Saturday, October 22, 2011

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, why is this an issue?

From the story:
In fact, the administration sent an email to all district principals reminding them of their legal responsibility regarding the pledge — the first such reminder issued during the school year "in recent memory," district spokeswoman Teresa Wippel said.

The district doesn't have the resources to enforce the policy on a day-to-day basis, Wippel said.

Clearly Ms. Wippel's statement is true and just as the parents don't see this as the biggest issue for public education, neither does the district.  But in comes Steve Sundquist:

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.

I can hear Charlie now "What?!?"  Yes, I agree.  THIS is the one School Board policy that Sundquist wants to uphold?  Out of ALL the policies that the Board has not enforced, this is the one he thinks should be enforced?  

This also brings up the issue of school governance.  No one here commented on the recent SCPTSA meeting with Dr. Enfield on school governance so I don't know what was said there.  But what IS school governance and notification? 

For example, Ex. Director Marni Campbell said in the Times' article that the principal spent a month coordinating the implementation of the pledge.  (Which begs the question, really?  She had that much time to spend on this one issue that has - let's be honest - so little effect on student academic achievement?) 

But the principal's communication was apparently with the BLT.  What was the duty of the principal or BLT or PTA to communicate to parents that this was coming? 

What is the duty of the district to tell principals to a notice in the parent newsletter that Board policies relating to their student are changing?  That, for example, principals will decide what family vacations they will or will not excuse? 

What is the district's policy on principal placement and the role of parents in helping to select their principal?

In short, what role do parents play in how their school runs? 

The Times has received over 400 comments on this story and the majority are for the pledge and wonder about why this is even an issue. 

Don Alexander, an education activist in the SE, used to always echo the part "and justice for ALL" quite loudly for the Board to hear at the end of the pledge at the Board meetings.  That always made me smile as that is probably the most important part of the pledge.


Anonymous said...

I'm no expert, but Enfield needs to give authority to gain authority. A good boss lets you take charge of things while still guiding in the direction of intent of the boss. I think it's a management technique. You want your managers(principals) to put out fires without always asking for help,at the same time taking guidance and the following through on the intentions of the boss.
no expert

Melissa Westbrook said...

Okay, BUT what is the principal's duty to make sure that issues that directly affect student life are put forth to parents (especially if it is a new policy)?

I think principals should have some freedoms but to always remember that working together is better in the long run than issuing edicts.

seattle citizen said...

Yay, Don Alexander! "And justice for ALL," indeed.

It doesn't appear that there is any form of policy on how schools communicate with parent/guardians (or the rest of us taxpayers, for that matter) on governance (which would be the Buildig Leadership Team (BLT) or the Site Council (schools seem to call them different things), or any of the sub-committees of those august bodies (Instructional Council, Equity and Learning, Budget...Building climate, et al)

Minutes from those meetings might be available to those who know where to look for them; I don't believe they are commonely posted to, say, the building's website (old version or new Fusion version) but they are certainly, as pulic bodies, responsibile for saving them somewhere, as I believe most buildings probably do, perhaps on a "staff share" server and certainly into an administrative file.

But no, unless one asks, I doubt they can easily find minutes or announcements about these governance bodies.

I wonder if most charter schools even have BLTs? Or are they, mostly, run by the corporations who set them up, public input be damned? Some charters, no doubt, are "run" by those in the community who set them up, but I wonder who participates in THOSE BLTs? And who reports out to me, the taxpayer, on public issues of governance?

Perhaps someone -cough-daf-cough- could provide us links to the BLTs and public minutes of various sorts of charter schools? These buildings, staffs, etc are funded as public schools, with my dollars, so I would expect that they would have BLTs comprised of admin, represented certs, classified staff, parent/guardian, community ("at large") and student? I'd love to see the minutes of such meetings. Someone should FOIA them, and if they're not available, I suppose no one IS accountable for how my tax dollar is spent.

Po3 said...

Looks like Steve has become a one-issue activist.

Anonymous said...

that's the discretion that principals have. The two choices are:

1. Take input from parents and the community and then issue an edict

2. Issue the edict

There are only so many hours in the day.

no expert

seattle citizen said...

