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Monday, September 19, 2011

Seattle Schools This Week, Sep. 19-24, 2011

Tuesday, September 20th
@ 7:30 pm the 43rd Legislative District Democrats will be voting on endorsements, including three School Board seats. The 43rd LD meets at University Heights Community Center, 5031 University Way NE 
Wednesday, September 21

Community Meeting with Director Sundquist, from 11 am to 12:30 p.m. at the Delridge Library, 5423 Delridge Way SW

Presentation by PASS (the principals' association) to the School Board on goals for this school year, from 5:30 -5:45 p.m. at headquarters (right before the School Board meeting)

School Board meeting, 6-9 p.m.  Agenda is fairly short so it shouldn't be three hours.   There are some facilities acceptance items, approval of the High Point Promise Neighborhood application (which seems like a good deal as the money, $455,472 is "in-kind" from existing grant dollars and is for services at West Seattle Elementary and Denny Middle School), the postponed Conditional Certification for two TFA teachers, intro of the Series 5000 Board policies, taking $2.4M from rental revenues from Capital and moving it to the General Fund (more on that one), and a BEX program resolution allowing the COO or Superintendent or head of Capital Programs to sign State funding assistance documents.

The one item I have some concern about is the High Point one as the resolution only speaks of West Seattle Elementary and Denny Middle while the MOU includes Chief Sealth.   Also, at the Operations Committee meeting it had to be pointed out that the BEX resolution for signatures (mentioned above) had to be corrected to be "or" because they had put "and" instead and that would have meant ALL three people would have had to sign instead of just one person.

These kind of small details are troubling.  We have a Legal department and yet these are things that you'd think wouldn't be missed (and could cause issues later on).   Hmmm.

Also, the movement of capital funds to the General Fund - this is okay, this is legal and this is how they balance the budget.  The item notes that there is enough money in Capital to do so.   Well, yes, there is but it's not like it couldn't be put to good use in our buildings.  Again, this is why we fall further and further behind in the care and upkeep of our buildings.  

36th Dems Endorsement Meeting, Phinney Neighborhood Center, 6532 Phinney Ave N. at 7 p.m.

Saturday, September 24th
Community meetings:

DeBell - 9-11 am, Cafe Appasionato, 4001 21st Ave W.
Martin-Morris - 9:30 am-11:30 am, Diva Espresso, 8014 Lake City Way NE
Patu - 10 am - noon, Tully's, 4400 Rainier Ave South
Maier - 10:30 am - noon, Lake City library, 12501 28th Avenue NE

My comment here is that there are NO community meetings next weekend.  I sure wish the Directors could coordinate things so that every weekend (except for holidays) could have a community meeting. 

Also, just as a plug for the School Board challengers, Sharon Peaslee's campaign is urging parents to attend a high school football game, either at Memorial Stadium or at one of the other locations, and hand out flyers or wave a sign.  You cannot do this on the grounds but you can stand on the sidewalk as people go in.  There are a lot of voters/parents at these games so a good chance to connect with people.

31 comments:

Rooster said...

We now understand that the Seattle Foundation is funding the placement of Teach for America members into Seattle Schools.
It is also clear that the four directors running for re-election received significant amounts of money from the Seattle Foundation to fund their current campaigns. Some received large amounts for previous campaigns as well.
We would hope these directors intend to recuse themselves from the vote to approve Teach for America members at the next school board meeting. If they do not plan to recuse themselves, they should resign.
Should we allow a wealthy elite to buy school district policy ? I think not !

Melissa Westbrook said...

I am going to point this out in my remarks on Wednesday.

It is not my intent to make the incumbents running for reelection uncomfortable but it is a big elephant in the room now.

StopTFA said...

Pls clarify. The Seattle Foundation donated to campaigns? Or some of the usual suspects listed in the press release donated campaign funds? The SF is a 501c3 non-profit, isn't it? It can't be involved in political campaigns.

Anonymous said...

"Seattle Foundation" is not one person, or a group of people. It was something offerred to Microsoft retirees as a way to manage charitable giving in a reasonable way, and probably others. How many times have we heard that we should have "public private" partnership? Well, now we have it.

