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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Times Looking for Input on School Board Candidates

Lynne Varner, editorial writer at the Times, let me know that they will be starting their candidate interviews starting tomorrow and going into next week.


They are interested in receiving input from our readers via questions for the candidates.  They probably won't be able to ask all questions but are interested in the pulse of what the major concerns are for parents and community.

District 1 is tomorrow; that would be Peter Maier, John Cummings and Sharon Peaslee.

E-mail your questions to:  lvarner@seattletimes.com

Post your questions here as well and we can try to gauge what big themes emerge.

40 comments:

Eric B said...

This is a bit of a softball for challengers, but I think it gets to the heart of the Board oversight issue.

"I am particularly concerned with how willing the Board Directors are to disagree with staff recommendations. If the Board does not say no to or significantly change policy recommendations presented by staff, it is a rubber stamp and there is little point in their presence.

For challengers:
Name one measure that passed where you would have voted no, and explain why.

For incumbents:
Name one case where you voted against the staff recommendation and explain why. Alternatively, describe a case where your input significantly changed a staff recommendation.

Thank you for your time and considering input from parents."

WV: chose

Anonymous said...

How about that whole list of questions on the Seattle Education 2011 site? If candidates were actually made to answer them, the public could become quite informed.

--thanks to Lynne Varner for asking for input

cascade said...

Good lord. LKV is asking for real community input and not something pre-canned by The Alliance, LEV, Stand, Gates or their omni-present spokespeople? (Ahem, article by Crosscut freelancer today, if The Times can get a clue, so can you.)

I looked out my window just now and saw pigs flying by. A whole flock of em.

voter said...

Name 3 things you think the District is doing right and 3 things the District needs to improve.

seattle citizen said...

What do you know about Education Reform? Describe some tenets of it, and tell us which you like and which you don't, and why.

cascade said...

And I'll bite. 10 questions to end the day.
1) What if any school closures would you have made a different decision on? Why?
2) Give two examples of how you have, or would, involve community input at the board level.
3) How much time and in what capacity should a local board member spend on national education issues?
4) Rate yourself on an A-F scale as a board member or potential board member. Defend your grade. (If we wanted to make it really fun, this could be put into Standardized Test form. Ha. Ha. Ha.)
5) SPS generally seems a day late and a dollar short in heading off or dealing with crises. Name two examples of how you have changed or would change this pattern.
6) Should a board member be in Seattle's schools during the school day? Why or why not? Should downtown administration be in Seattle's schools during the school day? Why or why not?
7) The state has miraculously found $5 million it forgot to give to SPS. Where do you spend it? Why?
8) Define the key 3 qualities of a good principal.
9) If you were to add staff to central administration, where would you put them? Why?
10) Has the past 4 years of board governance been successful? Explain.

David said...

Questions:

After your election, what are three things you will insist the superintendent do in the next six months? What will you do to verify they are done after six months? What specific actions will you take if any of them are not done?

Seattle Public Schools should seek to educate all the children of Seattle. Do you agree with that statement? Why or why not?

When parents who have the resources to leave Seattle Public Schools for private schools do leave, they take all of their resources with them. What should Seattle Public Schools do to increase the percentage of Seattle children who use public school? What would you do, as school board director, to address the reasons why people leave our public schools?

Every salary in the budget that is not for a teacher who is in front of a classroom should be questioned and need to be justified. Do you agree with that statement? Why or why not?

MathTeacher42 said...

Why can't ideas for the classroom and the school house have flow charts for all the tasks needed for each idea, time estimates attached to each task, and dollar estimates of the skill cost attached to each time estimates, instead of more high level hand waving?

Would you consider firing anyone who couldn't model their idea?

R. Murphy

Nick said...

My questions are;
1. What is the present ratio of funding for admin and teaching and should it change?
2. Are you in favor of less or more centralization in the administration of schools?
3. Should students in South East Seattle be forced to attend failing schools?
4. Only 20% of students in the Rainer High School area attend that school; what is the responsibility of schools in your district towards those students that are looking for a school with an academic culture?
5. If Seattle’s experiment with math education produces poor results, what are you going to do?

That Passionate Teacher said...

1) The Board is responsible for governance. Please give one example of an issue brought forward in the last year by the staff where you disagreed with the staff proposal. Additionally, please detail how you would handle such an issue in the future if you were elected to the School Board.

