Showing posts from October, 2011

Pottergate Updates

Here's are some notes from the press conference and follow-ups from it.

Families and Education Levy

There's a story about it in the Seattle Times this morning and boy, are the comments angry.   The arguments against seem to fall in three categories: mismanagement of the district and accompanying scandals doubling of the levy amount during a recession spending money on anything not directly related to the classroom (social services like health care, family support, etc).   What to think?  I'm going to play devil's advocate here and put out some questions.  (This does not mean I necessarily believe these questions to be true but I'm trying to get an idea of what the thinking may be out there.) Did the Mayor and the City Council make a mistake doubling the levy during a recession?  Yes, I would say so.   It does mystify me given the recession and the general climate around our district.   I would have thought some austerity about the amount and a gut check about our district might have been in order.  Has the levy been effective in the past?  There are measures

Seattle Schools This Week

A quiet week in the district but it may be the quiet before big events/news pop up. Wednesday, Nov. 2nd Board Work Session on Demographics and Capacity Management from 4-5:30 p.m.   There are no agenda or presentation materials attached to this at the website but I will keep checking back.  School Board meeting from 6-9 p.m.   A previous thread went over some of the agenda .  This will be the last School Board meeting before the election.  At the next School Board meeting on Nov. 16th, one or more directors could be lame ducks.  (Generally, the new directors, if there are any elected, are installed in early December.)  Thursday, Nov. 3rd LGBT Families Dinner from 6-8 p.m.  at the NOVA/SBOC (Meany building) at 300 20th Ave E.  All District families and staff are welcome to attend.   Dinner and entertainment will be provided through community donations.  Please RSVP to Lisa Love at the Health Intervention Office at 252-0982 with the number of people in your party.  Saturday,

Common Core State Standards

I will confess; I am NOT fully up-to-speed on this issue.  But I was reading over the minutes from the Board Work Session on CCSS that was held on October 19, 2011 and wanted to point out several issues around CCSS as well as what parents know or don't know. To note, some of the confusion is that we have Washington State Standards, SPS graduation requirements and CCSS and while there is overlap, I believe they all have differences.  What they are and what they mean to your child remains to be seen.   The following is straight from the minutes.

What Do You Think?

This was my wavering first choice when we were playing around.  I find the color palate soothing but are the books on the sides too much?  Still needs work (all the documents are out-of-date, for example).  Always a work in progress.

Seattle School Board Agenda for Meeting November 2, 2011

This is a bit early but I happened to be at the district website and decided to check the agenda for this Wednesday's Board meeting. I'm a bit perplexed. One item is the district asking OSPI for a waiver for Cleveland High to be exempt from the 150-hour state requirement.  It is now an ALE (alternative learning experience) school versus a traditional school.  Under OSPI an ALE school does not meet the 150-hour requirement and so only gets 90% of funding that traditional schools receive.  The district wants Cleveland to get that extra 10% (about 300k) for this year.  What's perplexing is that they explain how they created Cleveland two years ago with a block schedule.  They knew the block schedule would mean less class time and yet they went ahead.  Now, they are unhappy they don't get full funding. OSPI recognizes that block schedules cannot meet the 150 hour/credit requirement, and therefore is willing to grant waivers for schools doing a block schedule.  Tradi

News Updates

From the NY Times, a story about a CDCP  advisory committee recommending vaccinating boys and young men against human papillomavirus ( HPV ). The committee recommended that boys ages 11 and 12 should be vaccinated. It also recommended vaccination of males ages 13 through 21 who had not already had all three shots. Vaccinations may be given to boys as young as 9 and to men between the ages of 22 and 26. HPV infection is the most common sexually transmitted disease — between 75 percent and 80 percent of females and males in the United States will be infected at some point in their lives. Most will overcome the infection with no ill effects. But in some people, infections lead to cellular changes that cause warts or cancer, including cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers in women and anal cancers in men and women. A growing body of evidence suggests that HPV also causes throat cancers in men and women as a result of oral sex. And not to get too graphic here, folks, but for those of

A Concise Post about Why You Should Vote for the Challengers

Mega-Concise First and foremost, every candidate should be considered on his or her own merits.  Don't vote for the incumbents because they are the incumbents or challengers just because they are stepping up to challenge them.  In short, don't vote on a slate.  However, because of several votes that most of these incumbents made and lack of oversight on their part, they are all culpable for many of the embarrassments and financial losses this district has faced over these four year.  Moreover, in their basic jobs as Directors, they have repeatedly not upheld or enforced their own Board policies.  That they could not even do that is deeply troubling.  All the incumbents had the opportunity to see red flags for months and even years before Pottergate exploded.  Steve Sundquist and Harium Martin-Morris were warned by union officials two years ago that Potter was hiring unbonded and poorly-trained contractors.  Potter did not even do background checks on some workers i

So I Said, "Lady Di, Why Bother?"