-reader

Melissa Westbrook said...

No, Seattle Foundation did not contribute to the incumbents' campaigns.

However, in the district's press release, it is noted that the Foundation thanked several people who presumably were the donors. At least two of those have donated heavily to the incumbents' campaigns.

So you have wealthy donors who contribute to the Foundation to fund TFA and then some of those people fund the incumbents' campaigns and those incumbents will be voting on TFA issues?

That just doesn't look good and I hope the incumbents are aware that no amount of spin will change that above sentence.

Sahila said...

Marty McLaren's School Board election campaign platform might come in handy here:

"Schoolhouse - Our House: Learning Together in Truth, Trust and Transparency"...

Qualities that have been missing for too long in this district...

Marty's running against Steve Sundquist for Position #6...

suep. said...

Here are some of the individual donors who apparently have agreed to pay the $4,000/year per hire TFA, Inc. fee:

"...including James R. Faulstich, Matt Griffin and Evelyne Rozner, Intelius, Inc., Will Poole and Janet Levinger, Ann Ramsay-Jenkins (William M. Jenkins Fund), and the Satya and Rao Remala Foundation.”

Here's who they have endorsed in this year's school board races:

TFA donor Matt Griffin, has endorsed Peter Maier, Steve Sundquist & Sherry Carr

TFA donor Jim Faulstich has endorsed Sundquist & Carr.

TFA donor Evelyne Rozner has endorsed Sundquist, Harium Martin-Morris & Carr.

sources:
http://www.sundquist4schools.com/endorsements.html
http://www.harium.org/endorsements/
http://www.petermaierforschoolboard.com/endorsements/
http://www.carr4kids.com/endorsements/

I don't know if the TFA donors have also contributed financially to the incumbents' campaigns. That info is probably obtainable somewhere.

It's not unreasonable to conclude that the school board incumbents' ties to these TFA donors will bias their judgment and vote on TFA hires. Therefore, I agree that they should recuse themselves from this vote.

Christina said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure a commenter on the TFA donor thread pointed out the level of campaign donations by the folks in question - easily found on the PDC website.

a reader

Charlie Mas said...

Not much of a Board meeting. Very few items on the agenda and all of them already decided.

A grant that they will, of course, accept.

Conditional certificates that they are contractually obligated to approve.

Both of the action items could have been added to the consent agenda for all of the discussion they are likely to inspire.

There won't be much discussion of the introduction items either.

Introduction of policy revisions which are doubly pointless - one because it is simply introduction and not a vote, two because the policies aren't enforced anyway so they don't matter.

Some accounting transfers to bolster the general fund will be introduced along with overly involved explanations of how they are all totally legal. If only they would explore academic decisions to the same depth.

Some capital spending is introduced. As we know, capital spending is never subjected to any review or discussion.

The Board has no better reason to meet than to take public testimony - testimony which they will completely ignore as they always ignore testimony. They don't respond to testimony - not at the time, not later in the meeting, not after the meeting, not ever.

RosieReader said...

Really? To your way of thinking, if you have a position on an issue and you, personally, give some amount of money both to an issue and to an incumbent, an incumbent is supposed to recuse him/herself from voting on that issue?

It's not a one way street. If you say that the incumbents can't vote under these circumstances, then what about the following?

Let's imagine, please, that all the challengers win. (Something I don't advocate but I know many people here do, and feel strongly about it.) There are folks on this blog who are supporting the challengers, and who have also given their time and presumably their money in the anti-TFA fight. If the challengers win, do you really want to have a rule that prevents them from ever voting on a TFA issue? And, by logical extension, on every other issue that was important enough to their campaign donors to cause those campaign donors to also give time and/or money to other political issues? So anyone who gives to a challenger and funded the anti-Discovery math litigation? No can vote. Or what about anyone who ever gave time/money in what can best be called the anti-reform agenda. If those peopel also gave time/money to the challengers, then nope, those challengers can't vote on those issues once they're elected.

