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Friday, November 12, 2010

Surrender Dorothy

What would it be like if we just gave up? I suggest that it would essentially the same as it would be if we continued the struggle.

What would it be like if the superintendent didn't get any pushback on any of her initiatives? Despite all of the pushback, she has been able to move forward with just about everything that she has wanted to do, starting with the decision to co-locate Sealth and Denny. Elementary and middle school APP were split. Schools were closed. Schools were re-opened. Discover Math was adopted. Millions were spent on STEM, including $800,000 going to NTN. The District bought MAP. The District has paid through the nose for consultants including consultants for high school LA curriculum alignment, consultants for performance management, and consultants for a whole list of strategic plan initiatives.

What would it be like if no one followed up on unfilled promises? Not much different that it has been because she hasn't fulfilled many - if any - promises. The promises around the Denny/Sealth co-location have been broken. The promises around the Southeast Initiative were broken. The promises around the APP splits were broken. The promises around the school closures were broken. The promises around the school openings were broken. The promises around the math adoption were broken. The promises around curricular alignment were broken. The promises around the new student assignment plan were broken. The promises around capacity management were broken. The promises around the strategic plan were broken. All of the promises were broken and she has successfully evaded any kind of authentic community engagement.

Honestly, with or without our struggle, I think things would be pretty much the same.

Think about it. How many victories can we count?

I can only think of one time that the Board voted against a staff proposal. The Board rejected the elimination of the "C" GPA requirement for graduation. Of course, the staff says they will bring that proposal back in the future.

So why do we bother? What difference does it make - other than to aggravate ourselves?

I have said this before - actually I say it a lot - but, as we approach another inevitable loss, this time on Teach for America, it is time for me to say it yet again:

The fact that all of our efforts are futile does not excuse us from the obligation to make those efforts.

Do not be discouraged by our failures. We never had a chance for success in the first place. It's not about whether or not we win or lose (or lose and lose and lose and lose again and again). So long as we stay in the game and so long as we continue to struggle, we are winning. We don't owe our children (and everyone else's children) a victory, but we do owe them our best efforts. In the end, the District staff have ALL of the power and ALL of the authority. There's no way that we can win. We cannot allow repeated failure to discourage us. In fact, we shouldn't even pay it any mind at all. Like little kids playing T-ball, the score doesn't matter, just the play.

23 comments:

Sahila said...

Seems to be the theme for my week, Charlie...


Tilting at Windmills

Anonymous said...

I gave up last year after the boundary line debacle. I gave up after the change in start times. I gave up after I had to purchase the textbooks for my high schooler's LA class, because the district had the money to pay for the LA consultant- just not the books. I gave up after they cut the career counselors at the high schools, so that seniors this year, and probably next year, are not doing a senior project to graduate. I gave up after our PTA had to fund the nurse and librarian, because the district would not. I gave up after twelve years of going to meetings, emailing and speaking to school board members, and speaking to the superintendent, but knowing my words just go in one ear and out the other.

I have been in this district for 12 years and I am worn out. Eventually, if you beat your head against the wall enough times, you learn that the wall will not move.

It is a true miracle, and a testament to individual schools, teachers and principals that things in this district are not a a disaster.

But I can no longer beat my head against the wall of this district. I am impressed by those who continue to do so. Good luck!
Signed,

12 year veteran

spsmarketshare said...

A lot of people have given up on this district, as evidenced by the unusually public school participation rate in Seattle, one of the lowest of any major city in the US. Only about 68% of Seattle children attend public schools compared to 80-90% for normal US cities.

The district, the city council, and the mayor should be asking why parents opt-out of Seattle's public schools at such high rates and what could be done to make the middle class returns to Seattle public schools.

High market share is critical to have community support for public schools, to be able to pass taxes that fund the public schools, and to maximize the involvement of parents in helping the schools. Seattle Public School funding from state and federal sources also is directly tied to enrollment.

