Can You Hear You?

I know that the School Board Directors can't hear me, but I wonder...

Can they hear themselves?

Can they hear themselves speak earnestly about closing the achievement gap? Probably not.

They approved cutting summer school.
They approved cutting elementary counselors vital to SIT teams and RTI.
They won't fund interventions.
They approve the removal of required interventions from the promotion/retention policy.

Can they hear themselves wax poetic about the value of community engagement? The evidence indicates otherwise.

They accept motion after motion that has no community engagement
They don't enforce the community engagement protocols of the Strategic Plan
They don't conduct any real community engagement of their own

Can they hear themselves go on about the value of transparency? Apparently not.

They have not required transparency in the budget.
They have not required transparency in program placement.
They have not required transparency in any decisions.

Can they hear themselves talk about the crisis in governance? It doesn't look that way.

They never enforce policies - they don't even have a process for it.
Their new governance policy doesn't mention policy enforcement.
They take no action when policies are violated.
They took no action when the superintendent ignored their direction.

Can they hear their own words about oversight? I don't think so.

They haven't demanded any reports from staff for the past three years.
They don't follow up when the staff promises action.
They don't follow up when the staff promises information.

Do they know that they said that they would earn the public's trust? Maybe they forgot.

They don't tell the truth.
They don't fulfill their promises.
Their words and they actions don't match.

I know that the Board Directors can't hear me, but I don't think they can even hear themselves.


Anonymous said…
I don't think you can paint the whole school board with the same brush. It is clear that some are attuned to the community and are working to address school needs from the community perspective. I give them credit for imperfect but sincere efforts.

But others think the community is just a bunch of loud voices and scampering cats getting in the way of their vision of "fixing" schools.

It is pretty straightforward to identify which board member fits into which role, or started out with one perspective and morphed to the other. Someone else can do the analysis in this thread if they wish.

Beyond the board, what is disturbing is the number of very well known and no doubt well meaning SPS supporters who really wish they didn't have to deal with public opinion in addressing public school needs. In their zeal or frustration they appear to have forgotten the public in public schools.

Thinking Things Through
Central Mom said…
Reading the news right now I would add that if school backers do not welcome the many voices of the community in SPS governance, direction and feedback then it is flatly unrealistic to expect backing for school issues at the polls.

We've got a huge pro-ed city levy coming up this fall. Tick off the voters and what could happen? Look at the headlines in Portland tonight
someone said…
So what's the answer to the problems?

I've seen this same litany of woe crop up in various ways on this blog over and over again. And while I tend to agree, I'm curious what readers and the writer see as solutions? Clearly, different candidates for the contested positions are sorely needed. But how does the public keep this type of mindset from happening to the next crowd? I'm all for positive action to change things - because if nothing else I have a loved one who works for the district and day after day he comes home from work so frustrated and tired from the dysfunction around him. There must be another way, another road.

Where do we start - give me an idea and I'm on the team.
dan dempsey said…
So what's the answer to the problems?

Solution #1 ... Reelect NO ONE.

Sundquist, Carr, Martin-Morris, and Maier gone.
Anonymous said…
I'll start with this: We have an administration full of "business-minded" (or so they think) junkies who just can't get over the fact that a public school system is not a business, cannot be compared to one, cannot be run like one, and by its very definition, is never supposed to be "run like" one.

Businesses are not public entities. They are private. They may have publicly traded stock, but every decision they make requires absolutely ZERO COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT. Why would it? Isn't that the point of a "private" business? So the government and community cannot tell it what to do, or hold it accountable? A business is accountable to the people who invest in it's stock or who work for it. Not the customers. Businesses have arm's length relationships with customers. They don't "represent them" at all. They sell product & services. They don't serve; they sell services. Do we all comprehend that distinction? Well, somebody needs to convey it to SPS, because they clearly don't.

And that's the problem with Eli Broad's whole enchilada. He is "investing" millions into schools while teaching his future "portfolio managers" how to get around "public engagement" and all that annoying stuff, and get down to business!

"The customer is always right" does not apply to schools, obviously, because it is recognized, at some level, that those who run schools are "professionals" and professionals are expected to self-regulate their professions. That is why a fellow Broad Foundation alum conducts the review of MGJ. Because, what the heck does the community (or "customers") know about rating a Superintendent, anyways?

