Thursday, October 13, 2011

Seattle Times Keeps its Streak Intact

The Seattle Times continues their streak of bone-headed editorials about public education and Seattle Public Schools in particular.

The Times recommends Maier, Carr, Martin-Morris and Sundquist for Seattle School Board

They see the incumbents as providing "stable and consistent leadership". I am reminded of Chevy Chase on Weekend Update from the early days of Saturday Night Live. "General Francisco Franco has been dead for three months. Doctors say that his condition has stabilized."

They refer to Peter Maier as "a steady, thoughtful presence". Steady, yes. He has a perfect voting record. In four years he has never once voted against a staff recommendation. Thoughtful? Not so much.

They say that "Harium Martin Morris has earned another term in office." I guess he earned it by refusing to do any oversight whatsoever for the past four years.

The Seattle Times credits the current board for a lot of work that they didn't do, but it is silent on the fact that they did not do THEIR job.

They saved the most ironic statement for the close:
"Four years ago, when Seattle Public Schools faced a crisis in public confidence, voters rightly turned to Maier, Carr, Martin-Morris and Sundquist for professionalism and collective expertise in finance, law, technology and management.
They are part of a good leadership team. No need to go backward."
Seattle Public Schools was NOT in a crisis of public confidence four years ago. It was in a crisis of public confidence eight years ago after the Waldman board failed to oversee Joseph Olchefske. And the district is in another crisis of public confidence now as a direct result of the current board's failure to oversee Maria Goodloe-Johnson. We HAVE gone backward. As for leadership - this board has shown NONE.


Anonymous said...

There's a lot to hate about that editorial, but I had to laugh at the dueling claims that Martin-Morris is a hero for voting against our failed math curriculum, yet McLaren is a villain for opposing it.

Still voting for all four challengers.


Anonymous said...

I completely agree with a post on a recent thread that we all need to do more than just mark our own ballots; we need to actively spread the word about voting for the Board challengers.

I’m planning on going door-to-door in my neighborhood once ballots come out, but, having never done anything like that before, the task seems daunting (definitely out of my comfort zone). The most intimidating part for me is that, although I’m aware of many of the general issues (thanks to this blog), I have not been carefully tracking some of the details (e.g., exact voting records of incumbents, campaign funding sources, endorsements, candidates’ past experiences, changes in central office staffing, etc.).

Would some of the people who have been more intimately involved in district politics be willing to work together to create and post something like a “cheat sheet” that newbie “canvassers” like me could use?

I think it would be most helpful to have two documents, one designed for canvassers to use as a reference (comprehensive but succinct and well-organized; “strictly the facts”… with any opinions or commentary clearly delineated as such; ideally in bullet-point format) and one designed to be handed out to voters (1 page or less, graphically appealing).

Of course the abbreviated version handed to voters could be in modifiable form (i.e., word processing doc) so that individuals could alter as they saw fit (e.g., Carr-Martin race).

I know this is a big ask, but I wanted to throw it out there.


Echo-ko-ko Chamber-burr-burr said...

I love how hollow the defenses are for the incumbents. Only one of the incumbents gets any serious defense from online commenters on Publicola, mostly for demeanour and reserve, and the rest of the incumbents expect to ride to victory on: "we made decisions, we rubberstamped, we lost money and didn't report major issues, and looking back on our tenure we say we have not made any mistakes."

Times: "Isn't it enough that my Bellevue citizens' politics trump evidence-based and data-driven decision making for the betterment of the Seattle Public School communities? That is all you need. This interview is over. Good day sir."

Either the Times is not taking the School Board election seriously, or the editorialist knows that since 2000 Seattleites have been laughing at the endorsements and using them to wrap fish and line pet cages, so any combination of words that, strung together, looks convincingly like paragraphs would work.

mirmac1 said...

Perfect timing for house-breaking my new puppy....

dan dempsey said...

Excellent idea from Newbie,

“cheat sheet” that newbie “canvassers” like me could use?.


Please put a cheat sheet together and post it so that many newbies and old-bies could hit the streets.


RosieReader said...

I think the notion of "housebreaking a new puppy" is one to keep in mind if Martin somehow wins. All you folks who just love her 'feistiness,' her 'candor,' or what i would call her completely impolitic approach, her lack of concern for the ideas or opinions of those with whom she disagrees, and her overall rigidity will need to provide a steady supply of plastic bags to pick up the crap she leaves in her wake.

Charlie Mas said...

My focus continues to be the work. The incumbents running for re-election simply have not done the Board job.

The Board job has three primary duties: Governance, Oversight, and Representation.

Enforcing policy forms the core of governance work. The current board has not enforced policy - not ever. They don't even have a process for it. Worse, they don't want to do that work. In their recently adopted policies they try to delegate the work of enforcing policy to the superintendent. How smart is that when the superintendent is the person most regulated by the policies? They expect her to self-police. When has that ever worked?

Most of the board members, when asked directly, will acknowledge that they have a duty to enforce policy - they acknowledged that duty in their response to the state audit. But none of them has ever done it. Not one of them can name a single instance in which they took action to enforce a policy.