Until most parents see Seattle Public Schools as an attractive option, our schools will have little support, fail to improve, and fail to educate the children of Seattle.

Charlie Mas said...

People often ask me why I don't suffer from outrage fatigue. The answer, of course, is that I am newly outraged on a regular basis.

How, after all they have said to the contrary, can the District want to bring conditionally certificated novice teachers into our most challenging schools for two-year stints? That very idea is ananthema to everything they have said up until now. How could they even entertain the suggestion? Outrageous!

The District intentionally drew the attendance area boundary for Garfield far too big with the intent of breaking up high school APP as a solution to the problem that their decision created. Outrageous!

The District claims to be seeking outside funding for interventions while they claim that it is part of their core work. Instead of seeing struggling students they create statistics that create the illusion of struggling schools and send the support to the schools. Outrageous!

The long list of unkept promises just gets longer. Outrageous!

The Board gets called out by the State Auditor's office for their failure to enforce Policy and they utterly fail to take any sort of meaningful corrective action. Outrageous!

I don't have to maintain my sense of outrage, they give me new cause for outrage every month.

kid not like the others said...

What, did somebody email you my letter to the union after they sent out a request for us to write letters to the board about TFA? Letter writing... After all they did to help set this situation up. Now, they see the light. Now they are worried. Too bad I have to fill out my evaluation reflection and assess my level of "genuine warmth."

ArchStanton said...

Why do we keep coming back for more?

Because we have a remarkable capacity to forget pain. Because we catch our breath and regain our strength. Because we hope against all odds that maybe THIS time will be different, maybe this time someone will listen, maybe this time we will affect change.

Because WE are not always the same. Every year WE include new members who are are energetic and hopeful and not discouraged from years of failed attempts, who will take the advice and experience offered by the veterans among us and carry the torch that we can no longer carry.

Because for us, "it's all about the kids" is not a merely a heart-string to pull or a sound-bite to toss off. Because for us it really is all about the kids.

ArchStanton said...

The long list of unkept promises just gets longer.

Funny, this 80s song refrain has been running through my head today:

You made me promises, promises
You knew you'd never keep
Promises, promises
Why do I believe
All of your promises
You knew you'd never keep
Promises, promises
Why do I believe

Chris S. said...

Charlie, for some reason you post reminded me of The Princess Bride and they guy who continually shouts "inconceivable." Then I thought of Wesley winning the poisoned drink bet by having built up a tolerance for poison.

We are drinking so much poison, we'll eventually be able to challenge "them" to a duel of the "wits."

Must be getting late on Friday.

Charlie Mas said...

This, by the way, is why I love baseball.

Baseball, as a game, is about failure. It is a game that counts and remembers every player's mistakes. We know how many errors every fielder has committed. We know how many wild pitches, balls, and balks by every pitcher. Pitchers are measured primarily by their E.R.A., their failure rate. Fielders, too. Batters are measured primarily by their batting average and if they only fail 70% of the time they are considered among the greats.

Baseball may be a team game, but when you are out there on the field and the ball is hit to you, there is no hiding in the crowd. You have the opportunity to fail right in front of everybody. Then you take a moment to brush yourself off and go right back to playing. The story of baseball is the story of coming back from failure. It's a good story. An uplifting story. An American story.

We cannot be afraid of failure. Failure is built into the whole idea of trying. If you aren't failing then you aren't trying things that are hard enough.

A friend of mine once told me "Failure is not an option... it comes standard."

I will freely admit that I fail a lot. I see no shame in it. It tells me that I'm challenging myself.

In my struggles with the District my record is something like two wins and two hundred losses. It makes those two wins very sweet.

I may be the only person to win a Golden Acorn award for successfully thwarting a district effort. I got the award when I was able to stave off the middle school APP split for a couple years. I could not have done it if the Board at that time had not fulfilled their duty to provide a proper review of the District's actions. This Board has no interest in making any such review, so there is no opportunity for a community member to score any wins.

