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Showing posts from February, 2011

A Legislator Pulled into this Mess?

Ah, so the plot thickens. A reader alerted us to a story in the Seattle PI online about lobbying that Silas Potter did at the State Legislature for more leeway in running business development programs. In the Auditor's work documents, it notes a couple of times that Potter had been told not to go to the Legislature and lobby (but he apparently didn't stop). As well, a former legislator, Velma Veloria, was paid by his office to lobby as well (even though lobbying for the district is strictly limited and must go through Legal and neither person did). Apparently there was little opposition to the bill (which passed) but: Larry Stevens of the Mechanical Contractors of Western Washington and National Electrical Contractors Association, testified on March 15, 2007 that he was concerned about a lack of oversight. "There needs to be some parameters around it. This bill...is a little too wide open," he said. "It just throws it open....there are no public work

Help Daniel Bagley Get a New Playground Covering

Daniel Bagley Elementary has entered a contest to try to win $6,000 to re-cover their asphalt playground with a softer surface. Please vote for Julie Allen (#21 on the list) at this website, Verity Mom. The voting ends at noon this Wednesday, the 2nd, so please do this soon. I note that nearly every entry has a person doing a cartwheel (the theme of the contest) and so this is a unique entry. Good luck to Brown Hair Rabbit and Daniel Bagley!

How Did This Get Started?

I actually don't have time to get into this in depth but let me explain what I know about how this idea about outreach to small businesses that are minority/woman-owned. (I will try to flesh this out more later or, hopefully, some media-type will do it.) This started with an idea from former School Board member Mary Bass. It became a policy (but again, I don't have the policy number or date in front of me). What I understood it to be was merely a way to say to those smaller companies, "Here is a staff person you can call with questions. He/She can help guide you through the process." In addition, I think they were probably going to make a small brochure with tips and maybe have a couple of classes a year on doing business with SPS.This work would be part of one person's job in capital. That's it. No roster of classes, no roster of instructors, no personal service contracts so that prominent people in the community could do outreach. Just a way to b

Who Failed and How

There can be no doubt that Mr. Potter failed in his duty to properly conduct the business of Seattle Public Schools. That's not in dispute. There is no doubt that Mr. Stephens failed in his duty to properly supervise Mr. Potter. That's not in dispute either. Mr. Kennedy doesn't acknowledge any wrongdoing. He says that he relied on Mr. Stephens to supervise Mr. Potter and that Mr. Stephens assured him that the supervisory work was being done. Mr. Kennedy had a duty to supervise Mr. Stephens, which he failed to fulfill. It isn't enough to periodically ask people if they are doing their jobs; a supervisor also has to periodically check that the job is done. It's an old rule of management: you can't EXpect what you don't INspect. Mr. Kennedy failed in his duty to supervise because he did not supervise. Asking someone if they are doing their job is not supervision. In addition, Mr. Kennedy failed to: 1. Take appropriate steps following the Sutor Group rep

What's the Good Word?

We have to stay positive so I want to hear some good news, big or small, from your corner of the district. First up, Chief Sealth's boys basketball team is rolling on at the state championships. To that end, a great story on their inspirational coach, Colin Slingsby, from the Times' Steve Kelley. Just like all great coaches, it's not just about what happens on the court. Here's a guy who wants to be a teacher: When Slingsby began his coaching career at Sealth, he worked the night shift at United Parcel Service, punching the clock from 9:30 p.m. to 4 a.m. He also went to school, an undergraduate at Washington before getting his master's degree at Seattle University. "He's a new age, old-school coach. A retro Father Flanagan," assistant coach Greg Kalina said. "A lot of coaches profess to do it, but he walks the walk 10 stories higher than I've ever seen anybody else do it." Of the 40 players who have stayed in his program si

