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Thursday, November 03, 2011

Why I'm Voting for the Incumbents (Well, not me)

Here's your chance.  Tell everyone why you are voting for the incumbents.  You can talk about one or all of the incumbents.  Here are some guiding questions:

Is stability on the Board important at this time and why? 

Do the incumbents have better backgrounds (not experience) than the challengers? 

Is your feeling that, overall, the incumbents have done an adequate job?  A great job?  A superior job?

Besides their experience on the Board, what do you think any incumbent brings to the Board that the challenger doesn't?

Do you go with the "they're just volunteers" thought as to how some of the troubling issues of the district got by them? 

If any or all of them are re-elected, what would you like to see them do differently?  Would you be willing to advocate to them to do something differently?  

58 comments:

Maureen said...

I would appreciate hearing some specific examples of what the poster thinks the Board member has done well to support their opinion that the Director has done a good or great job. I'm thinking it would be best if those of us who do not support the incumbents just bite our tongues and try not to contradict what the people who post in this thread say. (We can always post our opinions on one of the other threads.)

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Here, here Maureen. No counter opinions on this thread. Those who are for ousting the incumbents should sit back and see if anyone can convince you otherwise. I do agree with Maureen that opinions should be fact/anecdote based. I want to hear arguments for, not just "I voted yes," or ______ works hard. Why do they deserve another term?

SolvayGirl

RosieReader said...

You asked several times. Some have posts from time to time. We're not going to change any minds on this blog at this point. So I, for one, will not repeat myself. My votes are cast, and I am satisfied that however it turns out, life will go on.

Melissa Westbrook said...

The point isn't to change anyone's mind.

It's a free thread to express your beliefs in the incumbents. I haven't heard a lot about why people ARE voting for them.

Yes, life will go on but the direction of the this district is at stake. That's why elections matter.

Floor Pie said...

I ended up not voting for any incumbents, but after attending the Special Ed PTSA's "Meet the Candidates" forum back in September, I did give it some consideration.

With the exception of Harium (and Steve Sundquist, who wasn't there), I thought the incumbents were just a lot better spoken at that particular event. They seemed more familiar with special ed issues (especially Carr compared to Martin). Peter Maier talked about how he knows how to get funding from Olympia (or something like that). In other words, they came across as, well, not to get all Seattle Timesy about it but..."professional."

I didn't end up voting for any incumbents, though, after doing more reading and reflecting on my own family's special ed struggles under this board's jurisdiction (and remembering the whole Pottergate/Goodloe-Johnson thing, of course.) But I can definitely see how voters might make that choice.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Floor Pie, I hear you on that. I can only say that as someone who has done some measure of public speaking, you really do get better at it. You get your talking points down, not as nervous, etc. That's something that truly can be learned and experience gained.

anonymous said...

This school board has made some mistakes, that's for sure, but they have also overseen a lot of great progress.

This board added two public members to the audit and finance committee.

They added a new Chief Ethics officer.

This board oversaw the implementation of NSAP, and while there were some (big) bumps that needed to be ironed out, I think it went as well as such a huge change could have went. And I think the unprecedented increase in enrollment we are seeing today is just as much due to the NSAP and the predictability it offers, as it is due to the recession.

You may not like the choice of
Discovering (though personally, I do) but the fact remains that this board purchased the first set of new texts for our children in over a decade.

They oversaw standardization in our middle and high schools, and though it is far from perfect and needs some work, it is a huge improvement over the willy nilly, anything goes, some high schools have AP and some don't, days of the past.

They oversaw an increase in AP classes in high schools, expansion of IB to Sealth (and now Rainier Beach), STEM, and added APP north (Hamilton, Ingraham) which parents have been asking for for years.

Capacity in NE Seattle has finally been addressed with the opening of Sandpoint and McDonald, and the addition of JA K-8 after the closure of Summit (controversial but appropriate). More capacity is still needed, but this is a start, and the first attempt made to address the issue.

This board oversaw an overhaul in transportation services. Again, not perfect, and I might have done some things differently, but gone are the days of a school bus with 3 kids on it coming from West Seattle to AS1 up North. It was a much needed overhaul, IMO.

They oversaw the implementation of annual school reports.

They fired MGJ.

Now for opinion - I think this board worked well together, and while I don't agree with everything they have done, I do think A LOT of progress has been made.

That said I think there is room for improvement and I am not voting for all of the incumbents. I like Michele Buetow, and Sharon Peaslee and I am supporting them.

Murky Water

anonymous said...