I might - just might - get my third win if I can successfully appeal the decision to deny my daughter high school credit for the classes she took in middle school.

Sahila said...

I can't give up... even if I cant stop this juggernaut, I can stand and "witness" - call the deformers on what they're doing, let them know I know what is really at stake... and in so doing, planting seeds for something better, when this madness runs its course - because its not sustainable - its an evolutionary dead end...

What if each of us talk to 3-4 people who dont know what's going on, give them information?....What if we reach out to our colleagues all over the country?

Can we spread the outrage, can we light the fire?

seattle citizen said...

There are parent/guardians, citizens, and students all around the country watching us.

Many have warned us, having been through some of what we are going through. Many are interested to see how we fare against the Reform Machine.

We keep tilting at windmills, yes, we keep asking and questioning and reasoning and shouting...maybe to no effect here, where deafness, on the board and in the citizenry, seems the norm, but perhaps there's hope that as the juggernaut roles on, others down the road are watching and learning.

I'm reminded of those big walking tanks in Star Wars: Marching on, sure, seemingly devestating, but study them for a bit and the achilles heals become apparent, teh weaknesses...Some other city or town, the next destination of the mechanical beast, just needs some foot soldiers and Jedi knights to pit their smarts and their wisdom against the machine, trip it up, and try to get their city's innocent bystanders out of the way as it crashes to the ground.

IvyLeagueMom said...

Charlie,

I so agree with you, I am newly outraged every day. I LOVED school as a child, my child started out loving it and now hates it. This makes me sad. What have these people done to my baby?

I am just as outraged as I was two years ago. I thought I would be a stay at home mom, instead, I am a stay at home activist. But I am a woman of hope, and I just cant let their hubris and stupidity, elitism, and lack of morals make me wither into the fetal position. I am always newly energized by the next completely incomprehensible stunt, from week to week.

I, too, am hopeful.

We have been working hard behind the scenes. Hope you believe in Karma....

Outraged in North Seattle said...

We must keep up the fight. However your thoughts ring very true.

A sad thing today, my child's school Broadview is a Level 2 school on the District's scale of 5. Where was the principal? In Oregon Golfing! Sheesh.

No one's holding anyone accountable!

IvyLeagueMom said...

p.s.

Our superintendent reminds me of the alien queen in the Will Smith movie, Independence Day, when the aliens go from planet to planet, using up the natural resources, killing the species, and moving on. She even looks like that particular alien queen, when she is sitting on the diaz, hunched over with that look of disgust for this species. Wonder which school district she will devastate next???

Melissa Westbrook said...

"The district, the city council, and the mayor should be asking why parents opt-out of Seattle's public schools at such high rates and what could be done to make the middle class returns to Seattle public schools."

On that point, the district doesn't give a rat's ass why people leave. That has been made abundantly clear in word and (lack of) deed. I know the Mayor and City Council wonder about this as well but have any of them ever pressed the point?

"People often ask me why I don't suffer from outrage fatigue. The answer, of course, is that I am newly outraged on a regular basis."

I regularly say, "After thing X, I'm stepping back" but, like Charlie, I find something else that I just can't turn my back on. Like today, for example, I went to the BEX oversight committee meeting. (I'll write a separate thread.) I heard a couple of things that made me go "really? are you kidding me?" And guess what? I was the only one who wasn't staff or committee or from a construction company. No Board member, no one else. Who is going to report out on this stuff? I wrote an e-mail to Wallyworld (Wallingford blog) to let them know that Lincoln High school is going to host Franklin's basketball team this winter because Franklin's bleachers have to be fixed.

Arch, you're just killing me with these song references (only it's "why do I believeeeeeee"

I come back also because I believe public education is the backbone of this society and I'm not letting a few people take over and decide for us, as a nation, what is best. I want my district to look at best practices and successes and decide what is right for US to emulate. Not try 20 things at once, wasting time and money and never really knowing what worked.

