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  One of the hires was withdrawn and I gather that the SEA raised some concerns about the hiring process on this particular person.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).


Bird said…
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.

They don't know if they met the requirements and they don't know how it is going to be paid for.

I can't help but wonder under what circumstances they would vote no.

I can only guess that it would be under no circumstances.
StopTFA said…
Not to be a broken record but WTH, the message doesn't seem to sink into the gang of four's heads. The Times' " bridge between communities and the district" must be out. Here goes: with Congress' blessing, one of the measures for Fed highly qualified now includes enrollment in an alternative certification program and making satisfactory progress towards licensure.

If these people have not taken and passed the tests, they are not enrolled (RCW 28A.660.040(4)(b). Plain and simple. So it doesn't matter if they have PhDs in the core subject matter, they should not be hired because they are not HQ.

How's that for a Great Idea! Hiring experienced highly qualified teachers for the students at Aki!
Po3 said…
Why abstain? Why not just vote no? And that Sundquist is too precious for words....
I understand Kay's abstaining but not Betty. Kay had voted yes for TFA but not Betty.

Of course, my next thread - on SPS and TFA - and the e-mail between them. Some of that may explain a lot.
Anonymous said…
When is that next TFA thread being posted?

Anonymous said…
"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)."

Very funny unconscious mispeak - "broadly" for Broad Foundation...?

seattle citizen said…
"Carr, Sundquist, Maier and Martin-Morris - for" TFA.

Of course they are. Their handlers, the foundations that paid for their campaigns and the administration, are for TFA.

Did anyone expect a different result?
seattle citizen said…
That's it, JC! BROADly speaking, TFA has leapt through many GATES to arrive where it is, and will be DUNCAN that academic basketball with vigor(BOEING, BOEING, BOEING, swooosh!)
Then we'll all go for a Koch down at Sam's place.
Anonymous said…
As I was getting my hair cut today I was staring at the State of Washington license of the woman cutting my hair - I asked her about her license.

4 days a week, 8 hours a day, 900 hours of training, 2 state tests - that is what she told me.

THE criteria which determine how the Gang of Yes school board members vote are 'sophisticated' variations of the criteria of high school cliques - what are the cool kids doing to be cool?

Anonymous said…
Thanks SeattleCitizen!You are funny, too.

And it's worth posting again and again:

StopTFA said…
Ferguson said that TFA had told the district "that they either have taken it or will be." That's funny. That's not what she told me. Her answer was "TFA has indicated to us that the candidates have passed the requisite exams to obtain their conditional certification." But that must the "Strategic Communications" part of her new title, communications designed strategically to obfuscate and dither.
Anonymous said…
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.

Can anyone possibly want this woman to become permanent superintendent? We need a person who has ethics, not some politico who is hiding public information from her bosses and the public during a school board meeting. I hope people are mobilizing to insist that the new school board hire someone who is not on a power trip. This behavior is scary.

She’s the one who vowed transparency with Steve Sundquist, when they did the media circuit after the MGJ firing. The only thing transparent about Susan Enfield is her desire to do whatever it takes to get ahead.

--the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior
Dorothy Neville said…
Susan first said yes, there is a donor, a source for paying for this. Then Sherry pushed and Susan said that actually they didn't want to get funding until they knew that there would be hires. So WTH? Really, watch when it becomes available, because it sounded a lot like STEM at CHS. We will get private partners to pay all that extra dough! OK, yes, then we will approve the idea!! Guess what! You approved the idea and now you have to pay for it! What about the private funding? Well.....

Bezos is a good guess. Here's another candidate: Amgen. Probably only for STEM candidates though.
mirmac1 said…
Transparency when it serves their purpose. (Never?)
Maureen said…
So, if these two CMs are the only ones hired, UW COE will be running a separate accredidation program just for them?
Dorothy Neville said…
Maureen, the MOU between UW and TFA says UW can bail if there are not 35 CM. Federal Way seems to maybe have 4 so far?

How many open positions are there? Some here are betting that September will see lots of TfA last minute hires. I am not placing bets though as I just don't have any intuition about it.