Sherry Carr VS Kate Martin.

Sherry Carr is level headed, is not impulsive, thinks before she speaks, is always available and responsive by email, and is (I believe) genuinely interested in hearing community concerns. I like her - very much. I do wish she would cast opposing votes when she feels that something isn't right or when she needs more back up/information/documentation, and I am really hoping that with her experience and the feedback she has received during this campaign, she will be more of an advocate this time around.

Kate Marin on the other hand is a loose cannon. I highly doubt she'll be able to work with other board members, the superintendent, or other community leaders. If they don't see eye to eye with her she may blow and need a police escort out. Seattle Schools has enough scandals, we don't need to add to our embarrassments. Kate has been escorted out of Roosevelt HS by the police, she was banned from posting on the CPPS blog because she was so offensive and aggressive, and we can't forget her letter to the editor of the Seattle Times attacking advanced learning and middle class communities. She has alienated the APP and Sped communities by making insensitive, rude, and uninformed comments. And she's downright obnoxious - last week she called Peter Maier a pig on her FB page because he left his water bottle behind after a candidates forum.

I don't want any part of Kate on the school board.

Must finish dinner now but will add one more post of Sundquist VS Peaslee later.

Murky Water

anonymous said...

Marty McLaren VS Steve Sundquist.

This race was much closer for me. I don't like Steve, and really can't think of anything to say in support of him, except that I like Marty even less. If Steve had a challenger that I even remotely liked, I would vote for that challenger.

Marty was a founding member of the SOS coalition which was a radical and outspoken group (IMO) that used race as the focus of every argument they made. I'm tired of that- it's just plain slimy and uncalled for. She also filed a lawsuit against the district in 2009 claiming that it's math textbook adoption was arbitrary and capricious. Further, she calls the NSAP (which many many families asked for) "disruptive" on her website. While on her website you will also notice that instead of saying what her vision is for SPS or what she wants to do as a board director, she lists everything the district has done wrong. Very negative (IMO).

So in the end I'm supporting Steve, not because I like him, but because I like him better than Marty.

Murky Water

dan dempsey said...

You cannot write in a candidate that ran in the primary. You can write in any other Seattle resident that resides in the appropriate director district.

So if you do not like either the Challenger or the Incumbent you could write in someone else. ... It is a bit late to forge a winning write in campaign.

Unknown said...

Sherry b/c Kate gets really angry and behaves poorly IMO

Steve b/c he calls me back. Marty calls me during dinner.

torn about Michelle v. Harium-- he worked hard on capacity and pushed to re-open schools, she's got a great presence

Peter because he's a wonk and knows his facts and Sharon has gotten facts wrong (like % increase super's salary, etc.)

you asked, so please keep the flames down.

mirmac1 said...

Murky,

How do you view the changes to SpEd and ELL? The failure to implement RTI? Sherry thinks the former is WINNING!

anonymous said...
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anonymous said...

I just don't know enough about Sped or ELL to give an informed opinion on that Mirmac. Sorry. My son is currently in an LA/History block inclusion class that has 8 ELL students in it, and a full time dedicated ELL aid (full time in his class period that is), and it is working well according to his teacher, the aid, and my son. Last year he was in an ELL inclusion math class, with a fabulous teacher, and he learned more in that class than he had in any other math class he'd ever been in. Of course these are just our singular experiences, at one school. I can't speak for how ELL, Sped, or RTI is working for the district as a whole.

What I do know is that Sherry Carr started the Special ed PTSA, and has been a strong special ed advocate. On the other hand Kate Martin has alienated a large portions of the Special ed community by repeatedly making insensitive and uninformed remarks - and then back peddling and retracting them. In fact after hearing her speak about Special ed I'd venture to say that she may not even know what RTI is....

Murky Water

Jan said...

Murky Water -- thanks. Much of what you summarize has been sprinkled through a number of comments over a number of weeks or months, but it is insighrful to have one person pull it all together in sort of "summary" form. I particularly found the X vs Y comments (where you juxtapose the incumbents you are voting for versus their challengers) interesting.

Anonymous said...

I have gone back and forth on all of these races, and have ultimately decided to support the challengers, although not as a slate as many on this blog would like. They seem as different as the incumbents, for whom I also think slate is an unreasonable term. Hold the flames please. Why post in the pro-incumbent thread? Because I do think each incumbent has merit and other voters will feel the same. Ultimately their merits aren't the issues that most matter to me. But perhaps to you or to others in the city they are.