Let's be clear. They are able to enforce policy. They have the authority to enforce policy. They have the opportunity to enforce policy. They simply refuse to enforce policy. There's no cure for that.

They should be replaced because they refuse to do their job of governance.

(next: Oversight)

Charlie Mas said...

My focus continues to be the work. The incumbents running for re-election simply have not done the Board job.

The Board job has three primary duties: Governance, Oversight, and Representation.


The Board has a duty to oversee the management of the district. This Board, and the incumbents running for re-election in particular, have failed to do that job.

The Board members freely acknowledge that they provided almost no oversight before the disastrous audit of July 2010. They wrongly claim that there was no oversight system in place when they came into office. That isn't true. There was an oversight process, but it was Board-driven, not staff-driven. This Board just didn't drive it. Their bylaws (Board Policy B61.00) required them to demand an annual report from staff on every district program. They never did.

The Board now claims that ever since the audit they have really kicked it into gear setting a calendar for annual reviews of every district department. Really? That audit was 15 months ago. How many of these annual reviews have they done? Two. There's been a lot of talk, but not much action. It took them over a year to set the calendar for the annual reviews.

Let's be clear. They are able to conduct oversight. They have the authority to conduct oversight. They have the opportunity to conduct oversight. They simply refuse to conduct oversight. There's no cure for that.

They should be replaced because they refuse to do their job of management oversight.

(next: Representation)

Anonymous said...

The rubber-stamping of this board is akin to the stenography instead of journalism practiced in the corporate media.

It's campaign season, so let's get in on the labeling game, a la Sundquist's "single issue candidate vs governance" shall we?

The Gang of Four didn't just rubber stamp for staff; they Flubber Stamped. They (1) voted to close schools because of mythical declining enrollment, only to spend 13X the savings to reopen schools a year or two later, (2) voted in favor of math curriculum deemed "mathematically unsound" by the Superintendent of Public Instruction, (3) laid off elementary school counselors while supporting salary increases for people at JSCEE, (4) gave a raise and bonus to a Superintendent who only met 4 of 20 performance goals only to fire her less than a year later, and (5) voted for imported TFA teachers while we have a plethora of local highly qualified young teachers RIF'd in the past 2 years looking for jobs.

Honestly, do I need to go on? Time ro get rid of the Flubber-Stamping Gang of Four. WSDWG

Charlie Mas said...

My focus continues to be the work. The incumbents running for re-election simply have not done the Board job.

The Board job has three primary duties: Governance, Oversight, and Representation.

The Board has a duty to represent the public within the district. This Board, and the incumbents running for re-election in particular, have failed to do that job.

Before anything else, the School Board are the elected representatives of the public, but this Board has not spoken for the public. Worse, they have not allowed the public to speak for itself. A review of their motions will show how the vast majority of them were introduced and adopted without any meaningful public engagement at any point in the process. Never was the lack of community engagement ever an impediment to board approval. You almost never hear these incumbents make statements that begin "My constituents say..." or "My constituents want..." They did not enforce the community engagement commitments written into the Strategic Plan.

Their own community engagement is atrocious. Their primary community engagement is Public Testimony at Board meetings. They allow a maximum of forty people a month to speak to them for a maximum of three minutes each. These people come to the headquarters building - taking time from their jobs, their families, their dinners - spending hours for the opportunity to have the Board's attention for three minutes. And what do they get? Nothing. The Board does not respond to them. Not at the meeting. Not after the meeting. Not at all. There are a maximum of forty speakers a month. Assuming twenty working days a month (not counting weekends or holidays) they could respond to every person who testifies by writing two emails a day. Is that too much to ask? If they got together and shared the work then each of them would only have to respond to six a month - one every five days. Is that too great a burden?

The Board likes to talk about how much they value community engagement, but look at what they have actually done, not what they say. Actions speak louder than words. They might point at their community meetings, but that is just one Board Director at a time. What are people supposed to do - go to seven Saturday morning meetings? And what about issues that are introduced and voted on between monthly meetings?

Let's be clear. They are able to conduct and support community engagement. They have the authority to conduct and support community engagement. They have the opportunity to conduct and support community engagement. They simply refuse to conduct or support community engagement. There's no cure for that.

They should be replaced because they refuse to do their job of representing the electorate.

Anonymous said...

"Don't dwell on the past," says the Times, even while incumbents tout their experience.


Of course we wouldn't want to look at the past, because the best predictor of FUTURE behavior is....(any Freudian's out there?)......PAST BEHAVIOR!


Yes, Times, of course, don't look back. Move along now...Nothing to see there...


Anonymous said...

"The current board has not enforced policy - not ever."

I don’t believe it is quite as black and white as Charlie makes it out to be.

"Not ever." Really? The Policy says that the board would have committees - they do. The firing of a superintendent and CFOO are not considered enforcing? The Policy says The Policy says a balanced budget is done annually - they do.

There are definitely areas where policies are CLEARLY not enforced. However, I don’t believe that the number of times things are not enforced is more than the times that they are. Although, I am curious to see if anyone has an OBJECTIVE tally of this.

