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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lynne Varner wants to pay the weasels

Time to pay school board members

33 comments:

Cap'n Billy Keg said...

From the article:

"In the Los Angeles Unified School District, 73 percent pay hikes were approved for board members, increasing annual salaries from $26,000 to nearly $46,000. Board members had to agree not to hold down other jobs."

Okay, Ms. Varner, you want to pay the board members more than $4800 per year...? Well, maybe that isn't a bad idea after all - the current board members would probably run for the hills, because I would doubt seriously any of them would give up their well-paying day job for the "paltry" sum of $40 grand per year... How would they pay for their current life style on such a salary as that...?

Maybe a better idea would be "mock boards" - just like the high schools have "mock trials", why not let the students really be a part of learning the ins and outs of running a school district... After all, it's their future, right...?

I already make a little over $40 grand a year, pay me $50 grand and I'll do the job...!

Anonymous said...

As with many of Lynn's articles, I ask, where does she come up with this stuff?

In the Los Angeles Unified School District, 73 percent pay hikes were approved for board members, increasing annual salaries from $26,000 to nearly $46,000. Board members had to agree not to hold down other jobs.

I like that. To whom much is given, much is expected.


Looking to LA schools for best practices? Really? And $46,000 in agreement to quit your job? What would be the pool of candidates?

-shaking my head

CT said...

They pay them in the Jordan School District in Utah, and I think they may even get health care. Regardless, it hasn't helped with anything.

Charlie Mas said...

A minority of board members have day jobs.

The School Board has usually been a volunteer gig for members of the leisure class.

Paul said...

Any real system of "performance management" would dismiss the current board from the positions they currently hold.

They are'nt worth the stipend paid them now.

IF we did pay them, true accountability would require that they also be responsible for the financial hole they dug for us to fill with the "severence" to MGJ, Don, Martin and the rest.

Sometime reader said...

The LA pay hikes were first approved in 2007 - here's the link:

"School board members to get a 73% pay increase

But only those agreeing not to hold down other jobs will be entitled to it, obscure L.A. panel says.

July 28, 2007"

http://articles.latimes.com/2007/jul/28/local/me-pay28

Anonymous said...

There are valid arguments to be made on both sides of this issue.

If you don’t pay school board directors, then shouldn’t all elected officials be willing to work for “free”?

A salary will allow school board directors to take the time to learn and understand all the issues facing the district, meet with the stakeholders regularly and have the time to do some long-range planning to take our district into the future.

Pay and benefits are necessary incentives to attract qualified citizens to run for the board and keep them in office.

Currently, the job attracts retirees, ideologues and social dilettantes who know little or nothing about policy or administration.

In the long run, you end up getting what you pay for.

Just my thoughts

Anonymous said...

Actually I am good with retirees, idealogues (good to have some beliefs), and social dillettantes as long as they come with common sense, working knowledge of the district (and willingness to learn more), statistical and budget sense, and the ability to LISTEN and govern.

(oh, having a BS radar is a plus too!)

As for pay, I like the idea of a couple of paid interns to help out the Board.

-voter

speducator said...

The line from her story that irritated me was this, " While district watchers can be like the proverbial blind men feeling different parts of an elephant — knowing everything about the trunk, little about the legs — board members must understand the whole."

That must have been her little dig at interested citizens and stakeholders who are concerned about Seattle's students, and have tried to hold the board's feet to the fire to make them accountable.

It was a very patronizing and demeaning statement.

Sometime reader said...

From the LA Times story:

The committee's decision means that board members Yolie Flores Aguilar and Tamar Galatzan -- two members of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's new school board majority, both of whom are employed [Galatzan as a deputy city attorney, earning $128,000] -- will see no increase in board pay.

By contrast, the board's retired or nonworking members -- Garcia, Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, Julie Korenstein, Marlene Canter and Richard Vladovic -- will receive raises as long as they don't return to the work force.


