing, name-calling or snarkiness. But you can say, look here's why I have this opinion, tell me why you have yours. Both LEV and the Alliance seem unwilling to back up their opinions/claims. Maybe they think it would be a circular argument. Nope, I'm willing to say "we have a difference of opinion" IF I've heard what evidence they base their stands upon. Their silence in defense of their words is deafening.

Two, I've said this before so sorry but I sometimes think that other groups do NOT know this district as they think they do and don't want to engage with Charlie or me because they would get stumped. Charlie and I rarely talk off the top of our heads. We know this district and know who to ask if we have a question. (I certainly know I don't know everything and I'm pretty sure that Charlie wouldn't say he does either.)

I think it important to call these people out on their timidity and/or inability to stand behind what they say.

Also, I do believe that the capital finding from the recent audit report has a lot more legs to it than I first thought. I have to do more research but folks, something is very, very wrong and it needs to stop. I think with the resignation of Fred Stephens in Facilities and the firing of Silas Potter of the Small Business area, we are seeing the start of what might be a big overhaul in Facilities. (I can only hope so.) Because of the seriousness of this audit, I'm reluctantly breaking my vow to not communicate with the Board because it seems useless. I don't expect any answer or response from them but they need to clearly understand what is going on in the district they serve and I'm not sure they do.


dan dempsey said…
Melissa said:
"I don't expect any answer or response from them but they need to clearly understand what is going on in the district they serve and I'm not sure they do.

The board voted to extend the superintendent's contract 5-2.

The board completely failed in its duty to supervise the Superintendent in 2008-2009.

That makes it a pretty good bet that the board DOES NOT "clearly understand what is going on in the district"

So what is going to be done about this situation?

Melissa are you ready to announce your candidacy for school board director?
Eye Roller said…
You and Charlie can be so ridiculous sometimes. You snark and snark, and then you are confused when people to respond to you.

I subscribe to this blog, and yet I can't get through half of the posts because they are so negative.

And then you say, "Wah Wah, nobody responds to us."

Give me a break. Get over yourselves.
dan dempsey said…
Dear Eye Roller,

I believe you wrote to Melissa:
"You snark and snark, and then you are confused when people (to) do respond to you."

Seems I missed something.

I fail to see where people were responding to Melissa.

Where and when was Melissa confused by a response to her?

Please clarify.

It seems lack of response is endemic in a variety of circumstances and situations despite repeated claims of openness and accountability.
I have lots of paper submitted by the district as evidence in which Gary Ikeda and others specifically instruct Directors not to answer questions on particular topics.

Recently after I asked 4 questions and asked for 2 explanations from the School Board President and/or Superintendent, I got this from Ron English:

Mr. Dempsey,

I have been asked to respond to your email below.

With respect to your other questions, they are currently the subject of litigation, and contact should be made to the District’s outside counsel.

To which I responded:

I have no intention of seeking the district's outside legal counsel for the answers to my questions and requests for explanations. I directed my inquiries to the school board president and the superintendent. Please inform them they need to answer my questions. They are certainly welcome to use any legal assistance needed in responding.

The answering of questions and providing of explanations can certainly be done by the Superintendent with assistance from the School Board President. If they need legal assistance, I have no problem with that.

I await their explanations and answers.


to which I received from Mr. English:

Mr. Dempsey,

With respect to your email below, I believe my first answer on July 12 was clear and am not able to offer any additional response.

Ron English
Deputy General Counsel


District #1 is apparently District Catch 22.

Ask the district a question and get no response.


Ask the district a question that is about a topic under litigation and then get a response that says: we refuse to answer because this matter is under litigation.


Seldom is anyone confused by responses
from any of the district's cheerleaders or the district.
Well, Eye Roller, could you give me an example of when I have been snarky? I tend to be sarcastic (which, to me, is different) so help me out.

As for being negative, I always point out the good and am glad when others do (South Mom pointed out how great the summer music program was in West Seattle, for example). I try to encourage that.

But our district is not operating well. If that's a negative statement, so be it. It's the true.

