Thursday, October 20, 2011

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 Peter Maier and Steve Sundquist.

Steve has consistently - without mentioning Marty McLaren's name - said that activist, one-issue candidates are not what is needed.  He'd be right except that I don't believe any of the challengers is a one-note candidate.  That Marty and Sharon have special expertise in math issues doesn't mean they don't care about anything else (or that would be all they would spend their time on).  Both have given credible answers to questions on other issues.  But okay, that's a time-honored classic "paint your opponent" tactic. 

But what is worse is Steve continually trots out this story of how dysfunctional and/or chaotic the previous Board was and how this Board came in and cleaned up Dodge.  Nonsense, of course.  Steve (and Sherry) like to say there were no processes in place and that's why it was a mess.   There were (and are) Board policies but there was a bare minimum of enforcement (then and now).  That we have more processes now around financial issues is because of the horrible audit we had in June 2010 that specifically called out THIS Board's lack of oversight.

Then, at Tuesday night's forum, Peter explains how he is the legislative rep for the Board and that's been part of his work.  Great but then he goes on to say during the last Board's tenure, how the district's lobbyist was told by legislators NOT to bring School Board members to Olympia.  I was pretty disgusted.   I have asked Peter to name names since he feels it is so important that the public know about this.  

Look, who are these guys running against, the previous Board or their challengers?

This district was no more a train wreck when they came in than it is now (not by my measure).  The previous Board was loud and proud - that is true.  But they were also bookended by two Boards (this one and the Olchefske one) who BOTH had financial scandals and superintendents they had to exit.  So the name-calling and finger-pointing at past boards seems wrong and unseemly (not to mention a tad desperate).

Here's a bit of what I wrote to the entire Board today:

I want to gently point out that someday - either by your own decision or the vote of the people of Seattle - you will ALL be former School Board directors. 

Now I'm sure you won't want anyone to whitewash what happened during your tenure nor to be tarred for just one thing that occurred during your tenure.   AND you especially would not like it if the NEXT Board continually bad-mouthed the work of the entire Board you served with. 

The shoe will be on the other foot someday; think of how you would feel.  

I know in campaigns you reach for all the tools you have on your belt.  But let's not use them below the belt against people who aren't even in the race.


Anonymous said...

my recollection is that the previous board had a stronger social justice orientation and cared more about the achievement gap.

I will be particularly excited if Steve Sundquist gets the boot. The way he acts as a board director makes me sick.

Peter needs to go too but doesnt bring on quite the level of disgust.

I was at the town hall debate and was most impressed with Marty McLaren out of all who are running. I hope she kicks Steve's ass in the election.


dan dempsey said...

Holy Cow the Spammer swallowed my comment.

Charlie Mas said...

There WAS an oversight system in place when this board was elected. It was amply described in Board Policy B61.00.

That system, however, was Board-driven, not staff-driven. The previous Board drove it. The current Board did not. They failed to do their job and lay the blame on the absence of a system that directed the staff to do the Board's job for them. Pathetic.

Also, as Mel has noted, that Board cleaned up a financial scandal and restored the public's trust in the District. This Board oversaw a financial scandal and, as they have acknowledged, LOST the public's trust.

Po3 said...

Ironic that everytime Steve mentions the one-issue math activist I am reminded once again who I am voting for. The adopted math under this current board is an excellent example of how badly they did their jobs!

So again, Steve thanks for the reminder why I am voting you off the island.

Anonymous said...

for Spin-a-Second-Sundquist, what is he going to do? run on his record of appeasement to all that is great from gates?

given the importance of back stabbing and spinning in american management, and Steve's proven track record, should it be a surprise that Spin-a-Second-Steve excels at lying about Ms. Mclaren?

look over there!

Christina said...

Maybe Sundquist and Maier can run on the support Bank of America and Comcast among others have given, as the recipient of Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE) contributions [ref. Public Disclosure Commission]. Management of a financial institution that attempts foreclosure on houses without mortgages can identify with board directors who fail to provide proper fiscal oversight yet are approved by business executives.

Bank of America's post-bailout actions suggest it is circling the drain, and the locals' actions (280% increase in new accounts for the largest credit union in Washington state) suggest that what's good for Bank of America might not be good for them.

Funny how in both cases of the Seattle School Board and Bank of America, "cleaning up" rarely involves indictment or removal of senior management before raises and bonuses are given out.

Anonymous said...

Steve and Peter are two guys who can't admit they were wrong, blaming "changing conditions" or saying "mistakes were made." Ownership, gentlemen? Accountability?

This is no different than a criminal defendant saying "I'm sorry for what happened" instead of "I'm sorry for what I did."

