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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

School Board Candidates At Metro Dems Event

I attended last week's Metropolitan Democrats meeting.  It wasn't an endorsement event but rather, one for their members to get a first look (and listen) to candidates ranging from King County Council to School Board Directors.  It was a good chance to hear from the School Board candidates (although not all were present).
 I saw a few other education activists in the crowd - Carol Simmons, Joanna Cullen and former SEA President, Wendy Kimble.

They went by district and District 1 - Peter Maier's district - was first.  Like the other incumbents present, Peter spoke well and smoothly.  This is something to be expected from a nearly 4-year incumbent.  He pointed out that he had visited every school in his district, every year, over the course of his term.  This is very commendable and a great idea for directors.  He spoke of his background and that the NSAP had come into being during his term and that he had lead the school district ballot measures that had passed. 

One challenger was John Cummings.  John spoke in a fairly casual manner, speaking of his work as a Special Ed teacher in SPS.  He spoke of decisions made for the classroom from afar instead of working with teachers and principals on issues they are seeing at their schools.  He spoke of the issue of the MAP testing in schools.

The other challenger in that district, Sharon Peaslee, spoke of her teaching credentials and her two special needs children.  She said we couldn't have a one-size-fits all plan to meet the learning needs of all children.  She said she wanted to see effective remediation for struggling students and acceleration for students who wanted/needed it.  She said teachers are not the problem and need support.  She cited her work in Bellevue around math issues and the math tutoring program that she started in Seattle.  She ended on a positive note about working together for a great district which I think resonated with the crowd. 

Position 2 is Sherry Carr's district.  Sherry spoke first, explaining her background as a parent, PCO, PTSA leader and her belief that quality education can change lives.  She talked about improvements in rigor - IB, AP and the issues around state funding.  She also claimed that the central administration has been cut "by one-third."  (Again, show me that data or spreadsheet that shows that is true.)  She also mentioned working financial controls, the NSAP and her endorsements.

Kate Martin is another Position 2 candidate.  She spoke well about fixing the schools to help the city.  She said a "course correction" was needed.  She talked about investing in classrooms, the sale of district property, TFA and the bond and levy money. 

Jack Whelan spoke next.  He was fairly bold and assertive and explained his background at the UW business school.  He said we don't want to take the "public out of public education."  He said right now the district has a good opportunity to find a great superintendent that could transform our district. 

Terrance Menage was the next speaker.  He spoke of being a teacher.  He said the district has struggles and the Board needs to supervise the Superintendent. 

The last candidate, Mark Weber, did not attend or send a speaker.

Position 3 is Harium Martin-Morris' district.  Harium spoke well but had to be asked twice to speak up.  He said he is proof of the benefits of quality education.  He has taught across the K-12 grade levels.  He said he believes in the work and can make tough decisions.  He was the only person to speak of national education issues and said he looked through multiple lens for the work.  He did use the classic incumbent line of the work "takes time."

John Dunn spoke next.  I know John as a former president of SEA but he didn't mention that role.  He spoke frankly to the crowd about being tired of seeing SPS repeat history over and over.  He spoke about keeping class sizes down.  He said the Board needs to supervise the Superintendent.  He referenced the Moss Adams report.  He said the Board sets the policies, not outside foundations. 

James Bush spoke for Michelle Buetow.  He talked about her ability to work with groups in the Eastlake district to find concensus for geozones.  He said went you bundle her assets together you get leadership.  He said she has the new energy it will take to move the district in a better direction.  He said she had been endorsed by more Democratic organizations than any other School Board candidate.

Steve Sundquist holds the Position 6 district.  He was not in attendance and had a curious stand-in - former SPS Communications head, Bridgett Chandler.  She said the district had had serious challenges and sustained leadership.  She said there had been important changes under Steve including the NSAP, School Improvement framework, SEA contract and "expanded services to schools while lowering central administration."  She said he has "the courage to be accountable for decisions."

