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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Town Hall with the Mayor and the Superintendent

I got there about 5:10 p.m.  A lot of the Mayor's staff, district staff and a middle school rock band warming up.  For all those people, there was no one to officially greet you or tell you anything about the event.  (I get that they needed staff but seriously, it was a lot of people for a simple Q&A.)

 This was my first look at South Shore.  Fairly nice building but the rotunda is silly (and it cost a lot extra).  Interesting textured walls in the restroom (I assume to discourage graffiti because otherwise they also cost a lot).

Luckily, Dorothy Neville show up to tell me you need a number to ask a question.  When I get one, I ask why no one is telling people this as they come in.  No real answer. 

By 5:20 p.m., the Mayor was there.

The room wasn't even full by 5:30 p.m. the official start time but that was okay because nothing happened.

Dr. Enfield got there about 5:40 p.m.  Still nothing.  About 5:50 p.m. the band starts.  Pretty good for middler schoolers and hey, the vocalists are on key.  The School of Rock rocks!

Finally at 6:10 p.m., they start.  The moderator, Gregory Davis, first had to explain the "parameters" for questions.  The audience learns about the number system; not many happy faces.  He claimed no one could take longer than a minute for a question (but held absolutely no one to it).   He also felt it necessary during the event to single out and thank every person working there (plus his church).

Then the Mayor had his 5 minutes.  He talked about the feeling of schools being centers of their communities.   He spoke of the Youth and Families initiative that laid the foundation for the Families and Education levy.  He said one thing his staff is doing is looking at what they do towards education and looking for outcomes from services provided.  This was a good point as you can say you spend money on education but is it money well spent?

He also gave a sneak peek at an attendance incentive program the City is starting in the fall.  He wouldn't say more but it would reward students with perfect attendance (remember that from your school days?  I do).  It would also reward schools with the most improvement as well as classroom improvement.

Dr. Enfield also spoke about looking at what parents want in their child's school. She said she felt parents want their child to be known and challenged and cared for but that there are no quick fixes.

She also announced a new initiative - AGREE - Attacking Gaps, Raising Expectations Everywhere.  It is directed at how to improve every single school.  Details to come.

They finally got started with questions at 6:30 p.m.  I pause here to express my exasperation.  C'mon.  I didn't expect a nearly 2-hour Q&A but I sure didn't think it would be one hour of entertainment and talk (and I don't think the rest of the audience did either).

Q&A
  • Several parents from RBHS PTSA stepped up to question why nearly 90% of the teachers are leaving and why there is no announcement of a new principal despite the work put in interviewing candidates?  That there is frustration and exasperation is clear.  Enfield acknowledged the parents but I believe she did it with a tinge of annoyance.  Basically, she going to announce the principal by the end of the week.  She said it and she'll do it.   She said she doesn't take this lightly.   (Okay but she is being a little myopic about how RBHS has been treated for years and how the mere announcement of an announcement isn't really enough. RB Community, please note this when you vote for School Board Directors.) There were also concerns raised about cultural competency. 
  • There were questions around the "night use" issue which is a source of great concern for this community.  I knew they were rebuilding the RB Community Center but I didn't realize that 9 months later, nothing has been done but the building is closed.  These people are trying to get clarity on what will be available to their children for the summer months.  South Shore apparently will be available for a month but it is unclear what happens after that. Dr. Enfield said she couldn't make any commitments.   The speaker had referenced being escorted from a Board meeting and Dr. Enfield said that adults have to be sure to model good behavior at meetings to children. 
  • One speaker said thank  you for the arts and wants more support from the City and district.  The Mayor agreed and said that music and arts keep kids in school.  Dr. Enfield said she had a commitment to arts in SPS.  They both referenced a Wallace Foundation grant for $1M for the arts in SPS but I have no details about what it means.  
  • Dorothy Neville stated that the Strategic Plan appears to be a failure, according to the Board evaluation of it.  The evaluation said there needs to be more teacher collaboration in our schools but Dorothy asked how teachers were to be asked for their opinion on how to do that.  Dr. Enfield said a lot of about asking staff and said it "should be building driven so it doesn't all look the same."*   Charlie leaned over and asked me, "How is this different from C-SIP?"  According to Dr. Enfield (and this was verified by an SEA rep), all elementary school teachers will have one hour of collaboration a week starting this fall. 
  • Another speaker talked about volunteers being treated unfairly in schools.  It was a little confusing and all Dr. Enfield could say is that the staff at each school is responsible for who is in the school and safety of children.  She said that school staffs could do a better job at managing volunteers. 
  • Around another question about RBHS, Dr. Enfield said that it is an issue about staff at schools understanding a parent advocating, even strongly, for their child and not being thought of as an annoyance.   But she again stated the issue of role modeling for children.  She said that the district also needs to rethink its policy on long-term suspensions.  (This is echoed by School Board candidate, John Cummings, himself a teacher, who said that taking students out of school for long periods does not work in his experience.)
  • Then there was an odd and long-winded question about teachers who dress in a sloppy manner and don't speak to parents.  There was also the issue of not teaching children etiquette and to "dress for success."  The speaker ended saying all teachers care about was a paycheck.  Dr. Enfield noted the speaker had raised a lot of issues but also said that SPS "does not have a large number of bad teachers."  Dr. Enfield was also forced to say that she had no control over how teachers dress.  This was a tricky one but I think if anyone - student or staff - is not dressing appropriately, it is the role of the principal (or vice-principal) to speak up.  
  • I then asked my questions.  I first asked the Mayor if anyone at City Hall had received a raise in the last year or so.  (Poor guy, I think he thought I was trying to trick him.)  I also asked him if anyone - the Alliance, Ed Murray, Don Nielson, anyone - was whispering in his ear about mayoral control of the district.  
  • He said no one had been talking to him about the City taking over the district.  He said he felt they were still in the collaboration phase and it was going well.  
  • He said most city workers are unionized and I said , no, not the unionized ones.  He said that his staff was receiving less money than the prior administration and that while he couldn't, under city charter, take less slary, he did donate $10k to charities.  He said no one that he knew had received a raise at City Hall.  I then pointed out that the district had been giving out raises since 2009.  Dr. Enfield tried to say it was for promotions or added job responsibilities but I had excluded those.  She finally said they had done a "market study" for some jobs and found they hadn't been paying people what comparable districts were.  At least from behind me, I could hear a slight gasp go through the crowd.  That's not surprising because really, who does a market analysis on pay in the middle of a recession?  SPS really thinks people will walk away from their public service jobs because they perceive they aren't getting paid what someone else in Bellevue is?  I don't believe most in the room were buying it.  It was not my intention to embarrass the Superintendent but she and the upper management staff have to own everything they do including giving out raises in an recession when they are laying off other employees.  
  • Another speaker asked about the loss of SCAN tv and how there is no "live" tv for their public service broadcasts to his community from NSCC which is taking over that role.  The Mayor said he intended to look into that issue.  
It was announced that Dr. Enfield had a hard stop at 7:30 p.m. (as I did) and so I left.  I believe the Mayor may have stayed and answered a few more questions but I know there were some disappointed people in the crowded who expected that there would be more time for questions.  