So we live under a regime that, on the one hand, stridently believes that the answers to public school district governance is to look to the business model, while, on the other hand, claims to be trying to engage the community. Why does one always win out? Because those two aims are in direct conflict, and the words that flow from both sides of the district's mouth reiterate this conflict every day.

Accountability is achievable through multiple measures. That is not the issue. The issue is the continuing desire of those who are not true educators in the teaching sense, to rule and run operations as though they are rock-star CEO's trying to increase the company stock price, instead of as a community-owned, community-serving, democratically run public entity with a constitutional mandate to serve the public at large.

How many times do we have to see how companies will cook their books to raise their share prices, only to discover the scandal much later, when things collapse? This has gone on for decades, and now, through ever-increasing standardized testing, we will see more and more data manipulation to make schools look much healthier than they are, in order to benefit and enrich a few careers, while many will suffer and districts will be weakened and fragmented by this ongoing chaos.

JSCEE folks are public service employees, but try to tell them that. Not enough of them realize that they work for the public, not the BRT, LEV, their deep pocket benefactors, or themselves.

In order to see the community as anything other than a problem or an adversary, the business model/business method fantasies have to go. They need a mindset that they are serving the public's interest, not a corporation's.

But I won't hold my breath.

Central Mom said…
Here is evidence of why you have to bring the community along for the ride in changes large and small in public schools: Because sooner or later, if you don't, the public stops voting to financially support the schools, and then where is public education?

The city's Families and Ed ballot measure this fall is huge. At a time of still-bad economy. Want to see what happened in Enfield's old district tonight? Huge education loss. No community engagement = good luck this fall.

I want that levy to pass. And that's why at the end of the day Enfield was wise to back down on Floe. This district CANNOT afford more central-administration-triggered bad pr. Not right now.
Anonymous said…
Here's the voice of Cliff Mass,
who sums up the issues and Susan Enfield.

Check out his May 17th posting.

The Interim has made herself a Temp Worker
someone said…
@WSEADAWG - I do agree with the faulty logic in trying to run the district as a business. I've worked in government agencies, sat on community boards AND worked for large private entities and the differences in attitude, behavior, mindset are startlingly different.

But it still doesn't get at how we get from point dysfunction to point functional - other than the power of the vote I guess.

It's a conundrum I'll have to contemplate for a bit...
Anonymous said…
Someone: I know I come off like a long-haired, pinko-commie, class-war mongering lunatic from time to time. But in truth, I run my own business - a corporation, no less - and I am probably more fiscally conservative than most Republicans. Actually, I know I am!

I absolutely bristle at the tremendous lack of imagination and creativity I see in school folks who are so eager to borrow and try to fit a private, business model template where customer relationships are entirely voluntary, to a public-interest, public sector entity where, not only are the "relationships" involuntary, but mandated by state law. Two Entirely Different Worlds From The Get-Go!

And I just go crazy when I hear the borrowed ideas and rhetoric from the business & sales world, including QVC it seems, used to sell people something they didn't ask for, don't want, and which wastes precious time and resources by diverting them away from programs and resources that we know work. Like elementary and middle-school counselors, for example. We know how much value they produce, and nobody disputes it! But we cut them anyways, while burning money on one crappy magic bullet after another.

A business can afford to take such risks and we encourage them to try and try again. That's good. For a business.

But we don't want schools trying stuff that doesn't work, or isn't likely to work, because a 4th grader is only a 4th grader for 1 year. We can't play the, "if we don't get them now, we'll get them later" game with children. No, no, NO! The downsides so seriously outweigh the upsides, we should not be taking such risks. Ugh, it drives me insane.

Educating is not like a product launch. It is instead like doing maintenance, keeping the machines running. Keeping the shelves stocked with supplies. Updating equipment to stay relevant. All the boring stuff a business has to do in order to eventually get to that product launch.

What can I do but keep trying.

dan dempsey said…
Data.. Data ... anyone ever look at data?

Hear the Board Directors talk about Interventions in regard to Promotion/ Non-Promotion .... as they discuss the D43 policy that they then approved 7-0 ....