This Week

This is late but if you want to be on speakers list for this week's School Board meeting, call the Board office tomorrow morning starting at 8 a.m. at 252-0040 or e-mail boardagenda@seattleschools.org. Calendar This Week Monday Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee - 4:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m. Tuesday Executive Session from 4-6 p.m. (not for the public but I'd love to be a fly on the wall) and (oh no) Diversity Speaker Series: Dr. Barbara J. Love "Bending the Arc of the Universe; How Young People Change the World - 6-8 p.m. at the Stanford Center Wednesday Board Meeting from 6-9 p.m. I hope the room is full of watchful eyes and ears. I don't think going down there with pitchforks and burning torches will help. I think good signage can send a message. Thursday Another Executive Session - this one is labeled " complaint against public employee " and reading that I can only ask, "Only one"? As I mentioned there are no community meetings

PI Story on Grace of Mercy

Several readers who are keeping up (bless you, I took time out to go to an Oscars party) pointed out this article in the PI. Remember when I said that reading through the SAO interviews I saw one vendor who seemed the most mysterious? And, that I thought this was the one that Potter could be using to funnel money to various people (including himself)? Grace of Mercy, the focus of the article, is that vendor. No one at the district who got interviewed seemed to know anything about them (and yet know of other vendors). Silas Potter hand delivered their invoices. From the article: TACOMA - A non-descript brown house with a heavy door and a "no solicitors" sign stands at the dead end of a south Tacoma street. It's rental house owned by David A. Johnson and home to two companies - Grace of Mercy and Allstate Surveillance & Security - that, according to the Washington state Auditor, received $353,000 in Seattle Public Schools money spent for reasons unclear.

Meanwhile, for Those of Us Who Actually Teach

I know that the most important thing going on right now is all of the day lighting of the incompetent and criminal behavior going on at the John Stanford Center for Education Excellence. Please don't let up on this until every rock has been overturned. However, Cliff Mass wrote an Op-Ed in the Seattle Times that was published on Friday about the possibility that Washington may adopt the Common Core national standards. This would be a major tragedy for our students, especially in mathematics. Now I freely admit that I do not like the books that I have been saddled with to teach Algebra 1 and Algebra 2, but I do have to say that the new standards are excellent and I see no reason to do anything to them. To adopt the Common Core would be a step backward, as they are not as rigorous as out current standards and are hard to understand. Please remember as we send the current top administration down the road, the idea is to educate children and prepare them for the future. Please

Board's Investigative Report

Charlie went over what he thought striking from the Board's Investigative report. Here's mine: Another factor that may have contributed to decisions by employees not to take their concerns to the Board was the communication protocol developed in conjunction with the Board and instituted by Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson. The communication protocol was intended to streamline requests for information between the Board and District employees and was not intended to cut off employees’ access to the Board. Although the policy explicitly encouraged employees to bring concerns relating to activities that were not in the best interest of the District to the attention of management and promised no negative repercussions for doing so, some employees, including the internal auditor, believed the policy prohibited employees from having direct contact with the Board or the Superintendent. (bold mine) We also discovered that the Superintendent plays no active role in the budget formati

Potter Goes to a Sunny Climate - Tampa, Florida

Good for the Times finding him. (I had my own little research going and found out that he went to high school in two schools in Michigan. He claimed he had attended Columbia and a Michigan university but no degrees listed. He also says on his Facebook page, "To know me is to love me." Well, the Seattle Times has an extensive review of his tenure at SPS so read it and tell me how much in love you are by the end. Me, not so much. I said elsewhere that I wondered if Fred Stephens, as head of Facilities, took his eye off the BEX ball as several projects had cost overruns. I mean if he gave Silas Potter free rein, then he probably gave Don Gilmore (then head of BEX projects) free rein. I have asked myself WHY Fred Stephens did this. (One thing I can say slightly in his defense is that a couple of years ago a son was murdered. I know it took a toll on him as it would anyone.) I do want to pose a couple of questions just for input (or just for the heck of it): should t

More Financial Scandal Discussion

Danny Westneat of the Times has a column about the financial crisis. In his own dry way, he picks out the issue which is says is not what happened but how district leadership reacted. I kind of agree. As Goodloe-Johnson told one investigator: It was happening "too far down." So far down she didn't know a thing about it, and therefore isn't responsible. Oops. Wrong answer. Kennedy, the CFO, said that even in hindsight, and even though the troubled program with all its red flags was in his department, he wouldn't have done a thing differently. Really wrong answer. It's never the wrongdoing that gets you. What matters is how you deal with it. He breaks it down: This scandal is also a perfect storm of Seattle school neuroses. It was born of political correctness. Nurtured by lax management. Prolonged by timidity about race. The program, launched to bring racial equity to construction hiring, was considered "untouchable," employees to