Way back when, David Letterman used to give celebrities about $5,000 to make a short film for his "Holiday Film Festival."  My favorite was one with Bette Midler who made a film about a boozy barfly laying out her life and views and she always ended with, "Why bother?" The Lady Di one was about Bette's character explaining how Diana came to the U.S. for the first time and "she brought 2 trunks and 15 suitcases.  She went to...JC Penney.  And I said, Lady Di, why bother?" And so I say about the media in Seattle on Seattle Schools, why bother?

Dialogue with Lynne Varner

On October 25, Lynne Varner wrote an editorial, Silas Potter's alleged criminal enterprise , that appeared in the Ed Cetera section of the Seattle Times opinion page. To her great credit, Ms Varner often engages with her readers in the comments threads that appear at the end of the online versions of Seattle Times articles. We don't see this from the other Times Editorial staff - at least not nearly as much as Ms Varner does it. A few readers used the comments to challenge Ms Varner's perspective on the Board's role. Ms Varner responded indicating that she was interested in continuing the dialogue. She committed to answering some challenging questions I posed (I write under the name coolpapa in the online Comments of the Seattle Times). Ms Varner could not return to the thread before it was automatically closed by the Seattle Times, so I have created this thread here for the exclusive purpose of continuing that dialogue. I'm going to enforce that. I will remov

Friday Open Thread

I think I may have mentioned this group before but it's worth another look.  The group is the Living Voters guide: The guide is powered by citizens. It’s a website that helps ordinary voters form and share their opinions with other people, together producing a citizen-written voters’ guide. The guide was created for the 2010 ballot initiatives, but this year, regional and local measures have been added along with additional means for sharing opinions. “The guide offers citizens an opportunity to hear the voices of other citizens directly, not filtered through campaigns or organizations,” said Alan Borning, a UW professor of computer science and engineering and a co-leader of the project. Borning was joined by Lance Bennett, a UW professor of political science and communication; doctoral students Travis Kriplean, Sheetal Agarwal, Deen Freelon and Jonathan Morgan; and Seattle CityClub Executive Director Diane Douglas.   The guide initially asks voters to indicate th

Cluster Grouping Talk at Nathan Hale

I attended the talk last night by Dr. Dina Bulles put on by Wedgwood Elementary (and held at Nathan Hale High).  (FYI, her name is pronounced Bree-yays.)   The other SPS staff represented were the principal of Wedgwood, Chris Cronas, Ex. Director, Phil Brockman, and head of Advanced Learning, Bob Vaughn.  Mr. Cronas pointed out that several Wedgwood teachers were in attendance as well.   There were a large number of seats put out  but the room wasn't full. My guess is it was  about 60 people. 

Quick News Updates

New Update (6:27 p.m.)   Here is a link to the Governor's list of possible education options.  Another area of reduction; preschool enrollment for 3-year olds.  Another reason to vote for the Families and Education levy.   Eliminate school bus transportation $220.0 million  Shifts responsibility for transporting students to parents and communities t hrough local transit systems, beginning in the 2012–13 school year. Maintains required transportation for eligible children with disabilities.    Also, reduce the school year by a week, eliminate National Board certification bonuses (boo), eliminate full-day K in high poverty schools, change daily attendance calculation and change the calculation for withdrawal from school from 20 consecutive days to FIVE .  Read the full list for all the ideas put forth.   You might want to weigh in with the Governor or your state legislator about what is a non-starter versus a maybe versus "okay if you have to".   Don't let TH

Where To Start?

Got up this morning, lots to do and a huge number of stories to write about.  So errands first but tell me, dear readers, what should I write about first? Reuven Carlyle's blog thread on the incumbents/paying School Directors/limiting campaign funds for School Board races  the fairly pitiful Times' story on the SB races (no bias there) with the great headline, "School Board races hinge on whether district needs change"  last night's very interesting and insightful talk with Dr. Dina Brulles on - yes, I'll say it because she used this word repeatedly - teaching "gifted" students updates on Silas Potter case  Whatever has the most votes, that's what I'll write up first. 