Haven't you heard about the budget challenges across the nation? It seems rather idealistic to have NO room for error wherein a Board who are mostly volunteers, management who are struggling to keep afloat, schools who are challenged in all direction to not make mistakes. The most valuable asset the District and our community have is our people. At the same time, they are just that, “people” who are prone to making mistakes and exercising bad judgments.

I wonder why we change our tune when we hit an arbitrary age called adulthood. Child, it’s ok to make mistakes and fall, I’ll help you up. Board, Superintendent, and the rest of you lazy sloths, it’s not ok to make mistakes. If you do, you are gone; I won’t vote for you; you deserve to be fired! Child, make sure you do not get into debt. Joe, to be a man, you need to have an education, house, a car, etc. etc. and by the way, it’s ok to leverage yourself up to 30% to pay for these things. I wonder if our societal value system is playing its way into how we view the District.

An effective technique to marshal support is to demonize someone or something by making it appear to be a simple case of wrong or right, black or white. However, history shows us that this technique was used over and over again by individuals who we may not want to associate with.

I admire Charlie’s and the co-bloggers contribution as steadfast watchdogs and their tireless efforts to make things better for our kids. However, rarely are situations simply black and white.

A Friend of Seattle

ps. With regards to representation, take a look at the family surveys with regards to overall satisfaction of education. I see that the majority are in favor.

Anonymous said...

A Friend: Do the surveys you cite reveal satisfaction with the school, staff and teachers, or with central administration staff and leaders, including the board?

Most parents love their local schools in the district, and want to keep them free of central administration meddling, state and federal mandates, etc. Of late, more and more requirements, data collection, standardized testing, etc., is being dumped on schools, which in turn, have to narrow offerings and curriculum displaced by dubious standardization and alignment measures. WSDWG

Anonymous said...

@WSDWG - It's one system! One can't blame the board/central administration for the bad and yet not give them credit for the good. If parents are satisfied with their schools/staff, some credit is due to the system that put it place whether it is the existing administration or their predecessors. Again, it is not black and white. It is not schools vs. central/board. It is not parents vs. the District. It is one system; a community!

A friend of Seattle

Charlie Mas said...

A Friend of Seattle asked:
"'Not ever.' Really?"

Yes, really. Not ever.

Which is not to say that the Board or the staff never follow policy. Many policies are followed.

Enforcing policy means stepping forward when policies are violated and taking action to assure compliance. This Board has never done that.

The Board has known about violated policies. In response they have taken no action. Not ever. Go ahead. Contact them and tell them about a policy that is being violated. They won't do anything about it. They don't think they should. Or they are too timid. Or they think it's someone else's job.

Firing the superintendent is not policy enforcement.

Yes, I have an objective tally. The count is zero. Doubt it? Ask any board member to describe a time when they enforced policy. They have no examples. They have never done it.

Let's be clear. The Board has made mistakes. I don't have a big problem with that. I'm not saying that they are doing their jobs badly (although they are). I'm saying that they are refusing to do their jobs at all. That's not a mistake. They are intentionally choosing to not perform their duties. That's not a mistake. That's intentional.

I agree that situations are rarely black and white. This one is. It is a rare case. Can you think of another situation in which public officials have refused to peform the duties of their office?

The general satisfaction of the community with their children's schools and teachers is not - in any way - evidence that the School Board has served as advocates for the public perspective within the district. I have no idea how those two divergent ideas can be connected - let alone evidence of each other.

Anonymous said...

Ok, you are right Friend. It isn't black or white. We are all human and imperfect and we make mistakes. No one is going to disagree with you. However, despite all our individual flaws and failures, you can still demand accountability. My 8 and 14 year olds know that. I forgive them for their mistakes, but I expect them to learn and do better, not continue to reoffend. So do their teachers and I expect later on, society ('cause I know our judiciary system isn't gointg to buy the flawed human as an excuse). I expect the same from my school board members who are not 8 and 14. Kudos to them for volunteering for the jobs. If I had my way, I would wish them all fond farewell with thanks and best wishes, but the voters will decide.

Seattle mom

Charlie Mas said...

A friend of Seattle,

No, it is not one system.

You may like your car, but that doesn't mean that every part of it works properly. Isn't your car all one system?

Anonymous said...


Our philosophical difference is noted. I'll leave it at that.

A friend of Seattle

Anonymous said...

It's one system; a community? If only that were the case. Instead Central Admin pits groups against each other, over and over again, in a zero-sum-game model, because blaming other people for what you can't fix is always easier than taking hard steps to fix vexing problems. WSDWG

Anonymous said...

“Enforcing policy means stepping forward when policies are violated and taking action to assure compliance.”

I would also include preventive means in the definition of enforcing policies.

Several examples of policy enforcement:

1)I’ve witnessed the Board openly asked the general counsel’s advice on procedural matters to stay compliant during a board meeting. This is a form of self enforcement.
2)I read in this blog about TFA and how the board intro’d but delayed action because Susan Enfield did not produce the donors’ names. This is a form of enforcing the notion that staff cannot just ignore the Board’s request.
3)I’ve witnessed the Board fire a Superintendent and CFOO. This is a form of enforcement of non-compliance to policies and procedures.
4)I’ve witnessed the Board weigh in on staffing and resource allocation during budget development to prevent possible problems.