2) The Board is responsible for oversight of the Superintendent. Please give one example of a directive you would give to the Superintendent and how you would follow up to make sure that your directive is acted upon.

3) The Board is responsible for the fiscal health of the district. Please give a frank assessment of the fiscal health of the district and tell us what, if anything, you would do differently to improve the current situation.

David said...

That Passionate Teacher, those are good. Let me second your questions.

That Passionate Teacher said...

Somewhat off topic, but there is an article in the PI this morning about the budget actually being larger than the one last year.

http://www.seattlepi.com/local/seattle-schools/article/What-cuts-Seattle-Public-Schools-budget-is-more-1463424.php

Raises for pencil pushers downtown paid for by cutting teachers and counselors--balancing the budget on the backs of the schools.

Sickening.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I like Cascade's #5 and #7 but these are all good.

I would like to ask if, as a Board member, any candidate would feel it necessary to follow thru on levy promises and if not, push for clear explanations why not.

CT said...

I would ask them what research and data they used to make an informed decision on allowing TFA into SPS, since the numbers presented by the school district/UW on the teacher were fraudulent at best, and no peer-reviewed research currently out there shows TFA has had any impact on the achievement gap nor a positive impact on student achievement in general.

Here's another slightly off topic piece on Stand for Children, complete with video of one of it's co-founders discussing how he screwed over the Illinois Teacher Union
http://tinyurl.com/6klxs3r
True colors are revealed.

-CT

sharpeas said...

This is Sharon Peaslee running against Peter Maier in Dist 1. I would have voted NO on the adoption of Discovering. OSPI deemed it "mathematically unsound" and there is an enormous amount of evidence that it discriminates against disadvantaged learners. There's no way we're going to bridge the achievement gap with this math curriculum or Everyday Math or CMP2. All need to be replaced.

CT said...

Numbers presemted on the Teacher SHORTAGE were fraudulent

CT

sharpeas said...

This is an edited response to the recent Crosscut story, in response to many questions here:

We need a new School Board to pull us out of crisis mode and redirect the district so that we're devoting our time and resources to helping students. I've never met a parent that didn't want the best education for their child. The problem isn't public will. The problem is the public has been cut out of the decisions that the district has been making. It's all top-down with hidden agendas driving the decision making. Then the public is informed and no surprise, there's outrage.

We need governing bodies in every school that are elected from the community. These bodies need to be engaged in all decisions that impact their school and children. All district docs should be posted to a website for easy public access, review and input. There should be a citizen oversight committee that reviews district finances and decisions. They have this in Bainbridge -- 25 citizens.

SB members should be required to work with the governing bodies of their schools in forming their positions on major decisions. These are concrete steps we can take to dramatically increase parent involvement and cut through all the hidden agendas and top-down decision making.

We also need to get rid of curricula that discriminate against disadvantaged learners. All math curricula need to be replaced with texts that engage all students. There's no way we're going to reverse the achievement gap in math until this is done. We need to review LA, Science and other curricula to be sure they are meeting the needs of all students. And teachers need the flexibility to use whatever works for their students. The policy of mandating curricula needs to go. Standards are already mandated. That's enough.

We also need an assessment system that is accurate and that doesn't intimidate or fail students. Check out ALEKS.com. It's a remarkable example of a learning program that continuously assesses. And because students work at their own level and pace it can be used for remediation or acceleration or independent learning or in a normal classroom. Far superior to MAP.

But we need a new School Board to make all the changes that are necessary. Please support those of us who are running against incumbents!

Anonymous said...

1. Given that Seattle School District doesn't seem to have any problems recruiting qualified teachers, what is your position on TFA? How would you feel about a new teacher with only 5 weeks training and no student teaching experience teaching your child? (as a parent, I feel quite strongly that I don't want someone with only 5 weeks training teaching my child).

2. What is your long-term vision for the APP program? What steps would you take to make sure what happened at Lowell (last minute decision to move all APP kids to Lincoln) doesn't repeat itself with Hamilton?

3. Do you feel that all students who qualify for Spectrum should be guaranteed a spot? Should there be a consistent approach for Spectrum and ALO programs? Or should each school be allowed to make up its own program? Do you think there's a relationship between the dismantling of Spectrum and the increase in the number of APP kids?

3. Do you agree with the elimination of summer school (due to funding cuts)? If not, what else would you have cut? Be specific (i.e. don't just say "I would look for efficiencies."