I just to wonder about people in power positions who say all is well and when asked how they know that, remain silent.
Sahila said…
Sir, Sir... we've hit an iceberg and the hold's filling up with water, and you know those compartments that were supposed to make us unsinkable, well, sir, they dont work, and now we're listing at 45 degrees and there's not enough lifeboats for the passengers, so what shall we do sir?

Get a grip man, it'll all be just fine... why are you bleating on about all these negative things... why dont you just listen to the beautiful music the orchestra's playing...
Bird said…
You and Charlie are individuals.

These other blogs you speak of are run by institutions or members of institutions. Of course, they're not going be easy with the open discussion and argument.

Institutional blogs, in all venues, are stilted, slow to respond, and with little color, interest or passion. It's the nature of the beast.

I really don't think you can expect anything different. It's not that you are too snarky, or scary, or well informed. It's just that these blogs don't exist for the purpose of lively and open discussion.

I wouldn't waste time sweating about it.
Anonymous said…
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I get that Bird and no, I don't sweat it. I'm merely calling them out. Why have a blog if it means nothing but "look kids we have a blog!".

These are institutions that say they represent educational interests. In Seattle, that would mean Seattle Public Schools. Okay then, if they say all is well (or even great), then tell us, parents on the ground, why you say that.

If there is no answer, then you can know they simply have a blog for publicity purposes and no other.
uxolo said…
They have blogs, not facebook accounts. An employee of the Alliance was on the payroll and started the blog, and undoubtedly had to have permission to start it. The absence of communication is deliberate.
Sahila said…
Actually uxolo, they do each have facebook accounts, and if you post stuff there they dont like, then they 'unfriend' you.... its hilarious!
WenD said…
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WenD said…
This isn't the first (or third) audit to find financial abuse in SPS. Either the board doesn’t know their history or doesn’t care, so it’s all about leverage. Who's going to jail?

There's nothing of substance to read from the booster crowd (A4E, LEV et al) because either they don't care (we’ve got a trend here?) or it's in their interest not to care.

On questions, and people who ask them: I work for a state agency providing customer service. Sometimes callers apologize for asking “stupid question.” If you take the time to call me, you’re never asking a stupid question. The same applies to people who show up at meetings and hearings. Every question is worthy of a sincere answer.

Engagement is like customer service. The goal should be to honestly inform and/or revela where the money is going. Excuses and blank stares are never acceptable, and yet, as an elected board and highly paid public employee, this board and the sup are routinely given a pass by boosters and friendly media. Why?

This charade of "engagement," with polls and fake blogs and breakfasts, is a sham. Mel, Charlie, and others have pointed this out repeatedly. It's spin. The question is, why?

The board members are intelligent people. Why, then, do they continue to allow SPS to play a shell game with other people’s money? This isn’t a union problem. It’s fraud.

Why does the local op/ed voice (Times?) still defend and lead cheers? What are A4E and the boosters et al afraid of?

If the teachers and users of SPS call BS and demand better, really, what horrible thing will happen?

Governments and public institutions are going broke. It is fiscal and moral imperative for the board to do their job. The rules that apply to Chris Gregoire and the county exec should therefore apply to MG-J.

MG-J is smart and ambitious. Her actions suggest she’s coasting, doing the bare minimum in her job. If expectations changed, if the board really did it’s job, you’d see MG-J operating at full power. If she wasn’t up to the task, the board would be expected to insist that she hire better staff, instead of tolerating her roster of cronies and interns.

If we have smart people slacking off, but nobody going to jail, why are they exempt from answering questions with, you know, answers?

(Sorry for duplicate posts. Hateful, hateful Verizon.)
Michael said…
Many times over the years I have read in the comments statements such as "they should go to jail." While I agree that many people are not doing the jobs they were hired to do and that they should, thus, lose thier jobs, could someone please tell me what criminal statute(s)(as codified in Washington State in the RCW's)were violated (recently)that would compel judicial authorities to prosecute any board memebrs, the superintendent, or other executive management? Was there anything in the audit that demonstrated this? The recent audit did not reveal any criminal wrongdoing.