In addition,
5)I’ve witnessed each Board members weigh in on the creation and revision of policies. This is a form of enforcement, though preventive.
6)I’ve witnessed each Board member refer to a specific policy when guiding staff on their work. This is a form of enforcement.

I don’t profess to follow the District’s affairs in detail as some; however, I have witnessed for myself that each board member shape policies with input from the community (although, I don’t know what adequate or too much community engagement means!), use their policies to guide their and staffs’ work (room for improvement, sure!), the firing of the highest ranking employee (MGJ), and self govern themselves to follow procedural norms.

Is this not governance (eg. Policy enforcement)?

Mind you, in comparing K-12 Districts with other government agencies where police departments, prosecutors office, army of internal audits and paid board members exist, I find that our Board does an adequate job for what they have and leverage off our communities to get things done collaboratively (this doesn't mean make everyone happy!)

Shall we discuss about how to help our District (1 system: Board/Administrators/Principals/Teachers/Students/Families/Community Partners) or should we concede to the state of how our districts are organized (295 districts, really!!), the funding environment, the apathy of voters and the state of our communities leaving us too tired to think about Washington State and instead worry about our little District….no our little region….no our little school….no our child(ren).

I agree -- there is a better answer! I wonder though whether this conversation is the right one to have in seeking that elusive better answer.

A Friend of Seattle

Ps. Charlie – thank you, sincerely. I have not been inspired in a while.

Melissa Westbrook said...

It seems rather idealistic to have NO room for error wherein a Board who are mostly volunteers..."

Don't run for office if you can't accept this. Every single person who runs for School Board knows it's the toughest job in town and barely paid. I do not accept that as an excuse for not paying attention.

These are not errors or mistakes; they are judgments that cost our district time, resources and public goodwill.

The surveys ALWAYS favor the schools. Ask about the district (which they rarely or barely) do and you'd see different outcomes. It's like legislators - everyone likes theirs but hates Congress.

My always deep and abiding sorrow is that we have to spend so much time on these scandals and oversights and judgments that we virtually never get to talk about academics. New programs that would serve more kids. Ways of getting more parents involved.

It's always crisis management in this district. It needs to stop.

Anonymous said...

@Melissa - Have you ever thought that perhaps there is a plan but the timinig may not coincide with yours and that you may be contributing to the disruption and thereby wasting the little resources the District have? This isn't an attack, I'm sincere in asking because my observiation is that the "watchdog" activity is causing both positive but also negative contribution to how the District is trying to accomplish it's mission.

I've spoken to many parents and families and they seem to be fine. Are they oblivious....perhaps, but they seem to be happy about their child and their school. Is the bus late...yes, sometimes, are lunches mediocre...yes. But overall, they seem to be happy.

Perhaps, one should ask, how can I help instead of blasting this or that person? Perhaps intimidation (yes, I see what you do as intimidation wherein you write in public about a persons decision) doesn't create a safe environment for collaboration and in the end it wastes a lot of time and energey. How would you like it if someone wrote in public how you raise your child or how you make your decisions without them perhaps fully comprehending the situation.

A friend of Seattle

Melissa Westbrook said...

...the timinig may not coincide with yours..."

What does this mean? It's wrong to expect timely information?

Me? Intimidating? Have you seen me? I don't scare anyone.

"How would you like it if someone wrote in public how you raise your child or how you make your decisions without them perhaps fully comprehending the situation."

I have NEVER, EVER criticized anyone's raising of their child. Show me where that was said. You won't find it.

These are elected officials we are speaking of. These are highly paid education experts we are speaking of. I have give praise as well as criticism. But if you believe this is how other districts run, really go ask Bellevue or Lake Washington if they have a scandal going every couple of years? Poor audit reports? Closing and opening schools randomly? They do not.

Anonymous said...

Actually Friend, it is parents writing in about food and bus, not necessarily Melissa or Charlie. I think in a republic, we can handle these "complaints" and use a bit of sense to figure out how to devote our resource, time and energy to deal with smaller vs. bigger issues such as capacity planning, school closures, sale of SPS's properties, curriculum instruction, etc. As for intimidation, I've been spanked a few times by posters here (including Melissa) with my views on charters, but hey I can agree to disagree. The jobs of Superintendant and school board members come with great responsibility and power (including the power not to act or cede to others who can and will). As such, I would hope they are people capable of handling "intimidating" criticism and complaints from parents (especially as they are so fond of using the Delphi techniques in community engagement).

Seattle mom

Anonymous said...

As a parent, I don't want to dismiss the panic or fear of parents during those 1st days of school waiting at a bus stop for an hour with no signs of the bus or their kindergartener and can't get through to transportation as little stuff. As long as everything works out and the kids come home safe, it is little stuff, but those minutes waiting..... boy oh boy, they are dreadful! Life can thrill and intimidate in many ways, but with a bit of moxie, hard work, optimism,and perspective, it is still the best rollercoaster I've been on.