Maier/Peaslee. Maier has more district finance and accounting knowledge than any other challenger or incumbent. (But what happened with finance in regards to Pottergate and MLK?) Ultimately, going with Peaslee because of her math stance. She has worked with the state board of education on raising math standards. Ido not like Seattle schools math.

Carr/Martin. Carr's management experience and PTSA background give her the best board insight into the million problems of SPS central office. (But going w/ Martin because I agree that one rabble-rouser on a board of 7 might be just what the doc ordered for this district right about now.)

Martin-Morris/Buetow. Martin-Morris was responsive to the capacity issues of the northeast when no other board members were. Seems genuinely to mean well. But in recent times has dropped the ball on capacity and IMHO has been severely lacking as leader of the Curriculum and Instruction committee. Additionally, the man appears to have run out of energy. I like Buetow's focus and postive energy on better district customer service and community outreach. I have wished for this for years. She also seems to know more than any other incumbent or candidate about Special Education matters, an issue important to me.

Sundquist/McLaren. Sundquist is the business person on the board and Seattle's business community seems to love him. (Although with Potter and MLK I do not understand why. He appears to have a secret business language that only other business people can tune into.) I want the business community to support our schools with time and a big pile of money. He helps make that happen. He also seems to have worked hard to shore up the district's reputation after they fired Goodloe Johnson.

But I like that Marty has been a Seattle teacher. Our teachers do not seem that happy. The only other board member with teaching experience is Martin-Morris, and that was something he did decades ago on the east coast. Maybe someone else could be the business person on the board?

-skeptical-

anonymous said...

One last thing. I don't blanket vote. It's not my style to vote for the slate just because they are challengers or just because they are incumbents. I like to look at each candidate as an individual and consider their experience, values, history, and personality. Two incumbents earned my vote as did two challengers.

Murky Water

RosieReader said...

Me too Murky Waters. I went 3 to 1, mostly incumbents.

Po3 said...

In the end, I am voting for Carr as I also agree with the posters opinions of Martin.

Will vote for the challengers in rest of races.

I think the landscape will greatly change if three out of the four challengers are elected. And with Smith-Blum and Patu I think we will have a great school board.

DeBell, I like him, asks great questions. But his voting record is a tad to rubberstamped.

mom of 4 in sps said...

Ditto Rosie Reader - 3 incumbents, 1 challenger - and if Peter Maier had had a challenger of his education, experience and skills, I might have voted for him/her.

To add to Murky's listing (and to a previous challenge from someone way back in the beginning re "are you happier than you were 4 years ago) - yes, with the current configuration of board and mgmt (even MGJ if I didn't have to deal with her personally, which I didn't), I am much happier. I don't feel as if I have to go to multiple committee, community and board meetings to hear things first-hand and to follow up with comments. I feel that until the Potter isssue, in the eyes of the city we had a stable no-drama district that was making progress in spite of massive funding cuts.

I don't feel the Potter issue was the board's responsibility (with the possible exception of Peter - though that isn't why I might not have voted for him). Yes, there has been much made of how the community was TELLING the board YEARS ago about this - but back to our previous conversation about haranguing, this is probably pretty classic "boy who cried wolf" stuff. If the board weren't deluged with harangues (many of them throw-away) from many people, they might listen to them more closely. If 90% of what you say to me is beating some dead horse, am I really going to focus and listen to the 10% that is not just you disagreeing with something I supported?

And btw, if you're always beating me up, why again am I going to hang on your every word? Human nature is just such that that's earned, not demanded. (and I had to laugh at the person who said the way to counter statements you don't agree with is to drown them out - so glad I don't have that person in my life or work!)

Eric B said...

I said this before, but I went into this expecting to vote for all of the challengers. I came out of the first candidate forum at Town Hall not quite sure on most of the races. Here's what I think the drawbacks of individual challengers are relative to the incumbents:

Buetow/Martin-Morris: Buetow didn't seem to have much in the way of specifics. I get running on change, but you have to identify some of the change you want. Martin-Morris gets props for a couple of votes against staff recommendation (math and MLK sale, if I'm right), but often seems disengaged from the board meetings.

Martin/Carr: Martin is a loose cannon. I can see the appeal of a loose cannon, but I also saw how ineffective Mary Bass was once she was labeled as such and was largely marginalized. I think Carr is the best person to understand and disentangle district finances. This is an area where experience is useful. I would like Carr to take more stands, though.