I'm not a lawyer, but I think the audit revealed professional incompetence, possible misfeasance, and a general attitude of not caring about the fact that they are responsible for handling public money. It all comes down to how public funds are allocated and spent within the district.

I agree with the sentiment that these elected officials need to be held accountable for their actions (or inaction). But they won't be going to jail (one can only wish...).
Charlie Mas said…
I acknowledge that some of the questions asked on these blogs are uncomfortable to answer or are sharply asked. I believe they should be answered anyway.

First, that's what blogs are for: discussion.

Second, the challenging questions are only uncomfortable if you cannot either respond with a well-supported view or if you are open to new ideas and can accept the view of the challenger.

Third, you have to expect that some of the questions will be sharply worded if not downright rude. This is the internet and it is a topic with strong passions.

Here on this blog Mel and I get challenging questions all the time. Some of them asked sharply. We respond to these questions either with a further explanation of our views, an exploration of the questioners views, or by acknowledging the validity of the questioner's perspective. It wouldn't be hard to find numerous examples. In fact, this is one.

It seems a reasonable standard for expectations, it is one that Mel and I have little trouble meeting, and it is one that we believe the Alliance for Education, the League of Education Voters, and Director Martin-Morris could meet as well. Particularly because they claim that their blogs are for the purpose of discussion.

I acknowledge that many of the posts on this blog are "negative" insofar as they find fault with the District. I don't, however, believe that finding fault with an institution is the same as finding fault with people. It's more like when a doctor says that you have a disease. The doctor isn't finding fault with you, criticizing you personally, demeaning you or attacking you. The doctor is diagnosing the disease so that steps can be taken to cure it and make you healthier. Same here.

When we find fault with the District it is to point out problems so they can be fixed and the system improved for everyone in it and everyone who relies upon it.

Most of my criticism - if not all of it - comes from pointing out instances in which the District did not keep commitments it has made to students and families. They promise something and fail to deliver. If they want accountability - and they say that they do - then these failures need to be resolved. To ignore them is the very model of lack of accountability.

If the tone of the blog is not to your liking you are perfectly free to choose not to read it. No one is making any money off this. We won't suffer a bit if you stop reading it.

More than that, if you want a different sort of blog, you are free to start one of your own. It doesn't cost a dime.

Finally, I am always amused by two things that I find in Eye Roller's comment.

1) People who complain about people who complain. The irony of that never fails to bring a smile to my lips. It's right up there with people who complain about traffic without any awareness that they are part of the very problem they hate.

2) People who assign a tone of voice to the written word and then complain about that tone of voice. I'm not nearly as sarcastic as people think I am. Most of what I write is written with a very flat tone - as if read by a synthesized, computer-generated voice. It could be that the readers of this blog are too young to remember how Steve Allen used to read letters to the editor, but I often think I am getting that kind of treatment.

One last note: if you don't offer a solution, then you are whining. If you offer a solution then you are complaining. Complaints are legitimate; whining is not. Complaints with actionable solutions are valuable and a path to improvement, but I can't freaking stand whining. I do not "Wah Wah".
SPS mom said…
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kprugman said…
Eyeroller - It is you who are confused, not us. Did you not expect the public to react as it has done to the district's less than enthusiastic responses to the lawsuits from parents claiming discrimination ?

Certainly, you had to have known beforehand there might be some criticism for your actions. In my opinion, your board has no legitimacy because it cannot show that it has acted faithfully in fulfilling the community's best interests. You claim no laws were broken yet. Are you so sure?

Effective administrators don't disenfranchise the majority of the community through deliberate, wasteful neglect. It is more their willful-type of bigotry adorned with cheap arrogance and shallow moral scrupulousness.

Personally, I would not trust a man who lied while he was sober and yet could speak the truth only when he was rewarded with sufficient wine. His reward for public service should only be my scorn and ridicule, though in your eyes I am less significant than a mouse. Does the ends really justify the means?
kprugman said…
Drink up...Success for all! I've heard that slogan so many times, I'm beginning to think you're right, most of the public can be fooled most of the time.
kprugman said…
People thought Stalin was smart and ambitious too after he eliminated half his constituents. Smart and ambitioius can be applied to alot of people. Running a schoolhouse for these folks is like putting foxes in charge of chicken coops.