The LA example is an odd choice as justification for Board pay. According to the report, the vote was made by an obscure citizens panel, and then a pay increase was approved only for those agreeing to not work other jobs.

Charlie Mas said...

Just my thoughts asked:
"If you don’t pay school board directors, then shouldn’t all elected officials be willing to work for 'free'?"

Lots of folks in the government do work for free. Is the State Board of Education paid? I don't think so.

Likewise there are lots of appointed members of commissions and boards all through the state and local government who work without compensation.

The job was designed to be a volunteer job. If the Board would constrain themselves to doing the work that they are supposed to be doing (but ignore), then they would be able to do it.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I actually support this.

I don't think it would better the pool but allow Board members to give more time and focus to an increasingly large job.

"..as long as they come with common sense, working knowledge of the district (and willingness to learn more), statistical and budget sense, and the ability to LISTEN and govern."

That's a lot for volunteers overseeing a billion dollar a year district. Ask any Board member or challenger - "can you read a spreadsheet?" and wait for the answer.

What I really want is people who will pay attention and ask hard questions and FOLLOW UP and FOLLOW THRU. That is not currently happening in many instances.

Charlie, I disagree with you calling our Board members weasels. Just sayin'.

Also, I thought only Betty was retired. Kay, Sherry, Michael, Peter, and Harium all have jobs, no? I thought Steve was consulting.

Patrick said...

I support this proposal. Doing a good job as a board member is at least a 30 hour/week job, if not more. It would be good to expand the pool of possible board members to include people who couldn't just absorb that hit to their income or time.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Melissa. Let's not call the board "weasels". If anything, they are "sheep" but we shouldn't call them that either.

I want this blog to rise above the unprofessionalism demonstrated in certain segments of SPS.

-skeptical-

SOS Questionland said...

I want to not only call out Charlie on the "weasels" tag but ask him a question. Does he mean only THIS board are weasels and does he mean ALL of them? And if ALL board members are weasels, this board and past boards, then why did he run, twice, to BECOME a weasel?

I'd also like to ask about his statement that boards are made up of mostly leisure class members. Is that a dig? With all the time he spends taking meetings with various district employees, board members and even getting in to speak privately with the super (something most of us can't hope to do), and posting on this board along with commenting on many others, doesn't he describe himself?

I think board members should get paid real money that would allow them to do the job FT. After all, Charlie, Melissa and others are putting near FT hours into just their own areas of expertise (like parts of the elephant) and they still miss stuff-you'd have to given the size of the district and its budget. Board members are expected to be all-knowing and all-seeing and yet don't begin to have the time to fulfill that mandate.
Perhaps if they were paid, and were not just members of the leisure class, that could change.

And back to weasels-I think that because of all they must do and the effort they must put in, in addition to actually working for a living, I wouldn't give that designation to anyone trying to do the job, for free OR for pay.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bruce Taylor said...

I usually agree with just about everything Charlie has to say, but I'm on board with SOS Questionland's comments about name-calling-- particularly the observation about the elephant. The Gang of Four has done an abominable job over the past four years, but I'd be happy to have any of them as a next-door neighbor. I think they're good human beings who've done their jobs poorly.

Charlie Mas said...

SOS Questionland -

Thank you for your questions.

"Does he mean only THIS board are weasels and does he mean ALL of them?"

I mean that there are weasels on THIS Board, just as there have been weasels on previous boards. They are not ALL weasels. I leave it to each person to decide for themselves which, if any, of the Board members demonstrate weasel characteristics and behaviors.

I'd also like to ask about his statement that boards are made up of mostly leisure class members. Is that a dig?

Since when in America has it been insulting to call someone a member of the leisure class?

I think that SOS Questionland overestimates my activity.

I hardly EVER take meetings with District staff. In this calendar year I have had three: one hour with the new head of Communications, a half-hour with the superintendent (one of her public opportunities), and a phone call with another District staff person. That's it. The rest of my conversations with them have been brief exchanges at public meetings. I have not had any meetings with any Board members in over four years.