No, KC Elections Did NOT Give Out Your Phone Number

I called KC Elections about Stand for Children's rep telling me last night that they got my phone number from them.  I was told, they never give out phone numbers or e-mail addresses. I called Stand and talked to a couple of people I know there.  I was pretty clear on my unhappiness.  I was told that they DID get it from the voter registration rolls.  I told them KC Elections said no so how could this be?  I was told that Stand had used a group - Win Win - and got the list from them and they "probably" got it from the voter registration.  I was also told that robo calls are legal because it's a political message being delivered but, of course, they don't mean to bother anyone.  (I did look up the group "Win Win" on Google, in several forms and found nothing. ) (I also asked about Peter Maier and they said that no one in that race was recommended by their endorsement group and hence, he was the only incumbent not in their Town Hall.) I called K

Seattle School District Updates

Some items of interest from the district: Open Hours with District Leadership Do you have a topic about Seattle Public Schools that you want to discuss face-to-face with District leadership? Open office hours are available Thursdays from 3-5:30 p.m. rotating between Dr. Susan Enfield,Interim Superintendent; Dr. Cathy Thompson, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning; Pegi McEvoy, Assistant Superintendent of Operations; and Bob Boesche, Interim Assistant Superintendent forBusiness & Finance. Click here for the full Open Office Hours Calendar These 15-minute appointments are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Please call or email to schedule time to talk about schools,curriculum, transportation, finance, enrollment, policy or whatever topic you choose. Better Food, New Items in Cafeterias Seattle Public Schools Nutrition Services Department has launched "Family Night Recipe Tastings" at several area schools to try out some new proposed menu

Seattle Times Editorial Perspective

The Seattle Times has made their perspective clear: they support the current school board. Not only did they endorse the incumbents in the upcoming election, they have gone out of their way to claim that the Board is not to blame for the recent scandals . They write that the Board has learned from those mistakes - not that they made any mistakes - and will do better now - not they they hadn't done well enough before. The Times would have us believe that the Board isn't to blame, but that the system is to blame - nevermind that the Board controls the system. To her great credit, Lynne Varner participates in the discussion of her Ed cetera. blog pieces. People have engaged her there with limited success. And now today we have this myth of the "learned their lesson" chastised Board members who have re-doubled their efforts.

Cluster Grouping (Now I Get How This Works)

I'm going to the talk tomorrow night at Hale by Dina Brulles that is being presented by Wedgwood Elementary.  I think it going to be very interesting.  I've been doing my research in preparation for the talk and found out some information that I think helps me understand the issue. First, I note that this is what the principal at Wedgwood says about the presentation: In response to our concerns about the equity involved in testing for advanced learning opportunities and what we have witnessed in the abilities of students enrolled in different programs at Eckstein, we have looked for better ways of meeting the needs of all kids in a heterogeneous setting.  Huh?  I have no idea what he means by " what we have witnessed in the abilities of students enrolled in different programs at Eckstein " but I'm thinking he means the Spectrum classes look different.  I would think they would be given the level they are supposed to be taught at but maybe that was a su

Did You Listen in to the Stand for Children Town Hall?

I received my robo-call from Stand for Children promptly at 5:30 p.m.  It advised me to stay on the line.  I got to hear Steve's echo voice tell me all the great things that he's done in his term (and his new line which is that they fired the Superintendent before the story broke in the Times - I'd hope so).  I was asked - by some staffer - what my question was. My first question was "how did you get my phone number?" and my second question was "why isn't  Peter Maier there?"  I was told they got the phone numbers from King County elections and that he didn't know why Peter wasn't there. I'll have to call KC Elections because my impression was that I gave them my phone number so that they could call me in case of a ballot issue (not to sell to campaigns).  So now I'll have to give them my e-mail address because I don't like robo-calls.  That's how they got your phone number. I then said my question was how do these candi

Reviewing the SAO Work Product on the MLK, Jr. Building Sale

One thing is clear - there were people in the district who just did not want the MLK, Jr. Building to go to an affluent private school.  Didn't matter the price - it was a non-starter.  The issue was also about gaining something for the public besides money.    How that was to be balanced in the minds of the School Board is not ever made clear. 

