Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Stranger and Save Seattle Schools Invite You to a Debate

I wish I could say it better but I can't (so I won't) -  so take it away The Stranger:

Ready to dive into the slightly-byzantine, totally-enraged politics of the Seattle School District?

Neither are we, but we must. After a three-year run of controversies—ranging from school closures to a $1.8 million alleged fraud scandal that ended in the superintendent’s termination—a majority of the Seattle School Board is up for reelection this fall. A sweep by four serious challengers in the general election would tip the troubled district’s balance of power.

But do these Cliff Mass-endorsed hopefuls have the skills to run the school district?

All four incumbents and all four challengers will debate at Town Hall on September 28 at 7:30 p.m. in an event sponsored by The Stranger.
  • Lightning rounds with all eight contenders? YES! 
  • Four sets of one-on-one mini-debates? YES! 
  • Vote via text after every round for the winner of each match? 
YES! YES! FORTHECHILDRENYES! Ahem... the candidates are:

Peter Maier (incumbent) vs. Sharon Peaslee
Sherry Carr (incumbent) vs. Kate Martin
Harium Martin-Morris (incumbent) vs. Michelle Buetow
Steve Sundquist (incumbent) vs. Marty McLaren

KIRO’s Dave Ross will moderate, with help from panelists: Lauren McGuire (president of the Seattle PTSA) and Melissa Westbrook (author of the blog Save Seattle Schools, which is also a co-sponsor).

Tickets are free; go online to guarantee your seat here. The event's upstairs at Town Hall Seattle (8th Ave and Seneca Street) on September 28 from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m.

What can I say?  This event will have a little of everything including an actual debate setting where candidates can riff off their opposition's statements.

Mark your calendars and be there or be square.

Dr. Enfield's Message(s)

Dr. Enfield has put forth a message for parents and communities about the district's focus for the future.  Here's most of it:

I promised to listen and engage with the community around what we collectively want our schools to become. I heard four common themes, which will guide our work this year: great principals, great teachers, connected families and a responsive central office.

Want Change? Let's Work for It

I've been talking to the challengers and wanted to put out the call for help.  So what can you do?
  • first, money.  Money is not going to win a position for anyone but no one can run without it.  In fact, some groups might not give a candidate money if they don't already have some in their treasury (believing that they are not a serious candidate if they can't raise money).  Please donate anything (even $10-20).   Don't forget that Obama made (and continues to receive) a lot of little donations that add up.
  •  volunteer.  Let the candidates know you want to help.  It can be one time or a regular gig.  For example, it is helpful to have a driver to take the candidates to the various events.  That way the candidate can focus on preparing on what to say and not finding a parking place.  Or, volunteer your front porch as a pickup spot for lawn signs.  They need these in all areas of the city and it makes it easier for other supporters to get one if they know there is a nearby location.  
  • I know that Kate Martin could use help on her web page.  Have a couple of hours to help with that?  Contact her. 
  • Could you go to a farmers market or other venue for a couple of hours with a sign and literature?  
  • Could you track mentions of the candidate in the newspaper or on-line and compile it for them?  That would be helpful.  
  • Or, just give them your name and e-mail so they can put it on their endorsement list AND volunteer list.  
Marty Mclaren contact info:

Marty McLaren for School Board
PO Box 46407
Seattle, WA 98146.
(206) 779-6062

Kate Martin contact info:
Kate Martin for School Board

Sharon Peaslee contact info:
Sharon Peaslee for School Board

Michelle Buetow contact info:
Buetow for School Board

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Washington State Scores Released

I have no time to read and analyze these results but I put them up for your own viewing.  According to this article in the Times, Washington State students are doing better on the math and science exams.

Math scores in grades 3-8 increased in every grade except eighth.


What hasn't improved is the number of schools failing to make adequate yearly progress, as required by the federal No Child Left Behind law. Preliminary figures show 1,388 Washington schools were on that list in 2011, an increase of about 200 schools from 2010.

A total of 223 school districts — out of 295 in the state — failed to make adequate yearly progress in 2011.

Here's the link to the scores at OSPI.

I checked but there is no announcement yet from Seattle Schools about the scores for our district.

Nutrition Services Changes

There's a story in today's Seattle Times about the re-assignment of the former head of Nutrition Services, "Seattle schools nutrition director tried, now he's off the menu". The article is by Nicole Brodeur and it provides about a third of the story, so it's impossible to determine the actual course of events, but the former nutrition director of Seattle Public Schools, Eric Boutin, is no longer in that role. There is some vague, dark talk that suggests that he was somehow forced out by the union, but there are no facts and there's no explanation. Ms Brodeur only tells one side of the story and doesn't even tell all of that, but it clearly prompts union bashing (which dutifully appears in the comments after the story).

Where is the District's Communication department riding to the rescue? Nowhere.

Monday, August 29, 2011

A "Wow" News Story and a "Hmm" What's This One All About story

Over at the Huffington Post, there were two interesting stories.

The first is about Larry Powell, the superintendent of Fresno county, CA schools.  Larry was worried about what would happen to some of the programs he cared most about in his district, he took an $800k pay cut over the next three years.  Holy cow!

He runs 325 schools in 35 districts with 195,000 students.  He'll run those districts on less than a starting California teacher salary.  He technically retired, then agreed to be rehired for $31k a year ($10k less than a starting teacher).   From the story:

Powell's generosity is more than just a gesture in a region with some of the nation's highest rates of unemployment. As he prepares for retirement, he wants to ensure that his pet projects survive California budget cuts. And the man who started his career as a high school civics teacher, who has made anti-bullying his mission, hopes his act of generosity will help restore faith in the government he once taught students to respect.

His move was so low-key, his manner so unassuming, that it took four days after the school board meeting for word of his act to get out to the community. There were no press releases or self-congratulatory pats on the back.

But because his salary comes out of the district's discretionary budget, for the next three years he'll be able to steer the money he is giving up where he wants: to programs for kindergarten and preschool, the arts and a pet project that steers B and C students into college by teaching them how to take notes and develop strategy skills.

How un-Broad of him.

What does he credit with creating this feeling of giving?

He even sees as an asset his childhood contraction of polio, which left him with a limp and a brace, and now a lingering post-polio syndrome.

"It's the most spectacular thing that has happened to me in all my life," he said. "People stepped up to help me be successful."

What a guy.

The other story is a op-ed piece  about the push and pull from differing sides on ed reform from Michel J. Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Hoover Institution at Stanford.  Not exactly the guy I'd normally read but I did.  He had me going for a certain time.  But then he came to a middle ground "One Size Fits All." 

Thankfully, the two visions can be combined; the resulting approach might be labeled One Size Fits Most. For the majority of American schools, we follow the Coherence Camp's cues. We build national standards (à la Common Core), we develop a handful of national curricula, we connect pre-service and in-service training to the standards, and we tie accountability for schools, teachers and students to them, too. We continue to minimize the role of the 14,000 school boards (if not eliminate them outright) by empowering states to take an ever-larger role in all aspects of educational improvement. And through these mechanisms, we make the "default" option in American public education -- the "typical" public school -- much better than it is today.

Let's see.  I got confused at "continue to minimize the role of school boards."  (Is that really happening?)  So we minimize the only direct accountability parents and community might have over their schools?  Hmmm. 

I also got confused at more states' involvement with national standards.  I'm not sure the feds and the states could come to agreement here. 

He goes on:

At the same time, we make it easy for educators and parents to opt out of this One Best System. We grow the charter and digital sectors aggressively and remove the barriers that are keeping them from achieving their full, dynamic potential. And we even consider going back to the original charter concept -- allowing schools to negotiate their own unique performance expectations with their authorizers, rather than being held accountable to the One Best System's standards. More specifically, we allow charters and digital providers (or at least some subset) to opt out of the Common Core framework entirely, and to proffer their own evidence of educational achievement.

On whose dollars?

"Remove barriers?"  He's pretty vague on this point and that's troubling.  I'm thinking there are laws involved that he wants to weaken. 

And charters - "negotiate their own unique performance expectations" - that's a little too private school talk for school receiving public dollars.

I agree with one commenter that it sounds less like compromise and more like the worst of each system. 

News Update

The SunSentinel. com has a story on the six semifinalists named for Broward County schools superintendent job.  The list does not contain Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson's name.