Seattle mom

seattle citizen said...

"Life can thrill and intimidate in many ways, but with a bit of moxie, hard work, optimism,and perspective, it is still the best rollercoaster I've been on."


and WV says life is verefl.

dan dempsey said...


Although the crisis of confidence in the SPS is large, it is dwarfed by the crisis of confidence in the Seattle Times.

Anonymous said...

Well, isn't that interesting? Peter Maier just loaned his campaign $15,000.


Anonymous said...

In my view, The Times is being willfully naive. What appears to be going on in public is not what is going on behind the scenes.

Back in March, a sitting Board director contacted me by email and asked to meet with me. When I met up with the director, I learned that the director wanted me to recruit a candidate to run against Peter Maier. In short, the director found Peter Maier to be, contrary to his campaign pitch, insufferable behind the scenes and difficult to work with.

I have had many a chat with Peter Maier over the years, and I, too, have found him to be insufferable at times. That doesn't mean he's a bad person. It just means that, well, he's insufferable at times.

Here is an example of Peter Maier in action. The Sunday before Martin Floe was rehired, Peter called me at home because I had sent a resolution to him on behalf of Ingraham staff. We had a cordial conversation. However, one thing he said has always stayed with me. He'd heard about Sherry Carr's meeting at which maybe 75 people had showed up to talk about the firing of Martin Floe. Peter's community meeting was coming up next weekend, and he told me that didn't need all those people to show up to his meeting. I laughed. I told him that I don't control other people, and I wouldn't dream of asking them not to attend a community meeting.

This is the Peter Maier I know.

Anonymous said...

That's me above.


Anonymous said...

I read with interest the comments made in response to A Friend above. I take away from some that we should not tolerate mistakes made by Board members and hold them extremely accountable. If Kate wins I will be watching closely and will look to see, if indeed she makes a mistake, whether the same members of this blog community have a similarly zero-tolerance approach.

Be Careful What You Wish For

Kathy said...

The Stranger gets it correct.


Anonymous said...

"Perhaps intimidation (yes, I see what you do as intimidation wherein you write in public about a persons decision) doesn't create a safe environment for collaboration and in the end it wastes a lot of time and energey."


Seriously, Friend of Seattle? Melissa is a journalist and it's a journalist's job and/or calling to write in public about people's decisions. "Creating a safe environment for collaboration" isn't exactly the Blogger's Creed, y'know.

I did, however, enjoy the unlikely appearance of "wherein."


Anonymous said...

All I want is a board and central staff that does things FOR us, instead of TO us. That's all. WSDWG

Meg said...

I expect new board members to make mistakes. I am not surprised that the incumbents have made mistakes, nor do I hold every mistake against them.

But many of incumbents' mistakes are caused by the same root problem: a lack of oversight.

I have heard, again and again, the current incumbents speak of their trust and faith in the work of district staff, even when there is clear evidence that the staff work itself is deeply flawed, poorly considered or straight-up craptastic.

The one-off mistakes of the incumbents are not what I hold against them.

But most of them talk about learning from their mistakes while exhibiting zero change. I hold that against them.

I absolutely hold it against Steve Sundquist that at a budget workshop in early February 2011 - when he knew about Pottergate - he instructed his fellow board members to ask "clarifying" questions only because of the short time they had to work with. I was shocked then, not even knowing about the brewing scandal. Afterwards, I was revolted that someone would actively seek to impede oversight. Did he make a mistake? Sure. But he made this particular mistake at a point when he sure as hell should have known better, and he used his position as board president to discourage his colleagues from performing their duties. Repeats of the same kind of mistake are hard to ignore.

Is it possible that the challengers, if elected, will over-scrutinize and possibly micromanage? Yes. Will they make mistakes? Yes. Will I agree with them on all their votes? I'll eat my most expensive pair of fancy shoes if that turns out to be the case.

I am not voting for perfect. I am voting for better.

Kathy said...

I can vouch for Meg's statement regarding S. Sundquist; I was there.

Unknown to the public at the time, there was an ongoing criminal investigation going on within the walls of the John Stanford Center regarding the Silas Potter scandal.
Sundquist felt it necessary to lecture his fellow board members to "accept" the district's budget proposal-"because they worked hard". Where is the oversight?

If there is an ongoing criminal investigation going on within the walls of the John Stanford Center, I expect the directors to be all eyes and ears. "Accepting"- without questioning a $577M budget is beyond niave...and I don't care about his Municipal League ratiing.

Charlie Mas said...

@ A friend of Seattle,

I didn't note a philosophical difference. I noted objective facts.

Charlie Mas said...

"I would also include preventive means in the definition of enforcing policies."

I would not.

I'm not looking for them to perform their role as legislators. I'm looking for them to perform their role as police.

RosieReader said...

DWE, I would interpret Peter's comment to you to mean that he was hoping the problem would be resolved before his meeting came up. You interpreted it differently.

Reminds me of my college philosophy course in deconstructionism. We both say "tree," and completely different images pop into our minds.