There's a middle ground, no expert, and if the BLTs, etc, ARE public deliberative bodies under policy, contract or law, shouldn't they have a voice?

There's a middle ground; I'm just not sure where it is.

WV says that its been to those meetings and they boreffy it!

RosieReader said...

I viewed it as my responsibility to keep parents in the loop on issues I thought they would fine irritant when I was on our BLT. I am not sure that a decision to follow state law would strike me as something that needed "urgent conveyance" status. I probably would have waited until the next parent meeting.

And according to the Times article, my attitude would have been right on. Desn't the article say that most parents don't see this as a big deal?

I did not see it say job to guess what a small minority would find offensive and cater to them.

RosieReader said...

I meant "important," not irritant, though the irony definitely amuses me.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I think anytime you are changing a school policy in how the day goes, the PTA/BLT have an obligation to tell parents.

We have websites, weekly parent newsletters, e-mail updates - it can be done and I would find it odd that this would seem like a big deal to keep parents up-to-date.

This isn't life or death but it is a change to every child's day.

dan dempsey said...

OK ... State Law should be a big big factor ... but with the current school board it has not been so.

Steve Sundquists says.... in regard to the Pledge

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," .....

So why has Steve been in a different camp... most recently on Sept 21 and October 5

When it came to the WAC 181-79A-231 requirement to conduct a careful review of all other options to close the achievment gap before seeking to employ conditionally certified teachers, Director Sundquist was in a different camp. Steve Sundquist and the majority of the Board ignored the WAC requirement. A clear demonstration of decision-making by tribal action.

Following policy .... one meeting intro/action slam dunk approval of the Superintendent Evaluation tool.

That was on October 19.

Voters ... Please remove these incumbent directors.

Charlie Mas said...

The policy is D153.00, and it calls for reciting the pledge "in each classroom at the beginning of the school day and in every school at the opening of all school assemblies"

The policy also says "Students not reciting the pledge shall maintain a respectful silence. The salute to the flag or the National Anthem shall be rendered immediately preceding inter-school events when feasible."

I have no problem with the expectation that students, including those too young to understand the words or their meaning, will say the pledge daily. I have no problem with the pledge. I say it along with the Board at the start of Board meetings, although I don't say the "under God" part.

I don't feel any peer pressure to say or not say any part of it. I don't imagine anyone notices or cares what I say.

The pledge is a harmless, meaningless ritual. Ritual, however, is good and powerful. I'm all for ritual.

Finally, if the pledge does have an impact, I think it is the opposite of the one that people fear. No one is ever going to try to enforce that allegiance, nor could they. On the contrary, rather than the nation ever trying to enforce the fealty expressed in the pledge on the people, I think it is more likely that the people will try to enforce the ideals expressed in the pledge ("liberty and justice for all") on the nation.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Charlie completely on this one (and also choose to not say the "under God" words). My spouse is not an American citizen, my kids are brought up bilingual and definitely bicultural, and still I think the ideals of "liberty and justice for all" are worth reminding people of these goals, even if we are not there as a country yet.

Also, I agree with Melissa, out of all of the board policies not followed, this is the ONE Sundquist has chosen to try to enforce? How can this non-academic policy which is already state law be his keystone for re-election?


Anonymous said...

It is the prerogative of the Principal to make these policy decisions. It isn't the BLT. The BLT only deals with Budget and Professional Development. A letter home would have been nice but also would add to costs for mailings. That isn't good stewardship of public funds. Addressing the PTA is probably a good thing so they can talk to their students about whether they want their students to participate or not.

International school or not it is still a school in the United States. Get over it..it is our freedoms that allow for international schools.

If the parents of illegal immigrants came here for a better life then why so hostile to the symbol of all the things that allow for that to happen? But if they don't want to they don't have to do so. I didn't because I thought it was silly to reaffirm patriotism every morning. But others did and I respected that too.


Bird said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bird said...