Or will a private donor support UW in providing all that resources to a handful of CM?

UW really needs 50 to be financially viable. Willing to be in the red for a couple years to build up to that 50. How long will they be able to run in the red with a handful???
Westeeee said…
Both candidates have passed the West-E. In fact, i know from a friend-of-a-friend that Ms. Abernathy has passed 3 West-Es in LA, SS, and ELL.
Anonymous said…

Too bad that you or some of the others with two or three degrees of separation from the nexus couldn't be at the board meeting.

Then you could have given Holly Ferguson and the HIGHLY PAID SSD
employees the basic informaion they neglected to have ready during a public presentation.

--the bar keeps getting lower and lower
Dorothy Neville said…
I am not surprised that they passed. They shouldn't have been hired if they hadn't passed.

And according to the wide world of the internet, Ms Abernathy has been teaching for almost two years already and is halfway through a masters in education.

However, why was Holly so coy and unforthcoming? The board had a clear task to approve conditional certificates. It's simple really. The board simply needed assurance that all proper conditions were met. They were going to trust and not verify. They were more than ready to take Holly at her word. However, she couldn't even say that she knew for sure that they had met the conditions. Isn't that bizarre?
Westee, I want the Board to see that in writing. I won't take anyone's word for it.

It is odd that Stop TFA got an answer of yes, they passed the tests and the Board got a vague answer. Makes you wonder.

Losing faith in Enfield on this issue? Wait for my thread on SPS and TFA. It's pretty depressing.
Anonymous said…
I didn't lose faith in Enfield on this issue--I lost faith in her with her wholehearted and continual support of MAP, her immediate wooing of the Alliance after her over-eager performance at the board meeting when they fired MGJ, her fake engagement that never happens with teachers called "Soup with the Supe", her rock star blitz through the media with Steve, her firing and rehiring of Martin Floe, her continual assertions that she did the right thing even though she clearly had an agenda that got interrupted by her unanticipated public outpouring.

She is on a clear mission to promote Susan, first and foremost.
The TfA info (whatever it reveals in detail) will only substantiate her pattern of ingratiating herself with the biggest players she can find.

The students and staff, as well as the families and community, deserve a public servant, not a blatant self-promoter.

--8 jobs in 10 years (Susan's personal Race to the Top)
Braessae said…
Well. Now I know why I could never be a school board member. If I had been Kay, and Holly had given me the answers that Kay got --I would have stood up and hurled my high heeled pump at her head (unless I had thought better of it, because I am a bad aim, and instead, just leapt over the table and hit her with it -- Maxwell's silver hammer style!) (Actually, Holly is safe. I don't wear pumps, and am not agile enough to jump over tables. But I would have wanted to.

What do you mean -- gee, it would be a good idea to have a process -- and thanks for the good idea, we'll do that? What does this administration DO!!! Boy, I hope Kay pulled Dr. E aside after that meeting and read her the complete and total riot act!

And Kay -- VOTE NO! Abstention is just a little "tsk, tsk -- maybe I don't want my hands sullied with this tripe after all, since you haven't bothered to jump through even the most minor of hoops!" This was the TfA meeting. These folks knew, or certainly should have, if not brain dead, that all this stuff mattered a LOT -- because a LOT OF PEOPLE really don't think they cotton much to TfA. And, despite all that, staff couldn't answer the most basic questions about qualifications, and couldn't identify any source for funding of the $4,000 "big ed reform" shakedown payment that TfA demands?

We are way beyond "tsk tsk" here. We needed a NO vote -- from BOTH Betty and Kay. As I see it, everybody else just played their predictable, dismal parts (SSD Administration -- shifty, maybe lying, at best trying to divert attention from the man behind the curtain; staff -- unprepared, clueless, maybe lying by omission, trying their damnedest to avoid telling anyone anything; Board Group of Four -- usual bobblehead nodding response. There was the predictable "Lucy and the football" moment by Sherry -- where she pretends to be all "governy" by asking good questions, and maybe even pressing for an answer that is not a weaselly copout -- but then yanks that football back and subsides into a sheep vote like the rest. Frankly, the biggest surprise was Steve's impassioned rallying cry for TfA. I suspect that he has figured out that he can't possibly divorce himself from his years of ed reform kowtowing, and has decided that his best hope for reelection is to now be really loud and enthusiastic about it all -- in hopes that people will mistake fervent enthusiasm for good sense and prudent decisionmaking.