By the collective logic of this thread, you get your challengers in as Board members but then they can never vote on a TFA issue, because you've funded them, you've funded anti-TFA issues, etc. That's not how it works, and not how it should work.

Those of us that can give time and money to a variety of individuals and causes. One act does not "infect" all the other acts you do. Nor does pooling your money through something like a foundation somehow change the rules in any way.

Sunshine laws are there to make sure we are aware who is giving to the campaigns of elected officials. This results in candidates getting asked tough questions. This is a good thing. However those laws do not, and should not, prevent people from voting just because they've received a donation from someone with a particular point of view. That would cripple the democratic process, at least until such a time as our elections are 100% paid for with public funds.

Anonymous said...

Re: Rosie

To me, the issue is not that the incumbents accepted (and perhaps are currently accepting) campaign donations from these individuals.

It's that these same individuals are a funding source for a motion in front of the board (again, their names were intentionally singled out from the anonymity of the foundation).

Issues are what drive campaigns. Money drives some campaigns more than others...all fair...

In this case, however, the donors are not merely advocating (or even lobbying) for their position to be accepted by the school board. Rather, they making sure they trump any public discussion by giving money to promote their cause. In other words, their money is buying their issue in the public domain.

For this reason, recusal is the only ethical means to assure the public that there is no quid pro quo between the incumbents and their donors. I'm not calling this a legal issue but an ethical issue.

--Signed, sealed, delivered, I'm yours? Sure seems like it...

StopTFA said...

Likewise, if there were a board action to award a contract to, say, a testing company, would we say okie dokie to employees or agents of that company: 1) donating money to pay for some of the test fees and 2) donate to board directors' campaigns for re-election?

Anonymous said...

Rosie-- I have to agree with you on this one. This race is not a one issue race. So TFA is but just one of many issues that I will look for a candidate's position on. Frankly, TFA does not rate that highly on my list of concerns, but I do understand why it might for others on this blog. I certainly respect their perspectives.

voter

Charlie Mas said...

I'm with Rosie on this one.

It is perfectly legal and proper for people to contribute to political campaigns - even for people who care deeply about issues to be decided by elected officials. In fact, that's why they contribute - because they care deeply.

So when those officials decide those issues, they shouldn't have to recuse themselves because some of their campaign supporters have expressed strong views on the matter. That's not a reasonable standard. If that were the case then elected officials would have to recuse themselves on just about every issue or they would have to refuse nearly all campaign contributions.

The snaky element here are wealthy folks coming to the District and funding initiatives (or at least the start of initiatives) which are not consistent with the District's stated direction or intention.

The District has said - and said it recently - that to close the achievement gap in low-performing schools they want to recruit more experienced teachers into those schools and reduce teacher turnover. The use of Teach for America corps members in these schools is a direct contradiction of that stated intent.

Consequently, the funding of Teach for America corps members to teach in these schools appears to be an effort to buy District policy - a successful one. THAT is what we should oppose. THAT is what should be against District policy.

And, as luck would have it, it IS a violation of our policy G25.00 which does, in fact, require that grants:

3. Be aligned with the District’s instructional priorities and strategies.

4. Be aligned with school and District transformation plan goals.

6. Directly support and honor District governance and decision-making procedures of the Board,
central office and building-level staff.

7. Have a value or benefit that is greater than the obligation under the grant award.

8. Not violate management and/or bargaining unit rights and responsibilities.

9. Not carry any conditions that would divert school or District efforts away from the District’s
primary mission.

10. Be aligned with other Board policies and administrative procedures.

The District simply should not accept the grant.

dan dempsey said...

Charlie said:
"Conditional certificates that they are contractually obligated to approve."

YUP in a contract that clearly does not meet the requirements of state law ... The Board and TfA apparently made an agreement that obligated the Board to violate state law. For the Board has never performed a review of all possible options for closing achievement gaps.
No review prior to Nov 2010 and certainly no review since.

The Board approval of this TfA action will continue exactly the path that Norm Rice announced in August of 2010.

