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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Simple Question

How does the Board enforce policy?

It's a simple question, isn't it? The Board Directors, if asked, all claim (rather indignantly) that they DO enforce policy. The state auditor says they don't. I can't find any evidence that indicates that the Board enforces policy. More than that, I can't even think of HOW the Board enforces policy.

No Board member alone can speak for the Board. So no Board member, on their own, can direct the superintendent to do anything. So if an individual Board member, such as Director Martin-Morris, were to discover that a policy, such as Policy B61.00 which requires the superintendent to provide annual reports on District programs, wasn't being followed because there is no report on the Spectrum program, what could he do about it? I suppose he could ask the superintendent, pretty please, to provide the report, but what if she didn't? He could not, on his own, compel her compliance with the policy.

If the Board, as a group, wanted to enforce a policy, such as Policy C54.00 which requires the superintendent to get input from the community before assigning a principal to an alternative school, they would have to meet to do it. Any meeting of a quorum of Board members would be subject to the Open Meetings Act, and would require the posting of an agenda in advance and minutes afterward. There are no minutes from any meeting that describe the Board as taking action to enforce policies.

So how, exactly, does the Board enforce policy? What is the mechanism? And, if I report a violation of Policy, what steps will they take to investigate the reported violation and, if the report has merit, what steps will they take to enforce the policy?

Of course, the readers of this blog may be the exact wrong people to ask. It would make a lot more sense to put these questions to the Board. I did. I just didn't get an answer. Instead, I got a bunch of links to District web pages. There was nothing that told me how they enforce Policy. I also asked the questions of Director Martin-Morris on his blog. Despite his claim that the Board does enforce policy, he chose not to name any instance in which they did and chose not to describe how they do it.

This was always an intriguing question for me, but the recent audit findings have enhanced my interest in it. All the Board members claim that they enforce policy, but none of them can say how they do it or when they've done it. This is becoming my top question for Board Directors.

21 comments:

wseadawg said...

Charlie: You're wasting your time. The emperor has no clothes. Policy, schmolicy. The LEV - God Bless them for wanting to help - put this Board in place to work in tandem with MGJ, not to oversee or hold her accountable. There's no separation and thus no balancing of powers here between the executive and the Board. Zip, zilch, nada. There is no accountability when the entire board is lining up, blocking and carrying the ball for the quarterback MGJ, because nobody wants any. They just want to win, and if that means recklessly jamming destructive policies down the throats of 46,000 students and parents, so be it. Just look how the Nanny-bespectacled Sundquist proudly and defiantly reads controversial policies into the record before they all "vote" (rubber stamp, actually) for whatever MGJ wants. If she wanted blue classrooms in every building, DONE!

This is a team effort based upon a belief that they must hang together and staunchly stand up to us damn parents, students and of course, that horrible, satanic, puppy-killing, infant-eating union!

It's all baked in the cake. Thus, you can put away the whip; the pony's dead. Ain't no damn policy gonna be enforced if it requires staring down, or even slightly getting in her way. The LEV doesn't want it, nor does The Times aka PRAVDA.

dan dempsey said...

Wseadawg,

Well I spent a little time in the State Auditor's Office today.

I am not sure if we can get the current Directors to do their jobs or not. We will soon have a vehicle to remove five of them.

I am particularly unhappy with the Board's allegiance to the poorly designed Strategic Plan and their Superintendent who so often ignores the really important research.

I am very unhappy about her use of I-728 money for far less effective projects than lowering class sizes in k-3. The auditor's report outlines the following about I-728:

Initiative 728 funds are used for education reform and improving student learning. We also reviewed the District’s report on the use of I-728 funds for 2008-2009. We noted the report did not include required information on children who need pre-kindergarten support.

State law (RCW 28A.505.210) requires district boards on or before May 1 to have a public hearing on proposed uses of these funds. The District did not retain minutes of this hearing.

In our 2005 and 2008 audit, we determined the District did not comply with the requirements for this funding. These issues have not been resolved.


The Board ignores policy, state laws, relevant research, the public, and supervising the Superintendent. We will soon have the opportunity to remove the egregious offenders through Recall and Discharge.

