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Sunday, July 31, 2011

I'm Endorsing Sharon Peaslee in Position 1

I had hoped to do my endorsements all in one fell swoop but I still have three incumbents to interview.  But by week's end, I hope to be done.

I'm sure some of you might think, "Why is she bothering to interview them when it seems clear she doesn't support them?"  My answer is that it is the fair thing to do.  Is there something I can glean from talking to them one-on-one that I have missed?  I have very few questions for them so I'm not grilling them.  My most basic question is this one:

Going forward, what will YOU, as an individual Board director, do differently in your second term based on what you have learned from your first term?  

I am endorsing Sharon Peaslee because I believe that:
  • she has the skill set to get up to speed quickly (something that is key for new Board member)
  • she has had the experience as a parent in three districts in our region
  • she has the understanding of Special Ed because of her own children
  • she has shown herself someone willing to stand up for parents and for community engagement
  • she is tenacious 
I also believe that John Cummings is a dedicated teacher who would have some good things to bring to the Board.  I just don't think he is quite ready for the job and would need a longer learning curve than Sharon.

Peter Maier has not shown me, over the last 3+ years that he uses input from parents and community to guide his decisions.  The incumbents talk about listening but it is not enough to listen.  I want to know what do they get from that listening that is helping to guide their decisions.

I asked Peter my main question in red above.  There was a mighty long pause.  Frankly, I was surprised.  I would have thought of all the questions he might be asked, this would be one that would roll right off his tongue.  He seems to believe that the new financial systems as well as the quarterly reviews of different departments will take care of the oversight. 

My problem with that is that the previous "professional" Board thought they had it all taken care of with Moss-Adams.  They believed systems were being put into place.  It didn't happen so I'd like to know why we should believe this Board.   

Peter also said that the quarterly reviews would show if different programs within a department had completed a review.  The Board  didn't say one single word to Silas Potter for his disobedience in lobbying the Legislature even when he stood before them and admitted it.  So we are to believe that during department reviews, the Board will be tough and hold staff's feet to the fire if review work isn't done? 

In other areas, Peter had some thoughts about the focus for the district but no real ideas about how that might happen.  He brought up Mercer Middle School and how well it is doing (and says they closed the achievement gap but that's news to me).  I mentioned to him about how at the Seattle Channel Town Hall Mercer's achievements were brought up (apparently he never saw it which is surprising) and that it was because they were NOT on the same page as the other middle schools.  I said if Mercer can get permission to run differently and other schools get math waivers, how will he promote this autonomy to other schools? I didn't get any real answer.

So he's for innovation and math hybrids but he's has no plan for other schools to try this. 

I also asked him why he didn't recommend that other Board members read the Sutor Report once he had and was concerned about it.  (He keeps saying that it wasn't about the RSBD but about the Small Business Works but Silas was involved with both so that argument just doesn't hold water with me.)  He said he had no idea if Fred Stephens had given it to other Board members.  I asked him if he knew if other Board members had read it after the notice in the Superintendent's Friday update.  He said he didn't know. 


This all brings me to my major reason to not re-elect Peter - how many times do you get burned before you do something?  When will Peter hold staff's feet to the fire?  We haven't seen it yet (firing the Super and Kennedy don't count; the writing was on the wall there).  If we haven't seen it in 3+ years, I don't think it's going to happen.

We need people on the Board who want true accountability and transparency and I believe in Position 1 that person is Sharon Peaslee.

19 comments:

Sharon Peaslee said...

Melissa, Thanks so much for your endorsement! I'm honored.

We need a very high level of transparency in order to improve oversight. I think we can get this by creating a Citizen Oversight Committee similar to what they have in Bainbridge. It consists of 25 members of the community and reviews budget decisions made by SB with access to all the information.

I also think we need a single website where all district documents that aren't of a confidential nature (ie: personnel) should be posted for easy public access and review. And we need to follow through with the process begun by the Moss Adams report-- strengthening internal operations and audits.

Concurrently we need to move ahead with improvements to curricula and programs so that the learning needs of all students are met. Too many are failing. We need to work together to find out how to engage and support all students all the way through high school.