Please note: This has Zero to do with achievement gaps in the SPS. The gaps were mentioned in this flaunting of existing state law to make bringing in TfA appear to be legal.

Anonymous said...

"Presentation by PASS (the principals' association) to the School Board on goals for this school year, from 5:30 -5:45 p.m. at headquarters (right before the School Board meeting)"

Have the principals been keeping up with the comments on the other blog posts?

Great goals would be:

1 - principals who can write a grammatically correct sentence.

2 - principals who actually uphold the teacher/staff contracts instead of bullying, threatening, and ignoring teacher building votes

3 - principals who actually deal with overcrowding instead of telling powerless teachers to "deal with it"

4 - principals who hire teachers instead of their buddies (ie Ted Dezember at McClure)

5 - principals who reject bad curriculums not mandated, or even if mandated

6 - principals who run the schools for the kids' education not the testing companies profit

7 - principals who have principles - to quit cowering before the admins downtown, to renounce cronyims and corruption and to start actually running schools

-JC.

Anonymous said...

"The snaky element here are wealthy folks coming to the District and funding initiatives (or at least the start of initiatives) which are not consistent with the District's stated direction or intention."

Again, it's not that the board is voting on an issue that was supported by their campaign donors.
Rather, it's that their donors are funding the issue that is being voted upon (while concurrently supporting the incumbents' campaigns).

If one of the donors were coming to speak before the board to advocate for TFA, and the incumbents then voted in favor of the motion...fine.

Instead, the donors are funding a program that supports their political agenda on the backs of the most vulnerable students in the district.

Many people in Seattle don't know that their school district has been sold to the highest bidder because this same group of donors is helping to control the media message.

This is not a legal issue like...it depends on what the meaning of is is...or even Citizens United...it is the fact that these incumbents have been bought and sold and are in the process of voting to give even more power to the same cast of moneyed characters.

Call it snaky. I call it unethical and the antithesis of public service.

--Have these people no decency?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Rosie, you missed the point. It's not that they received donations from people who support TFA being in the schools.

It's that they received money from people who paid to HAVE TFA in the schools. Big difference.

Apparently, there were no real donors until these people stepped up/had their arms twisted.

No one thinks donating to a campaign gets you a vote your way. But donating to a campaign and paying for a program - maybe so.

dan dempsey said...

OK .. it was said:
"Instead, the donors are funding a program that supports their political agenda on the backs of the most vulnerable students in the district.

Many people in Seattle don't know that their school district has been sold to the highest bidder because this same group of donors is helping to control the media message."

==========

The part I would like explained to me is this: Why are those who have the Big Money and have endorsed Sundquist and Maier doing so?

The SAO has noted that the Board is not doing the job required of it.

Sundquist and Maier ignore the relevant data at every opportunity... We have had four years to watch these two .... So what have the Big Money folks who are endorsing this duo seen that I have missed?

Seems like they have Big Money but zero logical arguments to present in regard to their endorsements.

Disturbing to me ... most disturbing to me. Too similar to the inaccurate statements made by Norm Rice in the Seattle Foundation video announcing that the Foundation will be supporting an effort to bring TfA to the Puget Sound area in 2011. .... Too many actions without any reasons for taking such actions.

RosieReader said...

I disagree with the inference you're trying to draw Melissa. Yes, some people made donations to cover the costs of having TFA in the school. To me that's no different than giving money to Kaboom, and then asking the board to allocate some money to get a Kaboom playground built at your school. Or giving money to your school for a program, then advocating to the board that the program be expanded to other schools. In short, I think you're splitting hairs, and it would come back to haunt you when the shoe was on the other foot.

Maybe, maybe, if the folks who made the donation had a direct profit link at issue in the issue I'd feel differently. But even that I'm not so sure about. (I don't want to prevent senators from voting on certain oil issues. I'd rather make it embarrassing for them to hold their positions in lint of their donation flow. Again, the point of sunshine is that it's the disclosure of the money flow that works the magic. Adding rules on top of that seems distracting and confusing, atthe very least.