I am so displeased with the Class Size issue and using I-728 funds for far less effective pet projects like academic coaches for teachers that I wrote the following
communication.

kprugman said...

The good news - once all the funds are gone, Simple J. Malarkey's brethren will cut and run for a new state. A shame for the rest of us, Washington didn't meet Obama's standards. What we need are young adults that can do more than tie shoe laces when adding two fractions togther.

dan dempsey said...

"A shame for the rest of us, Washington didn't meet Obama's standards.

Obama's standards are Arbitrary and Capricious and have little research of substance underlying them. Ditto for MGJ's Strategic Plan.

See the Latest from WA DC's Teachers Union HERE.

Sahila said...

I was talking with a friend yesterday about the issue of 'enforcement' and that the Board seems to be unwilling to enforce policy and that there seems to be no consequence for the Board not doing its job (apart from recall actions)...

This person suggested we think about writing and putting forward an initiative that would ask the legislature to put in place legal consequences that would come into effect in situations such as this... something like the Sarbanes Oxley Act - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarbanes%E2%80%93Oxley_Act... see the 11 titles for relevance to our circumstances....

This person thought we would get wide bi-partisan support for this effort. And even if we didnt get it past the finish line, the mere fact of putting this forward might encourage the directors to get a little more proactive in carrying out their duties...

What do you all think?

Charlie Mas said...

What would - or could - a state School Board Accountability Act require of Board Directors and what consequences could it demand?

I don't know that we could legislate ourselves out of this sort of thing.

kprugman said...

You are right on the money - I was wondering when we were going to get to that subject....you ought to contact Kwoll and Murray! They'd support you.

Sahila said...

You dont think we can legislate ourselves out of this mess, Charlie?

I can think of lots of clauses that could be inserted in legislation that would make sure the Board cant sign anything resembling that stupid affirmation Dan found, where they give their power away to the super and give her free rein to do what she wants...

I can think of clauses to insert that would make them responsible for the overall financial oversight of the District...

I can think of clauses to insert that would limit contributions to election campaigns

I can think of clauses to insert that would keep off the board and out of the district any outside interest/influence such as Broad, Gates, the Alliance etc...

I can think of clauses to insert that would force anyone running for the board and employed in the district to divest him/herself of conflicts of interest

I can think of clauses to insert that would force the Board not to accept junkets and retreats and training paid for by lobby groups

I can think of clauses to insert that would force the Board to insist that district reports are delivered on time

I can think of clauses to insert that would force the board to abide by laws and regulations and its own policy

I can think of clauses to insert that would force the board to involve the public in any policy changes its thinking of making

I can think of clauses to insert that would force the board to take action against its employees for failing in their duties and for activities that are fraudulent

I can think of clauses to insert that would make the board responsible for showing that it took into account all available evidence when making its decisions....

We could insert clauses making failures on some/all of these criteria punishable by fines, jail time, firing.... its time the Board - any Board - was made fully aware of its very real, very serious responsibility to the public, to the institution of public education and to the state...

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, I would think that some well-placed phone calls from other elected officials (the Mayor, City Council especially Tim Burgess, Ed Murray, Fred Chopp) about how worrisome and disturbing all this audit news is might help. No wagging of the finger or veiled threats, just "hey this is very troubling. My constituents want me to find out how it's being addressed."

Now the Board could try to blah, blah those other elected leaders but if they heard from a lot of them, they might just reassess what they are doing.

SC Parent said...

Melissa - excellent suggestion. It belongs on your main page so everyone can see it.

Charlie - how about a FOIA request for minutes from all board meetings (regular and special) related to their enforcement of specific policy items? (or even talking about enforcement?) The district would have to come back with "no such information exists." If you pick a few specific and newsworthy policies like the ones you mentioned, would it make good headlines?

Anonymous said...

Dan,

Your letters to Seattle School Board regarding appropriate use and documented monitering of I-728 state funds are very well done.

How does an SEA member get SEA leadership to write these kind of letters to Board Directors on behalf of all SEA employees? (I can imagine your response; but, I'm not giving up, in spite of weak leadership).
ken berry

dan dempsey said...