Marty McLaren is one of his challengers.  She spoke of being a former math teacher in the district.  She said she felt the district is "letting families down."  She spoke of accountability and transparency. 

The other challengers, Nick Esparza and Joy Anderson, were not present and did not send stand-ins.

Overall, everyone did well.  It was clear that some of the incumbents had not done a lot of public speaking.  (My advice -practice and time yourself.)  A few things stuck out to me: Peter Maier talking to someone when another candidate from his district was speaking, Kate Martin speaking a little less fiery than at other forums, Terrance Menage wearing a suit (dress for the job you want), and how we have credible challengers in each race.

Luckily, there was a little time at the end and they asked questions. 

One member asked about math.  He was clearly an "old math" person and that got the ball rolling.  Peter Maier had left at this point.  Sherry talked about including teachers in the math adoption.  She also said she didn't support Everyday Math but that a previous Board had voted it in. 

Harium strongly told the group that the textbook is NOT the curriculum.  He said he didn't vote for this math adoption because he felt it didn't support families. 

Another member asked about civics in the school curriculum.  This allowed the challengers to talk about curriculum alignment.

Kate Martin talked about "narrowing" the curriculum and that we are losing liberal arts.  Jack Whelan spoke about students coming into higher ed who were not fully prepared.  He said testing is the "tail wagging the dog." 

John Dunn talked about teachers being handcuffed and scripted.  Terrace Menage spoe about weaving in civics with Social Studies and the loss of more curriculum to alignment.

The questioning period really sparked discussion and it is clear that there is dissatisfaction from citizens about the district. 

It was a good first look at the candidates.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

For me, a 11+ years veteran of SPS, the first order of business after Board Elections should be opting out of the TFA contract. I recently reread the TFA contract and opting out is fairly easy to do. Betty Patu, the only member to vote against the contract, has told me she's open to opting out. With at least 3 new Board Members (hopefully a clean sweep of 4 new members) there's a chance to bring it up as an "action item" for a vote.

ken berry

StopTFA said...

Ken,

I like how you think! Yeah, it's easy-peasy to "opt-out" or just terminate the damn thing. It's a vestige of the old Go-Lo-Jo mindset that did nothing to help SPS and everything to help TFA tout its great western migration. We would do well to invest our Title II professional development funds in real teachers that are in it for the long haul.

joanna said...

I hope Michelle returns soon. Occasionally it is necessary for someone else speaks for a candidate, but generally if you are a serious candidate you need to be at most forum.

Terrence J. Menage, Ed.D. said...

Mr. Berry,

I agree with you that we need a clean sweep of the incumbents and an entirely new Board of Directors and that the TFA contract needs to be rescinded. It is also my belief that all significant actions/decisions taken over the past four years (at least) need to be reviewed and reconsidered in light of the faulty/lacking data and information upon which they have been made.

Our great city must have the Board of Directors adequately supervise their one employee, the superintendent, and appropriately serve as good stewards of our public schools. We need to bring an end to the status quo in our district and stop the mismanagement of our school district and finally address the issues and problems that were documented in the Moss Adams report seven years ago. Regardless of the results of my campaign, the Board of Directors will need to set clear and high standards as well as appropriately charge the next superintendent with the crucial work that must be done; establishing that evaluations and retention will be based upon successfully addressing these matters.

Let's work together to clean up district headquarters! This work must be done to end the abuse, fraud, theft and waste of millions of taxpayer dollars and resources as well as the harm being done to thousands of children.

www.menage4seattlekids.com

I welcome all to enter into dialogue and do what they can to support this important work.

Best wishes,

Terrence

Sahila said...

Mr Menage.... as a PR consultant, may I offer a little feedback on your style?

Its really a little overblown...

If you would tone down the gubernatorial rhetoric and speak in plain, every day, "common man" language, I believe you would make more headway...

Right now, your tone places your as an outlier, even though much of what you say you support is what many people in the district want...

Melissa Westbrook said...