4. Our elementary school has to fund raise in order to provide tutors for kids who need more reading and math help. While I think this is the best use of our fundraising dollars, I think that the District should be funding tutors and that funding for tutors shouldn't be dependent on a school's ability to fundraise. Are there programs you would cut/reduce funding for in order to provide more tutors and counselors who work directly with students in the schools?

Jane

Anonymous said...

OMG Sharpeas, you are talking sense. I thought it got lost.

-happy

seattle citizen said...

Two questions:

An item was introduced to the board last week, asking the board to approve allowing TFA candidates to apply to the state for conditional certificates. Imagine you were at that meeting, and had read all the applicable laws and discussions around conditional certification and district's stated desire to bring TFA to Seattle.

First question: Holly Ferguson, Director of Policy and Gov't Relations for the district, answered questions about the conditional contracts. The state requires that there be circumstances that warrant taking the exceptional step of hiring non-certified staff. She did not give any circumstance, except to say that the because the district had partnered with TFA, the state considers this a circumstance that warrants issuance of a conditional certificate. So she basically said that because the district wanted to hire conditional certs, this created the circumstances where it is allowable to hire conditional certs.
Tell us what you think of this logic, knowing what you do about the states rules on conditional certificates and the circumstances that warrant them.

Question Two:
Board Director Patu, at the same meeting and questioning the same introductory item allowing conditional certs, stated that she didn't want high-need poverty schools being targeted with poorly trained conditional certs. The District Superintendent, in response, said that "We" (the district) does not target high-need schools, it's up to the buildings to hire. She immediately went on to say that it is "TFA's mission to go into high-need schools."
Respond to the Superintendent, asking her to explain how the district contracted with TFA (which targets high-need schools) even though the district isn't targeting high-needs schools for placement of poorly trained conditional certs.

Anonymous said...

Despite events this past spring, there is still an atmosphere of cronyism, intimidation and retaliation that is, at best, ignored, and, at worst, condoned, throughout the district. How would you address this issue?


Please go beyond citing current policies and procedures. In many cases they are not working.

-just wondering

Dorothy Neville said...

The school district report cards rank some schools at Level 5. These are high performing schools that have no achievement gap. Please explain what these schools did to get Level 5 status.

dan dempsey said...

Dorothy,

Please explain how the level 5 schools "NO Achievement Gap" was calculated. I do not believe this for even a micro-second.

Achievement Gaps -- I've been looking at them for a really long time.. I once found no achievement gap at Schmitz park ....

I found Hispanic Students performing better than whites at WSHS in Language Arts skills .... then MGJ immediately forced WSHS out of the 4 period day ... and those strong results declined.

Side note WSHS was forced into the 6 period day ... according to Central Admin because of lagging math scores .... since the forced change things have only become worse in math.

Dorothy Neville said...

Dan, shhhh, it was a trick question! :)

Anonymous said...

As a parent, I am concerned that the our District is top heavy. We know these are extremely difficult times economically. I believe it is outrageous that some central admin staff were given raises while teachers and schools (i.e., our kids) are making sacrifices. Susan Enfield said that the raises were based on a market survey and were needed to keep talent in the District. This is breathtakingly tone deaf. Why was this market survey even done? The performance of central admin staffers-- from the unqualified (yet highly paid) Exec Director responsible for Martin Floe’s firing to admin staff who thought it made sense to sell a District asset to the lowest bidder, it’s clear we’re not getting our money’s worth from the central staff.

Question 1: A generation ago, when the District was running out of the old headquarters on lower Queen Anne, it served twice as many students as it does today with fewer staff. Would you support making deep cuts in central admin budgets and diverting this funding to our local schools and classrooms?

Question 2: Do you agree that the District’s fundamental role is to support our local schools, taking the lead from the parents and school staff who work most closely with our kids?

Question 3: Do you think the Board made the right decision on the math curriculum it approved for District adoption?

Question 4: Given where our School District is today, do you feel that the Superintendent and central administration require vigorous oversight of decisions? Do you believe you have provided that kind of oversight in your tenure? If so, please give examples.

Question 5: Do you think it makes sense for people with 5 weeks of training to teach in our classrooms? Why would we bring in TFA recruits to teach our kids when there is no shortage of qualified teachers for positions in our schools? Do you think this is fair to the students who end up in a TFA classroom? And don’t you think this undermines the professionalism of the teaching profession? In your role as Board Director, shouldn't you favor increasing the professionalism of the teaching profession (e.g. National Board certification, etc.) rather than decreasing it?

rk

dan dempsey said...