*I do not get the growing divide with alignment and testing and then this idea that each school is its own island.  Who's in charge then - the district or the principal/staff?  I don't understand why this keeps getting said while the district continues its drive towards conformity for schools (especially via Ex Directors which I think was the issue with Martin Floe).

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

" all elementary school teachers will have one hour of collaboration a week starting this fall. "

if teachers are forced into some kind of district directive du jour, which will change in priority and focus every 3, 5, 7, 11 and 19 weeks, it will be just more edu-babble boxes to check off.

why do the DE-form-istas have so much success with their lies? because what the system "accomplishes" is so half baked.

Bake, Baker, Baked.

dan dempsey said...

Ah yes .. encouraging communication and transparency...


By 5:20 p.m., the Mayor was there.

The room wasn't even full by 5:30 p.m. the official start time.

Dr. Enfield got there about 5:40 p.m. Still nothing.

About 5:50 p.m. the band starts.

Finally at 6:10 p.m., they start.

Questions begin at 6:30 p.m.

Susan Enfield gone at 7:30 p.m.

==========
Looks like the Band should have started playing at 5:10 ... but then there would have been way too much time for questions.

Po3 said...

Not only should raises not have been handed out, there should be work furlows in place for the 2011/12 school year.

Also, I wonder how much did that market study cost?

Shameful!

RBHS PTSA Secretary said...

Not to mention the completely unnecessary introductions of Mayor and SPS staff members present. That took away from the over 50 numbers given to those who had questions. From the 2 hours scheduled for the meeting only 14 questions were asked.

Anonymous said...

Nothing like a bunch of pols back-slapping, congratulating each other, and thanking each other, all on somebody else's time and dollar.

We should pass a law against ribbon-cutting ceremonies, and other such events our pols attend, when they should instead be working toward keeping those promises they made to get elected.

Next time I hear, "I want to thank" from a pol, the crowd should just start booing, until they get it. Stroke each other in private, please, on your time, not ours.

Shameless, shameless hacks.

Market study? Same argument used by Wall Street crooks who just had to pay huge retainer bonuses to keep all their "talented" workers, who'd just crashed the world economy. What talent!

Failing upward is the birthright of the well-connected. Ed Reform is chock full of hedge-fund management dollars and influence. So it should come as no surprise to hear Enfield parrot their slogans. Nothing new there.

But Enfield's justification for raises at this time, in this place, reveals an isolation and tone-deafness she could only have cultivated inside the womb of the Gates Foundation and their ilk.