Charges to be Filed Against Silas Potter and Two Other Individuals

Just got back from the press conference with Dan Satterberg, KC Prosecutor, Dr. Enfield and Director DeBell.   I'll write a longer thread but here are the highlights: Silas Potter is to be charged with 9 counts of Theft in the First Degree David Anthony Johnson is to be charged with 9 counts of Theft in the First Degree Lorrie Kay Sorenson is to be charged with 4 counts of Theft in the First Degree I do not recognize Ms. Sorenson's name but Mr. Johnson had been mentioned in the State Auditor's report. The accused funneled about $250k through two corporations - one, a non-profit called Grace of Mercy and the other, a for-profit, called Emerald City cleaning.  Mr. Potter operated on cash with several large cash withdrawals in his name.   Potter turned over about $21k to his accompliances and kept the rest.  There is no evidence that anyone further up the food chain had knowledge of or benefited from these actions. If convicted as charged, Potter and Johnson could se

Tuesday Open Thread

Once again, we find several complaints about this blog not being a welcoming place, not curbing the anger/passion/frustration of comments and not being neutral. Again, this is a community blog.  We could force people to register to comment but we don't.  You just sign in and away you go.  All are welcome.  Charlie and I have viewpoints.  We sometimes just report and we sometimes put in our viewpoints.  We sometimes write headlines to spark interest, not a fight.  (I personally sometimes write headlines just to tweak some noses.) As Charlie pointed out elsewhere, we put a lot of information in here that is not in line with our own viewpoints. We didn't have to put up the support for Enfield petition.  Could have just ignored it like it didn't exist.  But no, we put it up and even put the link.   If we wanted to only support our views, we certainly would not do that. We obviously don't have the time and space to put every single thing happening in our district but

Crosscut Blindness

Ted Van Dyk, writing about the upcoming election on Crosscut , has this to say about the school board races: The Seattle School Board:   I am voting for the incumbents on the ballot — Peter Maier, Sherry Carr,  Harium Martin-Morris, and Steve Sundquist — with the hope that they will run a tighter ship in their upcoming terms.  All are honest people dedicated to public education.  But the financial scandals unearthed by the state Auditor, the expensive closure and reopening of schools, the acceptance of a goofy math curriculum, and sometimes slack oversight of administrators cannot be repeated. I have heard others take the same view as Mr. Van Dyk. I have heard others say that they believe that the board members are sincerely contrite and will do better after the Pottergate scandal. I'm not sure what improvement Mr. Van Dyk and the others are hoping to see, but it has been seven months since the board members all promised to start doing their jobs and we haven't seen any impr

The Seattle Times continues to lower their Standards

 Update:   a reader asked about who pays for these audits and I mistakenly said the SAO.  It turns out that the Legislature had passed a law for a hotline but had not funded it.  For the first year, the SAO ate the cost  for hotline investigations but could not sustain that cost.  So if the State Auditor chooses to go forward with hotline requests (and I'm sure they don't follow-thru with all of them), it costs the district $83.60 per hour.  (I just removed that "number of hours" as that is for the NEXT audit, not this special one.) On the one hand you could say, "Well, look at that money and the SAO found nothing illegal."  On the other hand, you can look at this sad and sorry mess of a process and say that it sure doesn't look good or smell good.  I'll have more to report on this after I read the SAO work product documents which I believe will make compelling reading.  End of update A new low for reporting is the Times' article about the

FACMAC Meetings

I LOVE this name - I picture a capacity management superhero that's basically a piece of mac 'n cheese.  (Fusilli Jerry?) 1) Yes, the meetings are open to the public but obviously no public input at the meeting(there are over 30 members of this community).  But remember, you can write to them at 2) The meeting tomorrow (Tuesday, the 25th) is in room 2750 from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.  (they are trying to avoid the rush hour traffic around the Viaduct closure).   Check in with the district receptionist and she will give you the code for the elevator/stairs so you can access the room. 3) The Board is asking for input from the Committee on " Planning Philosophies for SPS Capital Planning " and " School Board Policy for Capital Levy Planning ."  Any thoughts you might have, shoot them over to the Board at   Right off hand, I think one would be that we don't sell district properties for far less

Stand For Children stands with Carr, Sundquist and Martin-Morris (but not Maier?)