Ken,

First item would be SEA leaders would need to begin representing their members. Clearly this did not happen with Performance Management policy 02.00 recently approved.

I give up on how to get SEA to act on behalf of membership.

The SEA Leaders like WEA are great at posing but that is about it. Witness SB 6696 and RttT for evidence.

Good Luck with any attempt to get either SEA or WEA moving in a positive direction. Maybe someone can Audit them.

Note: if there is a legal appeal of MAP testing filed on or before August 6, you can bet Executive Director Glen Bafia and the SEA will not be involved. SEA is a perpetual Rerun of constant posing with no action.

Dan

Charlie Mas said...

There is a law, on the books, that says that School Board members can be held personally liable if the District overspends any of the appropriated budgets.

That happened in 2003. The District overspent the ASB budget by about $100,000. I reported it to the State Attorney General (Christine Gregoire) and the King County Prosecutor (Norm Maleng). Neither of them took any action.

The District is already breaking laws. The auditor found plenty of examples.

It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter because no one is enforcing the laws and many of them have no penalties associated with violations.

That's why I doubt we can legislate our way out of this - because the laws are not enforced and there are no penalties. It just wouldn't do any good.

wseadawg said...

Be clear to distinguish between Board Control vs. Mayoral or politician control. The absolute last and worst thing that could happen to our district is Mayoral Control. Then the money whores really come out of the woodwork and the lies are on steroids.

We need truly independent Board Members accountable to their communities. We do not have that right now, not by a wide margin. All this legislative hoo-hah makes me nervous.

It ain't the system that's screwing us; it's dem bums in charge of it.

kprugman said...

Vote for new SEA leadership? Last time we punished robbers for stealing cupcakes that some nuns were bringing to a bake sale. Afterward, we hung them (I wish). Find a president that reads and understands their contract. Isn't there anyone you have in the union that gets asked to write tough questions for administrators?

Repeal the law gagging public employees?

Michael said...

Sorry - must be nit picky here: The FOIA is for the federal government. The PRA (Public Records Act) is for public records in this state.

Details matter.

dan dempsey said...

LAWS ... LAWS .... LAWS ...

are you kidding me?

We can't even get the Superior Court to enforce Laws.


RCW 28A 645.020 six words ... these six:

Within twenty days of service of the notice of appeal, the school board, at its expense, or the school official, at such official's expense, shall file the complete transcript of the evidence and the papers and exhibits relating to the decision for which a complaint has been filed. Such filings shall be certified to be correct.

This is now coming to a hoped for conclusion on August 9, 2010 in Briggs et al. school closures in Inveen's court room.

The following Appellants' REPLY is a beauty.

Here is the Appellants' Reply to District's response to Opening Brief submitted by Counsel relating to legal issues not related to the merits of this appeal.

Here is the District's original response to which the Appellants' replied.

Note the District wants this to be sent back to them ... so they can certify it correct.

Wonder if anyone wants to step up and commit perjury?

dan dempsey said...

Such Filings ... Certified to be Correct ... CLEAR?

Maureen said...

Can anyone give examples of previous Boards enforcing policy? What tools did they use?

Charlie Mas said...

Ah. This is where I have to admit that it was not really such a simple question. There isn't really any established mechanism for the Board to enforce policy. The only way it has ever happened - and it has only happenned very rarely - is for the Board to actually call the District staff out on a violation and, either at a legislative meeting or at a committee meeting, remind the staff person of the policy and specifically request that the Policy be followed. Then the staff person has to say that they will comply with the policy, then someone has to follow up to make sure that they do.

It was extraordinarily rare before 2007. It has never happened since 2007.

dan dempsey said...

Well repeatedly I've called the Board and the Superintendent out on D44.00 and D45.00 and been totally ignored. The Board has certainly done "Zilch" since 2007. That can be explained by their ridiculous "Affirmation of Responsibility" signed on November 28, 2007, which is an Affirmation of Irresponsibility and is at least partially a cause for the incredible year-to-year rise in findings by the State Auditor's Office.

I would be especially interested in any plans the Board has to enforce all existing policies in the coming school year 2010-2011.