Melissa, I am trying hard to find it in my heart to be as charitable towards Kay's vote as you were (and I like Kay) -- but I can't get there. At least not yet.
WenD said…
"Broadly true." Steve-O is quite the comedian.
Patrick said…
Abstention is what you do if you have a possible conflict of interest. If a motion is a bad idea or just has too many unanswered questions around it, the only appropriate vote is no.
Maureen said…
There was the predictable "Lucy and the football" moment by Sherry -- where she pretends to be all "governy" by asking good questions, and maybe even pressing for an answer that is not a weaselly copout -- but then yanks that football back and subsides into a sheep vote like the rest.

Aaah, Braessae, you put your finger on it there. I really want to believe in Sherry (I do believe incumbancy can be valuable in a School Board race). But this is why I voted against her in the primary and probably will again in the general election.

I feel like Harium did something similar in his early votes: he acted all independent and principled, but only when his vote would not change the actual outcome. And he never seemed to make an effort to put together a coalition to defeat the majority. That is why my vote will be with Buetow in the general.

(I'd better start collecting signs!)
Anonymous said…
Just wondering here:

Why do we continue to suffer the continued presence of Holly Ferguson on the public payroll?

-- Ivan Weiss
mirmac1 said…
Video for the school board meeting is up.
Chris S. said…
It is odd that Stop TFA got an answer of yes, they passed the tests and the Board got a vague answer. Makes you wonder.

Makes you wonder why you can't get someone like StopTFA on the board...
Anonymous said…
If the candidates have indeed passed the West-E, then there shouldn't really be a beef about them, right? The process may have been bad, and the administration less than perfect, but the TFAers are qualified. One problem is the nebulous state of "highly qualified" which means lots of teachers don't even know whether or not they are "highly qualified" themselves. That is a problem with the process of endorsement itself (which is set legislatively). If the soon-to-be math teacher is indeed West-E certified, much of the worry should be put to rest. It would be impossible for the staff to have to prepare documentation for every possible question, especially when HR should have weeded them out beforehand if the qualifications were not met. At some point, you do have to let people just do their jobs.

StopTFA said…
Here are some of the questions on the application for a math position at a middle/secondary school:

*6. Certificated MQ Required Question 1: Will you have a Washington State Teaching Credential or an Educational Staff Associate Credential (ESA) by your hire date?

*7. Certificated MQ Required Question 2: Does your Washington State Teaching Credential or Educational Staff Associate Certificate (ESA) qualify you to perform the duties in the area (s) for which you are applying?

*8. Certificated MQ Required Question 3: Are you "highly qualified" according to the NCLB (No Child Left Behind) federal regulations in the subject area (s) for which you are applying? If you are applying for a position that does not fit under the NCLB regulations, please check "yes".

*9. A Required Question 1:Are you a current Seattle Public School employee?

10. A Required Question 2:If you are a Seattle Public School employee, please check the appropriate box below indicating your current status:
Continuing Certificated Contract
Long Term Substitute
Displaced Employee
Classified Employee

*11. Certificated MQ Required Question 2A: Please list the endorsement(s) that appear on your Washington State Teaching Certificate/Permit.

If answered correctly (and of course truthfully), I would presume no TFA applicants would get past HR (for example, conditional certificates do not carry endorsements). Someone of Ms. Ferguson's rank should be able to get this information lickety split, if she bothered to inquire. She was asked by the Board to answer a constituent's question (for what that's worth!)

It is apparent some people are NOT doing their job. And who pays the price for this?
"The process may have been bad, and the administration less than perfect, but the TFAers are qualified."