Tug on that Pulled Sweater and Watch Things Unravel

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Thank you to Michael H for the heads up on another SAO audit document. This one has all the interviews the SAO did with SSD employees and certain vendors. I'm at page 54 of 264 and it's been jaw-dropping. I cannot believe the leeway and leverage and access to money and resources that Silas Potter had. It is just not possible for me to believe he did this on his own. Highlights : He repeatedly claimed to many who worked for him that SSD supported the transfer of the RSBDP from the district to his 501c3. Some of the people who had personal services contract through him come off very badly. Elaine Ko for one: We asked Elaine if she thought it unusual that a public program would be transitioning to the private sector at the expense of taxpayers. She said it was not unusual at that time. “It was not a questionable thing.” Also an administrator assistant reports that several people prominent in the African-American community had gone to Board me

Providence, RI's Answer To Financial Woes: Fire ALL the Teachers

Hard to believe but here it is (from the Providence Journal): The school district plans to send out dismissal notices to every one of its 1,926 teachers, an unprecedented move that has union leaders up in arms. In a letter sent to all teachers Tuesday, Supt. Tom Brady wrote that the Providence School Board on Thursday will vote on a resolution to dismiss every teacher, effective the last day of school. In an e-mail sent to all teachers and School Department staff, Brady said, “We are forced to take this precautionary action by the March 1 deadline given the dire budget outline for the 2011-2012 school year in which we are projecting a near $40 million deficit for the district,” Brady wrote. “Since the full extent of the potential cuts to the school budget have yet to be determined, issuing a dismissal letter to all teachers was necessary to give the mayor, the School Boar

What the Alliance Has to Say

Do not read this if you are drinking something as you might do a spit take. Not one word about the Superintendent (not sure if that is good or bad). From the Alliance's website: Seattle – February 23, 2011 – The Board of Directors of the Alliance for Education has released the following statement concerning today’s Washington State Auditor’s report: “The findings released today by the State Auditor’s Office are deeply disturbing. The alleged actions of a small group of mid-level school district employees and their associates represent an egregious breach of public trust. As an independent non-profit supporting all students in Seattle Public Schools, we take seriously our role as a steward of private dollars augmenting the District’s resources. We are reviewing the District’s response to the investigative report and are evaluating the set of corrective actions management has indicated it has taken or will take to add

Capacity Management Updates

Part of the last Operations Committee meeting was devoted to Capacity Planning and Management and there were several documents released. They finally made it to the SPS website (thanks to readers who pointed that out - I lost track in all the financial crisis tangle). They are: Enrollment Projections Facilities Planning Annual Report Capacity Planning Management Annual Report Unfortunately, there is one missing document which is the 2010 Enrollment Headcount and Projections by School. It has some data not in the Enrollment Projections document that is interesting. I'll try to get this one as well. The Enrollment Projections is a series of 30 charts (have fun, kids!) projecting enrollment to 2015. The big number here is that they are saying: Based on the adjusted projections, the 2015 moderate projected enrollment is 53,969 students. That is a difference of 9200 students. Let that sink in. Can our district handle 9k plus students? (Of course with the current debac

Math For All

This from Wallyhood blog : The Math Salon is an opportunity for everyone – children, adults, families, teachers – to come together and play with math. We’ll have different mathematical games, puzzles, books, and inspirations available. The next math salon is February 28 from 4pm-6pm at Mosaic Coffeehouse in Wallingford. The event is free. Sponsored by Math for Love: http://mathforlove.com/ This is sponsored by two teachers (Dan Finkel and Katherine Cook) from Math 4 Love which puts on these free salons along with providing services like math tutoring.

How About Those Ballard Students?