Stand has done a couple of puzzling things recently. First, they sent out a postcard supporting Sherry Carr, Steve Sundquist and Harium Martin-Morris.   The question I had was - where's Peter Maier?  Why leave him off?  Damaged goods from Pottergate?  Offended their leadership?  It's just kind of a sore thumb that sticks out. Second, the postcard's top five funders are all from out-of-town except for Jon and Judy Runstad.  Again, I do appreciate that business types from around the Puget Sound area are interested in Seattle public education but I do find it curious that Ballmer, for example, gave no money to Bellevue's School Board races (and yet that's where he lives).    Another couple of funders of the mailer were Jeff Bezos' (Amazon) parents. Third, I received a robo-call about a "Town Hall" that will be held by phone this week.  I'm not sure how it will work but I was told I would receive a phone call about it.  It, too, only referenced C

Scoop! State Auditor Says Sale of MLK, Jr. Building Valid

The State Auditor's office has determined that the sale of the Martin Luther King, Jr. building to First AME church did not violate any laws and there was no conflict of interest.  However, digging deeper, there are some interesting items. Update:  I got it wrong about Noel Treat being on the selection committee.  The selection committee was made up of Don Kennedy, Ron English, Holly Ferguson and Chanin Kelly-Rae (public member).   Mr. Treat only attended the August 2010 meeting with MGJ at the request of Ron English (and this was right after Mr. Treat was hired). New Update:  Yoo hoo, Seattle Times?  Are you there?  There is nothing at their website on this story.  I have searched and I found nothing.  What an odd thing (especially since it clears the district).  Maybe they are worried about what this looks like to voters in terms of the School Board incumbents.   The lobbyist's name is Clifford Traisman (it is unclear to me if he is still the SPS lobbyist).  Michael

State Auditor's Findings on MLK Sale

The State Auditor's office released their report on the sale of the MLK Elementary building in the the Madison Valley. Short answer: ugly, ugly, corrupt process, but no actual laws were broken.

Seattle Schools The Week of October 24-29, 2011

Monday, October 24th Curriculum & Instruction Policy Committee Mtg, 4-6 p.m.   The agenda includes:  review of Alternative Learning schools, some sort of resolution for Cleveland to have a 150-hour requirement, graduation requirements, and Board policies "C" (curriculum and instruction) and "D" (students which includes placement, records, rights, discipline, etc.). Wednesday, October 26th Director Sundquist Community meeting from 11 am - 12:30 p.m.  Delridge Library, 5423 Delridge Way SW Oversight Work Session: Finance from 5:30-7:00 p.m.   This is some sort of update on organization for financial oversight.   It's one big overview but to what end I'm not sure.  (They also need better proofreading for these PowerPoints.) Work Session: Budget Goals from 7:15-8:15 p.m. Saturday, October 29th Director Patu Community Meeting from 10 am to noon at Tully's, 4400 Rainier Ave South Other meetings of interest this week: Wednesday, October

The Low Tech Take on Education

From the NY Times, a story about a small school in Northern California populated by children of employees from Google, Apple, Yahoo and others and nary a computer in sight.  There are pens and pencils, paper and some knitting supplies. This is the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, one of about 160 Waldorf schools in the country that subscribe to a teaching philosophy focused on physical activity and learning through creative, hands-on tasks. Those who endorse this approach say computers inhibit creative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans. The Waldorf method is nearly a century old, but its foothold among the digerati puts into sharp relief an intensifying debate about the role of computers in education. "I fundamentally reject the notion you need technology aids in grammar school," said Alan Eagle, 50, whose daughter, Andie, is one of the 196 children at the Waldorf elementary school; his son William, 13, is at the nearby middle school. &


For the 6th year in a row, Explorations in Math is bringing MathFest to Seattle! What : MathFest – A city-wide celebration of elementary students and mathematics When :  November 3, 2011  5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Where : Rainier Community Center, 4600 38th Avenue S., Seattle, WA 98118 Bring your family to experience Math like you’ve never seen it before! Explorations in Math is hosting its 5th Seattle MathFest, that brings together over 1,000 elementary-age students, parents, teachers, school administrators, and community members to help kids build confidence in and enthusiasm for math through interactive games in a carnival-like setting. Come experience squeals of delight, high-fives and a chorus of cheers as you work your way through 21 stations to play math with your family! Explorations in Math is working to counteract the negative culture that has been built around mathematics early in life. Through their programs, they work to change beliefs, behaviors and attitudes to b