The finalists come from all parts of the country including the superintendent of the Bethel School district in Spanaway, WA.  They are expecting to announce a new superintendent on September 14th. 

Seattle School District Meeting for Week of August 29-Sep. 2

Tuesday, August 30th
Ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Nathan Hale building from 2-3 p.m.
(There is going to be just a tour for the media at this event but Hale will be having a Community Celebration on Saturday, Oct. 15th  with public tours of the building.)   Hale's rebuild came in phases but ended up costing about the same as the other high school rebuilds, around $90M.

Back to School Event: Community Celebration of Learning from 4-6 p.m. at the Seattle Center Fisher Pavilion.  Program starts at 4:30 p.m.  From the district:

At this celebration, you will have an opportunity to learn about valuable resources, services and programs that will be available to support students and families during the 2011-12 school year.

Mayor McGinn will be in attendance, some/all of the School Board, the All-City Band and "a few surprises."  You'll receive a ticket as you enter and there will be a drawing for several prizes.

Wednesday, August 31st
Seattle Schools furlough day with headquarters being closed.    Again, I'll call but I would assume the buildings are closed as well (although not all labor partners are participating so perhaps there may be some custodian/landscaping/maintenance staff around).  My understanding is that for the remainder of the week, staff can only work a strict 8-5 p.m. schedule. 

There are no other public events/meetings this week including no Board community meetings on Saturday.

Also, FYI, all Seattle libraries are closed this week.

Update:  I just learned that Nova High School is having a benefit yard sale to help the school this Saturday, Sept. 3 from 9-3 p.m. at 4833 S. Morgan Street.   Please consider attending and helping this little school that could.  

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Come Watch Some Flying on a Boat

Just a heads up about a couple of performances tonight and on Thursday, the 25th that may be of interest to you if you are looking for something fun for the kids.  And, it's free (but donations welcome).

From the Seattle Times:

Long-distance sailors typically are driven by a desire to explore new horizons, a passion for being at sea or some combination of both.

But Delphine Lechifflart and Franck Rabilier may be the only ones driven by their love of performing acrobatic shows while suspended from the mast of their sailboat.

The French couple, who will perform two shows at Elliott Bay Marina in Seattle on Saturday and Thursday, use the mast, boom, rigging and other parts of their sailboat to perform aerial acrobatics. Since leaving their home in northwestern France in 2004, they have performed in Europe, the Caribbean and South America before heading for British Columbia and Washington for a series of shows this summer.

Delphine Lechifflart and Franck Rabilier will perform "The Navigators" at 5:30 p.m. and "Between Wing and Island" at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Thursday at Elliott Bay Marina, 2601 W. Marina Place, west of Pier 91 in Magnolia.

The shows are open to the public, and the couple's boat will likely be docked on G or H dock.
More information: www.voilierspectacle.com

Updates on This Week's Threads

I got some feedback from a couple of readers about my thread, Why TFA is Dangerous for our District, about not redacting the name of the candidate that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson and Wendy Kopp, head of TFA, were discussing.

I understand those readers reasoning but I also reason that if it was a personnel matter, SPS should have redacted it.  I also believe, from reading the e-mails, that the person was actively involved in discussions and so likely knew his name was being discussed.  We can agree to disagree on this point.

However, I will be writing to Ron English, General Counsel, on this issue of redaction.  I feel I should let Mr. English know about them so that if there was an error, it can be corrected in any public disclosure documents going forward.

Also, over at The Stranger, they have called the Position 3 challenger win for Michelle Buetow.  I have to agree. I have been tracking the results every day and the gap between Michelle and John Dunn (about 176 votes) has not budged.  As I previously reported, at a 150 vote difference AND less than a quarter point difference, a recount would occur.

By the final day (August 31), it is possible that Michelle's vote count could remain the same and John's close the gap of 24 votes to get to that 150 vote trigger but I doubt it will happen at this point.

The other analysis I will make is that in the early days after August 16th, it seemed that the votes favored most incumbents (save Sherry Carr who continues to slowly drop).  But all this week, any additional votes seem to favor the challengers.  This is quite striking in Position 6 where Marty McLaren's total, as well as challenger Joy Anderson's, slowly rose.

In all races but Position 1, the combined totals of just the top two challengers would beat the incumbent.  In Position 1, the combined totals of the top two challengers are abut 48% with Peter Maier at 51%.  That would seem to be the closest race. 

Please use this thread to comment on Director Smith-Blum's community meeting if you attend it this morning.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Open Thread

From this week we see that Dr. Enfield, at least in the case of TFA, wasn't open to listening to parent/community input at all.  That she would mock/laugh with a TFA rep at input from those in opposition to TFA is quite disturbing.  I'll be interested to see if she ever addresses this issue with me or anyone else. 

We also have yet another wealthy person who wants to make over public education in the form of hey! he's from Microsoft, Scott Oki.   As former School Board director, Steve Brown, once said to me, "Why is it that wealthy people always want to start new things and not help fix our existing schools?" 

Next week is the last full week of summer for our kids.  I'm sure it's a melancholy time for some of you and others can't wait. 

As a reminder, Kay Smith-Blum is having her community meeting tomorrow from 10-11:30 am at the Douglass-Truth library.  Her agenda has a large number of items and Executive Director Nancy Coogan will also be on hand to answer questions and take input. 

Also, the Families and Education levy will be shooting its commercial this Sunday from noon to 1 p.m. at Garfield High School.  All kids from 8-18 are welcome to participate.  Info at FamiliesAndEd@gmail.com


Scott Oki's Solution Looking for a Problem

A story in Crosscut ("The Parents Union: A new force for education reform?") describes an effort by Scott Oki ("self-described 'serial entrepreneur' and community activist") to form a "parent's union" to counter the strength of the teachers' union and promote public school reform in Washington State.

What an idiot.

Mr. Oki has no idea what he's doing or what he's talking about. The article makes that pretty clear.

* He says that the teachers' union blocks reform, but all of the other folks in the article acknowledge that the WEA is supportive of reform.

* He says that the problem is bloated central bureaucracies, but the teachers' union didn't create and doesn't maintain those.

* He says that parents should be able to send their child to the school of their choice - as if we have never tried that - but he has no solution for when 5,000 families choose Garfield.

* He says that school families have no voice, but the Washington State PTA has 148,000 members.

* He says that the problem is that there are too many school districts, but his solution is for each school to operate independently. That would make the duplication and waste even worse.

* He says that he wants local control of schools, but he wants the governor to appoint local school boards - how is that local control?

Mr. Oki's Parent Union would "provide the political will to pass much-needed legislation at the state level, work to improve the educational system at the school district level, and steer changes at the school, classroom, and individual student level." Hmmm. Isn't that already the mission of the League of Education Voters, the Partnership for Learning, and Stand for Children? Why doesn't he just join one of them?
The key tool of The Parents Union is what Oki terms the Knowledge Action Network (KAN) — a parent-driven, proprietary technology platform. "KAN will be the central hub for engaging our parents," Oki explained.
Oh. Maybe that's why. He can't sell his software to the PTA or any of the other Education Reform organizations.
Among the information gleaned from the network, parents will be able to submit reviews of individual teachers at their children’s schools and access reviews written by other parents. Aggregating school ratings and rankings would enable parents to choose which schools match their children’s needs.

The network would also alert parents to issues facing local and state school systems, provide access to information about school board meetings and agendas, and provide an online "bulletin board" for information sharing about school- and district-specific issues. Armed with up-to-date data, Oki believes, parents will be empowered to advocate for change at the state and local level.
Why doesn't he just start a blog?

In the end, Mr. Oki will be disappointed because even if he were to get his Parent's Union with 250,000 members, they would not support the raft of reforms that he supports. The fact is that although these Education Reform proposals have support from corporations and foundations, they do not have support from the citizenry.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

District Updates (Enrollment, Transportation and Special Education)

The District is urging families to please enroll your student by Tuesday, August 30th.  If you know anyone who hasn't done this, let them know that for the good of all, please do it before the first day of school.  From the press release:

Rick Perry Wanted More Dead Teachers

In a "can you believe this" piece of reporting, the Huffington Post reports that Texas governor Rick Perry, egged on by former Senator Phil Gramm, was trying to convince the group that managed the Texas teachers retirement system to allow the state of Texas to buy life insurance policies on elderly retired teachers.  Essentially, it was to be a bundled deal of life insurance policies for a small group of investors (this to avoid public scrutiny).  Texas would have received some of the fees the banking group would have received from selling the securities.

