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?
- I'll say upfront I like Susan Enfield and I have always thought better of her than Dr. Goodloe-Johnson. However, after reading these e-mails, I certainly will be more cautious, more wary and definitely more circumspect of her. Ditto on Holly Ferguson, the governance and policy person for the district.
Why do I say that? Because the e-mails make it pretty clear that Dr. Enfield was go to go on TFA right from the start. The e-mails I have, from 2009 on, don't show any kind of "let's get all the facts before we make a decision" on Enfield's part. She may have come into SPS believing in TFA (despite the fact that there are no TFAers in Oregon where she originally came from). So I don't know the source of her deep belief in their work. But she makes very pointed and repeated promises of support.
Holly Ferguson may have just been doing her job but her enthusiasm, especially for asking for TFA's input on every single bit of the Action Item for TFA in November 2010, is very telling.
- Originally, TFA said that 50% of the recruits for SPS would be math, science and SpEd teachers (out of 30).
- Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, in this entire episode, is very hands-off. It seems her natural style spilled over here as well.
She got contacted about TFA (from this batch of e-mails) in Oct 2009. Most of the e-mails here are between her and other members of her Broad Superintendents Academy class (some of whom are TFA). But it did turn up some interesting quotes. Talking about SPS, she said to them in April 2010, "My check is in progress on a reform agenda contract, and a balanced budget that doesn’t eliminate our reform agenda and work with Jemina (TFA) on some up coming key notes." (Interestingly, they all went to private e-mail after this.)
- TFA leaves nothing to chance.
They go out of their way to make sure that the Board knows who is a former TFAer in SPS (it seems West Seattle Elementary is a school of choice for them so look for TFA placements there). They also like to control the message to the point where their national communications person says about local coverage of TFA, "I’ve given this some more thought, and think best to forego proactive outreach to TVs so as not to prompt additional coverage (not great to have comments of negative testifiers broadcasted on local news!" (Darn, if only we could tell the local media how to cover a story.)
- TFA wanted (and still wants) more push for their candidates during hiring.
Holly to Janis Ortega (local TFA) in September 2010:
"So from what I’m hearing so far, we would also have to bargain guaranteeing an interview. It appears that doing anything outside our hiring process would have to be bargained – so what we can agree to w/o bargaining is putting them in the pool like everyone else. I realize this isn’t the answer we wanted, and I’m still hoping to get a different answer today but thought I should pass this on ASAP."
Janis writes back to Holly asking questions, this one among them:
“The district is willing to work with their HR depart and their principals to flag all TFA applicants as priorities during the Phase III hiring process but can’t state that in the PSA without bargaining."
Holly to Janis
"With the state’s new focus on allowing alternate routes to certification, we will be working with HR over the next year, as we bring in our new Chief Talent Officer, to ensure that the hiring process does not accidentally weed out any candidates who are otherwise qualified."
Janis to Holly
“As we discussed, considering we are unable to guarantee interviews or placements for our CMs we would love to re-open the CBA in the coming year to include stronger language in our PSA. She continues, “As you know, this is important because, ultimately, the language provides us with the confidence we need to bring corps members into the region."
I think confidence here means guarantee.
- It's pretty clear that TFA knew Harium, Steve, and Peter were pro-TFA. Michael, Sherry and Kay must have asked a fair amount of questions (especially Sherry). And Betty? Well, they thought they had her all locked up but apparently Betty went out and actually talked to people and came away from those discussions with a "no" vote. I'm sure that came as quite a surprise to Janis Ortega.
- Charlie gets mentioned a couple of times. What's interesting is that he sent two calm, rational e-mails to the Board about the TFA decision. And yet he elicited a laughing response from Enfield and Ortega.
- I get mentioned a couple of times and I find that, big surprise, I'm not particularly well-liked (and some of you are "the usual suspects" according to Enfield which I find funny given how many of you don't use your real names).
But if you are Kimberly Mitchell from the Gates Foundation writing in support of TFA? Well, according to Enfield " A nice one for a change. Kimberly rocks."
- How the district and Board handle Action Items is troubling.
I asked a couple of Board members about having a group/entity review an Action item and their take was it is important to get things factually correct. I'd agree but you can do that without giving them the entire Action item to shape. I think for an outside entity, it's kind of like showing your hand and not allowing the opposing side the same opportunity. I'll keep this in mind for the future if I would like to see an Action Item before it becomes public.
But it's not just TFA. Here's Ferguson to Ortega, Enfield and Treat in Oct. 2010 discussing various ideas of getting the contract signed:
“Gets signature done before candidate deadline; public may view this as acting outside the public area” This was district’s preference for the contract.
Holly to Janis about the Action Item:
"Also we’re supposed to have a section on community engagement. Could you maybe list the various groups that you have talked to through this process? Something like “Presented to the Alliance for Education, the Leauge of Education Voters, etc."
Susan to Janis
“Also could you please be in touch with Sherry Carr? She is concerned about the 9th circuit ruling and the fact that we have not had a public meeting about TFA (The other board members are comfortable with our intro at Nov. 3 meeting as being the start of public comment). "
The other Board members were okay with no public engagement except for what TFA had done, NOT the district. The district and the Board knew going into the vote that they had done nothing to inform the public or parents.
- The issue of money is constantly on the minds of Enfield and Janis Ortega (local TFA)
TFA said they needed $6.9M in commitments (mostly private) to bring TFA to the Puget Sound. There's no explanation for that amount but it seems like a lot.
Over and over, Enfield tells Ortega they need to talk about the $4k fee.
A national TFA person, Iffy Offor, tells MGJ she talked with Glenn Bafia of SEA and "his biggest concern was financial and how the district would cover the investment piece with a deficit and a RIF."
Megan Wyatt at the Bezos Family Foundation (one of TFA's local funders), in early Nov. 2010, asks about the $4k.
"Will it be private? Has TFA done this before with districts that don’t have financial skin in the game (granted the budget scenario is bleak, I get it)”
Janis e-mails Susan:
“Can we find time to talk funding sources for the $4k in more detail at some point? I want to make sure we’re on the same page since it looks like it is a point of concern with our funders.”
- Enfield not interested in parents' input? There's a saga in this batch of e-mails of a group of parents trying to understand TFA's claims. Doesn't get much traction from Enfield and the Board and apparently this public input annoyed Enfield and Ortega no end.
I'll try to get all these e-mails up and have an additional more fleshed out thread (because if you read some of what was written it can be fairly upsetting and jawdropping).
What is clear is that the district has its mind made up, it's no use going to Enfield. She's not going to listen.
What's more is that if members of the Board receive information, they will pass it onto staff. This is not wrong but just to explain - unless you tell the Director not to pass something on, someone may do so. Additionally, anything you send to staff on a subject, may get passed on to any outside entity (either to act on or laugh at).
What is also clear is that the Board, as we all may have suspected, probably has its mind made up way before the vote. So the testimony? Mostly theater and pro forma public duty.