Anonymous said...

From cityethics.org

Home » Forums » MODEL ETHICS CODE PROJECT » Conflict of Interest Provisions
Conflict of Interest
Tue, 2006-11-28 14:39
in Conflict of Interest Provisions Model Code
This is the place to discuss what a conflict of interest is, and how close or what type of a relationship an official or employee must have with an individual or entity that has an interest, for that interest to be seen as conflicting with that official or employee's obligations to the public interest.

This is also the place to discuss certain conflict provisions missing from this code (such as outside employment), which are discussed in the comments to this subsection.

100(1). Conflict of Interest.
An official or employee* may not use his or her official position or office, or take or fail to take any action, or influence others to take or fail to take any action, in a manner which he or she knows, or has reason to believe, may result in a personal* or financial benefit*, not shared with a substantial segment of the city's population, for any of the following persons or entities:

himself or herself;
a member of his or her household*, including a domestic partner* and his or her dependents, or the employer or business of any of these people;
a sibling or step-sibling, step-child, parent or step-parent, niece or nephew, uncle or aunt, or grandparent or grandchild of either himself or herself, or of his or her spouse or domestic partner, or the employer or business of any of these people;
an outside employer or business* of his or hers, or of his or her spouse or domestic partner, or someone who works for such outside employer or business;
a customer* or client*;
a person or entity from whom the official or employee* has received an election campaign contribution of more than $200 in the aggregate during the past election cycle (this amount includes contributions from a person's immediate family or business as well as contributions from an entity's owners, directors, or officers, as well as contributions to the official or employee*'s party town committee or non-candidate political committee);
a substantial debtor or creditor of his or hers, or of his or her spouse or domestic partner; or

a nongovernmental civic group, union, social, charitable, or religious organization of which he or she (or his or her spouse or domestic partner) is an officer or director.
Comment: The central point of an ethics code is that city officials and employees should not prefer, over the public interest, their own interests or the interests of their family or business associates. There are other relationships that should be included in the above list, but cannot due to problems of defining them. These include romantic relationships short of domestic partnership, and close friends and associates.

The general rule is: If it looks to others as if you might be giving someone special treatment, or if it would look that way to others if they knew about the relationship, then you should not act with respect to that person or entity, and instead recuse yourself under subsection 3 below. It is important to give city residents confidence that their officials and employees are treating everyone the same, even when you believe that you can be totally impartial.

Anonymous said...

the above post is signed by:

--read the fine print since conscience isn't the guide

seattle citizen said...

This debate about the ethics of a director acting on an agenda item that one or more of their campaign contributors has helped fund is fascinating. Please carry on! I'm on the fence.
It seems like there's an ick factor, but Rosie makes a good point.
To me, the ick factor comes in knowing that it's a big, national push to change policy, not some innocent, relatively small scale thing such as Kaboom trying to build play areas. Oh, and I googled Kaboom: Board of Directors includes:

Mr. Michael Deich
Director of Policy and Government Affairs
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Mr. Robert DeMartini
President and Chief Executive Officer
New Balance Athletic Shoes

Hmmm....discuss.

Anonymous said...

Who hired these TFAs? I don't think it's board members. Who hires teachers in this district? As for the ethics code, well I wouldn't go looking for it in action down in city hall. Kinda like passing legislation you know will never get funded. What kind of ethical standard is that?

- it's politics folks!

suep. said...

I don't believe Rosie's broad rationale covers this specific instance. This particular case is not simply a matter of some individuals expressing support for both an organization and a candidate.

These TFA donors are integral to the implementation of the policy of allowing TFA into SPS. Without the donors (footing the contract-mandated $4k/year per TFA hire bill), TFA recruits can't be hired by SPS.

In other words, these donors have become players in SPS policy. They are not mere bystanders waving pompoms.

The valid and troubling ethical issues that Michael DeBell brought up at the last school board meeting about the "slippery slope" of allowing private individuals to buy, influence or enable school district policy and practices come into play. (He sounds like he did read Ravitch after all.)