About TfA a question for incumbents ...
Maier, Carr, Martin-Morris, and Sundquist who all voted for TfA into the SPS.

The SPS based the request for conditional TfA certification not on a teacher shortage but as a way to address the achievement gaps in the SPS.

The WAC, used for granting the "conditional certification" for which the District applied, states:

Under section (a) ... "The professional educator standards board encourages in all cases the hiring of fully certificated individuals and understands that districts will employ individuals with conditional certificates only after careful review of all other options. The professional educator standards board asks districts when reviewing such individuals for employment to consider, in particular, previous experience the individual has had working with children."

#1 .. Director... When did this "careful review of all other options." for narrowing achievement gaps take place?

#2 .. Director... Is the District actually going to consider "previous experience the individual has had working with children."?

#3 In approving STEM the four earlier named directors in a 4-3 vote, ignored the extremely poor results the NTN school displayed in regard to the achievement gaps. How was it that Peter Maier's statement of... Its about project based learning and that is good enough for my vote. Could this reasoning be part of "A careful review of the needs of educationally disadvantaged learners"? .... especially when carryover funds from 30+ low income schools were diverted to Cleveland STEM.. ???

#4 In approving the HS math adoption, Carr, Maier, Sundquist, and Cheryl Chow chose to ignore substantial data showing that the "Discovering" selection would widen achievement gaps for "Black students and Limited English Speaking students."

#4a ... OSPI HSPE MATH testing in 2010 showed that the 10th grade achievment gaps for Blacks and Limited English Speaking students widened after the adoption and implementation of "Discovering". The District spent $800,000 on Texts and $400,000 on professional development ..... are we to believe that this selection and purchase should fall under "a careful review of options for closing the achievement gaps?"

============
The Gates Foundation alone spent $373 million on its education agenda in 2009.

Is there any chance these four Board members up for reelection might consider following existing State Laws, the State Constitution, and SPS Board policy .... rather than Blindly Following the Gates Foundation?

Kathy said...

Dan and Dorothy,

Can we throw Level 4 schools into the mix?!

Jane,
The board could have (a) denied funding for k-5 music alignment
(b) insisted teacher contracts and Strategic Initiatives were sustainable. The board should have
NEVER have accepted contracts would be paid with "Supplemental Levy, TIF"..and get this "other sources" We're in a recession and we're probably looking at another 2years of state cuts.

dan dempsey said...

A causal observer with a knowledge of the facts of the last four years ......

might likely conclude

The Board has a mission to ignore many existing Board policies. The Board changes some policies that are frequently violated into meaningly drivel.

The Board is on a mission to ignore existing laws and the WA state Constitution. To Hell with the law "Ed Reform" trumps all... TfA was just a small part of the SPS disregard for the law.

joanna said...

At today's Metropolitan Democratic Club meeting the following School Board candidates received an endorsement for the upcoming Primary Election:
Sharon Peaslee, Kate Martin, John Dunn, and Marty McLaren. Interestingly these endorsements were determined by a pretty overwhelming majority.

Jan said...

Joanna --

Wahoo!!! I don't know much about the Metropolitan Democratic Club, but a "no incumbents" endorsement is great!

And Sharon -- your viewpoints above are like the first rainfall after a LONG drought!

Kathy said...

Jan,

Please consider contributing to Sharon's campaign. Peter has significant amount of campaign dollars.

http://sharonpeasleeforschoolboard.com/

Anonymous said...

There is currently a great deal of uncertainty as to the focus and future direction of the Advanced Learning program. The elementary APP program has been split and one half is currently without a long term building. High schools are dropping advanced classes due to budget cuts. The Spectrum program is undergoing massive and sudden delivery shifts within individual schools, which is being initiated and coordinated by building staff rather than the Advanced Learning office. The ALO offerings are spotty and inconsistent from school to school. In short, it is a program in upheaval.

What role to you think the Board plays in stabilizing this program, and in developing a long term and district-wide strategic plan for delivering advanced learning instruction to all qualified students? And what steps would you personally take as a Board member to achieve this stability?