Darn human beings. Why can't we all just think alike.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I think if Peter meant he hoped the issue would be resolved by then, he would have stated that. He didn't.

dan dempsey said...

Peter and Steve Sundquist have repeatedly ignored evidence sent to them. They do not inquire or weigh it.
They neglect it.

If you need another example beyond math Adoptions and $800,000 New Tech Network contract ... see their repeated failure to even acknowledge the question: When was the WAC required careful review of all options to close the achievement gaps performed?

Here is the link to thinking about an appeal on the TfA Board action.

Anonymous said...


It's interesting that you offer an interpretation of a conversation you didn't hear. That is revealing.

We had been talking about the crowd at Sherry Carr's meeting. What Peter didn't want was a similar crowd, something that became clear as we talked. His fear of a crowd led him to suggest that I tell other people not to show up at his community meeting. I told him that I did not control other people and I wouldn't dream of asking them not to attend a community meeting. His response that he understood what I was saying indicated that I had not misinterpreted him. Indeed, his response clarified that he was afraid of a crowd.

It's also consistent with his behavior at the one community meeting of his that I showed up at. I believe there were four or five of us in attendance. He became flustered with just that small gathering. I can only imagine what he would have been like with seventy-five.

RosieReader, I wonder if you're having a hard time swallowing that Peter Maier, in a weak moment, couldn't handle the idea of dealing with the Ingraham community. I would like you to reconsider your support of Peter Maier. You're asking us to reconsider our support of Kate Martin; I'd like you to be intellectually honest enough to ask yourself whether Peter Maier really would represent Ingraham and the SSD better than Sharon Peaslee.


RosieReader said...

DWE. I certainly would rethink my support of Peter. Indeed I have. To me, he is a far better alternative to his challenger. To me, she comes across as an opportunist with lots of nice phrases, and no good ideas And I don't trust her. I will not say anything more on this blog about her.

Peter has been true to his word with me. He was very open and responsive to me during the Ingraham and other situations. He was very helpful in getting the law passed that allows an IB diploma to satisfy the requirements of a Washington State diploma. Nope, he's not perfect. But to my mind, he's far far better than the alternative.

Anonymous said...


This is the first time I've heard you say anything positive about Peter Maier.

I know both individuals in this race. I have direct experience with both. You are entitled to your judgment of Sharon Peaslee, but it is, in my opinion, poor judgment.

All things considered, I trust her character more than Peter Maier's. With regard to ideas, I find Sharon Peaslee to be much more open to a variety of points of view than Peter Maier. I have had many a chat with him, and I finally gave up on him because I couldn't think of a single instance in which he took seriously anything I said.

With regard to the IB diploma bill, I had a small part to play in that effort, and I, as you, know some of the people more directly involved. It is news to me that Peter Maier had anything to do with that bill. Perhaps he was "helpful." So was I. So were Heidi Bennett and Janis Traven. It was, as with all successful political efforts, a group effort. If Peter Maier did his part, bully for him. But "helpful" is not exactly sufficient reason to support him.

Finally, Peter Maier was completely useless when it came to responding to our concerns about understaffing at Ingraham. When a teacher comes in with good data and makes a case that staffing should be a concern, the politic thing to do is to listen, consider, do a little investigation, and get back to him. It's not to dismiss his concerns.

Yet, for all that, I see Peter Maier's humanity, for which I feel respect and compassion, just as I feel respect and compassion for Sharon Peaslee's humanity. I am making a political choice based on where I think our interests--the interests of our children, our schools, our teachers, our district, our Great American Public Education system--lie.

I come from a political family. I did my first solo doorbelling for a Congressional candidate when I was nine. As a long-time member of the 36th District Democrats, I don't get angry with people I disagree with. One day you're on the opposite side, the next day you're on the same side. When this is over, I plan to have a coffee with those who debated me in the 36th. I really do think that in the long run we'll accomplish more by figuring out how we can work together for the common good.



RosieReader said...

DWE--your last paragraph, I could't agree more strongly. We all need to talk to people we disagree with. That's the primary reason I stick with this blog. I benefit from hearing from people I disagree with. If nothing else, I hone my arguments. At best, my perspective is broadened.

Kathy said...


At one point, I too was a fan of Peter Maier. At one point, I too believed Peter Maier.

Then, I attended all of the district's budget and Strategic Initiative meetings. I watched the manner in which Peter acted in committee meetings, and the manner he acted with his consitutents. I became concerned about Peter. I know you realize I was unahppy with Peter; I asked you to run against him. :)

I observed Peter mislead the 36th Legislative District during his endorsement interview.

Administration had been running at 9% of the operating budget (not 6%seen throughout Washington) Early in the budget process, a director asked for $12M to be taken out of administration. The district came back with a proposal to eliminate $8M from administration- while proposing to eliminate elementary school counselors and per pupil funding. Peter, without hesitation, voted YES. Peter believes in top heavy governance, testing, research and data etc. and funds accordingly..even if it means eliminating classroom supports.

Before the 36th LD endorsement interview, the district informed directors there would be MORE state cuts.