I'm curious as to what the assessed value of our school district is?
Unknown said…
How we intend to be perceived is often very different than how others perceive us. Especially those who aren't our friends. Friends can say "that's just the way X is," or "that's Y trying to be funny." The rest of us are left with interpreting tones of voice, language used, phrasing, tenor, etc.

Charlie says that "[m]ost of what I write is written with a very flat tone." Melissa tells us she is sarcastic, not snarky.

I accept Charlie's and Melissa's stated intent at face value. But I can say that I often think Charlie comes across as rude and sarcastic, and Melissa comes across as snarky. She will deny it, much as she denied it a few months back when I commented about how angry her comments were at a Board meeting. But that's what was conveyed in her tone of voice, the cadence of her speech, etc., in my estimation and in the estimation of the two other people at the meeting I spoke to, who told me that they shared my impression.

If you care how others perceive what you're doing, then you may choose to modify your tone. If you don't care, that's fine too. But you can't dispute how you come across to others, any more than I can challenge you when you tell me how you intend to come across.
Ah Rosie, not reading again. I said in my opinion that sarcasm is different from being snarky but "help me out". So I'm still a bit confused.

But tone, sure. But if you have ever spoke in public, there are different uses for tone. Sometimes I do get in a snarky/sarcastic remark because (1) it's something that the Board has heard repeated to them many times and you have to wonder what they don't get and (2) I talking, really, to the audience, not the Board and the Superintendent.

You need to get people's attention. Have you ever noticed that sometimes at a meeting someone can be making a good point but they are ineffective at getting to it or making it? I try to make sure people remember key phrases or points. Politicians use humor or snappy comebacks all the time.

I note that some people really have a problem with snark or sarcasm. (I love the Brits because they rarely do.) That you perceive my tone badly, oh well. Then, to you, my message gets missed or blurred because my tone offends you. I'm not going to reach everyone and I get that.

But this blog is what Charlie and I do and as he has pointed out (and I will gently say again), there are other blogs to read or create.
Trying to thank the Board for listening to you (when it's their job) or asking them to pretty please consider something, well, it gets you nowhere. Years of experience have taught me that.

One last point for anyone speaking before the Board (or City Council, whatever). My main rule is no swearing, name calling (different from naming your feelings about how they do their job), no yelling, no demeaning. That some find blunt talk uncomfortable, I get that. Charlie does as well.
Unknown said…
You're right Melissa. Every time I disagree with you it's because I haven't read what you written. As I look back on your original comment, there simply was no conceivable way for me to have interpreted "Well, Eye Roller, could you give me an example of when I have been snarky? I tend to be sarcastic (which, to me, is different) so help me out." in such a way as to allow me to say "Melissa tells us she is sarcastic, not snarky." So again, you're right. 100%. All the time. Really. I mean it.

I'm glad we've got that cleared up. You're smart, precise, and your opinion is always right. Anyone who feels differently simply doesn't understand how to speak in public. Or, like me, they are just a bad reader.
Rosie, I'm thinkin' this is not the blog for you. You don't know me and so you are certainly interpreting everything I say through your own personal lens (which I can't control).

I sincerely if readers thought being sarcastic was the same as being snarky but again, you assign me motives I do not have.

So enough on this; I agree to disagree.
dan dempsey said…

I love it:
"Who's going to jail?"

I took a class in 1985 from former State Supe Frank "Buster" Brouillet.

He said:
"Superintendents go to prison for bad finances but I've never seen anyone in prison for "Bad Curriculum". Thus you get the focus of their concerns."
Charlie Mas said…
I am sarcastic sometimes. Not as often as people think, but definitely sometimes.

I have lived in Seattle for 25 years and have, for the most part, assimilated into the local culture. There are three things I still can't do like the locals:

1) I can't stick to the "don't blame the victim" rule when the victim created the trouble.

2) I can't do that passive-aggressive thing.

3) I can't see the harm in sarcasm.

Sarcasm is my first language. It is my people's way. I see it as a valuable tool for shaming people who need to be brought into line. Done well, I admire it as a form of wit.

