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.


Anonymous said…
It's unfortunate that the debate is being held on the evening that Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins.

Jewish SPS Parent
Anonymous said…
What is up with you normal people?

The 28 year old teachers I work with can go out at 7:00 p.m. on a Wed. or Thurs. night - many of the rest of us old fogies (foggies?) have collapsed!

This sounds FUN!

seattle citizen said…
Sorry to go off topic, but there is an opportunity that requires fast action:

Today's New York Times printed a letter about Common Core standards and teacher evaluation. This letter has one of the Times' "invitations to dialogue": Letters about this subject will be in next Sunday paper Review.

Here's the letter and invite to respond:

Back to School (image of teacher with LARGE apple on back, sweating...)

As we start a new school year with high hopes and excitement, it will be interesting to watch how several controversial education reforms play out across the nation.

The Common Core State Standards, adopted by all but a handful of states in the last year or so, provide specific guidelines about what should be taught in each grade. Although this approach has been criticized for usurping local control of education, that objection is far outweighed by the benefits of better preparing students for college.

The “value added” model, promoted by the federal Race to the Top program and now used by school systems in the District of Columbia and other major cities, evaluates teachers based largely on student progress as measured by standardized tests. Test scores alone are unreliable, but used as one of multiple measures, they can provide useful information.

As teacher unions have weakened, seniority is no longer the sole basis for layoffs in many districts. In California, a Superior Court earlier this year ruled that layoffs in the Los Angeles school system should be spread out more equitably. Although the intent is admirable, the ruling opens the door to favoritism by principals.

Teachers don’t choose a career in the classroom for money, power or fame. What they want more than anything else is to make a difference in the lives of their students. They don’t always succeed, but they deserve more than the unrelenting criticism they’ve endured since the accountability movement began.

Los Angeles, Aug. 30, 2011

The writer is a former teacher whose Reality Check blog is published in Education Week.

Editors’ Note: We invite readers to respond to this letter for our Sunday Dialogue. We plan to publish responses and Mr. Gardner’s rejoinder in the Sunday Review. E-mail:
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
seattle citizen said…
Also off-topic, but I was on the Stranger website, looking for info about the debate, and found this article in this week's edition:
Deeplu embarrassed white people talk awkwrdly about race. Given our recent discussions about MSP/HSPE scores, I thought it releveant and interesting.
seattle citizen said…
Speaking of school board candidates, the Seattle Times has this article, Shadow of fired schools chief looms over board vote.

They basically dismiss the challengers, even though it's a NEWS article and not an editorial, but's the Times.

The most egregious is their slam of Kate Martin, telling only a small part of the story about her experience with a teacher at Roosevelt, as if that sums up her campaign...Bah.
seattle citizen said…
Oh, wait, the article we originally published August 2, and "modified" today. Sorry, didn't catch that.
Anonymous said…
re Anonymous (probably to be erased) who characterized the opponents as "Where's the math zealots?"

Actually, from what I've read, this very diverse group of opponents has one central point of agreement on school board governance, which can be characterized in several ways:

Where's the spine?
Where's your mind?
Who elected you (not who paid for your campaign)?

Just becuase the Stranger cites Cliff Mass as an endorser in no way makes these candidates a one- issue block.

--read their websites, if you don't believe me
Anonymous said…
Anonymous writes:
This is what we're reduced to: a choice between out of touch and often incompetent incumbents OR out of touch Where's The Math zealots. I mourn for our district.

Hey anonymous, I agree with you completely on the "Where's the Math Zealots". But look! Really only 1 candidate is a "Where's the Math Zealot": Marty McClaren. (as far as I know, maybe others can correct) You don't have to vote for her. That crosses off one "out of touch" from your choices.

-different anon
uxolo said…
This is fantastic - thank you, Melissa, for making this happen!
Jewish parent, I brought this up when picking the date and was overruled. Sorry.
mirmac1 said…
Math? Yeah, who needs math in cosmetology school?