Following State Law and School Board Policy

From the Seattle Times of 21 October 2011 : School Board President Steve Sundquist said he plans to talk with interim Superintendent Susan Enfield about enforcement of the pledge policy. "The School Board's policy is clear. State law is clear. And our job is to follow the state law and to follow our policy, so I'm firmly in the camp that says we need to be doing this," Sundquist said.  All of a sudden, Director Sundquist believes that his job is to follow the state law and to follow the school board policy. Wonderful. I bet we can think of some state laws and school board policies he can start following right away. How about the state law on conditional teacher certification? How about the board policy on program placement? Others?

Times Picks Up on Pledge Stance at JSIS

(Update: It is with great sorrow that I pass on the news of the sudden death of Senator Scott White who was found dead in a hotel room while attending a leadership conference.  There was no evidence of foul play and an autopsy will be performed to find the cause of death.  Senator White, who had two small children, was a Seattle legislator - Laurelhurst, Northgate, Broadview, Wedgwood, Lake City and Greenwood - who cared deeply about public education.  It is a loss to Seattle.) The Seattle Times has come out with a story about the brouhaha at JSIS over the pledge of allegiance.  The Times does not cover the issue the way we first head it with some parents believing that it is wrong to make undocumented students to recite the pledge.  The Times covers the story as JSIS being a global school and that it is nationalistic to recite the pledge and so hurts the goals of the school. It seems that many parents understand that any child can opt out and as long as that option is available,

Petition for Dr. Susan Enfield as Permanent Superintendent‏

A group of citizens are circulating a petition to the Board asking them to skip the national search and appoint Dr. Susan Enfield as the Permanent Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools. You can find their petition here :

CPPS School Board Candidate Questionnaire

CPPS put together a school board candidate questionnaire based on questions submitted by parents. 7 out of 8 of the candidates returned a completed questionnaire. You can find the results here:

Blogging Issues

So this new format seems to have thrown some things off.  What I'm hearing: - not able to see comments as you write your own comment - comments being eaten - what else? To address the first one, -here's a link to a Blogger page that shows browser compatibility.  It also notes that you need to enable cookies and Javascript.  Are you compatible with this stuff? I check the spam filter almost daily and I only see a couple of valid comments (versus real spam) getting in there.  I'm not sure if a comment isn't in there and you wrote and posted it (but it doesn't show up), where it goes.  I will try to get this fixed as soon as I can.

Friday Open Thread

Started sunny, ending rainy - another Seattle week gone by. Five Seattle schools named "Schools of Distinction" for academic improvements in math and reading that put them in the top five percent of improving schools in the state.  Drum roll - - Alki Elementary - Hamilton Int'l Middle - Madison Middle - Mercer Middle - Orca K-8 Madison has won for the last four years - good for them.  Likewise Mercer and Orca have won for three straight years.  Hamilton, no slouch, this is their second year in a row to win this honor. There were 99 schools statewide earning this honor.  The selection is through a group of educational entities; Center for Educational Effectiveness,  Association of Educational Service Districts, Assn. of WA State Principals, Phi Delta Kappa-Washington Chapter, WA Assn. of School Administrators, WA State ASCA and WA State School Directors' Assn. More honors - two of our elementary PE teachers were honored last week and they are Chuck Millsa

Steve and Peter; Why So Negative?

 This article from the Times talks about the race between Buetow and Martin-Morris.  It casts the race as different from the rest because (1) Buetow is trying to run a positive campaign and talk about what needs to change in the district and what she would bring to that process and (2) Martin-Morris has some favorable independent votes in his pocket (against the school closures and the high school math curriculum). I give Harium credit on those votes for sure.  I'm not sure it makes for a stellar record overall. What's interesting is this idea that the challenger would have nothing to run on versus an incumbent.  Well, naturally, if you haven't been in office, you don't have a public office record.  Michelle is running on her record as an active parent and community member working for better schools in her district. Challengers run on past efforts and experiences.  I give both of them credit for trying to stay on issues, not on personalities. Which brings me to

History of Charter Schools; Second in the Series

To note; again, not hugely comprehensive but a look at what the basic history is of charter schools.  I think the history can best be summed up by saying the charter schools idea started as one thing and spread, like cracks on a windshield, in all directions.   This is not to say that there are not some charters that are innovative.  (I still need to do research to see if I can find even one charter that reflects the earliest thinking.) Like NCLB, where we have 50 different tests and no real way to prove how American students are doing as a whole, there is charter law in 41 states and the District of Columbia and every single law is different, the numbers of allowed charters is different, the accountability is different and yet, the movement grows.  When I get to the Landscape Today, I have some thoughts on why that is (and it's not because charters do well). 