Peaslee/Maier: Again, Peaslee suffers from lack of specifics. I know what has gone wrong, what would you do to fix it? Maier has strong political connections, and seems to have been reasonably effective in Olympia. Big minus for Maier is having the Sutor report and not looking deeper.

McLaren/Sundquist: McLaren very nearly lost my vote for saying she wasn't sure about voting for the Families and Ed Levy. I understand her concern about testing, but that seemed like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I had the same loose cannon concerns as with Martin, but to a lesser degree. I have very little good to say about Sundquist, though.

Beyond the Seattle Times editorial, I can see some good reasons for voting for most of the incumbents. I didn't vote the entire slate of either incumbents or challengers.

PS I believe Peter Maier was distributing literature for other incumbents when he was doorbelling.

No Slates Here said...

Voted 3 challengers one incumbent.

At this time, the district (and incumbents) believe in a data driven and top heavy administration. Dollars are distributed according to this belief.

With the exception of Sherry Carr, incumbents drive dollars into data and administration over direct student supports; even if it means taking dollars from our classrooms. I'd expect this trend to continue. Let me change that- I KNOW this trend would continue.

Maier is particularily merciless. Maier voted to keep four million into administration while taking dollars out of our classrooms. Maier helped pass a levy promising textbooks to our classrooms. After the levy passes- he promotes holding off textbook purchases. I've seen Maier mislead the public-and I have no trust in him. Add this to the fact he's failed to protect tax-payer dollars, showed himself to be fiscally irresponsible etc. I don't care about his level of education- he's been a rubberstamping fool.


Sure, we need good teachers, but teachers also need support. Beginning the school year with 40-45 kids in a class does not promote learning. The district knew a particular school would have 45 kids in the class...they held back dollars for administrative projects.

Atleast one sitting director wants to begin the budget process by funding our classrooms FIRST. Changing the board would allow this to happen. There are multiple ways the district is holding back dollars from our classrooms. Further cuts are detrimental to the well being of our children. I've not spoken to all the challengers, but Peaslee and McLaren would begin the budget process by funding classrooms first.

I'm also tired of the amount of tests being foisted on my children. I want my HS student's teacher to review for EOC- I don't want that time being used for MAP.

District operations and finances are a mess. For this reason, I believe it is beneficial to keep Sherry Carr on the board. Additionally, Sherry would fund classrooms over administration.

Anonymous said...

I'm the one you're laughing at, Mom of 4, but fortunately a public forum is neither work, nor home, so you're safe. (But I still caught the dig. Hey, weren't you the one complaining about personal attacks....)

If you don't like what you read, scroll on by. Better that than chilling or restraining what people say (or whining about it. Ick.) If you can do better, you are always free to do so. Isn't that great?

Democracy is neither perfect, nor pretty. But I prefer more voices to less, as did our founding fathers. For every person like Charlie or MW, who get their hands dirty for the benefit of others, there will always be the back-benchers and critics who complain about the manner in which they do it. Some things never change.

And besides that, many have given their lives defending the right to free speech, even if means hearing things you don't agree with. It's part of being an American. (Chuckle, chuckle).

WSDWG

Fiscal Responsibility said...

For the record- Maier has not been effective in getting dollars from Olympia.

The Sundquist, Maier and Carr voted to sell MLK without knowing NSAP enrollment trends. The building sold for $7M less than it could have. Now, the district is asking the state for $4.2M for Career and Technical center. So, the incumbents sell property at a loss, while kids don't have program to put them on a life path. Then, as the state prepares to make more cuts- the district is asking the state for millions. We need fiscal responsibility.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"What I do know is that Sherry Carr started the Special ed PTSA"

I checked with the head of the Special Ed PTSA, Susan Sturms, and to give credit where credit is due, several parents including Nancy Speer, Rose Yu, Janet Anderson, Marti Bosma, Joyce Israel and Linda Scott were working on this issue of getting parents' voices heard. They went to Sherry and helped point them in the direction of contacting the Seattle Council PTSA and getting the unit established.

Mary Bass wasn't a loose cannon. She was always the cheese who stood alone (and in one major case, the $32M financial scandal, was completely RIGHT). Now, Darlene Flynn, she was more the loose cannon but still a bright and dedicated Board member.

anonymous said...
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anonymous said...

WSDWG, nobody is trying to stifle you or take away your freedom of speech. What I think people take issue with is your style. You hammer people over the head, repeatedly, in an attempt to win.

Why not just state your position and opinion, and then back off, so that others can have a chance to do the same?