And Charlie is right; it is hard to count the number of wins. But one that I will always treasure is the rejection of the supplemental levy by the Seattle Times. Dorothy and I were able to convey our concern (which they apparently already had felt) and they understood the issue.

The sad thing for me is that a "win" would end up seeing the district in disarray. The next audit? That may do it for some people at headquarters. There's only so much you can talk your way out of for so long. But who can be happy for a win when it means that the district indeed isn't running well and has been wasting money all along?

Not a win. But at least maybe a "straighten up and fly right" time."

peonypower said...

I so needed to read this post tonight. I rode home from school wondering why, why am I trying so hard to fight for public education, and really the answer is simple. Being a teacher is the closest thing to a religious calling that I will ever have. From the first day in the classroom it was clear that this- working with young people to teach, to learn from them, to support and encourage them was what I am meant to do.

I continue to fight because if I don't then it would mean that I had lost my faith, and I just can't do that. I believe in public education and the that knowledge is power.

My thanks goes out to all of my fellow Don Quixotes- tilt on my friends, tilt on.

kid not like the others said...

i would gladly suffer through consequences if it meant moving towards 'poopin a group' rather than dealing the constant mess from it the hitting the fan.

seattle citizen said...

"I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our Island home, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone....
We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France,
we shall fight on the seas and oceans,
we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be,
we shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender"!

Winston Churchill

wseadawg said...

Because we know what accountability is, to our kids, to our neighbors, to our community. Others use it as a campaign slogan, like Excellence for All.

Because if all should someday be lost, I will know I gave my best and have no regrets. And that's what I want for my kids. It's how I sleep at night.

As Yogi Berra once said, "Don't follow the crowd. When you get to where it's going, there's too many people there." Because critical thinkers aren't sheep. Because without critical thinkers and dissidents, you have one party rule, which is fascism. (Hope that's not too heavy for some folks).

Because history is replete with carnage left in the wakes of people who thought they knew everything, while the victims are left cleaning up their messes.

It's not complicated. Calling BS is a civic duty and as patriotic and American as it gets. We're just doing what's been bred into us by those who've gone before us.

Seattle was once a proud town known the world over for its radicals and unionists (oh, the horror!) who stood up to powerful money interests and took on fights no one thought they could win, and often didn't. But it formed our character and defined what we stood for, which, most importantly, was to never cave in and cover up, but to fight for what we knew was right. Quixotic? No. Moral and just? Absolutely.

Why should billionaires and wannabe do-gooders who privately educate their own dictate what happens in OUR public schools? What gives them that right when they have no skin in the game? Is it vanity? Megalomania? Narcissism? Or Nietzscheism?

If we can't stop it here, it won't be stopped anywhere. That my belief, anyways. Seattle is ground zero for Ed Reform as it was for WTO years ago.

Win, lose, or draw, I'm not lying down. It's happened to my family enough already. If I can prevent it from happening to anyone else's, it's well worth it. And my duty.

MathTeacher42 said...

When I was about 8 in '68, my old man was in the Massachusetts newspaper business - whenever I was with him (he & mom were divorced) he'd always find someone to argue with about Nixon - he couldn't stand Nixon. My Polish Catholic and Irish Catholic XX family members were making decisions which didn't sit well with the local priests pushing Rome's party line.

I suppose if I'd grown up in a family preoccupied with knitting, or NASCAR, or NFL, or fixing tractors, of honeybees, or nursing doctoring stuff ... I'd have developed different interests ??

Community stuff is my hobby.

Oh yeah - and there are these other picked up in the 60's crazy ideas - we are NOT on this planet to be doormats, serfs, butt kissers and cannon fodder to the powerful.

And here are some of my own twists. I like efficiency, and I like merit.

IF 7 billion of us are ever gonna have access to sick care and education for all our young and retraining for all our members and safe places to stow surplus and savings for rainy days and care for those who've already borne the battle and a decent roof and days off to picnic with friends and vacations to see the Great Wall and to see the Grand Canyon and to see Las Vegas ...