Advanced Learning Committees - History and Future

I have seen, for the past three years, a number of references to an advisory committee that the District will form to discuss and decide issues regarding Advanced Learning. This isn't the first time that the District has promised such a thing.

Lawton Principal Change

The former Lawton principal, Christine Helm, has taken another job, assistant principal at Whittier Elementary, and the Lawton assistant principal since the start of school this year,  Dr. Neil Gerrans, will serve as the interim principal at Lawton. They will both be at the Lawton PTA meeting tonight to answer questions about the change. Does this change re-open the whole question of the structure of the Lawton Spectrum program?

Intermediate Capacity Management Committee

The district now has its committee in place.  There are about 32 members.  It breaks down roughly like this: 2 each from the 7 director district regions (14) 2 each from the four special program areas (ELL, Spec. Ed, AL, Alts)  (8) 2 from the Seattle Council PTSA (2) 2 from the City of Seattle government (2) 2 at-large community reps with technical expertise (2) 2 student reps (2) 2 ad-hoc community reps ("for communications) (2) I do know that Kellie LaRue is on the Committee and this is great news as she knows her stuff and knows how to ask the hard questions.

A Bit of Housekeeping

I've read the comments about the new look of the blog and I agree; the white is hard on the eyes.  So Charlie and I will be tinkering around a bit so don't be surprised if we come up with something else (Blogger does give us some choices).   We're also probably going to change the font to a serif one (as my book design past tells me it's easier to read).  Also, about the charter schools series.  I probably didn't make this clear but I had hoped that the first threads in the series would be factual and (hopefully) mostly neutral.  It is no use to all of us to have a discussion without having a clear idea of what it is we are discussing.   I am, of course, open to discussion about whether I have my facts correct.  Keep in mind, though, I am speaking of charters OVERALL and not any one particular state or charter group.  So that first thread on What They Are got a lot of comments and discussion going about whether charters are worth it which is great but kind of th

Input Sought on Permanent Superintendent

As promised, the Board is having a series of meetings around the qualities for the selection of a permanent superintendent. To be absolutely clear, these meetings are NOT to decide if there will be a search.   (I'm certain you can bring that up  at the meetings and express that desire if that is how you feel).  These meetings are just to talk about traits/qualities/values that our community is seeking.  It does seem curious to have these meetings and not be asking the public if they think there should be a search or not.  There will also be a survey in mid-November. The Board can either choose to confirm Dr. Enfield as the permanent superintendent or launch a search (and Dr. Enfield can throw her hat in the ring if she so chooses).   The Board is to decide on a search by the first of the new year. From Lauren McGuire, SCPTSA President, and Michael DeBell, Vice-President, Seattle School Board The School Board will decide this winter whether to conduct a national search f

Seattle Election Events

The School Board Candidate forums are winding down but here are a couple more. On Thursday night, there is an event at Seattle University (Pigott Auditorium) from 6:30- 9:30 p.m. with the challengers, Sharon Peaslee, Marty McLaren, Michelle Buetow and Kate Martin.   All the incumbents declined the invitation from Seattle U to come.  Each candidate will do a short presentation and then the audience can ask questions.  Sounds like a good opportunity to really go in-depth with the challengers. From Nathan Hale high school: On the evening of Tuesday, October 25th all the candidates for School Board Director in Seattle will be participating in a Candidate Forum at Nathan Hale High School from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center with a half hour social time in the foyer of the PAC before the event from 7:00 to 7:30. This student led forum will allow voters a chance to hear candidates for the School Board explain their positions on educational issues facing the Seat