There are a few posters who I very much admire (Maureen, Dorothy Neville, Rosie Reader). Though I don't always see eye to eye with them, I respect their opinions, and always consider what they have to say. Why? Because they make coherent, well thought out comments, and present them in a respectful way. Then they retreat. They do not try to win. They do not get defensive. They do not argue, badger, insult, or get on a soap box. Their approach draws people in and it eludes confidence and security in their positions.

Your approach, WSDWG, doesn't do that. Beating people over the head, and drowning them out, is irritating, and makes people tune you out. You can have all the freedom of speech you want, but if nobody hears what you have to say, then it's not worth much is it? So you can say scroll on by all you want to, but I doubt that is really what you want? I don't think you'd be taking the time out of your busy day to post here if you didn't want people to read what you had to say.

Just think about it.

Murky Water

Anonymous said...

You hammer people over the head, repeatedly, in an attempt to win.

Example? WSDWG

Anonymous said...

Is this thing on? Tap-tap. WSDWG

Eric B said...

Re: Mary Bass, you're right, she was more a voice in the wilderness on many issues than a loose cannon. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe she brought in half a dozen "change everything" amendments to the final NSAP vote. They might have been good ideas, but were brought so late in the process they were justifiably shot down.

On a functioning board, I don't think there's much difference between a loose cannon and a voice in the wilderness. Both end up getting ignored as real work happens around them. Just like I can't accept a rubber stamper* on the Board, it's a waste of space to have someone with little or no influence to change policy. I like a director like Smith-Blum much more, in that she both disagrees with and works well with staff and can build consensus among the Board.

* I count directors who significantly shape staff decisions as not being rubber stampers, even if they vote for most measures.

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

WSDWG, look at your post from 11/3 at 11:40A in the "Next week we'll know" thread. In your comment you demand that posters provide you with facts, refer to them as whining and gutless, call them chronic complainers, and counsel that the proper response to speech you don't like is to drown it out with opposing speech (hammer, hammer).

I know it is your right, so please don't give another soapbox speech on democracy, to post whatever you wish, but your style puts me (and obviously others) off. Sorry.

As I said I take the comments from posters who clearly state their positions and then step aside to let others do the same, much more seriously. Their posts have far more impact than do the ranting, angry, defensive, argumentative posts, which I tend to tune out.

Murky Water

Anonymous said...

I would love to vote against the incumbents, but the challengers seem even worse to me (other than Buetow). I fear that if the challengers are elected, we will be back to having a dysfunctional board that can't build consensus or get anything done. I sure wish there were some better choices on the ballot.

Waiting for Superboard

anonymous said...

Oops I meant exudes, not eludes in my post at 11:30A

Murky Water

Anonymous said...

Murky, there's been so much patronizing and condescension about tone, versus substance, of late, that I called it out as whining and complaining, while praising Charlie for standing up for what he believes in and being willing to take the heat. Most of those comments were nothing but collateral attacks against the messenger, avoiding the issues and stating no facts. I see nothing wrong with asking or demanding critics get in the game if they think they have something better to offer. It's a standard protocol. WSDWG

Marty McLaren said...

Re Murky's post on me.

A word from my viewpoint on a couple of your observations about me:

I worked with the SOS coalition for the 01-02 school year, and at that time, its mission was to address the school district's announcement that it would close South Lake HS. This was particularly galling to the Rainier Beach community because the district had initiated planning (with the staff) for a new building several years before (when SL was in the Sharples building), had recently passed a levy for that purpose, and then flipped the agenda into closing the building.

I do firmly believe that institutionalized racism played a part in that series of events; it's impossible to parse out what part. On the other hand, FYI, I have a strong aversion to the use of the "race card" as a bullying tactic. To end the story, I left the group because I found a job in my own neighborhood at Denny. The committee had become a powerful community effort and, no longer being in the community as a teacher, I felt it was time to focus my energy in my own neighborhood.

If I were to re-write my website, I would say that the NSAP's goal of returning to neighborhood schools is, in my opinion, a sound one. And, as others have pointed out, the plan was enacted without a vision for strengthening the schools in economically disadvantaged and disenfranchised neighborhoods. In addition, there were some decisions (such as the boundary across the street from Roxhill Elementary, and a variety of others) which have been disruptive and may deserve more consideration.

I'm sorry that I come across as so negative. However, to be honest, it was all the Board's misguided decisions that inspired me to run. I've learned a lot on the campaign trail, and have many ideas about where I would start first if elected. My priorities are not much different from those of the other challengers; the area I'd prefer to focus on first would be outreach to disenfranchised members of the community so that I can represent them well. Realistically, after the election, everyone on the board, newly elected or not, will be looking at the upcoming agendas along with their own priorities, and figuring out how to work together to take care of immediate business and come to agreement (where possible) on priorities.