This was never something that either the Texas retirement group or the Texas teachers' union was ever going to go along with but they were consulted early on.   The families of the deceased teachers would have received nothing.  Any teachers who balked would have been offered a free pair of shoes. 

What's interesting is that the teachers pension fund wasn't even in trouble.  It was funded over 94%, above the 80% that is considered healthy. 

I didn't see why they picked the teachers and not some other group of public employees.

Seriously?   Again with the disrespect to teachers? 

There are a lot of words to describe Rick Perry but gentleman is not one of them.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Education Advocacy Roster

My, but there sure are a lot of education advocacy groups in and around Seattle. There are so many, I'm not sure how the Gates Foundation (which, I think, funds them all) keeps track of them.

Let's see how many we can count.

League of Education Voters

Stand for Children

Partnership for Learning

Alliance for Education

Community Center for Education Results

Seattle Council PTSA

Each of these groups has an executive director and a staff that all are making a living from advocating all the same things as all of the other groups. Why do we need so many of them? Why can't they all just merge, like LEV and the New School Foundation did? Wouldn't that cut redundant staff and mean more resources for students?

Beyond the general education advocacy groups, there are others.

There are a couple special interest advocacy groups:

Washington STEM

Where's the Math?

ArtsEd Washington

Washington State Leadership and Assistance for Science Education Reform (LASER)

Then there are the think tanks:

Center on Reinventing Public Education

Washington Policy Center

Center for Educational Leadership

Freedom Foundation (formerly the Evergreen Freedom Foundation)

There are teacher (or anti-teacher) groups:

The Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession

National Council on Teacher Quality

Teachers United

Seattle Education Association

And a few parent advocacy groups:

Community and Parents for Public Schools

Parents Across America - Seattle

The Parents Union

Please remind me of any I've forgotten so I can add them to this roster.

Links to Latest SPS/TFA e-mails

For your reading interest:







One last thing for anyone from SPS or anyone who works for a government entity - your work e-mails are public e-mails.  That means anyone, at anytime can ask for them.

Food for thought.

Why TFA is Dangerous for Our District (or any other)

Lastly, on this latest batch of e-mails were two interesting ones from the e-mail of Maria Goodloe-Johnson. One is frightening and the other is a bit of schadenfrueden for our pal, Michelle Rhee.

In June of 2010, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson wrote Wendy Kopp, the head of TFA, for advice on someone to head SPS's Human Resources department.

Wendy wrote back inquiring:
…whether you might be open to considering candidates who may not fit the traditional requirements/profile ( e.g. not necessarily 10 years of HR-type exp) since many of our strong leaders have not had the most traditional paths but may be interested and compelling candidates for a role like this one.

We are absolutely interested in non-tradional candidates.  You have also prompted me to think about revising the 10 years and adding strategic thinking and transformative leadership as required qualifications.

One more thing - - we were talking with a high-potential TFA alum in WA state about this and before he throws his hat in the ring he wanted to understand whether this is a mostly classic human resources role or whether you’re looking for a chief talent officer to truly rethink teacher recruitment, selection, evaluation, development, etc. 

Absolutely a CTO to rethink HOUR reporting to me, hoping to get a TIF grant.

So thought I’d float the idea of Greg Wong.   She continues “he’s a high-potential alum in the Seattle area who we believe can have a significant impact in education over time.  He is currently an associate at K&L Gates law firm there. 

Greg has told us that, although he is not been actively job searching, he’s interested in hearing more about the role if you are interested.  He hadppened to see  some of your staff members – Susan and Holly – at a committee meeting yesterday and brified discussed the role with them.

I am familiar with his name.  Please link him on to Don.

Not sure he's ready to apply but I think just think he’s someone who might be worth trying to recruit into a senior-level strategic role at some point. 

When a district signs on to TFA, they are enabled to place job opportunities on TFA's website as well as look at resumes.  And this is how they manage to get more and more former TFAers into districts.  Even for people who don't have backgrounds in whatever departments they are applying for, the mere fact that they have the TFA stamp of approval and are "leaders", makes them qualified for ANY job in any district.

Would SPS do this for ANY candidate?  This waiving of qualification requirements?  Wendy Kopp puts out this vision of not just an HR person but a person to "rethink" teacher qualifications? First of all, HR is not just hiring teachers.  Is there some litmus test for someone other than teachers? What questions would Mr. Wong, if hired, have asked other prospective hires to make sure they meet the TFA test?

Mr. Wong either didn't apply or didn't get the job but he's not the head of HR.  

That Dr. Goodloe-Johnson thought this a good idea, that she allowed herself to be talked into "transformative leadership" over real qualifications - it's frightening.  And, given how truly into TFA Dr. Enfield is, I have to wonder about what guidance SHE will give our new HR head, Paul Apostle.  

Now the amusing.  Here's what the former deputy mayor of D.C. had to say in a group e-mail that included MGJ after the mayor of D.C. was defeated (bold mine):

Alas, no dice; DC’s Mayor lost reelection last night. 

There will be a lot of doomsday scenarios for ed reform in DC and write large, but it will be greatly exaggerated.  To the extent that we’ve created an ed reform monster in DC that has consumed too much of the ed reform oxygen, I apologize.  I’ve no doubt the ed reform envelope will continue to be pushed by folks like you.

I’m going to do my best to stay optimistic about DC.  (Lord knows lots of people were scratching their heads when a newly elected 35 year Mayor w/o a legislative record and his Latino MIT MBA deputy mayor rolled out a Korean-American teacher chick as their pick for Chancellor).

A Korean-American chick.  Priceless.

SPS/TFA E-mails - If You're Not for It, Enfield Won't be Listening

When Charlie had e-mailed the Board about his concerns over TFA (antedotal versus data-driven information), here was the response between Dr. Enfield and Janis Ortega (TFA):

This immediately sparked a response from Enfield to Ortega, "We need the positive research."  
Ortega -  "Coming atcha, Susan." 
Enfield - "No immediate response warranted from you – just want you to share the experience with me!
Ortega - "LOL, Oh, I am COMPELTELY there with you!  Please do keep sending!  Theya re also e-mailing me directly."
Enfield - " I hope you are asking for a raise – this is definitely deserving of hazard pay!"
Ortega -  "That’s the best statement ever, Susan!  Hilarious!  Honestly this experience has been exhilariating aand oddly, quite fulfilling.  If I wasn’t battling on crazy turfs like Seattle, then what good is the work I’m all about.  Kids are clearly getting lost in the insane politics entrenched in SPS, so I’m fine taking hits ..."

Seattle is crazy AND insane.   Good to know that's what TFA thinks.  She thinks this district is political?  I'd like to see her in Chicago or New York.  So when the public stands up and asks questions of the School Board on an issue of real consequence, in money and for the good of the children in the classroom, that's "insane politics."  

New Education Blog in Seattle

We are always delighted when others start their own discussions about education in Seattle. There are a number of blogs - some more active than others, some more public than others - in addition to this one.

I would like to introduce a newcomer to the discussion: Let it Rain... Close the Gap. There is a mirror site at http://letitrainclosethegap4.blogspot.com/, but I think that the one without the "4" is the main one. It's hard to say. Also there is a little problem with duplicate threads - not sure if they will fix that.

The blog is administered by Jess Hasken who, I believe, is a TFA alum (2007-2009), and is now working as an organizer for Stand for Children.

In one of her first blog posts, Ms Hasken wrote that this blog was part of a "misinformation campaign". When I responded with a comment asking her to quote some of that misinformation, my comment was deleted. So I guess it's going to be like that.

Welcome to the conversation Let it Rain.

By the way, Stand for Children has a blog, but it is heavily moderated and does not accept comments it doesn't like.

The Alliance for Education has a blog, but it is so heavily moderated that it doesn't publish any comments at all.

Kind of Spooky

So out in Philadelphia, they ousted their Superintendent.  She was due, under her contract, $1.5M but they paid her $900,000 to leave (of which $400k came from anonymous, private donors).  Boy, they really wanted her leave.  It didn't help that she did this (from the Huffington Post):

With the situation becoming increasingly untenable, Ackerman faced it head-on Thursday in a speech to district principals. She publicly challenged school board members to "sentence me ... or set me free" in what many saw as an unannounced farewell speech.