I guess it's just a personality defect, or the fear of showing people that you're a regular human being, rather than a whiz-kid who's never wrong.

Either way, I'm tired of the media-trained, political-consultant trained responses from both of them, as well as the attempted smack-downs against their opponents for their supposed lack of management or governance experience.

When did repeated rubber-stamping of bad decisions constitute worthy "experience" anyways? WSDWG

Anonymous said...

And, btw, when will either Steve or Peter apologize to all the students and families they displaced and harmed as a result of their bad decisions?

While I'm sure they didn't mean any harm, they caused a lot of it. The very least they could do is say they're sorry to all the people they hurt.

But like Steve said the other night, he "makes a decision and moves on." So, I don't expect any apologies to the families and kids squished against the walls of all the West Seattle North schools, or to the Cooper kids and families devastated and ejected from their neighborhood school.

How can I trust people have learned from their mistakes when they can't even admit they made them, or apologize to the people they hurt?

I guess "change is TOO hard" for them. WSDWG

mom of 4 in sps said...

Not being facetious - Melissa says, "There were (and are) Board policies but there was a bare minimum of enforcement (then and now).", and Charlie says, (about the oversight governed by B60.01), "That system, however, was Board-driven, not staff-driven. The previous Board drove it. The current Board did not."

So my question is, did or didn't the previous board effectively comply with B61.00, and was or wasn't that "oversight"?

Also, how did previous board (excluding Michael and Kay since I think we're just talking about the incumbents seeking reelction) drive the oversight system, and what exactly did that look like?

The B61.00 policy leaves things pretty open - ie., doesn't say board is responsible for the system of internal controls, fair stated financial statments, timely and accurate financial reporting, etc.

I thought it would say something about enforcing policy - but that's superintendent's responsibility ("carry out"). And it doesn't even say anything about supervising or evaluating sup't except once annually.

It definitely doesn't say "responsible for timely detection of fraud, malfeasance, violation of policy, breakdown of internal controls" etc. I don't even find that in the RCWs
- is it somewhere else, like OSPI?

Seriously, not trying to be coy - I really do want to know - and am surprised there is only as much as there is re director accountability.

Charlie Mas said...

@mom of 4 in sps,

It's good that you ask.

Michael DeBell is the only member of the Board who was on it prior to the 2007 election. He was, at the time, the newcomer to the Board (elected in 2005) and not in a leadership position. The Board of 2004-2007 was led by Mary Bass, Brita Butler-Wall, and, in the final year, Cheryl Chow.

When Director Bass and Director Butler-Wall were Board President they did a pretty good job of following B61.00. They did require annual reports and Superintendent Manhas provided them. They weren't very good reports, but the Board reviewed them carefully and asked follow-up questions.

Cheryl Chow served as Board President in 2007 and introduced an era of Board inaction. Director Chow didn't believe that the Board should be reviewing the staff's work at all. She regarded them as the professionals and didn't think the Board was qualified to review their work. Director Chow also put the brakes on policy updates. She pretty much stopped the Board from doing anything.

I don't think Director DeBell had enough experience to question that interpretation of the Board role.

I don't think there are any streaming videos of Board meetings from before 2007. The meetings were recorded on audio tape back then. I remember going to the Board office and asking to listen to them so I could transcribe them. They didn't have equipment that would make copies; you had to do the work in a little conference room there.

Short answer - yes, the previous board actually did a decent job of providing management oversight with nothing more than Policy B61.00 to guide them.

Charlie Mas said...

Go ahead and read the Board duties as listed in the new Policy 1220.

"The authority of individual Board members is limited to participating in actions taken by the Board as a whole when legally in session. Board members shall not
assume responsibilities of administrators or other staff members. The Board or staff shall not be bound in any way by any action taken or statement made by any individual Board member except when such statement or action is pursuant to specific instructions and official action taken by the Board.

Each Board member shall review the agenda and any study materials distributed prior to the meeting and be prepared to participate in the discussion and decision-making for each agenda item.

Each Board member shall attend all scheduled meetings.

Not much to it, is there?

The old policies only required the Board members to come to the meetings.

They do not place a heavy burden on themselves.

There is another policy, Policy 1005 but it describes the duties of the Board as a whole, does not place any specific responsibility on any individual members of the Board and therefore is completely unenforceable and meaningless.

dan dempsey said...

Cheryl Chow served as Board President in 2007 and introduced an era of Board inaction.

Peter Maier is the KING of inaction.

YouTube of Peter Maier on What he knew ( a lot) and What he did (Nothing). This was the meeting (3-2-2011) at which Peter and company decided to give away $360,000 to MGJ and Don Kennedy rather than have more than 22 hours of public notice of how incompetent these directors had been.

About Peter Maier's televised campaign video.