Marty

Kathy said...

Eric,

I fully support the F&E levy. However, Marty McLaren's concerns revolved around the city weaving testing into the levy. Marty's concerns gave me pause. Should the city really require testing?

The city claims they will be able to measure results. This is silly. Benefits of social workers and health care can't necessarily be measured on a test. Furthermore, it will require the district to continue funding MAP testing. I'm fearful the assertion of measuring psycho-social support will put future levies at risk.

Kathy said...

Eric,

I fully support the F&E levy. However, Marty McLaren's concerns revolved around the city weaving testing into the levy. Marty's concerns gave me pause. Should the city really require testing?

The city claims they will be able to measure results. This is silly. Benefits of social workers and health care can't necessarily be measured on a test. Furthermore, it will require the district to continue funding MAP testing. I'm fearful the assertion of measuring psycho-social support will put future levies at risk.

Anonymous said...

WfS: (Love the moniker.)

This is a "be careful what we wish for," or perhaps a "don't bite off more than you can chew" moment. One new board member changes the game significantly, however. So, one or two challenger victories could be the best overall result. We just need to break the slate to restore a meaningful balance. WSDWG

anonymous said...

Thanks for explaining some of your positions Marty. I really appreciate it.

I was happy to hear your thoughts on figuring out how you could work with the rest of the board to take care of immediate business and come to agreement (where possible) on priorities.

I am still somewhat confused on your take on race issues?? You say that institutionalized racism played a part in the the closure of Southlake HS. That's a pretty strong statement. How, specifically, do you think the districts decision to close South Lake was a result of institutional racism? The way I see it the district has reeked havoc on plenty of white, middle class communities too, including APP most recently.

Further, I am concerned with your statement "the area I'd prefer to focus on first would be outreach to disenfranchised members of the community so that I can represent them well". I take issue with this statement because I believe that as a board director it is your responsibility to represent the entire community, and not single out a certain group. My children deserve as much of your representation as any other child in the district. Whether they are disenfranchised or not they are part of our school system and need advocates on the school board as much as anyone else.

You say you don't like to play the race card, but the types of statements that you are making, and the focuses you have, are in my opinion somewhat divisive.

Murky Water

ArchStanton said...

Just filled out my ballot and I know you've all been waiting anxiously to learn how I voted.

Much as I wanted to "throw the bums out", I voted for three challengers and one incumbent, Carr. It wasn't an easy choice.

I share the concerns of others regarding Martin. I don't have a problem with the idea that she might be a loose canon per se or past comments about APP if I felt she was willing to learn and adjust her stance. But what I have seen of her communication style and responses to those concerns did little to reassure me.

I'm no fan of Carr, but I do get that there is some value in experience and institutional memory. Of the Gang of Four, I find Carr to be the least objectionable. Just as DeBell seems to have finally grown into his position, I hope that she will have a real wake up call and grow into hers.

Marty McLaren said...

Responding to Murky's query,
"How, specifically, do you think the districts decision to close South Lake was a result of institutional racism?"

Institutionalized racism seems to me to be an accumulation of laws and policies that have been created by the dominant group of European Americans (yes, like me), that disadvantage racial minorities. This goes back hundreds of years in the US. Such policies have affected the flow of events in such a way that non-European American groups have ended up with many strikes against them. How institutionalized racism has played out in Seattle has its own complicated history, and I've heard it sketchily, but well enough to know that the effect has been profound. One example I do remember is that Thelma DeWitty was the first Black teacher in the Seattle School District, in West Seattle's Cooper School. She wasn't hired until the early 50's, I believe. In other words, for the first many decades of our district's existence, Black teachers were not hired. Roscoe Bass, who was the principal at Sharples when the district began working with staff on a design for a new building (long before my years at South Lake), is one of many persons who could recite the history accurately. 11 years ago, the decision to close South Lake seemed to me to be very much in line with this pattern.

I became interested in this topic, although I didn't have a name for it, in the mid-80's, when I was PTSA president at Washington MS. I was quite uncomfortable that APP, in which my oldest daughter was enrolled, was very, very white, and the rest of the school much less so. I worked to bring a broader cross-section of parents into school events, with some success, but eventually I had to acknowledge that many non-APP families were struggling with challenges that were beyond my experience or understanding. Eventually (about 10 years later, when I was Co-Coordinator of Family Services' Homeless Children's Network), I was exposed to the concept of institutionalized racism, and once I began to understand it, I tried to learn more in order to combat it.