Talk about low expectations. Yes, you would hope HR did do their jobs but as we have learned, oversight is not the district's strong suit.

No one is in the way of anyone's job. It's making sure that the least qualified people put in classrooms at least did what they were supposed to in order to be there.
Anonymous said…
Bottom line. The teachers they wound up hiring are qualified, or were highly qualified per procedure. What's the low bar or low expectation? You're simply saying that maybe IF they hadn't been qualified, THEN they (HR) MIGHT have slipped up and they (TFA) might have been hired anyway. But, we won't know if that would have happened or not, since it didn't. That's a lot of IFs to be complaining about. Now, were they the best possible candidates? Nobody here can know that one way or the other. Even if you're sitting on an interview team, you can't know it either, for sure. What can you really learn in a half hour interview?

StopTFA, you're definitely not making sense since the candidates wound up being highly qualified by definition in the first place (though uncertified).

holle said…

I really appreciate your comments! I'm so tired of reading StopTFA and Melissa Westbrook continue to talk about the TFA candidates not being highly qualified. By alluding that the two candidates are not highly qualified over and over again, despite information that they both have passed the West-Es, makes me question the memory of these two bloggers. Can we move on to a new conversation already?
cpvmac said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
StopTFA said…

funny, I thought you spelled it with a "y"...

Were you talking about Westeee who heard from a friend of a friend that they both passed and therefore are hunky-dory? That's funny because nobody slated to go to the UW's TFA program has taken the MS Math West-E and passed.

Maybe they're one of those TFA says are going to take it someday. It'll have to be before UW's fall quarter starts, which'll be tough because the next test isn't until 9/17 with results announced 10/11. They cannot enroll until then.

Oh, and a new conversation is on another thread.
"...despite information that they both have passed the West-Es, makes me question the memory of these two bloggers."

And you know this how? Based on what information?

Also, this thread is about TFA. I have started several other threads on other topics.
Anonymous said…
@reader and hollee

People on this blog are supporting vulnerable students who are about to be experimented upon by teachers who would have been deemed unqualified were it not for an eleventh hour political move by Congress that allowed politics to trump over the courts (which voted protect to the best interests of the most vulnerable (primarily students of color living in poverty)by making sure they had the most qualified teacher.

The fact the citizens on this blog expect the highly paid hired staff at SPS to do their job in the most minimal manner has nothing to do with the individuals who were hired.

There are many people who will continue to advocate for the students at Aki and the other students in this district.

Although we wish these new hires well, they are in no way the focus of this thread. Please do not continue to confuse advocacy for the students with your advocacy for these two individuals. You have missed the point entirely.

In the meantime, you have started a type of namecalling that is now banned even on the playground.

--missing the forest for the trees
Anonymous said…

I will now make a blanket apology. I am the contributor who can be assured to have at least one typo per entry (like above--@missing the forest). I love computers but am the worst typist since Sam Spade. Please continue to accept my apologies for these assured typos.

--two fingered Tina
Anonymous said…
As a parent, I don't particularly like TFA at its national Wendy Koop level. At the classroom level, maybe there are TFAs out there who are making some difference on a small scale with a small percentage moving into teaching as a profession. So I guess I'm not sure I want to crucified these young TFAs right off the bat. If you are going to get angry at why they are here, then get mad at the administrators that made that happened. Focus on the ones that pull the strings. I hope people don't take it out on these young TFAs. They came here wanting to do the right thing and if they come in with a good attitude, show some aptitude for teaching and learning, then I guess I will work with them to make sure my kids thrive in their classroom.

-trying to stay hopeful
seattle citizen said…
@trying to stay hopeful,
You wrote, "I hope people don't take it out on these young TFAs. They came here wanting to do the right thing..."

Hmm, what IS "the right thing"? And how do we know they came here wanting to do it? If we are talking about education, isn't the "right thing" to commit to learning the art of teaching: spend a year or so learning all the various pedagogies, laws, content, etc; apprenticing as a student teacher to get practiced with an old hand; get a certificate from the state the honors and recognizes the commitment thus demonstrated; compete with others who have made the same commitment for a job; stick with it for years and years, continuing to grow more experienced in the classroom and out, while sticking with a system that often closes programs and schools at whim, changes curriculum, changes routines, adds (never subtracts) test upon test...