"It's all about the kids," right? WRONG. It's about money and power.

Follow the money. Just follow the money. It answers everything. WSEADAWG

Anonymous said...

"That took away from the over 50 numbers given to those who had questions."

Simply indefensible and infuriating. Clowns, all of them. Public "serving"
clowns. WSEADAWG

Melissa Westbrook said...

RBHS PTSA Sec., thanks for that input. I was thinking maybe I was just being a grump but I could not believe that much time got taken away from the audience.

LaCrese Green said...

Thanks to the clock watcher for we can see just how much time was wasted. Was it not intentional? If forced to answer more questions or answer them truthfully,how soon would the Sup have had her melt-down or temper tantrum? I did sense being testy at times. The meeting an exercise in self-control?

In another post I'll deal with how many of the issues raised were of the mayor or sup's own makings or a problem due to their incompetence.

If justice had been served, the Mayor and Sup would have stayed to answer all questions. They asked me to come and bring my questions and then waste my time and answer only 13 because I had #6 and didn't speak out of 50 or more? What an insult! Common courtesy demands better than that. How so? They are the public's servants, not I theirs.

To shut down the meeting without addressing all issues was treating We the People as their slaves. And it was ignorance on their part to expect We the People to beg for a response by writing it on a piece of paper. My concerns don't fit on a 3x5 slip! And I refuse to lower myself to gravel.

My prayer is that good can be accomplished from this blog.

Thanks for having it. LG

Anonymous said...

A couple observations:

1 - Everyone in my vicinity was furious at the late start - they felt very disrespected (heads up Mayor's team).

2 - Enfield was called out several times for not answering questions -one person saying, "What do you mean 'I'll look in to it?'" I certainly felt she was ticked off at being confronted publically.

3 - The mood of the meeting was neutral and then slipped to hostile as Enfield continued to not answer questions, and when she did speak she was disrepectful, dismissive, disingenious.

4 - And, as reminded by one person, she is an *interim* supr. So, heads up, Susan - your job is not yet secure.

-JC.

RBHS PTSA Secretary said...

Regarding..."And, as reminded by one person, she is an *interim* supr." Yes that was me and I meant it. She is the INTERIM and her bosses are the Board and not the other way around.
Why on earth would they hand out so many numbers knowing there would not be enough time to answer them all. That band as wonderful as they were (I LOVE THE ARTS) played far too long. I know how to go on sites and find the names of those city and sps employees so an introduction was stupid.

The mayor got lucky in that not too many questions were raised (ran out of time)about Levy dollars. One question that I wrote on his Facebook wall ( I encourage all who had question for the mayor and didn't get to ask to post them on his Facebook page) and wrote on the little card that will probably end up in the paper recycle bin aka the comment box was: Greetings Mayor,

At the Town Hall meeting at South Shore K-8 school on Tuesday, June 21st there was not enough time for a lot of questions. The one question that I do have is in regards to Rainier Beach high school safety and the Levy funds. It is the duty of the City to provide safety measures. The corner of Rainier and Henderson is one of the most notorious in the city and when/if something negative occurs on or around that area Rainier Beach high school often receives the negative publicity. Further more the schools enrollment is down drastically and one of the reasons is because parents say the school is not safe. When will the city get serious about doing their part as it relates to safety in this area.
I have a possibly solution fund a full time officer for Rainier Beach high school.

dan dempsey said...

Hummm....

Seems given Dr. Susan Enfield's support for "All Ahead School Reform" that her job is extremely secure if Carr, Sundquist, Maier, and Martin-Morris are reelected.

Are any of those four any better at answering questions than Dr. Enfield?

Certainly when the attempt to explain their reasoning for voting on controversial issues at school board approvals ... rational explanations are rarely if ever put forward.

Charlie Mas said...

I really, really didn't care for the introduction of yet another campaign with a clever name but no meaningful action.

AGREE? No, I don't agree. Stop the propaganda and just do the work.

Ken Gillgren said...

The one question I wish had been asked (and someone who is following Enfield's public appearances, please ask!) is: Ms Enfield, your last public response to the question of closing Rainier Beach High School is that there are not plans to do so next year, but to a follow up question, you said you could not commit to the year after. Leaving this issue hanging, while parents, community members, and even district staff are working hard to get an IB program in place (which requires a 2-year ramp-up), places parents TODAY and for the NEXT SIX MONTHS, in an untenable position. You sign up a student for 4 years of high school, not next year and "then we'll see." This inexcusable [expletive deleted] is the core reason behind declining attendance. Yes, the District itself must be held accountable for the drop in attendance, and not turn around and punish the school and the community for the profound distrust of the District.

Anonymous said...

I also would like to compliment the last speaker who said, (paraphrase), "These policies are not only hurting our students and our schools, but they are hurting our country. You are hurting America."

Yes.

-JC.