(I would ask the same question about other programs in the district as well, such as SpEd, but I am not as familiar with the problems. Perhaps someone else could phrase a similar question).

SPS Parent

Charlie Mas said...

1. What is a higher priority or more urgent than making sure that struggling students get early and effective interventions? Why aren't we doing this?

2. The Board is responsible for assuring compliance with District Policy. Name three times when you enforced policy (or, for challengers, when you would have enforced policy). How does the Board enforce policy - what is the process?

3. Is the Board's job to facilitate the superintendent's work or is it the Board's job to confirm that the superintendent's work complies with state law and policy?

4. When should the Board try confirm the truth of statements made by staff? Always? Never? When members of the public dispute them? Have any staff claims later proved false?

5. Does the Board have a duty to make sure the superintendent and staff keep their promises to students and families? When has the Board done this? When has the superintendent or staff failed to keep a promise to a community?

6. The District guaranteed a minimum standard for community engagement in the Strategic Plan - both within the plan document and in Community Engagement Protocols that were adopted afterwards. Has the District met those guaranteed minimum standards? If not, does the Board have a duty to enforce them?

KG said...

Are you in favor of the abusive amount of funds the District continues to pump into Central admin? Do you think more adminocrats are more important than early intervention that a school counselor can provide?
Do you think that histric failure
of to much Central admin. should be looked at?

Just a few easy ones.

mirmac1 said...

"Somewhat off topic, but there is an article in the PI this morning about the budget actually being larger than the one last year

That is correct (what was all the hand-wringing about cutting $43M for? Oh yeah, greater leverage with the union) By dint of increasing the Teaching budget $12M (112 more FTEs * 28, are we expecting over 3K more students next year?) and making a token reduction in CA, the latter stands now at 6%

FY12 Budget Comparison

Charlie Mas said...

The total amount of the Operating Budget has increased every year.

For all of the talk about "budget cuts", the budget amount has actually risen.

The more precise term would be "budget gap", which is caused when the growth of expenses outpaces the growth of revenues.

The expenses have risen for a few reasons: step increases for teachers, raises for central staff, and, more than anything else, new initiatives.

The School Board talks about making the "hard choices" on the budget, but think of what some of those choices have been:

$1,000,000 for brand new Dell laptops for every student at STEM instead of summer school.

$700,000 for an upgrade to the District web site instead of elementary school counselors.

$800,000 for NTN instead of Response to Intervention.

$756,300 for a consultant to help pick novels for high school students to read instead of early and effective interventions for struggling students.

mirmac1 said...

Here is another comparison, this time of the Supervision of Instruction cost category. You may need to download and rotate. Less FTEs, Half mil increase. Items that do not appear on the other FY are highlighted.

dan dempsey said...

Charlie,

I love it ... The Budget Gap

or will it be called the "Financial Achievement Gap"?

or the "Financial Opportunity Gap"?

Just another Gap the District refuses to deal with either efficiently or effectively. {{People figure it out .. these folks are full of BS}}

dan dempsey said...

A HUGE ... Hip Hip Hooray for the District's No Vendor Left Behind agenda...

$1,000,000 for brand new Dell laptops for every student at STEM instead of summer school.

$700,000 for an upgrade to the District web site instead of elementary school counselors.

$800,000 for NTN instead of Response to Intervention.

$756,300 for a consultant to help pick novels for high school students to read instead of early and effective interventions for struggling students.

--------
The Priority is Vendors before Students ..

This is the basis of much of the Ed Reform movement. Arne Duncan's full load of Crap that is descending upon us has ZERO evidence that it will improve schools or increase student achievement.

NTN schools were known to be ineffective at the time of the Board's approval (4-3) ... but the Four up for reelection never give a hoot about evidence.

Welcome to the ongoing NTN STEM Cleveland "Spend-o-thon" brought to you courtesy of Carr, Martin-Morris, Sundquist, and Maier.

dan dempsey said...

Looking at how poorly the Times has covered the Seattle Public Schools regular fiascos I wonder: Does Ms. Varner have enough command of the facts to conduct an adequate interview of incumbents?

Perhaps when Pottergate dies down..... We can have Weaselgate and look at the extremely poor Seattle Schools coverage by most media. The Times finds it far easier to rewrite District press releases than to investigate and intelligently apply the relevant data in writing a story.

Freedom of the Press .... free to be inaccurate and ineffective.

Propaganda seems to be easier to deliver than news.