She entered the room to Sade's song "Is It A Crime?" – which became the theme of her remarks. She also read Maya Angelou's poem "Still I Rise": "You may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, you may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air, I rise."

Ackerman then referred to the past year as "full of lots of challenge and controversy for me" and said her crime was to put children first.

That must have been some show.

She seemed to be a constant lighting rod for controversy but:

She is credited with continuing the district's rise in test scores – a streak now at nine years – as well as lowering class sizes in primary grades, creating a parent-outreach program and launching an initiative to transform chronically failing schools through staff overhauls or conversion to charter schools.

But also:

But critics called her "Queen Arlene," saying she was polarizing, autocratic and overpaid; her $348,000 salary was twice what Nutter makes. The district's $664 million budget gap this year – due in part to massive reductions in state and federal aid – led to thousands of pink slips and program cuts.

She drew criticism for a no-bid contract for school surveillance cameras, for her bungled handling of racial violence at a high school and for a high-profile dispute with a teacher who questioned Ackerman's decision to turn a district school into a charter.

That bungled handling of racial violence at a high school led to a ruling by the U.S. Justice Department against the district, saying the district had acted with "deliberate indifference."

So what's so spooky?  There are a large number of parallels to MGJ and SPS:
  • Ackerman worked in SPS under John Stanford as some kind of administrator.
  • Both MGJ and Ackerman were said to be involved in racial politics.
  • Both had their contracts bought out under stressful conditions.  
  • Both alienated the teachers unions.  
  •  Both had their contracts extended before things blew up.   (A point here is that while MGJ surely could have been exited for "just cause", it would not have helped any court case if the Board had just extended her contract.)
  •  Both had issues with contracts for minority companies.  
  •  Both were criticized for their autocratic management styles.  
  • Both were gone when things turned sour.  (At least Ackerman did end up being there when it ended unlike MGJ who made her exit early and didn't have to face anyone.)

Seattle School Board Campaign 2011 News

First, there's going to be a School Board candidate forum sponsored by The Stranger on Wednesday, September 28th at Town Hall (time TBA).  It should be very interesting because of the following:

  • large venue so bring friends and supporters for the candidate of your choice
  • speed round with "yes, no, maybe" signs
  • general questions for all candidates
  • debate section for each position so that candidates can directly address the other's statements
Mark your calendar now!

Also, from Marty McLaren's campaign, they have set up phone banking for Marty.  Here's the details:

We'll be meeting every Wednesday at the Labor Temple in downtown Seattle from 5pm to 8pm, with our first phonebank tonight, and would love to see you there! 

As you probably know, contacting voters is the most important part of a campaign and one of the best ways to do that is phonebanking, however we can't do it alone! 

The phonebanks will be every Wednesday at 5pm, and we're really hoping to call as many people as possible each time. Can you help us out?

Any other campaign news?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Seattle School Board Primary Update for Tuesday

The numbers seem about the same for every race.  What little movement there is seems to be going to challengers.  The incumbents' numbers are largely unchanged.

The Dunn/Buetow race is still in the same place with 180 votes separating them.

I did call King County elections today.  They will certify the races on August 31st.  At this point, there is no School Board race that, as it stands today, would trigger a recount.  (It has to be 150 votes or less AND 1/4 of one percent of the vote.) 

A candidate could make a request for an recount but that candidate pays for it.  If it changes the outcome, they get the money back. 

David Brewster Proven Wrong

Remember back in June when David Brewster of Crosscut wrote this article, An election likely to ratify strong councils? He wrote: "Lots of fireworks, but I suspect the current board will survive, sustaining the momentum it has created."

He has now been proven wrong in the primary election in which three of the four incumbents for the school board failed to win a majority of the votes in their primary. The fourth won only a slim majority in his district, his strongest base of support, and now has to run city-wide where the sentiment appears to be anti-incumbent.

I sure would like Mr. Brewster to follow up his prediction with another article in which he checks his accuracy and analyzes any bad guesses.

Monday, August 22, 2011

More Time in Schools

Interesting op-ed in the NY Times about the lowering of class time/school year in U.S. Schools.

The minimum required school day in West Virginia is already about the length of a “Harry Potter” double feature. In Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Milwaukee, summer school programs are being slashed or eliminated. In Oregon and California this year, students will spend fewer days in the classroom; in rural communities from New Mexico to Idaho, some students will be in school only four days a week.

What's great is that a trend of expanded schedules that started in high-performing charters has transferred over to some regular public schools (wow, it can be done!):

In Boston, for example, the Edwards Middle School has gone, in five years, from the worst-performing, least-desired middle school to a model of success after it increased scheduled teaching time by 30 percent. Students there now outperform the state average proficiency rate in math and have nearly closed achievement gaps in literacy. This has occurred in a school where over 80 percent of the students come from low-income families. 

Perhaps most surprising, some schools have shown that these changes can be made without spending more money. Brooklyn Generation School replaced most administrators with teachers and staggered all employees’ schedules, allowing it to increase learning time by 30 percent without additional cost. Class sizes have been reduced and the burden on teachers lowered. Last spring, 90 percent of seniors graduated on time. Remarkably, when these students entered high school, only about 20 percent were at grade level.

Are Charters Like TFA - Inevitable?

As we were discussing previously, LEV has decided to start a conversation about charters coming to Washington.   Okay, it's part of public education in the U.S. and I have no problems with dialog.  BUT, that's not what LEV does.  I know it, they know it.  It's part of long push to get charter legislation going and voted into our state. 

But there's a couple of interesting turns here.  One is that LEV's position is not that charters are great and work well across the board.  It's that for a certain group of children, they do seem to work.  This would be for ELL and poor students.  (I'd have to look into this assertion myself but I'll take it at face value.) 

So would it be worth it to bring in another layer of bureaucracy to public education in Washington state just for a small subset of students?  Do we really believe that only charters that serve those groups would pop up?  Is it worth it to have better schools for those children (even if it means weakening the districts the charters would be in by lessening their resources)? 

Is it the greater good theory?

I'm not buying it.

The other turn is that as you'll see in my next e-mail batch from SPS and TFA that the Gates Foundation wants to see "innovation."  They consider charters innovative (even though there are plenty of regular public schools that could be called innovative). 

So basically, the argument is that the powers that be in this state - some wealthy people - want charters.  They want to have all the other reform toys that the other states do.  

The argument from that is, well, it's coming so we should be the ones to shape the law.  

Now where have I heard that argument before?  Oh yeah, from Dean Stritikus who told the COE that well, TFA is coming and we should be the ones educating them (while they are educating SPS students). 

Oh, so it's inevitable that we will get charter schools in Washington state and so let's try to have good charter law.

On the one hand, we will have decades of other states' experience (and mistakes) to learn from.  That's a good thing, right?

On the other hand, who SAYS we are going to have charters here?  Because the last time I looked, every single one of us gets a vote for our opinion.  The last time I looked, Bill Gates' father, a rich guy, couldn't get 1098 passed.  The head of Costco, another rich guy, couldn't get the state liquor store law changed. 

No, it's not over until we, the voters, say it's over.  

I had occasion to find a statement I had made at the State Legislature the last time this thing reared its ugly head.   This is years back and yet I find much of what I learned then is true now.
  • tremendous turnover of teachers in charter schools (worse than regular public schools)
  • 15-30% of teachers nationwide who teach in charters are uncertified. 
  • regulations on charters vary so much state to state that it's hard to make any generalizations about how well charters do
  • Rural and suburban districts suffer more from charters than urban schools
  • there are huge issues around transportation and facilities (to the point where there are now non-profits that operate solely to find facilities for charters)  
  • It is unclear what happens to funding if a student leaves a charter for public school (or vice versa) in the middle of the year.  Who gets the money?  
The pushback I hear is that things are moving too slowly to help kids in real need. My answer to that is maybe we aren't pushing our school boards and superintendents hard enough. 

What is it in those schools that isn't happening?  Is it a need for more wrap-around services for students and families?  Is it tutoring?  Is it smaller class size?  Why do we need charters to make these things happen?

The answer is that if the wealthy philanthropists of Washington State want to help - we know what would help.  So why not get those things done without a new law?

The answer to that is two-fold.  One, it just may be that we can give everything we possibly can at the high-need schools and it won't be enough because schools can't control what happens at home.  That may be the honest truth that no one wants to say out-loud.