Some good news; a great story about space shuttle Discovery and astronomy students at Ballard High School. This from KING-5 tv. They have an experiment with gorwing e-coli cells in space. Congrats to teacher Eric Muhs. I have tried to say this over and over the last couple of days. We have good things happening in our schools. Please Seattle, don't give up on our schools and our students because of the selfish, unprofessional actions of some of those in leadership.

Best Coverage So Far

I recommend KING-5 tv for coverage of the financial crisis. I was on KIRO-tv briefly but KING 5 has a very good story with a timeline including the fact that the Superintendent minimized the Sutor report to the Board. If the Board had realized how strongly that report had been worded, they might have investigated sooner. (That said, couldn't one of them, out of curiosity, checked it out?) Steve Sundquist said: "It obviously was a missed opportunity for the Superintendent to share with us the full gravity of the situation," said Sundquist. I have to say the number of comments after all these new stories slamming the Board is really interesting. It seems like many people feel they should be accountable as well. One woman on KIRO-tv said the Superintendent isn't God and can't be everywhere at once. I just wish that before people either condemn OR defend people that they get the full story. It's easy to say that she can't know every single thing

From the West Seattle Blog

The West Seattle blog reports the installation of a new double portable at Lafayette Elementary. I didn't know that besides Lafayette, both Gatewood and Schmitz Park will also be getting portables. I think the district believes this overcrowding will ease up in the next 3-4 years but I can see where parents caught in the thick of it are probably not happy. Also, this from the West Seattle blog in one of their forums about the current crisis: Gulp! It's getting harder and harder to defend our School Board and District administrators. Apparently the "Save Seattle Schools" crew have been right about the District's lax accounting and oversight, though I must say I don't care for the way they've presented some of their arguments. I wish I could talk to this person. Tell me the better way. Honestly, I think I have tried every way I know how to relay this information or make an argument. When Charlie and I get testy or blunt, please keep in mind this

Seattle Times Calls for Goodloe-Johnson's Resignation

2:52pm Here's a link .

Please Do This Soon

Please send an e-mail as soon as you can with what you think the Board should be doing. I can tell you what I think but really, you have to decide what you think is best and LET THEM KNOW. They are going to make a decision this weekend and probably announce on Monday (unless MGJ's lawyer ties them up in knots). I believe the Superintendent and Don Kennedy should be let go for cause. I believe that Phil Brockman is the most honorable and believable person to be interim Superintendent. I believe the Board should careful examine the role of legal counsel, Ron English, in this episode and whether he did do, as an officer of the court, all he should have done.

School Board Considers Firing Superintendent (You Think?)

I feel like today I have to live on the Seattle Times' website. Here's yet another story about the Board and what they are considering. Appearing before the Times' editorial board today, the Board said this: Seattle School Board President Steve Sundquist said Friday the board is considering firing Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson or buying out her contract in light of a report's findings that she didn't do more to stop misuse of public money in a district contracting program. He didn't answer questions about any negotiations with the Superintendent except that she has a lawyer. He said, "All options are on the table." Boy, I hope not. It will stink to high heaven to have to give her any money to leave (although I'll bet it's in her contract). Hey, and DeBell calls what's happening downtown "a culture problem." Let's go to the Moss-Adams report, shall we? If you don't change the culture of a bureaucrac

Links to Everything You Might Want to Read

The School Board page has links to the following: SAO report (16 pages) School Board President/General Counsel response Independent Investigation Report (this is from the lawyer, Patty Eakes - I haven't read it yet) Exhibits to Independent Investigation Report (197 pages of exhibits - haven't read yet) Steve Sundquist's Response to the lawyer's Independent Investigation Report From Steve's response: In my view, this report demonstrates multiple failures of management oversight and accountability. Systemic failures allowed these absolutely unacceptable activities to persist, and that is not tolerable. Every day in classrooms across Seattle, teachers and principals are helping students understand what it means to be ethical citizens and to take responsibility for themselves and their actions. The Board will not tolerate unethical conduct, nor will we tolerate a lack of accountability. It is our responsibility as a Board to carefully consider the hard