I've since observed that this kind of oppression doesn't just happen to people of color, but to many different groups. Wealthy, powerful individuals have, maybe throughout history, found ways to pit less powerful people against each other in order to maintain their own privilege. In recent history, I would have to agree with those who say the middle class in our country is being subjected to the same kinds of oppression... The way our schools are being underfunded and starved of resources seems to me to be an example of this.

As far as your concerns about my representing your children, I want to make it clear to you that my commitment is to ALL students. If I seem preoccupied by disenfranchised groups, it's only because of my awareness, from my own teaching experience, that there are so many. We ALL deserve a seat at the table, to represent our vision for, and concerns for, our children. Whether or not I'm elected, I'm glad to see that the incumbents are finally (in the last several weeks) acknowledging that they need to do much better at listening to parents and community members -- all of us.

anonymous said...

Thank you for your detailed explanation Marty. I appreciate it.

Murky Water

seattle citizen said...

I promised myself I'd stay mum on this thread, as requested, but on ready Ms. McClaren's post in institutional racism I would like to point to this example:

A) Redlining was legal in Seattle until, I think, the late 1960s. Redlining is the practice of barring minorities from certain parts of a city, through actual covenants written into deeds or through back-room agreements between bankers and realtors. This is why cities were so segregated all the way into the seventies (and still, to some degree.)

B) Capital accumulation: Barred from buying real estate (and from other capital accumulators such as jobs, etc, to create "free" wealth to invest,) many minorities couldn't move if they wanted to: More ghetto creation thereby.

These two factors resulted in a city that is "divided by the ship canal," and still experiences the effects of this as wealthier people (often European) buy properties in what use to be redlined ghettos, driving, for instance, the African American population south in Seattle's case: A people traditionally poor jump at the chance to sell their property for a high price, and they sometimes can't afford the taxes as the value of their property escalated in the rising market yet they were still poor due to lack of access to capital and jobs.

These things directly impacted public schools, of course: Poverty was for many years contained in certain areas, leading to schools mostly filled with students who had no access to the enrichments outside of school that others take for granted; they had, often, uneducated parent/guardians; they were, still, subjected to blatant racist action and stereotype.

SOME of this blatant institutional racism is a part of history, now - racist covenants are no longer legal. But as we still see in reports, minorities are denied access to rental properties based on their skin color, minorities are denied access to jobs based on their "ethnic" names...and racist stereotypes, the stuff of Willy Lynch, persist throughout all media.

(One horrifying aspect of redlining I read about once was where real estate agents and banks would actually play the neighborhoods: Allow a Black family to move onto the block, spread the rumor about how the neighborhood is "going downhill," then sit back and profit on the sales of house on the block and the sales of houses on other blocks to Europeans as Europeans flee the Black "encroachment." So the minorities were "redlined" around to create profit for the European realtors and banks.

ArchStanton said...

We're getting a little off-topic, but there's some good history about Seattle's redlining here

anonymous said...

I know about and fully understand what Institutionalized Racism is. What I asked for, and what has still not been answered, is how, specifically, Marty thinks institutionalized racism played a role in the closure of South Lake HS?

What did the district or school board do, in 2001, with regard to the closure of South Lake, that can be attributed to institutionalized racism?

So far I've heard nothing to convince me that this was the case, but I'm open to hearing more on the subject. I'd ask that you provide specifics though, and not generalizations, and if you cite history that you can you link it directly to the closure of SouthLake and the actions of the district and school board.

Murky Water

dan dempsey said...

ArchStanton said this:

"I'm no fan of Carr, but I do get that there is some value in experience and institutional memory. Of the Gang of Four, I find Carr to be the least objectionable. Just as DeBell seems to have finally grown into his position, I hope that she will have a real wake up call and grow into hers."

I appreciate Arch's explanation. I still see the incumbents ignoring policies and laws. The TFA debacle is just ridiculous.... even though it involves a small number of TFA corps members at high-poverty high-minority schools, it was and is an indication of the "What BIG MONEY wants ... Big Money Gets". This was a plan that was in existence in 2009 and the directors were complicit in a large plan that extended far beyond the SPS. ..... There is way too much of this going on .... and it hurts students. I refuse to vote for any incumbents for which I have evidence that they are violating WACs and RCWs.