Here is that Policy, which contains not a single reference to interventions:

It is the policy of the Seattle School Board to recognize the concept of individualized instruction and the development of each student's potential. Promotion from grade to grade should be based upon consideration of the academic and other developmental factors of the student. Promotion from grade to grade at the high school level is based on the number of credits a student has earned as outlined by School Board Policy D 15.00

Typically students are promoted annually after meeting the standards required for that grade, spending one year at each grade level. Exceptions should be rare, but will be made when, in the judgment of the professional staff, retention or acceleration is in the best educational interest of the student. Retention or acceleration will only be made after a collaborative process between the school staff and the student's parent/guardians. However, the final decision regarding placement, promotion, acceleration, or retention will rest with the principal or, for students receiving special education services, with the student’s individualized education plan (IEP) team.

The Board has completely abdicated any role in regard to governance, when it comes to academic credibility.

The District has repeatedly failed to provide timely meaningful interventions for students. So now they have a new policy that does not even mention interventions. These folks must love the current practices that work so poorly, as they just made a policy that does absolutely nothing to alter current bogus ineffective practices.

What would be in the best interest of each student would be to be involved in an academic program that:
(1) used proven instructional materials and practices
(2) provided timely, effective, and efficient intervention as needed.

The program provided by the District is hardly in the best interest of most students .... and the Board prefers to ignore this fact rather than do anything about it.

Clearly vast numbers of Students are not meeting standard and the Board with the passage of D43 has adopted a policy to continue current practices.

A conservative estimate from test scores (MSP and MAP) would place at least 20% of students entering high school with math skills at grade 6 or lower.

These Directors need to hear themselves and read the policies.
dan dempsey said…
Please consider the incredible abdication of responsibility by all 7 directors in the 7-0 vote for D 43.00......

The Directors completed failed to deal with the facts. They listened, smiled, and did nothing.

Grade 4 MSP Math results in 2010...

For All 4th grade students
rate for students not meeting standard = 38%
(far below standard) Level 1 rate = 22%

(below standard) Level 2 rate = 16%

For Low Income 4th grade students
rate for students not meeting standard = 60%
(far below standard) Level 1 rate = 39%

(below standard) Level 2 rate = 21%

For Black 4th grade students
rate for students not meeting standard = 72%
(far below standard) Level 1 rate = 51%

(below standard) Level 2 rate = 20%

and the Board voted 7-0 vote on D 43.00.
D 43.00 lacks anything of substance and is a vote for more of the same.

These folks are the classic Do NOTHING Board.
Josh Hayes said…
I'm feeling you, wseadawg, but I think it's important to identify the downtowners more accurately. They don't push the corporate-model stuff because they're mendacious bad guys, they push it because they really truly believe it. These people aren't trying to crush local control because they hate us locals, they're doing it because it drives them crazy that we don't see how right they are, and how ignorant we are.

They are, in short, True Believers. And dealing with fundamentalists is, ah, fundamentally different from reasoned argument: you can't discuss something rationally with someone who's irrational. I guess the question is, how do we go about deprogramming them? Because I don't hate them: I feel sorry for them. I want them to be healthy again, like they were before the Broad virus got them.
Charlie Mas said…
@Thinking Things Through - Yes, the whole board. There are a lot of 7-0 votes that run directly counter to their stated values.

More than that, I never hear ANY board member move to table a motion until some community engagement has been done. I never hear ANY board member ask "What has been done to fulfill the community engagement protocols on the Strategic Plan?" I never hear ANY board member demand funding for interventions and ask the critical question: what funding need has a higher priority than support for struggling students?

I do not give them credit for sincere efforts because I do not see the sincere effort.
Anonymous said…
Josh, you say it very well. I've referred elsewhere to the "idealists mortgaging their souls to the ideologues" for just the reasons you state. Most if not all are well intended. But we know about the road to hell..right?

True-Believer ideologues cannot be persuaded by facts and I share with you the desire of finding an "effective" (how ironic) way to deprogram them as you suggest.

Look, Sundquist is a really nice guy. Really! He really is! But he is absolutely punch-drunk-sloshed in Ed Reform Kool-Aid, along with Harium. From the LEV campaign money, to the Don McAdams books to the brain-washing retreats the board attends each year, they are dunked, dunked, and dunked again in the Ed Reform waters so much its all they know.

If the capacity management blow-back doesn't shake them awake, I don't know what will.

The saddest part of it all is how the Board has become such a willing participant and advocate of district policy, while becoming so adversarial toward their own communities they claim to represent.


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