Two, it's not just about helping those kids.  It's about breaking a union.  It's about trying to weaken the union.   It's about trying to have a revolving door of teachers because they are like Kleenex versus a handkerchief - cheap and disposable.  Because, after all, who would make teaching their profession?

Seattle School Board Primary Update for Monday

The numbers have barely shifted in two races; Position 3 and Position 6 (Steve Sundquist and Marty McLaren). 

The numbers are nearly the same for Michelle Bueow/John Dunn in Position 3; Buetow is still just under 200 votes ahead of Dunn.

In Position 1 (Peter Maier/Sharon Peaslee), Peaslee went up over 37% (to Peter's 51%)

In Position 2 (Kate Martin/Sherry Carr), Sherry has dipped to just below 40 percent ( 39.97%)  and Kate is at 32.41.  That makes them just 7.56% apart, the lowest percentage of any race.

If You Knew Susan...

...like I know Susan Enfield on the subject of TFA, well, like me, it will give you pause.

It took awhile but I finally got through all the SPS/TFA e-mails that I received.  In a separate thread, I will post some additional quotes that will show a timeline of discussion, laughter, friendship and an almost absolute irritation/disregard for the public's input and for public process.  Don't you know that if the public didn't keep asking questions and writing to elected officials and public officials that a lot more could get done at SPS and TFA?

This thread is to talk about themes and impressions.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

News Stories: Census Still Counting and Fix Schools, Fix the Economy

In the first story, I didn't know this but the U.S. Census counts U.S. school children and activities associated with back to school.  From the NY Times article:

The bureau estimated that 55 million students would be enrolled in pre-kindergarten through high school this fall, and that 11 percent would be in private schools. That total is up by about 16 percent from 20 years ago. 

Also, in an alert from reader Steve, a NY Times editorial about our nation's crumbling infrastructure (including school buildings) and job creation.  

Take, for example, Fix America’s Schools Today, or FAST, an idea that has been incorporated into a House proposal to be introduced this fall by Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois. Public school buildings in the United States are on average over 40 years old and in need of an estimated $500 billion in repairs and upgrades. A $50 billion school renovation program would employ 500,000 workers (1.5 million construction workers are currently unemployed) and could be easily scaled up. The money could be disbursed through existing federal formulas to all 16,000 public school districts. The initial cost could be largely offset over 10 years by ending tax breaks for fossil fuels, as called for in Mr. Obama’s 2012 budget.

Now that last line makes me laugh because Republicans would rather cut off a thumb than take away tax breaks (even though we've had them for the last 6+ years and I don't see any job creation coming from them).    We have roads, bridges, etc. in this country that desperately need fixing.  People need jobs.  Seems like a good fit and didn't we do this with the WPA?  That gave work to millions of workers AND we still are reaping some of the benefits today.  (Roosevelt High's entrance has a mural done by a WPA artist.)

Appealing to public education needs and rundown schools should, in theory, appeal to lawmakers. 

I took a quick look at Congresswoman Schakowsky's FAST idea and it looks good.  It's certainly true that many districts have cut back on maintenance AND that we have a lot of old buildings in the system.  (This is truly a reflection of SPS's state of our schools.)

This is NOT to rebuild but to modernization existing systems in the buildings which is better than doing nothing at all.  The funds would go in the form of competitive grants based on percentage of poor children, need for repairs/renovation, energy savings, etc.

Seattle Schools Meetings for August 22-27, 2011

Tuesday the 23rd
Audit&Finance Committee meeting from 4-6 p.m. (for Audit issues)
Agenda reflects these items:  capital performance audit follow-up, update on Pottergate, update and action plan on yet another audit, intro of Internal Auditor, schedule of departmental reviews, more School Board policies updates (HR)

Wednesday, August 24th
Board Work Session on Technology in Schools from 4-6 p.m.

Thursday, August 25 
Audit&Finance Committee meeting from 4-6 p.m. (for Finance issues)
Agenda reflects these items: financials update, community schools report, daily attendance issues, budget update

Saturday, August 27
Community Meeting with Director Kay Smith-Blum from 10-11:30 am at the Douglass-Truth library, 2300 Yesler Way at 23rd

Anyone attend the Parent Summit or Martin-Morris community meeting on Saturday? 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Election Update

New numbers from King County elections:

Position 1  (only race where the incumbent beat total votes of challengers)
Maier   51.52 (down from 51.94)
Peaslee  37.65 (up from 36.67)

Position 2  (highest number of votes for this district at 20,674)
Carr  40.21%  (down from 40.55)
Martin  32.23% (up from 30.24)

Position 3
Martin-Morris  41.36% (down 41.92)
Buetow  28.32% (down from 28.59)
Dunn  27.17 (up from 26.15)

Buetow is still up over Dunn by 185 votes.

Position 6 (highest percentage of registered vote at 37.75%)
Sundquist  43.43 (down from 43.91)
McLaren  30.13 (up from 29.78)

Green Lake Businesses Step Up to Help Teachers

From the Green Lake PI blog:

On Wednesday, August 31, the first of the furlough days, there will be a Teacher Appreciation event from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Mockingbird Books (7220 Woodlawn Ave NE).

Deborah Bonjouklian of FaceTime SkinCare is teaming up with Mockingbird Books to offer the event free of charge to teachers. Deborah will be providing complimentary mini-facials or hand treatments and the bookstore will offer a special teacher discount. There will also be drawings for various products, including B5 Serum, Self Tanner and Arbonne products, and a drawing for a facial valued at $80.

“I think our public school teachers are getting a raw deal with the recent pay cuts,” Deborah says. “I wanted to do something to show they are appreciated.”

A nice nod to teachers (while trying to help their own businesses).  

Open Thread Friday

It's overcast...again.

What's on your mind?

Good discussion going over at the Rainier Valley Post over the announcement of the TFA teachers at Aki Kurose. 

Forgot to mention:  Director Martin-Morris has his first community meeting of the school year tomorrow (Sat. 8/20) from 9:30-11:30 a.m. at Diva Espresso at 80th and Lake City Way.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Election Update for Thursday

Looks like all the incumbents dropped slightly (but overall one percent or less). 

However, the fight is still on for the challenger to Martin-Morris in Position 3.   Dunn has closed the gap to less than 200 votes between him and Buetow.  It's a nail-biter. 

Also, one thing that all the challengers have asked for help with is in the legislative districts.  The incumbents have people in these districts advocating for them.  The endorsement meetings are starting now and as I have seen, it really gets swayed by who shows up advocating for who.  Please, check out the King County Dems website for information about your legislative district.  Whether you think endorsements matter or not, it's important to try to get some for the challengers because it matters to others. 

Want to Help School AND Make Your Kid a Star?

The Families and Education Levy campaign is creating a commercial on the steps of Garfield High School on Sunday, August 28th from noon to 1 p.m. and are seeking the participation of 100 kids, ages 5-18. 

Here's a link to the City's page on the levy and its activities since 1990.

This is a great opportunity to help create awareness and support for the F&E levy and let your kid be on tv.  I'm sure they'll want enthusiasm and bubbly types so if you have one of those at home, bring them.

Garfield is at 400 23rd Avenue and they will be meeting on the front steps.

No compensation but lots of fun.

Please e-mail Steven if you are interested and he will send the parent release form to download and sign (in case you have an older kid you just want to send out on their own).  He will also have them available at the shoot if you just want to show up. 

Steven Jones, Campaign Manager
(206) 552-9148

Seattle School Board Meeting (Part Two)

The first item on the Action item portion of the agenda was the conditional certification authorization for TFA hires. 

As it turns out, only two names were put forth.   You may recall, that there were 3 names (plus 1 other person but already she has a teaching certificate but joined TFA anyway).  One of the hires was withdrawn and I gather that the SEA raised some concerns about the hiring process on this particular person.  So it was announced that there will be another round of interviews for this position in the next couple of weeks and I assume this person will apply again. 

Holly Ferguson, the new (deep breath) Executive Director of Partnerships, Policy and Strategic Communications, got up to answer questions.  She explained that the hiring process included a review of applications materials, references, hiring committee, etc.   )I will have to defer to StopTFA about Ms. Ferguson's statement about whether the recruits are highly qualified under NCLB and OSPI.  There is a nuance to it and I'm not sure if Ms. Ferguson explained it clearly.)   She did not state if they were enrolled in the UW's U-ACT program which is part of the condition of hiring them.