Peter's interview with the 36th LD took place in May (after elementary counselors were eliminated from the funding formula.. after Peter voted to keep dollars in administration over classrooms and after Peter knew there would be more state cuts)

The 36th LD Executive Committee asked if Peter would support Research, Evaluation and Assessment over elementary school counselors. Peter hemmed and hawed..stated he didn't know what the legislature would do...he didn't admit the counselors were already eliminated from the funding formula. He didn't want to admit Research, Evaluation and Assessment continues to get funded at $3M per year while eliminating classroom supports. You don't need to take my word; his interview is on tape.

So, be careful when giving your trust to Peter.

I've had the opportunity to get to know Sharon. Sharon is not opportunistic, rather someone that cares deeply about education and community input. Peter gives an ear, but does what-ever he wants.

suep. said...

I'm adapting and re-posting this from another thread (http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2011/10/maiers-campaign-looking-for-more-money.html) because it seems relevant here.

I don't find Maier particularly sincere. He says one thing and does another.

As school board director, I've never witnessed him think for himself. His votes as a board member have all been in lockstep with Goodloe-Johnson and now Enfield's agenda.

He is apparently a consumer protection lawyer. But when has he ever protected the 'consumers' of SPS? -- Our kids, our families, taxpayer money? When has he voted rationally to protect the limited resources of our children's school district?

Instead, he voted for costly and ill-advised school closures and splits, many of which had to be undone due to growing enrollment in the district and bad planning. Just 8 months later that same year (2009), the district announced it needed to reopen 5 schools at a cost of $48 million! That bad judgment and fiasco alone should be enough to give the incumbents who voted for Goodloe-Johnson's "Capacity Management Plan" their walking papers.

He has claimed that the enrollment growth in SPS only started 2 years ago -- after he voted to close schools. That's not true. I can't tell whether he is being disingenuous or just plain clueless. Neither are traits I want in a school board representative.

At the school board meeting this past March where former Supt. Goodloe Johnson and CFO Don Kennedy were fired in the wake of the 'Pottergate' scandal, Maier admitted that he had been given a copy of the Sutor report back in 2009, which found financial misdealings in the Regional Small Business Development Program (the Silas Potter fraud affair that ultimately lost the district $1.8 million). Yet he did nothing with the information. He apparently didn’t even share it with his colleagues on the board. Why not? (http://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/the-superintendents-send-off/)

He voted to give Goodloe-Johnson pay raises, a bonus when she met only 4 out of 17 performance goals, and voted to extend her contract twice -- even after the state audit found the district mismanaged on her watch, and cited her for an ethics breach (for being on the board of the MAP test manufacturer, NWEA, and not revealing this conflict, as required).

He voted to sell MLK Elementary to the lowest bidder.

He voted for Discovering Math. --How hypocritical of him to now criticize EDM and CMP -- the elementary and middle school versions of the high school text he voted for.

He voted for Teach for America, Inc. novices with only 5 weeks of training to teach in our schools and at an added cost to our cash-strapped district of $4,000 per year per recruit hired. The contract between TFA, Inc. and SPS was terribly one-sided and put all liability on SPS and next to none on TFA, Inc. Why didn't Maier the consumer protection lawyer speak up about that?


suep. said...

[more here]

Maier has approved the costly and unnecessary MAP test every step of the way, and didn't speak up about the ethical issues and conflict of interest of then-Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson being on the board of directors of the MAP test vendor (NWEA) at the time SPS purchased it. (The state auditor finally cited her for this and she had to step down from NWEA -- almost a year after some of us had alerted the board to this matter.)

His judgment has been consistently poor.

When I watch him at school board meetings, I am reminded of the Dormouse at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party -- asleep.

Sorry, but he must have some kind of intelligence somewhere, so why hasn't he applied it towards better decisions and votes for our kids and our district?

At the Stranger candidate forum, he indicated that what he HAS been doing these past 4 years is writing and lobbying for levies. Is that what we want in a a school board member?

It's utterly baffling. He has not made the case for 4 more years of him at all. No wonder he needs TV ads.

I'm not just voting against Peter Maier. I am voting for Sharon Peaslee. I am convinced she will bring engagement, intelligence, oversight and community connection to the job of school board director that has been AWOL on Maier's watch.

We definitely need new energy, new vision and a solid sense of fiscal responsibility on the board.

It's not surprising that Sharon's getting all those significant endorsements.


Here's just a few:

King County Democrats
Seattle Education Association (teachers union)
36th Legislative District
43rd Legislative District
34th Legislative District
37th Legislative District

RosieReader said...

Kathy and suep - you both provide information that has led you to conclude that you cannot support Peter. That's only half of the inquiry. Even assuming I agreed with all your reasons ( which I do not) I would only vote against Peter if I ELT the alternative was better. I understand some folks will vote for "anyone else" and while that's a perfectly valid way to reach a decision, it's not mine.

To vote for the opponent, I would have to believe she would do better. To assess that, I carefullybread her website, press reports in the Seattle Times, the stranger, this blog, etc. I also brought to bear my own experience serving on the Board of a large area non-profit. Then I speculated about the skills needed beyond that, that is, to govern effectively in a political entity. I saw nothing that suggested an ability to do that, and much that suggested she would not succeed. So I concluded that, ,while he's not perfect, Peter represents the better choice.