Please, get to know these candidates. Or don't bother voting.
I can say that when I attended the Metropolitan Dems endorsement meeting earlier this summer, members there brought up math. These were older people who likely had no children in school and yet it was on their minds.
Kathy said…
Seattle Citizen is correct. This article has been significantly altered:
Charlie Mas said…
Wow! Talk about your revisionist history! The Times has completely re-written that story.
Anonymous said…
What was changed in the Seattle Times article?

We had an article in our neighborhood paper about local school board members. It glossed over some big issues.

Jonathan Martin said…
The pre-primary story I wrote was accidentally republished yesterday because of a glitch in our creaky publishing system (soon to be replaced, thank god). It wasn't altered or edited from the original version; please let me know where and how it was "completely re-written." That'd be news to me and my editor. - Jonathan Martin, Seattle Times
Dorothy Neville said…
Jonathan Martin may be correct. On election night, the first story the ST wrote was by Emily Heffler and was quite poorly written. Jonathan's piece came a little later and was more balanced. At first, I thought his better piece usurped Emily's piece, but later I found out that hers was still there, it's more of a blog/blotter piece.
Dorothy Neville said…
Ah, I wrote that too soon, since I was annoyed at the Emily election night article. Anyway, in reading this Shadow article, I don't see anything rewritten, not even a correction for Weber's occupation.
Jonathan Martin said…
@Dorthy Neville - Mark T. Weber's occupation was not corrected because it was correct. His resume prior the story running listed "Driver/trainer" with the First Student Transportation Company as his most recent paid position. That reference was edited out by the time story ran. He did not ask me for a correction, but after reading his comments on this site, I sent Mark a cached version of his resume, showing the Driver/Trainer line. - Jonathan Martin
limited access said…
I posted a comment on the TownHallSeattle web site this afternoon, right below multiple comments touting "print-at-home" tickets, but the comments are moderated and as of 5 hours later it's still not there, so perhaps they don't allow even semi-critical comments. Here's what I wrote:


It’s wonderful this forum is happening, thank you to the organizers.

That said, the comments above about “print-at-home tickets” are not just misleading, but outright false. There are no printable “tickets” at all. You go through the entire order process, just as if you were going to purchase something with a credit card, including requirements of entering name, address, etc. but at the end it gives you numeric code and you need to show identification to get in. This is burdensome, and probably will be an outright barrier for some people who might otherwise attend. Certainly anyone not fluent in English and/or online reservation systems is not going to deal with this.

If we’re having a public forum to meet and learn about school board directors and candidates, this should be an open venue, first-come first-served. If they run out of seats, well, you should have gotten there earlier. That’s only fair, and the candidate forums I attended 4 years ago were easily accessible to all.
blogger is hungry said…
Hi Mel, looks like blogger ate another post (about the debate venue). Thanks.
Charlie Mas said…
Mr. Martin,

So nice to hear from you. Your presence here affords us all the opportunity to learn more about how this article was written in the first place.

You wrote: "Now, four years later, the activists are back"

Which activists are back? Sally Soriano? Darlene Flynn? Brita Butler-Wall? Which ones are back? Or are you suggesting that the current Board members are not activists? What does that make them? Inactivists? Is this not an attempt to claim a link between the challengers in the school board elections with the Board members elected in 2003? Is there any such link in reality?

You wrote: "Nearly all of the 11 challengers indict the four incumbents up for re-election for being too sober" Really? Which of the challengers said that? Which of them said "Sherry Carr is just too sober"? What does that even mean - "too sober"? I think you invented this. I don't think any of the challengers said it, let alone nealy all of them. I think it is an effort on your part to make them appear ridiculous.

You wrote about the incumbents: "They say they reacted decisively" but you don't note the nine month delay between the audit report (that you say was the cause of the superintendent's downfall) and their dismissal of the superintendent.

You wrote: "Several challengers verge on being single-issue activists, with several campaigns based on the district's math curriculum." Is that how they describe themselves or is that how you describe them? Why is it that the incumbents get to describe themselves - without any critique from you - but the challengers are described by you (as a group) without the opportunity to describe themselves? Do you not detect any bias in that?