Betty Patu asked if they had certificates (she was a little confused on the process).  Ms. Ferguson said no, that the Board has to approve their hire and then OSPI will approve their certificates.  Betty asked if they had taken a required test, the WEST-E and Ms. Ferguson said that TFA had told the district "that they either have taken it or will be." 

What?  The problem here is that the next testing is in mid-September after school starts.  If parents have to accept a teacher with 5-weeks training, they do get to at least make sure they have done everything required of them to get conditional certification BEFORE school starts. 

Betty asked about see the test scores which seemed to surprise Ms. Ferguson who said she could find out. 

Kay Smith Blum said her comfort level was low because of the lack of a definitive answer on whether the candidates had fulfilled the requirements.  She said it would be good to have a process in place to verify if candidates had met standards.  Holly said it was a "great idea" and she would get that piece into the pipeline.

Really?  This is new idea to have verified that all teachers in the district have met the requirements under their certification and it can be demonstrated that it is so?  Isn't this what HR does?

Then Sherry Carr asked about the TFA fee and who was going to pay for non-math/science recruits (as Washington STEM is paying that fee).  Holly said there was going to be no impact to SPS on that area.  Susan Enfield, visibly unhappy, said that there was a source.  Sherry said well, do they want to remain anonymous?  Enfield said no but the donor would be revealed when hires are made.

Honestly, is this a state secret?  A donor has committed to paying but doesn't want their name revealed until the hires are made?  My money is now on the Bezos Foundation (with an outside chance of Seattle Foundation).  Part of me wonders if it is a single person, though. 

Kay stated that her initial yes vote for TFA was to give principals options but with no definitive answers on the requirements being met that she would abstain from the vote.

Betty said she was the only one who voted against TFA and said she felt that the district had laid off first and second year teachers and they should be the ones offered these jobs.  She said she, too, would abstain.

Steve Sundquist said he "absolutely supported TFA in SPS" and that all the reasons stated for bringing them in were still "broadly true" (whatever that means).  He went on to say that TFA has more people of color and that the PESB had approved their application. 

Sherry thanked the SEA for bringing up their concerns over the last 24 hours (I'm assuming this is in reference to the one candidate who got pulled).  

So the vote was for 4-0-2 (Carr, Sundquist, Maier and Martin-Morris - for; there were no "no" votes and two abstaining (Smith-Blum and Patu).  Director DeBell was not present.  I have to wonder what his vote would have been. 

So in spite of the fact that there was no definitive answer about whether these candidates have met all the requirements, four Board members, all the incumbents running again, voted yes.  

This is again a case of taking staff's word for something (which they did with Silas Potter and Fred Stephens and look where that got us).

Game on, Times

The Times' editorial board is nothing if not amusing.  Their current editorial on the School Board races puts forth the results without much analysis (because, of course, if they said, out loud, that the incumbents all appear to be in trouble that would hurt their cause).  Here's how they framed the results:

Frustration about Seattle School Board leadership weighed heavily on the minds of primary voters who, in all but one board race, were more generous with their votes for challengers than incumbents.

Yes, generous is one way to put it.  Another would be that all the incumbents appear to be in trouble.

They can only say about the challengers that they raise valid concerns about the district and the current Board.  Almost like, "thanks for pointing that out, now move along."

They claim that virtually none of the challengers had focus and all are inexperienced.  At what?  Being Board members?  Everyone is who hasn't been on the Board or held elected office.  Again, they say:

Attributes to look for include a balance of experience, skills and sound judgment. Candidates ought to be able to demonstrate how they would be consensus builders and a bridge between communities and the district.

What is the experience the Times is looking for?  Having served on a company board?  Having been part of any kind of community group?  What does leadership look like to them? 

I absolutely agree about being able to find consensus.  As a Board member you are part of a team and woe to the Board member who forgets that.

But going along to get along and rubber-stamping are at the far end of consensus and how our current Board has been operating.  Nix on that. 

And a bridge to communities?  How has the current Board built bridges to communities?  If your community is just the Alliance and Stand and LEV, well, then I guess so.  The overwhelming majority of parents in this district have nothing to do with those groups. 

They also say:

Guard against candidate bromides detailing the many things they are against. Ask them what they are for in terms of an academic vision. Reject canned pronouncements — for example, all neighborhoods deserve good schools — and ask for specific plans to get there. Demand familiarity from candidates about the district's billion-dollar operations.

Let's look at those statements, one by one.  First, most, if not all, candidates for political office talk about what the opponent has done wrong.   One thing I can say that I found the one thing that nearly every challenger I talked to had in common WAS their ability to articulate what each thought could be done to make the district better.  Maybe the Times just didn't ask the right questions.

Canned pronouncements?  You are far more likely to get the "all neighborhoods deserve good schools" line from an incumbent than a challenger.  

And as for "demanding familiarity" about the operations, c'mon.  The Times doesn't even have that expertise.  I'd take all of them on with one good eye and win any quiz show on "Know a District."

I'm not saying people who run for School Board don't need a grasp of how our district works but it's hard to know it from the outside.  Every single person who comes on the Board, no matter their background, has a learning curve.  Ask any incumbent. 

As I saw from last night's Board meeting, it's really only going to take one or two new Board members to flip this Board.   We can go from a rubberstamping Board to one that governs with oversight, accountability and transparency and is not going to take misinformation or half-information from staff and then vote yes. 

So now we fight.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Seattle School Board Meeting (Part One)

The Board meeting was fairly entertaining and informative tonight.

First up was a wonderful presentation about Special Olympics and soccer teams made up of SPS students from 7 of the 10 high schools that formed a league this year.  (Rainier Beach's team won the championship this year.)  Created by SPS Athletic Director Eric McCurdy, it is to expand to all 10 high schools this year.  Really hard-warming and a great community effort from both Special Olympics and the Seattle Sounders. 

Election Update

 New numbers from King County elections:

Position 1
Maier   51.94
Peaslee  36.67
Cummings 10.71

Mostly the same with Peter going up 1%.

Position 2
Carr  40.55
Martin  30.24
Whelan  17.53
Menage  5.69
Weber  5.27

Again, almost exactly where we left them last night.

Position 3
Martin-Morris  41.92
Buetow  28.59
Dunn  26.15

Again, virtually the same.  Buetow has 291 more votes than Dunn.  I'm thinking this one could go through the weekend.

Position 6
Sundquist  43.91
McLaren  29.78
Anderson  21.06

Sundquist goes up about 1% but again, about the same.

I'm thinking except for Position 3, the top two candidates in each race have been decided. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

More Election Stats

So how much of the vote went against the incumbents in each race?  Interesting numbers.  In three races, the majority of the vote went against the incumbent.  In the other race, the vote was just under 50%.

Position 1 - 48.24% of the vote was for challengers.  Peter Maier received 50.97%

Position 2 - 59.02% of the vote was for challengers.  Sherry Carr received 40.15%

Position 3 - 57.99 % of the vote was for challengers.  Harium Martin-Morris received 41.34%

Position 6 - 56.39% of the vote was for challengers.  Steve Sundquist received 42.85%

Does it follow that all those who voted for the lowest vote-count challengers will automatically switch to the highest vote-count challenger?  Odds are yes (unless they really believe only in the person they voted for and/or don't believe in the qualifications of the highest vote getter). 

Well-run campaigns on the part of the winning challengers may translate to a win for them in the general election.

Election Night Live Blogging

The Stranger is over at Michelle Buetow's campaign party.  They say:

There are tons of kids running around, eating pizza, demanding alcohol. Buetow is sipping on a gin tonic, feeling extremely confident. She thinks she has a good chance to make it to the top 2. "I knocked on a lot of doors," she says, wasted.

Buetow faces stiff competition from incumbent Harium Martin Morris and former SEA leader John Dunn. "Dunn could make it too," she says, wasted-er.

The Stranger does get its staff mixed up with other people in reporting the amount of drunkenness in a person.  I'm quite certain Michelle Buetow is not drinking a lot. 

More election stats from King County (via The Stranger Slog):

Results from the first 205,000 ballots should be released at 8:15 p.m. tonight, and that'll be that until 4:30 p.m. tomorrow afternoon.