New at Noon at the Times - Report to the Board

Seattle School Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson and Don Kennedy, the district's chief financial and operations officer, should have done more to ensure that the manager of the district's small-business program wasn't misusing district money, according to the attorney hired to determine who should be held accountable . This is what the report from the lawyer, Patty Eakes, who the Board hired to investigate the current scandal according to the Times . She does conclude that MGJ and Kennedy had limited knowledge of the program. (First, when did she interview the Super? On the phone? Second, every single program is supposed to be in their knowledge base.) She says: no evidence that anyone expressed their concerns to MGJ about the program beyond an unfavorable review of the program (somewhat a hilarious statement because really who would go to her? I can't think of anyone who might feel comfortable going to her with the attitude she projects). MGJ trus

Latest Times Article Uses Some Harsh Language

Update: Checked with the Superintendent's office: she's on vacation. The Times has another story this morning with the words " financial abuse " in the headline. It follows with: Disclosures about the school-district program have put Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson's job at risk in what has become the most serious public corruption investigation in years. The release of the documents — the most comprehensive look yet at the allegations — comes as prosecutors conduct a secret criminal investigation of the financial dealings and the School Board considers whether to force out Goodloe-Johnson, sources familiar with the matter have told The Seattle Times. State Auditor Brian Sonntag on Thursday called it one of the most egregious cases he has seen in 18 years on the job. The Board: The School Board will meet in executive session Tuesday to discuss the audit, as well as a report from its own investigation, done by a private attorney, into wh

Open Thread Friday

Not a great week for the district but I hope your children enjoyed their break. The only community meeting this week is with Director Betty Patu at Tully's (4400 Rainier Avenue South/Genesee) from 10 am to noon. It might be interesting to hear her take on the week's events. I have to wonder if the other directors feel a sense of relief not having a meeting this week with community. I note that there are none next weekend either. Think about sending the Board an e-mail. It's easy to say "off with their heads" and then the Board can sadly smile and shake their heads. Maybe we should work out the best ideas of what we think should happen. I honestly cannot take one more press release "we will create internal controls and have training, blah, blah, blah." Not good enough. I was talking with Dorothy yesterday and frankly, I think the real search is not for a great overall superintendent. I think we need a national search for a great COO, so

Generation Gap: Are Younger Teachers Really Better?

State Senator Lisa Brown has introduced a bill that the Times labeled, " Older Teachers Would Get Help to Retire Early under Senate Measure ." From the article: Senate Bill 5846 would allow teachers who want to retire before age 65 to get $250 a month over the next three years to help pay for health-insurance coverage until they can qualify for Medicare. "Looming health-care costs for retiring teachers not only keep the highest paid teachers on the payroll who would otherwise exit the system, they create roadblocks for younger teachers eager to get their start in the classroom," Brown, D-Spokane, said in a statement. Health care costs for ALL older workers generally go up so why teachers? Brown said the measure is aimed at teachers within three years of retirement. She expects some, if not all, of the cost would be offset because the teachers leaving would be among the higher paid in the state due to their education and experience. A full analysis ha

No Confidence Petition

There is a petition for a community vote of No Confidence in Dr. Goodloe-Johnson. Examine the petition and sign if you agree.

Seattle Times Fights Back

Below is an e-mail from David Boardman of the Times. (I had not written to him; he sent this on his own.) My take on this issue of whether the Times held this story back - I think it's possible. I say that because of the issues that Charlie has raised, namely, that embedded in the Times' story of the internal auditor's resignation were many possible questions about Silas Potter. That they were trying to get their facts right is good and admirable but it certainly took them a longer time than I might of thought given their resources. I'm a just one person, a citizen journalist so it is harder for me to press people I call for information. (However, that doesn't stop me from calling. Hey, I just left Fred Stephens a message to give me a ring. I won't hold my breath but it never hurts to ask.) Here is my take on the issue of a conspiracy at the Times to cover the district and in particular, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson. Do I think the Times and the Alliance and

Operations Committee Meeting (Facilities Section)

There was much of interest discussed at last week's Operations Committee meeting. I think the Capacity Management issue will be a bigger item of interest but as I stated previously, I'm still waiting for some documents to be on-line so that I can link to them. There were three documents related to Facilities (not including the monthly summary which is almost useless). Two were labeled "Annual Report" but I'm not sure anyone would think of them as reports. (One page, both sides? Considering all the work done in a year on facilities, how is that a report?) The first was was an annual report on " BTA Related Information ." It reviewed the work need to be done in seven weeks to get BTA projects done on Queen Anne, Rainier View and Viewlands. (The seven-week period was not specified so I don't know when they are talking about. Summer?) They point out that there are many unknowns in the work. Now look, I get that some of these b

What Did They Know and When Did They Know It?