You know, Sahila, he does have a campaign e-mail. Maybe next time try that.

Terrence J. Menage, Ed.D. said...

Sahila,

I appreciate you sharing your opinion, but must wonder the intent and purpose of the manner in which you publicly share what you are calling feedback.

A couple of timely truths come to mind, we have a saying about the value of free and unsolicited advice..it is often worth what you pay for it; as well as a saying about people's opinions ('Everyone has them...'as well as certain parts of the human anatomy, '...and quite often they both stink').

Best wishes,

Terrence

Jan said...

Terrance: I wholeheartedly agree with the idea of having a new board "revisit" most of the major decisions made by the last board, as I think several of them were based on incomplete, faulty, or deceptive data. It is hard to advocate for this, as those are OLD issues -- and new ones crop up and need current attention, but I think that some of the old decisions were so bad that they merit this -- specifically, the TFA contract (divisive, demoralizing to teachers, and unhelpful, given a surplus of jobs for positions), the STEM software platform contract (expensive and unnecessary), MAP testing (extremely expensive, adopted under an ethical conflict of interest cloud, uses too many district resources (libraries, computers, student time, etc., and arguably not useful as a way to "inform" instruction), Discovery math books (bad choice of text for students), curriculum alignment (originally a reasonable idea, but badly implemented as "standardization" and "pacing.") I suspect there are several others. I do not believe the bell can be "unrung" on the NSAP -- and many parents did want a return to a neighborhood-based assignment system, but the Board may need to revisit the fact that the system established has removed any ability of the District to control school or program populations, and come up with a solution.

Terrence J. Menage, Ed.D. said...

Jan,

You are correct in saying that all of the past issues and decisions can not be revisited and/or undone. My position about significant matters is aligned with and motivated by most all of the issues you reference. Any of these key adoptions and policies should be reviewed and modified or terminated for meeting the needs of our students.

A key to addressing the future needs of our district will be in the selection of the next superintendent and the board of directors truly seeving as the supervisor of their employee and the policy makers and good stewards we deserve.

Patrick said...

It's too late to change the basic nature of NSAP. But we could revisit whether it's possible to live up to the promises made along with it -- like the 10% of seats available to out-of-area students at each school.

Sahila said...

@ Terrance..... sorry....I just thought your reference to "our great city" in your speech.... oops I meant post... was just a tad over the top...

It sounded more like it was coming from someone running for president and I expected the anthem and the flag and the brass bands, etc, etc...

and we already have Board members (one or two of the incumbents) who resort to all of that pompous gungho pollie rhetoric... not sure your indulging in it will help your case...

If I could vote, you would lose my vote... and that bit of info is free....

But... each to his own....

Terrence J. Menage, Ed.D. said...

Sahila,

Perhaps you could reread my comments posted on this thread and understand that I could care less what your opinions and judgment of me may be. I present my candidacy for what it is and what I believe are the pressing issues we need to address for the good of our students. People can and will think what they want of me and make whatever judgments they wish, I do not and will not be concerned or become distracted from the focus of my campaign....cleaning up headquarters and meeting the needs of our students.

If you disagree with my message and focus, I believe this is the appropriate venue for such debate and discussion. Questioning my intentions, sincerity and/or integrity in such a baseless manner seems inappropriate and pointless to me. It also does not maintain the appropriate energy and focus I believe we should upon the needs of our students. You are certainly entitled to your opinion and ability to express it freely, no matter how narrow, ill-informed and misguided it may be.


Best wishes,

Terrence

Mohd. Ajmal said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
mirmac1 said...

Given similar messages it's true that plain speaking candidates will garner the votes. We're sick of the incumbents dissembling. 6% my ass.

Anonymous said...

Terrence,

Sahila is too plain spoken to be a diplomat, but it sounds to me like she does give good PR advice, however unwelcome.

Even though much of what you say is in the right, it's cloaked in language that must lead people to wonder how effective you'd be in translating your ideals into the personal political relationships needed to get things accomplished in the give and take of a highly charged political environment.