As for turnout, Kim van Ekstrom at KC Elections tells me they were originally projecting 52 percent, which is just crazy optimistic. As of this morning, 262,000 ballots have been received—about 24 percent of the county's 1,095,760 registered voters. Past experience suggests that roughly 75 percent of ballots are received by election day, with another 20 percent or so coming in the following day.  

First Election Results:

Position 1 with almost 20% of registered voters
- Peter Maier - 50.67%
- Sharon Peaslee - 36.66%
-John Cummings - 11.58%

Position 2 with almost 18%
Sherry Carr - 40.15%
Kate Martin - 29.07%
Jack Whelan - 17.97%

Position 3 with 20% of the vote
Harium Martin-Morris - 41.34%
Michelle Buetow - 28.11%
John Dunn - 26.79%

Position 6 with 21%
Steve Sundquist - 42.85%
Marty McLaren - 30.27%
Joy Anderson - 21.24%
Nick Esparza - 4.8%

Looks like all the incumbents made it thru with Sherry Carr getting the lowest vote count of any of them (but with the most challengers).

I am quite surprised at Peter's high vote count; I suspect that wouldn't hold throughout the city. 

Challenger Sharon Peaslee got the highest number of votes for any challenger.

It looks like it may be a real fight between John Dunn and Michelle Buetow for who will challenge Harium Martin-Morris.

Election Predictions

It's always a hard call for School Board. 

They are predicting about a 24% turnout for this primary.  Shave off at least 8% for people who just don't vote for School Board (always happens - the vote count for City Council is always higher).  So every vote counts.

I've been asked if I think people are angry enough to vote out the incumbents.  I think the problem is not anger or frustration or confusion - it's exhaustion. 

Can we believe the incumbents when they say they WILL provide more oversight (despite the fact that they had a lot of community input on many issues and ignored most of it in their votes only to have it come back and bite them.  I note that Martin-Morris is running heavily on his no votes on the MLK, Jr. building sale and school closures.)

I think four years is enough.  If I had seen anyone slowing changing course, maybe.  (Sherry has but I haven't seen any pushback from her to staff, just some scolding.)  That Peter had no answer to what he would do differently in second term and Steve and Harium said they wouldn't be changing anything, well, that leaves only Sherry who seems to have considered what has come before.

My predictions:

Position 1 - Peter Maier, Sharon Peaslee
Position 2 - Sherry Carr, Kate Martin
Position 3 - Harium Martin-Morris, Michelle Buetow*#
Position 6 - Steve Sundquist, Marty McLaren*#

*outside chance in this race that the incumbent will get bumped.  In Martin-Morris' case, it would be by John Dunn.  In Sundquist's case, it would be by Joy Anderson.

#good chance that the challenger will come out number one in the vote count which would be a definite signal of an incumbent in trouble (a la Kay Smith-Blum who defeated the incumbent, Mary Bass, in the last election)

Free Cardiac Screenings at Chief Sealth High School

From the district:

As part of its commitment to making our schools and community safer, Seattle Public Schools is partnering a second time with the Nick of Time Foundation to host free youth heart screenings on Wednesday, August 24, from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., at Chief Sealth International High School. All students age 14-24 are eligible for a screening, regardless of enrollment status.

According to the American Heart Association, one in every 350 young people has an undetected heart condition. The best way to detect these conditions is through a heart screening using an ECG (electrical test) and Echocardiograms (ultrasound) of the heart. The test is painless and takes about 25 minutes. Athletes especially are encouraged to sign up for a cardiac screening.

Those interested can download forms at www.nickoftimefoundation.org.

To pre-register your child for a screening, email appt@nickoftimefoundation.org. Please include the following information:
·         Child’s full name (first, last)
·         Age/Date of Birth
·         Parent’s name, email address and contact phone number
·      Where the child attends school
·         Preferred (first and second choice) appointment time

Last year, the Seattle School Board voted unanimously to update the District emergency management plan to include a public access automated external defibrillator (AED) program. Seattle Public Schools collaborated with the Heart of Seattle Schools, a non-profit organization that includes the Seattle Seahawks and Sounders, local hospitals, the American Heart Association, Nick of Time Foundation and other school community partners, to develop a plan for implementing this program. Starting in the fall, SPS will begin placing AEDs in schools with the ultimate goal of having an AED in every school and ensuring that staff members are trained to use them if necessary.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Meetings This Week, August 15-20, 2011

Curriculum and Instruction meeting from 4-6 p.m.  All the agenda says is "Board policies C and D."  

"C" is Curriculum & Instruction and covers the following: curriculum (world languages, adoption of instructional materials, approval of supplementary instructional materials), instructional resources, instructional programs (online learning), Special Education and Staff Development.

"D" is Students and covers the following: student assignement, student rights and responsibilities and discipline.

I don't know what the meeting will cover but one reader said it may be about online learning.

Work Session: Distribution Services from 4-5:30 p.m.  Should be educational because I know almost nothing about this area.

Public Hearing about the Debt Service Fund (which services our bond debts like BEX and the debt on the Stanford Headquarters).  This is from 5:30-5:45 p.m. and it's short because it's likely to be only me and Chris Jackins testifying.

Board Meeting - 6-9:00 p.m.   The agenda seems short but who knows?  Maybe we'll have a good discussion around TFA.

Operations Committee from 4-6 p.m.
The agenda is a real lollapalooza of items including
  • the capital monthly report, 
  • final acceptance of the Hamilton project,
  • some kind of elevator emergency at Denny/Sealth, 
  • the purchase of ORCA cards, 
  • capital project planning policies, 
  • BEX advisory committee charter and 
  • energy conservation follow-up. 
There are also additional items like a discussion around the world school model for SBOC, date for Nova placement discussion with the Board, Hale Reader Board appeal outcome (they won) and some sort of contract dispute for work at Northgate and Olympic Hills.

The first of the school year community meeting with Director Martin-Morris from 9:30-11:30 am at Diva Espresso on Lake City Way and 80th.

There is also a Parent Summit at Cleveland High from 7:30 am to 1:30 p.m.  All parents are invited to attend and here's the program:

Join the Seattle Alliance of Black School Educators and the U.S. Department of Education in partnership with Seattle Public Schools to learn about current educational initiatives and resources available to you and your students.

Topics covered at this event include: 
  • School Reform
  • Parent and Family Engagement
  • Seattle Public Schools Initiatives
  • The Importance of Social Emotional Skills in Early Learning
  • How to Protect Yourself and others from Civil Rights Violations
  • Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also known as No Child Left Behind)
  • Early Learning Education
  • Turn Around Schools
  • Title 1 Supplemental Education Services
Interpreter services will be provided in Spanish, Somali, Chinese, Tagalog, Amharic and Vietnamese
There will be a continental breakfast and snacks but no lunch provided.

I could not get information about what kind of workshops or parent input they will have.   I wish I could be more enthused about this but I always find it odd when you can't get real information about what will happen at any given meeting.  I tried but didn't get much feedback. 

More Belt-Tightening Likely for SPS

I attended a Crosscut lunch with their guest, Senator Ed Murray.  There wasn't a lot to smile about in listening to him.  The September revenue forecast is unlikely to be good.  The Governor has already sent out signals that she expects departments to find another 10% to cut.

As the Senator points out, K-12 is somewhat protected because of the constitutional mandate.  However, that doesn't mean they might not cut something else.  As I mentioned elsewhere, Director DeBell is worried the Legislature will tie money to attendance, forcing a really big mandate on schools and school districts.  Don't be surprised to hear more about attendance at your school.

What was sad was that he said that he didn't feel many of his fellow legislators held that kind of regard for higher ed.  He said some of them felt the state should get out of the higher ed business (which begs the question of whether it is a "business").  That felt a little scary because we are so focused on K-12 and then the focus drops off after that?  Why?  He said he thought it was a combination of a mistrust of higher ed (elitism) and not being sure the money is worth the investment.

Really?  Having an educated workforce isn't vital to a state's economy?  Having major research done at universities isn't both an economic issue and a point of importance to our state and our country?  (And, most of the research is paid for, not by the state, but by grants and other funding.) 

I communicated to the Senator that I felt maybe, like the school district, the Legislature isn't being transparent enough to voters about the budget.  A lot of numbers get put out and there's pie charts,etc.  but no one really feels they know where ALL the money comes from and where it ALL goes. Same for the district.  He agreed more outreach is important.