You wrote: "The board is in the process of adding two new internal auditors" but neglected to note that the district has gone seven months without an internal auditor. There was no particular urgency to get the position filled.

You quoted Mr. Maier as saying that he "had learned his lesson" without comment, question, or evidence. But you felt it necessary to make Ms Peaslee and Mr. Cummings appear to be single-issue candidates and, in Mr. Cummings' case, you tried to make him appear incompetent. Do you not detect any bias in that? The only one of the three who had demonstrated any incompetence is Mr. Maier.
Charlie Mas said…
... continued
You don't question Mr. Sundquist's claim that the current board inherited a mess. You spin data to make his mistake - voting to close schools that have to be almost immediately re-opened - seem reasonable. You don't question or critically consider the validity of his claim that the board worked hard on the new student assignment plan or the teacher contract.

While you write about Joy Anderson and Marty McLaren's views and their efforts to influence district decisions, all you write about Mr. Esparza is that he "has worked in food services in Yakima restaurants and briefly in Seattle schools, was rated 'not qualified' by the Municipal League of King County." Is that fair to Mr. Esparza? Does that help to inform the voters on his positions on the issues? If that isn't your goal, then what is?

Sherry Carr not only gets to describe herself, she also gets to speak about her opponent, Ms Martin.

Your only note about Kate Martin is to say that she had to be removed from Roosevelt High School by the police one time. You don't mention that she proved right and that her effort proved effective. Ms Martin does not get to speak for herself.

You don't write about Mr. Weber's perspective on district issues, only that he "was under supervision by the Department of Corrections in the early-1990s for an out-of-state check-fraud charge. He was rated 'not qualified' by the Municipal League of King County" How does this inform the voters on his position? What did Mr. Weber say about this? Where is his opportunity to speak on his behalf?

This article, Mr. Martin, was a grotesquely biased hit piece and you need to answer for it.
Anonymous said…
I agree with many of Charlie's comments regarding the Times article.

The four incumbents represent the ruling majority of the current board. While they may have inherited problems, they also created several big ones. All were major supporters of the past superintendent and kept giving her raises and rave evaluations right up to the point where they fired her and threw her under the (school) bus.

I see no proven connection between past board "activists" and the current crop of citizen challengers. I also have not seen any major focus on math from any of the challenger campaigns.

And nobody has ever accused the four failed incumbents of being "too sober." A more accurate criticism would be to call them lazy, rubber-stamping head-nodders who don't have the ability to ask hard questions or stand up to the District administration.

Jan said…
Thanks, Charlie! Where do I send flowers for a GREAT rebuttal (which I wonder if Mr. Martin will have the courage or the character to respond to).

It's funny, when I clicked on the article the other day (when it showed up as just posted) -- my immediate impression was that it was, in fact, the same article I had seen and read earlier. I hurriedly closed the browser, because I didn't care to exposed again to such a horrible, unfair excuse for a piece of journalism. Really, the Blethens and the senior editors at the ST ought to be cringing, to have their staff this sort of stuff as newsworthy -- particularly right before the primary.
KSG said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
KSG said…
hanks Charlie for that analysis. Unfortunately journalism is a lost art now. Fox News has become the model for journalism (back up your opinion with any lies and distortions as possible). Research is taboo.

I'd love to see good researched reporting from the Times, but I guess that's too much to ask for.
Mark T. Weber said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark T. Weber said…
Since the primary is over and it won't make any difference now, I guess it is time to fess up.

1. I've been married 4 times to 3 different women.

2. I once drove a car at 150 MPH on a public road at 3 AM.

3. I am a recovering alcholic.

4. I've had 15 children in eight different states.

5. I once walked into a casino in Las Vegas and put $10,000 down on red, and won.

Some or all of each of these statements is true. Answers below.

1. True.
2. Partly true. It actually was at 3 PM in Neveda.
3. True.
4. False, but I've been in at least 8 different states.
5. Partly true. I lost.

I hope this clears up the confusion.

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