Those over 45 will recognize the question. We have a number of people to ask about: the superintendent, the COO, Director of Facilities, the Board, and the Seattle Times. The answers are pretty sad. It turns out that just about all of them knew a whole lot and they knew it a long time ago. The Superintendent knew about the program, she knew what it cost, and she knew what it did. She is on the record praising it, which means that she reviewed it. She gave Mr. Potter an endorsement for his spin-off non-profit. She was fully informed. It is very likely that she will claim to have known nothing about it. It won't be credible, but even if it were, that would even more damning. The program was identified as a problem in the 2009 budget. Didn't she claim that she follows up closely on these audit exceptions? Is she telling us that she didn't know where the District was spending a million dollars a year? In a capital budget that didn't have money for needed repairs in scho

District Knew Potter Was a Problem as Far Back as 2009

More updates from the Seattle Times including: The program's former manager, Silas Potter Jr., was stripped of his ability to award small construction contracts in response to the warnings in January of that year. But the district allowed him to continue to award personal-service contracts and approve payments to small businesses that included minority- and women-owned companies, according to a recently completed state audit. Despite a reprimand and directives to improve his performance, Potter continued to flaunt rules with little oversight, the audit found. Evidence has emerged that some district employees informed superiors about irregularities with the program but were brushed aside, said a source familiar with the matter. Other employees had concerns but did not raise them because of "fears of reprisal," according to the state audit. "We found that many District employees were unaware of the District's whistle-blower and anti-retaliation pol

Financial Scandal Update

More info on the crisis. This from the Seattle PI online : "We're not passing judgment on vendors," said Mindy Chambers, a spokeswoman for the state Auditor's Office. "These are places where the district didn't have systems in place to look at what people are being billed for. Whether people were correctly charging for their time or overcharging, will be up to the district to sort out." Good reporting over at The Stranger Slog. Reporter Riya Bhattacharjee asked the Auditor's office for a list of vendors who received money from SPS for little work. It's a troubling list. From Riya's piece: 1. The district paid Port of Seattle's former director of social responsibility Elaine Ko, community activist and business leader Eddie Rye (know for spurring King County into changing its logo from a crown to the image of Martin Luther King Jr.), former state legislator Velma Veloria, and former state chair of the Washington State Democ

Congratulations to Roosevelt (and Some Sadness for Garfield)

The Essentially Ellington contest, the premier high school jazz band competition in the country, announced the finalists for the competition today. Roosevelt made the cut as did Mountlake Terrace High School. Garfield, the first place winner for the last two years, did not make the cut. I'm sure this is a blow to their fine program but I'm sure it will just be a blip and they will come back strong next year. Good luck, Roosevelt.

Oh, the Fur is Flying

Snappy answers to stupid questions, anyone? 1) Not saying it was timed (really, I'm not) but how is it that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson manages to NEVER be around when things get hot? I saw on the news that she's out of town somewhere. It never fails. 2) I appreciate that we have an Ethics Officer and now a visible whistleblower program but apparently there were people who had doubts, expressed doubts and either got brushed off or left the district. How is the district going to make sure this doesn't happen again? 3) Steve Sundquist, at the Seattle Channel Town Hall, gave the district a grade of "B". I wonder what he would give them now. 4) Who at the Times thought it would be a good idea to challenge Charlie? David Boardman took Charlie on. It went something like this: Charlie: Just so everyone knows: The Seattle Times knew all about this and has known all about this for months and months. Maybe they sat on the story so it would not negatively impact th