Again, much of what I write is seen as sarcastic because I commonly remind people of their own words. When their words come out of my mouth it seems mocking. I'm fine with that (I have nothing against mocking), but it isn't my true intent. To the extent that I am misread, then I'm not a very good writer. I'll have to live with that as well.
Sahila said…
And I am often satirical and sarcastic also, and very plain speaking...

I'm Dutch, grew up in New Zealand, lived in Asia and Australia and where I come from we calls a spade a spade!

I like to take things down to the baseline...

"So, what you're really saying is...."

People dont like that - they say I'm being crass....

And I like to take a scenario and put it into another context, to show its absurdity...

People dont like that either!

This Seattle nice, passive/aggressive thingy sucks - such a waste of energy and such a bar to moving forward towards solutions....
Sahila said…
And I'm a debater and a journalist - I back what I put out there/my opinions with research and stats and anecdotes from my own life and what I've observed on the journey... I'll tell you why I think/say what I do... and if you can find fault with my stats/sources/experiences - good on ya mate!

But please, dont dump on me personally... criticise the content but dont call for my head because I dare to say something that clashes with your world view...

And if you want to dialogue with me, back up your opinions with some indication of how and why you came by them... personal experience counts just as much for me as hard data but please, show me how and why you got to your position...

If you cant do that and I find data to contradict what you put out there, dont whine about me not playing fair...

We're all supposed to be adults here, hopefully dialoguing to find solutions. And pouting and taking your ball and going home because you cant defend your position is pretty lame....
kprugman said…
I don't subscribe to sarcasm or rudeness, but if I had to speak with a school board member, as with Mr. Bobalicon, I would write it so as even to make sure a little child could understand what I'm saying.

After all, I know who I'm writing to - its something as dense as a paperweight and carries its brains below its belly button. I have to constantly remind them that its the swinging back and forth of their brains that makes them so upright.
seattle said…
"If you cant do that and I find data to contradict what you put out there, dont whine about me not playing fair..."

Stats and data can be skewed very easily, and presented in such a way to misguide.

And always remember there is usually data to back up both sides.
It's takes both a writer (or speaker) & a reader (or listener) to have an issue with communication style... and we are all sometimes on one end of that. But, let's not lose one of the key points made by the original post: Why doesn't the district spend more time responding to the big issues that get raised? They don't have to respond through this blog -- they can respond through their own channels. For instance, I was truly on the fence about the math curriculum and wanted to hear both sides of the argument. I heard many substantive arguments from the folks who were against the new curriculum. I mainly heard the non-substantive "we shouldn't question the decision that's been made" argument by the other side. (If I'm wrong, would love to see a link to info on that defends the curriculum.) The same is true of many other issues (like the superintendent's review and progress on the strategic plan). I get that we won't always agree. But, I think we (parents & public) appreciate it when someone at least TRIES to convince us. When the folks in the district won't take the time to respond in detail, it shows a lack of desire to truly engage us a stakeholders.
dan dempsey said…
Andrew Kwatinetz said...

"When the folks in the district won't take the time to respond in detail, it shows a lack of desire to truly engage us a stakeholders."

It may show even more than that.

I have 20,000 pages provided by the District as NTN decision evidence.

It contains an email where a Cleveland teacher mentions that Dempsey sent spreadsheets showing very poor performance on several NTN schools' California end of course testing in Mathematics. This teacher mentions that NTN should be contacted so that a response can be given to the data Dempsey submitted.

The district never formulated a response. Often the district has little to say because all they have is propaganda ... they DO NOT have the goods.

The Audit may bring many appeals to a moment of truth in court.

If the District had truly engaged us as stakeholders, then the Board would have often arrived at different decisions and many if not all of the legal appeals of School Board decisions would not have been needed.
dan dempsey said…
Rabbit said:

"Stats and data can be skewed very easily, and presented in such a way to misguide."

The What Works Clearinghouse now has a different contractor. Wolfram Research developers of Mathematica.

The WWC standards have increased greatly. It is going to be a lot more difficult to use WWC analyzed research to mislead.