We gotta have have surplus, and we get more surplus with efficiency.

I've got NO problem with those who are best at organizing to maximize surplus - I've got no problem with the best getting a little bit bigger slice than those who just show up and barely participate.

Of course, if those at the top are actually the best - why are there shortages everywhere? why does most of the surplus go into rich pig scum living like rich pigs? why do so many people just show up, instead of trying to make things work better?

IF you're gonna be at the top,

AND, TAKE a better paycheck for being better,

THEN you'd better be better,

or you better be gone.

When I look at what appx. 4% of the world's population do every year with appx. 20% of the world's resources, I cringe at the stupidity, the selfishness, the ignorance.

Hopefully, someday people will read the following and they won't have countless contemporary examples to point to:

CAESAR:
Let me have men about me that are fat;
Sleek-headed men and such as sleep o' nights:
Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.

rmm.

MathTeacher42 said...

When I was about 8 in '68, my old man was in the Massachusetts newspaper business - whenever I was with him (he & mom were divorced) he'd always find someone to argue with about Nixon - he couldn't stand Nixon. My Polish Catholic and Irish Catholic XX family members were making decisions which didn't sit well with the local priests pushing Rome's party line.

I suppose if I'd grown up in a family preoccupied with knitting, or NASCAR, or NFL, or fixing tractors, of honeybees, or nursing doctoring stuff ... I'd have developed different interests ??

Community stuff is my hobby.

Oh yeah - and there are these other picked up in the 60's crazy ideas - we are NOT on this planet to be doormats, serfs, butt kissers and cannon fodder to the powerful.

And here are some of my own twists. I like efficiency, and I like merit.

IF 7 billion of us are ever gonna have access to sick care and education for all our young and retraining for all our members and safe places to stow surplus and savings for rainy days and care for those who've already borne the battle and a decent roof and days off to picnic with friends and vacations to see the Great Wall and to see the Grand Canyon and to see Las Vegas ...

We gotta have have surplus, and we get more surplus with efficiency.

I've got NO problem with those who are best at organizing to maximize surplus - I've got no problem with the best getting a little bit bigger slice than those who just show up and barely participate.

Of course, if those at the top are actually the best - why are there shortages everywhere? why does most of the surplus go into rich pig scum living like rich pigs? why do so many people just show up, instead of trying to make things work better?

IF you're gonna be at the top,

AND, TAKE a better paycheck for being better,

THEN you'd better be better,

or you better be gone.

When I look at what appx. 4% of the world's population do every year with appx. 20% of the world's resources, I cringe at the stupidity, the selfishness, the ignorance.

Hopefully, someday people will read the following and they won't have countless contemporary examples to point to:

CAESAR:
Let me have men about me that are fat;
Sleek-headed men and such as sleep o' nights:
Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.

rmm.

Anonymous said...

Lots of good quotes here. Charlie, you are our wordsmith. Our family is one of those who sits on the fence trying to figure out whether to pull our kids out of SPS. That we have not done so, is in part because of you, Melissa, Meg, Jan, Maureen, Helen, and so many worthy others. How is that for irony (take note district and board members). That you and others keep railing and tilting away gives us pause to think why such passion for few triumphs and much failures.

Your blogs provides the information we need to navigate this byzantine system successfully. It gives us the heads up when we need to take cover and when to take action for our children. We don't always agree with all the postings, but the verbal jousting leaves much to stir and to make us hold on.

Holding on

fruitbat said...

We are the seawall against an ocean of idiocy.
We may not be able to turn the tide, but what floods of horrible choices would have happened if we weren't here? You never know what plans didn't see daylight because someone was afraid of the pushback. I'm sure this work makes a difference.

"i'll spend my time explaining
how the things that they complain about
Are things they could be changing
hoping someone's gonna hear
...
cause I can't believe that no one wants to know"