I also asked him about his past support for mayoral control of the district.  He said that was Greg Nichols idea but that he had supported a possible half-appointed and half-elected school board with possible payment for the appointees with special skills (like finance).   I could not read the rest of the table so I'm not sure what the mood was.  I'd have to think about that one myself.  But it's not on anyone's "to-do" list so I don't know if we'll ever hear any more about it.

Lastly, not about education, but of interest in the voting on Tuesday, here's what he said (from Crosscut's article) about what might happen if the vote on the tunnel goes down:

"If there's a 'no' vote, the entity that has to act is the Legislature," Murray said. He said there would be three paths to follow. One, "if Seattle can present a unified plan," would be to accept that, adding that unity would be unlikely if the tunnel receives a thumbs-down. Second, "the most responsible thing to do" and most likely, is the Legislature sticks with the deep-bore tunnel. The third, the dire-picture one, is that the state decides to tear down the current Viaduct, a safety hazard, and then washes its hands of the whole mess. That means letting the city figure out its own routing of traffic, and allocating what remains of the $2.4 billion (maybe half) to projects in Spokane and elsewhere.

Could that happen, letting the city stew in its own mess? It's unlikely the City Council would let go of the issue it has steered these past years, and bonded over. Even more unlikely that the Legislature wants the thankless task of coming up with a new solution, even if it had the satisfying flavor of sticking it to Seattle.

I was quite surprised to hear him say that the Legislature, in the case of a no vote, might tear down the Viaduct and then leave it alone.  Interesting.  I wouldn't have thought that would be option but again, many members of the Legislature could just throw their hands up in frustration and tell Seattle to go, well, you know.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Board Agenda For Meeting on Wednesday, 8/17/2011

The agenda looks fairly light on Wednesday but with a few notable items.   (I note that today - Saturday the 13th - the agenda is not accessible at the SPS website but I had already downloaded it yesterday.  I'll post it when it comes back up.) Update: here's the link.

The agenda was reviewed at the Executive Committee meeting held earlier in the week (which no School Board candidates attended which is unfortunate as it's where you see the real work done).

Friday, August 12, 2011

Update on TFA/Apple Partnership

As I previously reported, I called Apple and TFA about this iPad partnership.  Apple was very nice but said they knew nothing about it and to ask TFA.   TFA didn't return either of my phone calls or my e-mail.  I can't find any other info via Google, either.

They want people to donate but they don't want people, even those donating the iPad, to know where it will go.  What is a big question is if TFA is giving the iPad to a school where a TFA recruit is assigned or to the TFA recruit?

Because thenwhat happens when the TFA recruit leaves the school?  Does he/she leave the iPad behind?  Take it?

I'd be troubled to know that I donated an iPad to a TFA recruit and not a needy classroom.  Which leads to the question of why Apple wouldn't eliminate the middleman (TFA) and just donate to needy schools in the cities where Apple stores are created.  A quick phone call to a district "Could you use some donated iPads in your classroom?"  and that's it.

Clearly, there is some mystery about this program that TFA and Apple don't want to address.  So my advice is, you eliminate the middleman and donate your old iPad to a needy school. 

From our reader, Sahila,

Let's ask Apple.

When: Saturday, August 13th from 10 to noon.

At 10am we will be gathering near the driveway next to RAM restaurant next door to go over the plan.

10:30am a group of teachers will be going in the store to ask for donated iPads (people will be needed to film on their iPhones preferably).

11am we will start leafleting and picketing outside the store against their partnership with TFA.

Where: Apple Store - 2656 NE University Village

Please contact us and let us know you're coming -

Kristin (Parents Across America - Seattle) -


Dan (Social Equality Educators) -

Open Thread Friday

From the Republican forum held last night: Mitt Romney thinks Barack Obama doesn't know anything about jobs because he believes Obama never had a job.

Well, Obama was a law professor at the University of Chicago for a decade so I guess we know what Romney thinks of  higher ed.  And if he thinks teaching constitutional law isn't teaching and teaching isn't a job then you can guess what he probably thinks of teachers. 

(But he also said at a rally that corporations are people so he's onboard with the Supreme Court on that one.)

This is the last weekend before the primary.  Good luck to all the candidates and get those ballots in!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Publicola Weighs in on School Board Candidates

The wags over at Publicola did something interesting - rather than "endorse" anyone, they just did interviews and gave reviews (kinda like the Muni League).   They had a stunning review of the district:

Seattle Public Schools appears to be in a state of perpetual crisis. Add the embarrassing minority programming scandal, a screwed-up bidding process for the MLK School property, and the stunning conflict of interest with the MAP standardized test to poor graduation rates (70 percent on-time), the achievement gap, and poor financial management, and PubliCola’s ratings for all the incumbents had to be downgraded a notch.


But they seemed to think the challengers were too aggressively against ed reform (which Publicola thinks is "way overblown" but they're political wonks and not education wonks.  They also - oddly - give the Board credit for closing schools (but apparently missed the news that we had to reopen schools a few scant years later and are now struggling with capacity management). 

So I'll try to read their tea leaves and see what I think they mean.

Position 1
  • John Cummings is too frantic and not as focused on solutions.
  • Peter Maier is "acceptable" and a "steady presence."
  • Sharon Peaslee is "acceptable" but also doesn't have a lot of solutions.
What's interesting here is that they don't say anything about Peter's lapses nor what his solutions are.  It seems like a wash between Sharon and Peter for them.  

Position 2
  • Mark T. Weber wouldn't talk to them.  
  • Sherry Carr is "acceptable" and they give her credit for her work on the Audit& Finance Committee but hey, after those audits, what else could anyone have done?
  • Kate Martin is "super informed" and "super angry" and they give her "above average."
  • Jack Whelan is "so-so" but I'm not sure they got his low-key style.
I would agree here.

Position 3
  • John Dunn is "so-so" and has a "pro-stringent teacher accountability" view.  But they found him one note. 
  • Harium Martin-Morris is "acceptable" and they point out he voted against school closures and the sale of MLK.   (So now we know what Harium is running on.)
  • Michelle Buetow is "above average" and they call her "charismatic."
 Position 6
  • Nick Esparza is rated "so-so" with them saying he knows the issues but his resume is "slight."
  • Marty McLaren is rate "acceptable" with Publicola saying she looks better on paper then in person.  
  • Steve Sundquist is rated "acceptable" but boy, they don't say much about him. 
  • Joy Anderson is rate "above average" as a community organizer with leadership skills.
Not sure I understand their ratings here but with three candidates getting at least an "acceptable", well, it makes for an interesting race.

They take comments so weigh in with your probably somewhat better informed thoughts.


One, don't forget that LEV is having a live on-line chat today at noon about charter schools. 

Two, the BEX Oversight Committee meeting tomorrow morning has been moved to Chief Sealth High School (likely because they will be doing a Denny walk-thru) at 8:30 am.

Three, I'll be doing a thread on the Executive Committee meeting yesterday but there was mention of the furlough day for SPS staff coming up on August 31st.  Here's the letter that was sent out:

"On that day [August 31], all SEA and PASS represented staff as well as all non-represented staff will be furloughed and prohibited from working.   I need to stress this IS NOT OPTIONAL. 
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act states that if you are a non-exempt employee (which is how all employees are defined during a furlough week regardless of position), you must be compensated for ALL hours worked during that week. Having to compensate someone for working on a furlough day runs counter to the reason that the District is implementing furlough. 
As a result, ANY employee who works on a furlough day may be subject to disciplinary action. This includes working from home, going in on your own time, emailing,making phone calls, etc. We appreciate that everyone is gearing up for the start of the school year, and we know that many of you are asking to voluntarily work that day. 
Again, because we would be federally mandated to pay you, working on a furlough day is considered insubordination."
This was explained at the meeting but I thought it was only about not showing up at your job site.  I'm not sure how the feds would know if you were working at home but apparently, it's quite serious.  
The furlough only applies to employees represented by SEA and PASS as well as all non-represented staff.  This is kind of interesting because it leaves out some of the other represented employee groups.  Will they be locked out of the buildings?  I'm not sure how that will work.
The district's press release explains that the furloughs will occur in both this school year and next year as well.   From the press release:

Non-represented staff will be taking either two or four days of furlough – depending on their employment level – including the August 31 date.