The High School Math Adoption of "Discovering" and the entire ill-designed Seattle k-12 math plan is hardly supported by chapter 6 here.

You can jump in at page 41 of 248 pages of Chapter 6 from the Full National Math Advisory Panel Report.
kprugman said…
I hope you are right Dan - its the standards for evaluative research that should be reformed. It shouldn't be one side massaging data versus another as rabbit sees it. In elementary mathematics its very apparent the current model hasn't worked - you only have to open a few textbooks to 'see' the superiorty of Singapore.

Collecting dater isn't necessary -one could also challenge the authors thinking and then the attacks become more personal and that is where I think we've taken this too - we've shown how their methods are too stupid to withstand public scrutiny. Its outrageous to have children learn algorithms that have no cultural value in ANY modern society.

And to make some of their claims while keeping a straight face is so pathetic - Vedic math improves math speed by 1500% throws more fuel on top of the fire. Lets not ever forget how the Dana Center put its foot in its mouth and parents got it put on video.

What would the English department be doing if they were tasked to collect and analyze data on the best books for children to read. In Singapore, teachers don't waste time 'aligning' standards or writing them up on a white board - they teach or they prepare to teach.
kprugman said…
If any standards-aligned administrator were to go into a classroom in Singapore and try to evaluate it based on research-says, they'd be thrown out on their arse for being a faker. Its a dismal science they've adopted and the results we've gotten so far are proof enough. More than half the hs kids in your state can't pass a seventh grade math test. If a hs graduate is still required to take hs classes in college then they haven't really passed hs have they.
Sahila said…
If you think my stats and data are skewed and presented in a way to misguide, Rabbit, you are free to say so and to follow up with your own data showing a contrary point of view... then people have to make up their own minds on where they stand... or maybe there is a third way - an and/also paradox rather than a black-white either/or...

Most people cant handle the paradox - they have a need to have things cut and dried... but life is paradox....
I do agree with Rabbit; there is a lot of data out there. For example, charters. The UW's Center for Reinventing Education is practically a charter think-tank (I get enough e-mail from them to believe so.) From a scientific perspective, most of the research is done in a sound manner but do they only do research/seek data that supports their POV? I submit they do.

This is the same for gifted education. There are parents, educators and researchers who think it is either wrong or doesn't work to group students. There is some research to back that stand up. As well,there is some research to say it is better to separate kids.

Unless you are a full-time researcher, it would be hard (unless the volume of evidence is stacked up a mile high on one side) to prove your point. And, most people don't want to do a tedious point-by-point comparison.

If someone does have evidence to back up their opinion and states it, great. If it sparks others to read or sparks a great discussion, good. But many people have opinions based on life experience or values they grew up with. While that's not scientific, it is valid as an opinion (just one that is not research-based).

So swinging back to this thread discussion, Charlie and I are happy to go to LEV or the Times editorial board and talk about why they have their stands. The fact that they make big statements of support for the Superintendent and never seem to base it on anything factual invites the "show us the beef" questions.
Charlie Mas said…
Ah, yes!

Mel and I have invited the Times editorial board to meet with us, but they have not accepted the invitation.

I have met with Solynn McCurdy of the Alliance for Education and I continue to hope that productive action will come of it.

I will meet today with Kelly Munn of the League of Education Voters in the hope of learning more about their "Education Revolution".

It is good that two of these groups that foster - but do not participate in - online discussion of Seattle public school issues are willing to meet with us. It would be better if they participated in the discussions that they start and abandon.
reader said…
I don't agree at all with kprugman that Singapore is vastly superior to EDM by simply opening the book. I'm a math professional, and my kids have done both curricula. The so-called widening math "problem" has always existed. EG. "Wah. Wah. The new generation isn't learning math right, not like when we were kids." Even back when I was a kid, it was the conventional wisdom of the day. NPR actually did a feature on the history of "math whining", and it has been around for more than a thousand years. So, we can all take heart.

But, simply looking at the curricula, and by using and teaching them to my kids, I find neither vastly superior to the other. The fact is, the newer curricula stress more problem solving and discovery. That is, it's doing more than a lot of older curricula.

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