Tuesday Open Thread

Better late than never. Anyone attend the SCPTSA meeting last night with Dr. Enfield and Director DeBell? And this in from a reader: Betsy Ross said... Hey, I know this isn't on topic but there's no Tuesday open thread. Happened to turn on KIRO radio when Dori Monson had a parent from JSIS on, complaining that the "left-wing" parents wanted to have the Pledge of Allegiance used only as as a topic taught in history class, in deference to the immigrant students, some of whom are undocumented. This angered her and her husband, and a huge blow-up happened on the parent email tree, apparently. She came pretty close to saying that the undocumented kids should just sit down and shut up as should the offending left-wingers. Has anyone heard a more...balanced account of this? She implied that the "left wingers" were trying to control the principal on this. I don't know any parents with kids there but I'd love to know more. --Betsy Ross


Good for the district; they are reporting that more than 500 people attended their Family and Community Engagement Symposium last Saturday.    Their account of it included some good photos. B.F. Day Elementary is redesigning its school playground and looking for input.  There will be a meeting on Tuesday, November 15th at 9:15 am with parents, staff and community to seek ideas.  Lowell APP students got very lucky with a visit from children's author (and member of the Decemberists), Colin Meloy.   What I thought was great is that he talked about the book, Wildwood, , did a Q&A and then asked them to imagine Discovery Park as a new setting for the book.  The kids came up with - what else? - Candy Country. 

Lemony Snickett's Take on Occupy Wall Street

Not to start an argument about financial institutions or who is 99% and who is 1% but one of my favorite children's authors, Lemony Snicket (A Series of Unfortunate Events), has written Thirteen Observations made by Lemony Snicket while watching Occupy Wall Street from a Discreet Distance .    (He is part of a group of writers who support the movement.) If your child is asking questions about this issue,  it might help you explain the whole thing in a manner they will understand.  (Or at least recognize if they have read his books.)

Will Silas Potter have his day in Court?

The Seattle Times is reporting that  King County prosecutors plan to file first degree felony theft charges against Silas Potter Jr. for his role in the recent school district financial scandal. Others may be charged as well. Mr. Potter has said that he was scapegoated and that people further up the org chart knew about everything he was doing. Given a chance in Court he might provide details about who knew about his activities.

Charter Schools; First in a Series - What They Are

 I plan to cover: what they are history  the landscape today pros and cons I do not intend for each piece to be an exhaustive and comprehensive white paper - I'm trying to give the broad picture of the issue.  If you have additional info or links, please add them in the comments section.   If I got something wrong, let me know via e-mail and I will check it and correct it if necessary.   Charters - What They Are Charter schools are K-12 schools that are public schools receiving state education dollars (although they can, like regular public schools, accept private donations).    The difference between regular and charter schools is that charters are do not have to follow all rules and regulations that apply to regular public schools.  In exchange for this freedom, the charter law in their state asks for some type of accountability measures and outcomes as set by the school’s charter.    However, they do have to meet the educational standards of the state or district

Aww, gee shucks, we're influential

The current issue of Seattle Magazine has an article on Seattle's Most Influential People of 2011 , and, well, we made the list. Here's the blurb: MELISSA WESTBROOK AND CHARLIE MAS  / bloggers, Save Seattle Schools Community blog   Tenacious, persistent and prescient: The bloggers behind one of Seattle’s feistiest public-interest websites ( have been called that, and more. Long before anyone was talking about a financial scandal in Seattle’s public schools, Melissa Westbrook and Charlie Mas were digging into public records, asking tough questions and firing off blog entries to keep the public informed. Many credit them with uncovering serious problems that ultimately led to superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson’s firing in March, but that’s not the duo’s proudest achievement. “What I see as our biggest success is that we have become a source used by parents, staff and community for Seattle schools’ news,” says Westbrook, a former PTA copresi


Ballots drop this week so look for yours in the mail.  What can you do?  Get out that e-mail list and bravely ask your friends, family and anyone else to give due consideration for the candidates of your choice for School Board.  I find that, like Port Commission, most people are lost on School Board candidates.  Tell your e-mail list who you are voting for and why and ask for their consideration for a vote.  Also to note, the Vote the Moms Facebook page .  Good place for updates on the School Board challengers. I receive the Washington State PTSA Council listservr and found quite a lively (and somewhat tense) back-and-forth over the PTSA support of charter legislation . Here's what the actual wording is (which surprised me): The Washington State PTA shall initiate and/or support legislation or policiesthat drive innovation and accountability in public education by allowing the operationof public charter schools in the state of Washington. The PTSA might write the legisl