Now that their own campaign endorsers are footing the bill for TFA, how can Carr, Sundquist, Maier and Martin-Morris objectively assess the propriety of paying for TFA this way? How can they objectively assess, at this point, the tortured machinations surrounding SPS' (unnecessary) employment of TFA trainees at all?

How can these four school board members not be biased in favor of approving this arrangement, since they are now personally indebted to these endorsers (some of whom are also giving money to their reelection campaigns)?

The fact that we are even discussing this matter demonstrates that there is at least an appearence of conflict or ethical impropriety here.

Maybe this is a question for the ethics commission and Ethics Officer Wayne Barnett (wayne.barnett@seattle.gov.).

dan dempsey said...

So this week on Wednesday apparently.... the odds are that the Board will choose to push for conditional certs for TfA by fraudulently claiming that all other options for closing achievement gaps have been considered. What complete BS that is after the last two math adoptions. So let us take a real look at what the End of Course assessment shows for students who took an algebra class at a Seattle High School in 2010-2011 school year and then took the EoC #1.

The following list shows pass rates for all students at each high school that took algebra and the EoC #1. The second score is the pass rate for Low Income students. The last column is the percentage of low income students that scored at level 1 (Well below Standard).

Continued...

dan dempsey said...

53.2% : 42.0% : 35.2% =Ballard
46.1% : 43.7% : 38.2% = Clevel
30.4% : 23.2% : 49.3% = CSealth
53.9% : 56.6% : 21.4% = Frankln
30.7% : 29.9% : 47.7% = Garfield
36.0% : 17.9% : 45.7% = Ingrhm
56.4% : 31.7% : 43.1% = Na Hale
7.4% :: 8.5% :: 63.9% = RBHS
71.8% : 59.4% : 20.6% = Roosev
35.5% : 28.2% : 45.0% = W.Seatt

There were two high schools in Seattle where more than 50% of the low income students taking Algebra I passed the EoC #1 and 8 high schools where this did not happen.

In half of the 10 high schools only 3 in 10 (or fewer) low income algebra students passed the EoC#1.

Alarmingly for low income students at 6 high schools the chance of leaving the course knowing very little algebra was above 40% (Well below standard).

The ALL students in a school scores are not used by me because they are useless in evaluating the algebra I program provided by a school. These scores are strongly influenced by those students who took a course above geometry but took the EoC #1 test. These folks are reported as Makeup Year 1 on EoC #1 by OSPI.

Keep in mind that students who took Algebra in middle school likely took Geometry in high school and would not show up in my EoC #1 stats above.

if the SPS thinks that TfA is going to impact this math mess ... they are in Fantasyland. Especially when the Superintendent believes that teachers are more agile in using the math materials and that things are improving at all levels.

Anonymous said...

I would be open to TFA recruits teaching my child, especially when I consider how terrible math and science teachers are at my child's middle school.
I could give many examples of why these teachers do a bad job, but in short I think it is because they are lazy.
They cannot bother to give students clear instructions, and do not make themselves available if the student needs help. They discourage students from coming to them for any reason, and even tell kids that they are not allowed to ask what assignments or classwork they missed when they have been absent. They do not post any information to the source, except for grades which are usually input right before the report card comes out. I feel sorry for parents who are not capable of helping their kids with math homework, and can't afford Kumon or a private tutor. Perhaps we have just had bad luck with teachers at our school, but if any of them were to be replaced with a TFA recruit, it would not make me sad in the least.

'Willing to give TFA a try'

Chris S. said...

RE: "This race is not a one issue race. So TFA is but just one of many issues that I will look for a candidate's position on. Frankly, TFA does not rate that highly on my list of concerns, but I do understand why it might for others on this blog."

Right, but make no mistake. TFA is a VERY HIGH priority in some circles. The incumbents have been unwilling to make it wait in line behind some of my personal favorites: counselors and open libraries. If you want TFA to remain low on your radar screen, I'd recommend voting for a challenger or two.

Chris S. said...

re: Harium for the sake of diversity. Have you asked any minority groups if they feel he represents them well?