It may be time to rethink how to get people to trust and willingly follow.

-Steveroo

Chris S. said...

Yeah, that 6% line make me think Sherry is still clueless. A) she believes it B) she expects US to believe us after all this!

Maureen said...

But Sherry heads Audit and Finance and is apparantly a numbers person. What did they do to convince her? I'm thinking it all comes down to her/them not including anything that is grant funded as part of district expense (regardless of whether or not that money could be redirected to the classroom.)

Terrence J. Menage, Ed.D. said...

Steveroo,

Point taken. Although I do disagree with you on what will be needed to effectively and successfully serve as a member of the board. There are and have been ample numbers of board members that have been rather skilled in highly charged political environments, and we don't need to review where that has gotten us.

The abilities, experience, knowledge and skills that I would bring to the board of directors are truly needed at this time. We must return to having a board that supervises the superintendent, their one employee, and serves as the thoughtful policymakers and good stewards of the district for the sake of the children. All else needed to clean up headquarters and return functional operations and supports to the schools will flow from this significant change. As hard as it may seem, there are a good number of people that believe I work well with others and have observed my ability to collaborate with diverse populations.

Appreciate the feedback, both welcome and unwelcome, as well as the dialogue and debates about what is best to serve the needs of our students.

Best wishes,

Terrence

Terrence J. Menage, Ed.D. said...

As it has been mentioned by more than one person posting comments on this blog, my message delivery may be missing the mark. Variety of advice has been provided regarding the focus of my campaign and the questions, comments and concerns that I submit on this site. In an attempt to provide a public service, I will try to concisely state in the vernacular my focus and candidacy for school board.

I believe that everybody in the district must do their J-O-B! From the board of directors, through the superintendent, district administrators and directors, principals, teachers and staff down to the students and families. Making certain this is happening is a large part of the work of the board of directors.

The board needs at least one person that will tell district administrators and managers as well as vested interests in the district to stop pissing on my back and telling me it's raining! A sustained effort to scrutinize and review the district operations is crucial to creating powerful learning environments throughout our district.

A board of directors that supervise their one employee and serve as the policymakers and stewards of our district will be the first big step in the right direction; selection of the next superintendent will continue the long journey we must make to clean up our district headquarters.

For the sake of the children and millions of taxpayer dollars, let's work together for the improvement of our public schools.

Best wishes,

Terrence

Jan said...

Patrick: I was never as much of an NSAP fan as some -- and that's ok. And I agree that we can't really go back and undo that decision. But I think it's not enough now (and I don't say you are suggesting it -- these are just my follow on thoughts) to just "reconsider" some of the ornaments we hung on that particular tree -- like the 10% option seat set asides, etc. Because those "side promises" were not really tangential. They were made in an attempt to deal with really serious problems with the entire NSAP concept -- mainly, the huge disparity in academic experiences offered by different schools -- and the primary victim was SE Seattle, though there are/were other access problems as well. We may not be able to (and maybe we don't want to) undo the NSAP, but we need to scrape down to the bones of it to figure out how to address the huge issues that it has created, in denied access to quality education, in denied choice, and in inability to control populations within a school, as parents (who are neither idiots nor sheep, despite what MGJ may have thought) simply got up and "voted with their feet" for a different school than the one she thought she had consigned them to.

Sahila said...

There's a lot to be said for the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle...

Now you're speaking in language that I respond to/makes sense to me Terrence...

If I could vote and vote for you, there's a strong chance now I would!

Patrick said...

Jan, it sounds like we're much in agreement. I, too, had serious doubts about the NSAP, and the way it has worked out has shown that there are serious problems with it. Excellence for all remains just a slogan, and poverty etc. are as intractable problems as ever.

But we can't just say to families, you know that house you bought where you did because it would put you in this school's zone? Just kidding!

The promises made when NSAP was approved need to be kept. If it's impossible for this fall, then it should be a priority to do before next open enrollment.