I never had a meeting with Dr. Goodloe-Johnson.

I do have a flexible work schedule. It is the nature of my work. I do, however, work full-time.

I'm curious what SOS Questionland considers my "area of expertise" to which I am devoting near FT hours. I'm also curious about what stuff SOS Questionland thinks I'm missing.

Board members are NOT expected to be all-knowing and all-seeing. They are only expected to make a reasonable effort to assure compliance with state law and board policy, to confirm that the superintendent's decisions are based on sound rationale, and to represent the interests of the public within the District.

For what it's worth, I wouldn't call anyone a weasel if they were trying to do the job, but a majority of the current board is not trying to the do the job. They aren't doing the job at all.

Charlie Mas said...

The Board reform that I would support would be to have an appointed Board and an elected superintendent.

Having an elected superintendent would make the person with the decision-making authority accountable to the public. It would also give the District consistent leadership in four year chunks. We do not hesitate to entrust the voters with the selection of the chief executive officer of the nation, the state, and the city, I see no reason not to elect the chief executive officer of the school district.

An appointed board would have essentially the same duties as the current board, but without the politicking, they might actually do the work. They might actually focus their brief efforts on assuring compliance with state law and district policy and confirming that the superintendent's decisions are based on sound rationale.

This would echo the statewide model in which the Superintendent of Public Instruction is elected and the State Board of Education is appointed.

Charlie Mas said...

As for the name-calling, yes, I acknowledge that. Rather than constraining myself to discussing the job performance of the Board Directors, I lashed out and impugned their character. It was puerile of me and it reflects poorly on my character, discipline, and credibility. In addition, it was un-kind. I am indisputably guilty of all this.

Careful readers will note that this is an admission, not an apology. I am not a saint, nor do I claim to be. I know the difference between right and wrong; I just do the wrong thing sometimes. This is one of those times. It is a conscious choice. i chose not to contain myself but to blurt out my true sentiments. I'm not apologizing for it.

I would remind folks that I am not a journalist - I am an activist.

I would also remind folks that I am not a very nice man. I'm actually a grumpy old jerk with a sharp tongue and an abrasive manner.

I hold myself to fairly high standards, but not resolutely. I sometimes allow myself to behave badly. This is one of those times.

So, yeah, I called them weasels. You should hear what I call them when there isn't an audience.

mirmac1 said...

I would agree that Maier and Sundquist often make weaselly statements and display tool-like behaviors. Don't we all? But when I do, it doesn't waste millions and harm teachers and students.

Patrick said...

Elected superintendent and appointed board?

Does that work elsewhere?

I would wonder if well-qualified candidates would run for superintendent, given the nature of political campaigns and that their job would probably only last until the next election unless they work miracles. Who would set the superintendent's salary?

Who would appoint the board? The board currently just has one person working for them. If the superintendent were elected, the superintendent could completely ignore the board. Why have a board at all, if they can't fire the superintendent?

Mark T. Weber said...

"I would also remind folks that I am not a very nice man. I'm actually a grumpy old jerk with a sharp tongue and an abrasive manner."

I am glad to know we have somethings in common.

Charlie Mas said...

"I am glad to know we have somethings in common."

Wow! Do you also have lax personal hygiene practices?

Good Idea said...

Appointed board and elected superintendent. Is it done anywhere? Sounds very interesting.

a pal said...

I'm actually a grumpy old jerk with a sharp tongue and an abrasive manner.

Charlie, c'mon, you're too hard on yourself. You're not that old. ;-)

Mark T. Weber said...

I don't know Charlie. Define "lax". I do try to shave at least once a week although my wife will tell you I'm terrible about picking up my dirty underwear and putting it in the hamper.

Paul said...

I repeat:

Calling these board members "weasels" does a grave injustice to our friends in the animal kingdom.

Sheep is an acceptable alternative but neither is fit to be elected by thinking humans.