My kid's at JSIS. I was perfectly fine with the kids not performing the pledge every day, but I'm not going to kick up a fuss about it either, particularly since it's a losing proposition. I suspect most parents are in that camp, as I never heard anyone complain about the lack of a pledge before, and seriously doubt anyone's going to bolt from the school because of it.

The whole hullabaloo, however, hasn't exactly warmed me to the pledge. I've seen far too many online comments about how anyone who questions the value of the ritual must hate their country, is "hostile to the symbol" of everything this country stands for, and should leave the country if they don't like the pledge. At least, I haven't seen anyone threaten to kill anyone over it (yet).

Oddly, at the same time, folks are saying it promotes good citizenship and civic responsibility.


Seems likes the ritual leads a fair number of people to want to shut down all discourse before it starts and have a knee-jerk denial of their fellow citizens' love of country simply because they have an opposing view.

But, I suppose, people would be jerks even without the pledge. Maybe they wouldn't be jerks about the pledge though.

As I side note, I wonder whether in the past it wasn't enforced in class less in deference to the students than to the teachers. I'm not really sure what the citizenship status of each of the JSIS teachers is, but I can imagine that there may be some native speaker immersion teachers who aren't US citizens and who plan to return to their home countries some day. Conceivably, they may enjoy living and working here, but find pledging allegiance to the US not something they are comfortable doing. I don't know. (Please don't heap hate on me for suggesting this might not be an unreasonable position.)

On the other hand, it sounds like there may have been a lot of schools, not just international ones, that have not been enforcing a daily pledge, so maybe that had nothing to do with it.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Okay Lemons, one last time.

"A letter home would have been nice but also would add to costs for mailings. That isn't good stewardship of public funds."

Nearly every elementary has a parent newletter that goes home every week. It's not a school cost; it's a PTA cost. Why the principal wouldn't have put that into the newsletter is a good question. There is also a website.

"If the parents of illegal immigrants came here for a better life then why so hostile to the symbol of all the things that allow for that to happen?"

Did you bother to read the newspaper article or the threads? This is NOT about the immigrant parents complaining, it's other parents complaining. That they complain because they feel these children will feel confused isn't the kids' fault. Also, I have no idea how anyone knows for certain who is or isn't in this country legally. To make assumptions about that is troubling.

dj said...

When I was growing up, the students at my school who did not say the pledge were Jehovah's Witnesses (they could not pledge for religious reasons, and my understanding is that there are other religions that prohibit the pledge as well). It was pretty hard for them, because that was before there was as much information out there to the effect that kids couldn't be compelled into recitation. Saying "get over it" to people who for whatever reason feel that they cannot say the pledge doesn't seem to me a particularly inclusive attitude.

NLM said...

There is so little knowledge of what military families experience anymore, especially in this city, that this kinda sticks in my craw. The pledge is a very meaningful way to start the day and an important acknowledgement of my kids' sacrifice, especially during a deployment. When you're not near a base, those small things mean a lot.

Jan said...

I guess I see this the same way the JSIS principal did. She changed the practice, and I suspect didn't feel like it was a particularly big issue (particularly since it is required by District policy) -- so didn't have meetings, put it in the newsletter, etc.

It would be different if kids HAD to say it -- but they don't. Personally, I am like Charlie (though I DO say the "under God" part, and fancy each time that I feel the Constitution writhe a little bit with angst). Frankly, OTHER than bringing the school into compliance with policy -- the greatest benefit of all this may be in the ensuing discussions that it has generated. It doesn't hurt for kids to be exposed to the kinds of bigger questions I never seem to have thought of as a kid -- What exactly is a "pledge of allegiance? Why do we say it? What does it mean (to me) if I participate, if I don't? Why does our District have this policy? Should it? Do my feelings change about the kid standing next to me who is/ is not pledging? If so, what does that say about my biases and prejudices?

In the end, I have to say I am much more worried about Sahila's oligarchs sorry, Sahila -- not really yours, but the ones you post and link about -- if they were truly yours, I could sleep easy, because they wouldn't last long) and their plans to turn public education into a vast opportunity for private profit than whether a school principal decides to restart the practice of saying the pledge of allegiance on a regular basis.