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Thursday, July 07, 2011

Is the Board Getting Better?

Short answer: no.

I was at last night's Board meeting and I saw every single one of the Board's bad behaviors on display in all its glory.

Failure to oversee:
Among the Board's agenda items was the approval of the Highly Capable Student Program grant application, except that the grant application wasn't included in the materials for the Board to review. None of the Board members had a problem with that. They will approve a document without seeing it. Supposedly this came through the Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee. What did that Committee review before recommending this motion to the full Board?

Board questions about action items went unanswered, but the Board went ahead and voted to approve those items with the assurance that the staff would "get back to them" with the answer. Gee, it's a little late then, isn't it? Staff were unprepared to answer Board Director's questions.

The Board approved the capital and operating budget allocations with a lot of self-serving talk about how they worked to keep the cuts away from the classroom. False. The staff moved forward with hugely expensive pet projects while making drastic cuts in schools.

They congratulated the superintendent for making hard choices to reduce the central office expenses down to 6% of the budget. This is the same congratulations they offered in previous years - years in which those cuts were not made (as the staff acknowledged on a slide but the Board did not acknowledge).

The Board hardly discussed any of the motions that they passed. Another perfect rubber-stamp performance.

They approved spending on Apple computers without any real discussion of why we have Apple computers in some schools and Windows computers in every other school. There certainly wasn't any discussion of why the District is spending money to replace computers that were initially purchased with outside money.

Failure to govern:
Violations of Board policy D12.00 were mentioned during the public testimony. Not one member of the Board showed any interest in following up on that report.

The motion to approve the conditional certification for the Teach for America corps members was very plainly explained to be a violation of state law during public testimony. The law was read. No question of the law was raised during Board discussion of the motion.

Non-responsive to the public:
A number of the speakers during the public testimony part of the meeting spoke about the approval of the conditional certificates for Teach for America corps members, but none of the Board members had any response to that. None of them mentioned any of the concerns raised by citizens during the discussion of the action item.

None of the concerns described in public testimony on any of the other action items were echoed by the Board during the discussion of those action items. I will say that Director Patu made a strange, meandering speech about Teach for America in which she seemed to ask Holly Ferguson why the District is interested in hiring TfA corps members in the first place. Ms Ferguson had no response, nor could she have any.

Inability to schedule/do work on time:
The HC grant application was submitted to the state a week ago, but it was just coming to the Board for introduction last night. The Board will vote on it (and approve it) at the August 17th meeting, six weeks after it was submitted.

The Board introduced and took action on a grant from the Wallace Foundation at the same meeting despite the fact that no emergency existed. The District has been working on this grant application for two years but now, suddenly, it's urgent? Not really. They just want the money five weeks sooner than they could get it if they waited until the next Board meeting to approve it. This driving need to get the cash quicker, however, wasn't enough to spur them to bring the item to the Board for introduction at the previous meeting.

Failure to follow up:
Director Martin-Morris, during a discussion of the HC grant, said, in a vague sort of way, that the Board really should - at some time in the undetermined future - review Policy D12.00. He seems to have conveniently forgotten that the Board voted to direct the superintendent to review and suggest revisions to this policy on January 29, 2009 - two and a half years ago. This was the only time that the Board voted to direct the superintendent to take a specific action and she blew them off. He had been reminded of this on no fewer than five occasions, yet last night he appeared to have no memory of it.

Failure to hold the staff accountable:
The Board Action report for the HC grant application approval stated that the District was implementing the recommendations of the APP Review. That's a straight out lie. No board member questioned it or commented on it.

So, for all of the talk about how the Board is doing a better job of oversight or governance or anything else, let me tell you that none of that reported improvement was on display last night.

NOTE: Director DeBell, the one member of the Board who has actually shown some improvement, was not present at last night's Board meeting.

6 comments:

someone said...

Between your post and Melissa's and the Times article re: budget ... it's mindblowing how clearly clueless this group of adults has become.

I come away from reading these with a sense of burnout - that this particular group of people has stopped caring and are just going thru the motions of their job, and even that is poorly done.

And yet, they want to be re-elected. Um... NOPE! Not if I can help it in anyway. How do you pass a budget that requires pay cuts by school based staff while raising salaries at Central? I want that money back and I want it in the classroom.

If any board member is reading this - shame on you - you are a poor example of leadership. Get with it or get out. Enough!

dan dempsey said...

Do not miss Charlie Mas testifying at 52:50 of the Board meeting

The video is HERE

Dorothy Neville at 46:10 is fabulous.


What a great idea .. an actual presentation of research done by the public for the School Board.

Dorothy please let us know if anyone on the Board ever contacts you in regard to your offer.
---
Overall tonight's testimony gets a rating of
Priceless....

StopTFA said...

Re: someone said

No, just get out.

Chris S. said...

No more board meetings before primary - they have run out of chances to get with it.

dan dempsey said...

Here are the PESB jokes of the day:

#1 The PESB mission: The Mission of the Professional Educator Standards Board

The mission of Washington's Professional Educator Standards Board is educator quality, recognizing that the highest possible standards for all educators are essential to ensuring attainment of high standards for all students.

#2 The PESB purpose:

Establish policies and requirements for the preparation and certification of education professionals, ensuring that they:

Are competent in the professional knowledge and practice for which they are certified.

Have a foundation of skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary to help students with diverse needs, abilities, cultural experiences, and learning styles meet or exceed the state learning goals. (Which can happen in 5-weeks of training)

Are committed to research-based practice and career-long professional development.
(So how much research went into examining TfA's record of closing achievement gaps?)

The PESB also serves as an advisory body to the Superintendent of Public Instruction on issues related to educator recruitment, hiring, mentoring and support, professional growth, retention, evaluation, and revocation and suspension of licensure.

dan dempsey said...

Is any Board that deals with educational issues effecting Seattle getting better?