It has been clear that most folks who frequent this blog disagree with me, and I saw no chance that I might change any minds. So I've never gotten involved as a "pro-Peter" voice until now. I did perceive that support here for Kate Martin is weaker, so I felt comfortable chiming in on that front a week or so ago.

And not that anyone cares, but when I go through the analysis on Sundquist/McClaren, I began to think she could serve reasonably well, and so am likely to vote for her.

So that's me. I get that I'm a minority voice on this blog. But lots of recent research says that when we only listen to folks who think like us, we get more extreme in our own opinions. So I try to get a variety of perspectives, to avoid falling too deeply into that trap myself.

suep. said...

RosieReader, you should of course vote how you see fit. I'd just like to clarify that this blog is not the only forum where I exchange and consider ideas. So it would be incorrect to assume that commenters like myself don't communicate with various other people with various points of view in other venues. As I commented recently, I sat next to Peter Maier for two hours at a meeting this past summer and chatted with him. I really enjoyed that opportunity and it was very civil. I tried to understand where he was coming from and how he views his role on the board and where he gets his information. I found it pretty insightful (but am still baffled by his strange response to my follow-up email the next day).

Not all my friends are voting exactly like me. That's okay.

Anyway, this blog is just one source of information and communication. It is not a mind-meld club as some critics like to make it out to be. That would be boring. --Besides, that club is the current school board...! (Sorry -- couldn't resist!)

Anonymous said...

What happened in the 36th District is fascinating--at least to me. I attended almost all of the Board interviews, though I slept through much of Martin-Morris'. I also attended the Board deliberations and the membership meeting.

Why didn't Peter Maier win the endorsement of his home district? After all, Sharon Peaslee had no experience whatsoever with the 36th until this summer. Peter Maier's ties to the 36th are long and deep. He's received endorsements from the entire legislative delegation as well as Tim Burgess. How is it that he couldn't muster the votes to defeat newcomer Sharon Peaslee?

The short answer is: Sharon Peaslee's supporters were more committed than Peter Maier's supporters. Peaslee's supporters did a better job of persuading the Board, which voted in excess of 2/3 to recommend her endorsement. And at the membership meeting, Peaslee's supporters were better prepared and organized. Finally, for some inexplicable reason, Peter Maier was unable to turn out his supporters. I can think of five prominent supporters who, for reasons I don't understand, didn't show and who would have turned the 26-23 vote in his favor.

Now suppose I'm right about this. The next question is: why? Why, at least in the 36th, are we Sharon Peaslee supporters more committed than the host of Peter Maier supporters?

My three favorite words in the English language: I don't know.


Anonymous said...

I want to address the question of the Board functioning as a political and governance entity. I have experience on Boards for three organizations, though nothing as impressive as the Seattle School board. Still, some of my experience might be relevant.

First, I'm skeptical of the view that the Board, in its current configuration, is a perfectly functioning team. I doubt that any Board can ever be perfectly functioning. There are often tensions and personality conflicts, and sometimes there are factions.

For instance, Betty Patu has been effectively marginalized. According to what I've heard, there are tensions between a majority faction (Maier, Carr, Martin-Morris, and Sundquist) and a minority faction (Smith-Blum and Patu). I've heard that Peter Maier can be difficult to work with. I've also inferred the same about Martin-Morris.

My conversations with Michael DeBell have led me to believe that he seeks to be a consensus-builder. I don't think he will change if the constitution of the Board changes. However, the balance of power will certainly change if only one challenger wins.

For example, if Buetow wins, she will instantly form an alliance with Smith-Blum, with whom she has an acquaintance. If only Buetow wins, then Michael DeBell's role will become more important. He'll serve as the Anthony Kennedy between the two factions. However, I believe that the Board will function more smoothly if at least a second challenger wins.

I've spent enough time with Sharon Peaslee in planning meetings to believe that she works well with others. She has social skills that her opponent lacks. In addition, I've seen her interact with Marty McLaren, and I would guess that they would be a good match. Marty McLaren, whose quiet personality reminds me, too, of Michael DeBell (I think Melissa has made the same observation), would work well with a newly constituted Board.

I can see a new Board with Kay Smith-Blum, Betty Patu and Michelle Buetow working well with either Sharon Peaslee or Marty McLaren or both. I would be happy with either Sunquist or Maier losing, though I think the latter has the least to offer in terms of social skills.

Michael DeBell, in whatever configuration, will continue to seek to be a consensus builder.

Right now I see the race as unpredictable. Too much could happen between now and election day. I would be surprised and disappointed to see all the incumbents win. I'm a little skeptical that all the challengers will win. Any combination of two among Peaslee, McLaren, and Buetow would improve the Board considerably.

Finally, from a campaign point of view, Kate Martin needs to persuade the voters that she would work well with other Board directors. Personally, I've enjoyed my interactions with her. I appreciate her sense of humor and her willingness to listen to suggestions and criticism. However, from a campaign point of view, she has to persuade others enough to place confidence in her.