For more information go to my website, SharonPeasleeforSchoolBoard.com. I will need the support of many to win this race. And so will the others running against incumbents. Please throw your support behind us however you can.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Funny, I can't get ahold of an electronic copy of Moss-Adams (the link here is long since dead). Moss Adams can't give me a copy (since the district commissioned it) and I asked the district for it but haven't received it.

Michael H said...

"I also think we need a single website where all district documents that aren't of a confidential nature (ie: personnel) should be posted for easy public access and review."

Wow. That is stunning. Have you considered the breadth of documents you are referring to in that statement? To take your statement literally, that would mean that every email in the district (except their lawyer's emails) would need to be made public (how many hundreds-of-thousands of emails are there?), every payment voucher, every memorandum, every accounting document (vendor invoices, credit memos, invoices to those that owe the district money), every printing order, every work-order, every janitor assignment, every receiving record, every, every, every, everything.

I'm all for transperancy and holding this district accountable. And while I think that level of transparency would be really cool (REALLY!!), the money spent to achieve the level of transparency you appear to want with your statement would be enormous (actually astronomical) and would divert those scarce dollars from the classroom where they belong.

Also, the Moss-Adams report didn't start anything. It was a good road map that successive Boards (and Superintendents) have kept shoved in the glove-compartment and never used, all because they came to their positions with their pet-issues and their perceived priorities that had nothing to do with financial accountability for the taxpayer money that funds district operations. Focusing on curricula, the achievement gap, the "strategic plan", without wondering how to pay for it all within the district's means demonstrates how politically-driven these decisions have become - all at the expense of the children's education. Don't get me wrong - appropriate curricula, eliminating or reducing the achievement gap, and planning on how to address these serious issues is important work. But, not to the extent that the financial ship is threatened, because that threatens everything else.

Good luck with your campaign.

Michael H said...

Why was my comment deleted?

Whoops said...

I don't think it was...I think it's on the newer thread "do endorsements really matter?".

Michael H said...

Thanks, Whoops, but no, I had a very long post here specifically responding to a specific statement in Sharon's posting.

I certainly hope I wasn't censored.

Dorothy Neville said...

Michael, they do try not to censor. Since it doesn't show up as a "comment removed by blog adminstrator" my guess is that it got caught in spam filter. Charlie or Mel will rescue it, if that's the case.

Kathy said...

"strategic plan, without wondering how to pay for it all within the district's meana".

Michael,

You are so correct. Last year this board approved a $19M Teacher Contract. The district failed to provide an adequate and sustainable funding source. The contract states funding would come from "Supplemental Levy, TiF and Other sources". I've never seen clarification of these "other sources."

I've asked for a multi-year budget for the Strategic Plan. I haven't seen one- I don't think one exists.

The teacher's contract is suppossed to provide funding for raises, career ladder raises, mentorship, merit pay etc. Clearly, without a sustainable funding source (and in times of historic cuts to education) this contract needed to be modified.

This contract was lauded by ALL. However, this year the state cut $4M in teacher salaries. Where will we see these cuts? I suspect textual materials will be eliminated.

Furthermore, Seattle Times reports the district has proposed a furlough day for teachers ( before school starts) and elimination of 0.5 school day.

I'm feeling disturbed by suggestions of eliminating further instructional time. So much for the highly lauded teacher contract.

My 13 year old daughter thinks it is normal not to have text books.

Time to vote out incumbents.

dan dempsey said...

Yup there are many things that need doing ... but where to start and realistically what can be accomplished? ...

I say start here = "every payment voucher"

This is being done in a lot of districts.

Peyton Walcott is the lady to see to put the SPS check register on line. Look here under Check Registers.

Charlie Mas said...

I had a conversation with Reuven Carlyle about his endorsement of Peter Maier. He said that he had spoken with Director Maier and believed that Mr. Maier was humbled by the RSBDP scandal and was contrite. Representative Carlyle was convinced that Director Maier would be changed as a result.

I told Mr. Carlyle that I had been watching Director Maier since the superintendent was fired and that I saw absolutely no change. I cited a number of specific events which showed that Mr. Maier was governing no differently after the scandal than before it.

Apparently this is the story that Mr. Maier - and other incumbents - are telling. They claim to have been awakened or humbled or contrite or reborn.

I'm not buying any of it because I have seen how they have governed since March - and it is no different.