Charlie, please don't let Melissa delete my comment.

Jan said...

I think that the current structure (elect the board -- they hire the superintendent) is NOT the problem. I think you will find that appointed boards can be, and often are, as disfunctional as what we have. Just think -- the Superintendent would be elected, and presumably would "serve" a term -- even if something like Pottergate happened midterm. And she could pretty much blow off the board, as they couldn't fire her. The board, in turn, would be free to ignore parents, because they are only beholden to whatever politician elected them.

Keep the structure. The problem is that ed reform moved quietly in -- and financed the election of a "slate" of ed reform proponents (who may not have even realized how they were being manipulated at the time -- remember, all that accountability stuff doesn't sound bad, until you see how it plays out (expensive, non-transformative, degrades the delivery of educational services and opportunities, etc.)). And then Don Nielsen and MGJ and their cronies sent them off to special "board retreats" to teach them how NOT to get in the way of the ed reform machine. None os this is the problem of the structure. We simply need to remove these folks and try to get four directors in who will actually govern (formulate and require adherence to policies, require a meeting structure that gives them true and adequate information, in time to cast reasonable votes, etc.

And I don't think the pay is a problem. I think it is legitimate for the public to ask board members if they have the time for this commitment. But really -- if they had a Superintendent and a staff whom they could count on to get them timely and sufficient answers to questions, they wouldn't have to spend hours digging around, cultivating sources of information, piecing things together, etc. etc. etc.

Remember -- we aren't asking the Board to actually manage -- just to govern and oversee the management of the District.

Anonymous said...

Is there some reason that all commenters agreed with Charlie until Melissa weighed in, at which point the comments flipped? Just asking.

Anyway, I agree with Lynne Varner and Melissa on this one. I don’t want my school board made up of wealthy part-time volunteers. No thanks. And really, folks, the cost is pretty minimal. Even if you pay them the full 46,000 LA is proposing (does that include healthcare?), you end up with about $320,000 out of a 580 million dollar budget. SPS SHOULD be able to afford that - if only we were funded “amply." I wish some of y’all would get less worked up about a potential .05% of the SPS budget and more worked up about the billions and billions of dollars the state has kept from our kids.

Speaking of which, all of you should be at the Save Our Schools rally this Saturday at Seattle Center. Wear red. Let’s bloody start something!
http://washingtonsaveourschools.wordpress.com/2011/07/20/hello-world/

Anonymous said...

Hoo Boy! last post from SOS enthusiast reminds me of the debt ceiling debate. Don't want the wealthy PT volunteer, but want public money to pay for more adminstrators. If paying people make them more accountable and do their jobs well, then most of us wouldn't be watching the nasty going ons in DC right now.

For me that's the crux. Well we get better, more responsible, competent folks on the Board if we pay them? Are we getting that now with the well paid Super and many admin folks downtown?

Personally, the only reason why I want pay for Board members is to widen the pool of potential candidates. The pay would allow folks who need the Board supplemental pay to help offset the loss income and time from their other job(s) to be a board member.

-working gal

Anonymous said...

Hoo boy, working gal.

I think "I don’t want my school board made up of wealthy part-time volunteers.” = "Personally, the only reason why I want pay for Board members is to widen the pool of potential candidates. The pay would allow folks who need the Board supplemental pay to help offset the loss income and time from their other job(s) to be a board member. “

Not sure what your beef was, exactly.

And when I say “the billions and billions of dollars the state has kept from our kids,” yes, I mean public dollars, but, no, I don’t mean for administration. How did you equate $320,000 per year for school board salaries with one or two billion per year for teachers, smaller class sizes, art and music classes, more foreign language, teacher support, tutoring, transportation, professional development, special education, ELL, nutrition... etc.?

Do you have kids in the public schools?

And is “SOS enthusiast" a slur? I don’t “work” for SOS, I was just trying to get one or two school advocates off their butts/blogs.

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