THAT is the right thing if one is committed to teaching. We do NOT knopw if the new TFAers are commited, in fact, given TFA's record, we might well assume that they came here looking to make money, pay off debt, gain a notch in the resume belt, and climb on outta the classroom to higher pay in some other venture or as an education manager up there with the other great thinkers, Michelle Rhee and Tom Stritikus, who likewise bailed on the classroom, which WASN'T the right thing to do.
I HOPE the new TFAers came to Seattle to teach, and to stick with it. That would be the right thing (tho' they bypassed the rigorous preparations others have undergone). But maybe they're here just to say they've done it.
Anonymous said…
Seattle citizen, I THINK we agree. If my kids get a TFA teacher, then I hope that s/he is here to teach my kids because they want to teach and will do his/her best. I hope they have a knack for it and hope of course they they stay in teaching. When you are in your 20's, you may think you know what you want to do (in my case, I didn't), but how many of us stay in the same career we started out in? (My sister in law went into teaching after switching career x3, and may yet change back to her biotech research job.) I probably will look at any TFA teacher more carefully than other teachers. It is a burden these TFA'ers must bear.

-anyway still staying hopeful
seattle citizen said…
You are so ight: At twenty or twenty five we are often soooo sure of what we want to do (and often driven by our ideals). I hope that those that join TFA are driven by ideals and have good hearts, and aren't merely sold on TFA by the massive recruitment drives on campuses (with promises of loan repayment assistance and other bennies)

One can hope that TFAers are truly desirous of doing "the right thing," but be aware that TFA itself purports only to train future leaders (and there attrition rate supports that claim.)

Yet, as the actress Ruth Gordon once said, paraphrasing Thornton Wilder I think, "the dreaming soul of the human race hopes that everything works out right!"
Jess Hasken said…
This is an interesting take on the role of TFA in Seattle Public schools.
By the time they are in the classroom TFA teachers will have taken their WEST-E's and will be considered highly qualified. Please check out to read more about some of these highly qualified candidates.
none is annoyed said…
Jess, you do realize how much your pro-TfA articles and interviews sound like Scientology and other cults, don't you?

Amazing this, and amazing that. Relentless push. No excuses. Whatever it takes. Get the job done. Every moment is strategic.

Awesome sound bites. And yet, utterly meaningless with no specifics, no meat, nothing real whatsoever.

These kids can have an A for attitude, and some may actually have experience prior to coming to SPS - good for them. But hey, get a degree and get in line. Cause there's nothing to say you're any better than the next eager up-and-comer that actually took the time and effort to get a real teaching degree, and will statistically stay in teaching much longer. There's nothing, I repeat NOTHING that makes anyone a better teacher just because they're a TfA member. And yet that's what's implied in the writings on your blog.
Anonymous said…
ivan weiss-

To be devil's advocate, and knowing how large awkward institutions operate, - Holly (and Ron E) also protects the district from hundreds of thousands of dollars of resource-sucking lawsuits. Part of that protection is provided by offering non-answers (in regards to policy especially) and playing bad cop. She also has the unenviable position of being the mouthpiece for higher-ups that want to deseminate bad news, without actually being the person to have crafted that bad news. Note also her lawyer background -she knows that giving info before it's ripe can be just as damaging if not worse than misinformation. Lastly, she's one of the few (6? 5?) with the supe/directors' ears that actually has some institutional memory and hometown roots.

Holly Ferguson may have annoying soundbites, non-answers and deflects policy questions until firm decisions have been approved, but that's her job. I hate how the super (the last 3 actually) uses her as a human shield, but I appreciate how she's kept us from spiraling into worse policy debates than we COULD have. I see her as being at work fighting some of the stupider decisions made by MGJ and Raj and enfield...
for example - helping keep them on track and in-line with what district parents might actually want.

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