Anonymous said...

Charlie,

It's time to realize that Rueven Carlyle is not a friend of Public Education, in spite of his rhetoric.

ken berry
SpEd IA Van Asselt Elem

Anonymous said...

Reuven Carlyle: Our (LEV/STAND/GATES) "Puppet In Service." WSEADAWG

Charlie Mas said...

Let me be perfectly clear.

Despite their claims, the actions of the school board directors since last July and even since March of this year have amply demonstrated that they are not, in fact, the least bit contrite, humbled, awakened, re-energized, or skeptical. They are not doing a better job of asking staff questions or oversight or governing. Their actions prove their claims false.

What are their actions since March 2 when they purportedly experienced this epiphany?

Since then they have considered and approved dozens of motions. They have approved every single motion that was recommended by staff. There was no community engagement done on any of the motions they considered and approved. Among these motions approved without any community engagement were changes in the Board policies regarding the duties and responsibilities of the Board and the superintendent, homework, promotion/non-promotion, internal audit, attendance, and student fees and charges. The Board even changed the community partnership policy without community engagement.

Let's remember that not only did the Board move forward on voting on these motions without the benefit of community engagement, but the four incumbents running for re-election, in their roles as committee chairs, recommended these motions for consideration by the Board without any community engagement.

The Board adopted new policies regarding the duties and responsibilities of the Board and they chose to delegate the work of policy enforcement to the superintendent. This represents a major failure to learn from the audit that the Board has an indelegable responsibility to enforce policy. Enforcing policy is a Governance activity, not a management activity.

There was no more questioning of district staff since March 2 than we saw before March 2. In addition, the answers from district staff have been no more complete.

The Board hasn't taken any steps to improve the District's record of keeping its commitments. The Board hasn't taken any steps to assure compliance with state law or Board Policy. There has been no improvement in governance.

The Board has held exactly one oversight meeting at which they reviewed exactly one program: HR. They have scheduled only one more oversight meeting and plan to review the operation of exactly one more department: Distribution Services. There has been no more oversight since the audit than there was before the audit.

Where is the evidence of this new perspective by the Board? I don't see it anywhere.

dan dempsey said...

Charlie, Thanks for pointing out the obvious. The obvious was obviously missed by Reuven Carlyle... and is still being missed by Rep. Carlyle.

With the amount of big $$$ being poured into the "Ed Reform" corporate movement .... I would not expect Rep Carlyle to do anything but nod his head in agreement with LEV, Stand for Children et al.

Reuven is a small part of the Best Government money can buy. .... if anyone is looking for evidence of the wisdom of "Ed Reform" .... just follow the money.

So why does Reuven C. notice a change in directors that is not there? ... perhaps ...Because it is politically astute to claim the "Ed Reform Robot Directors" are now aware. The size of any candidate's political campaign war chest ... is apparently the measure of good decision-making.

Guess all the SPS incumbents should be reelected ... just research those campaign contributions received thus far. .... Game over .. public good loses again.

dan dempsey said...

hey Charlie ... check this out The 2011-2012 Pay Scale College Salary Report.

Perhaps Reuven would like to factor this national data into his thinking on the SPS decisions about math ... and his own about teacher quality.

Best Undergrad College Degrees By Salary

The Top ten in the list:

Petroleum Engineering
Chemical Engineering
Electrical Engineering (EE)
Materials Science & Engineering
Aerospace Engineering
Computer Engineering (CE)
Physics
Applied Mathematics
Computer Science (CS)
Nuclear Engineering

The BOTTOM Five from the list:

Special Education
Culinary Arts
Social Work (SW)
Elementary Education
Child and Family Studies

---- Can we hear the TfA fairytale again

wondering said...

I received an unsolicited email from Sharon Peaslee's campaign - how was my email obtained?

dan dempsey said...

Wondering,

"I received an unsolicited email from Sharon Peaslee's campaign - how was my email obtained?"

Excellent question. Write the sender and let us know what you find out.

mirmac1 said...

Actually, FERPA provides for release of directory information. Anyone can request that from SPS as long as it will not be used for commercial purposes.

Anonymous said...

Sorry- anyone who clogs up the internet with campaign "stuff" does not have my vote!

IJ Nichols