YUP -- It may be along time before I vote for many incumbents.

I want elected officials that will make decisions based on evidence.

seattle citizen said...

Murky,

I can't speak to 2001 closures, but I can speak to 2006 or thereabouts, the more recent closures:

From the SPS School Closure Archive
"...2006 the School Board voted to [close]: Rainier View, Columbia, Fairmount Park, Hughes, John Marshall, Viewlands, and Martin Luther King"
Add to this AAA (also around that time) Genessee Hill, and the more recent closure of Summit and the moving of Pathfinder and Nova.

This shows a distinct pattern of closures south of the ship canal and displacement of schools with more struggling students, more poverty, parent/guardians who haven't the means, or, perhaps, the savvy to easily change schools...
All of the closed schools, with the exceptions of Viewlands, John Marshall, and Summit (and the latter two were alternative schools that served a non-traditional population that was often poor or otherwise on the brink) were south of the ship canal.

The reasons for the closures were many and varied, very officious reports were presented ("data-driven," but I'm here to tell you that at least one was a travesty of a mockery) but the end result is that almost all closures had large impacts on families of color and poor families.
Institutional racism carried out with the very best intentions.

Where is the follow-up, the official reports documenting the individual stories of those poor, minority, and other non-traditional or non-wealthier students that were kicked to the curb?

Not a lot of data on them. Even data-driven institutions suffer a predictable lapse in their research when it comes to individual suffering: Aggregated HSPE scores might drive school restructuring, but those students (and staff and communities) so restructured are often forgotten - Some data is best left buried.

mirmac1 said...

Speaking as someone redlined in WS in the 60's (yes, we have our "ship canal", essentially following 35thSW), and witnessing, of late, involved active minority parents criticizing Marty McLaren for not being vocal enough on their behalf, I would say "ya can't win". Show me any incumbent (yeah, you Harium) speaking for minority and disadvantaged families and I'll eat my hat.

(Oops, wrong thread).

anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
seattle citizen said...

Point well taken, Murky. I hadn't considered the earlier rounds of closures (a minor edit: You mention John Marshall in that earlier round, but it was closed in 2007.)

One thought I had, not necessarily related to institutional racism but maybe, is that schools "in the south end," since they serve more struggling students, could stand to be a bit less full: Smaller classes benefit struggling students.

But overall, I think your post does remind me that the "data" (and again, I argue that often it is mere surface data that was used in closures, and sometimes blatantly absurd) is very complex, and it would indeed be an interesting piece of research to track all the available data around closures over the decades and see which factors actually had weight, which might be classified as expedient, what the costs (even later, over time, AFTER closures) were to the populations...
Maybe someone could gather all that data, all the various aspects, all the qualitative interviews and surveys, those done and those yet to be done...and create a deeper picture on the nature of closures and their impacts.

Your comment has certainly made me think, but I have no means currently to take on such an onerous study (tho' SOMEONE should! Gates, perhaps?)

seattle citizen said...

Ach, Murky's comment disappeared as I wrote my response. Murky basically gave me the what-for, and rightfully so, for not considering the numerous NORTH-end closures of the eighties when I wrote about south-end closures. That is what I commented on.

Word Verifier, nose held high, is trying the new coffee flavor meant to make you feel both invigorated AND above the hoi poll: condesso!

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

Sorry, SC, terrible typos, I corrected and reposted.

Murky Water

anonymous said...

SC, I'm not convinced that the closures in the south end were a result of institutionalized racism, though I do acknowledge that they disproportionately affected minority students. At the time south end schools had a lot of excess capacity while north end schools were over crowded and bursting at the seams.

If you go back a little further in the school closure archives you will find that the last round of school closures (late 80s) disproportionately affected white, middle class schools, located north of the ship canal. Many many schools in the north end were closed at that time -The Ravenna school, Cedar Park School, Maple Leaf School, Sandpoint, McDonald, University Heights, Lake City School, Wilson Pacific, Lincoln, John Marshall.

I felt that the 2006 round of school closures was data driven. Schools with excess capacity were closed, and unfortunately most of those schools were located south of the ship canal. If I recall, Melissa sat on the CACIEE committee that analyzed school closures and capacity- maybe she has something to add?

Murky Water

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, Murky is right and I have made this point before.

In the '80s there were more north- end schools closed. When it came time to close schools in 2006, it was not surprising to find more south-end schools on the list. There was nothing racist about it (at least not from our end).

Was our process data-driven? Yes, somewhat. I may tell the story from my point of view someday but suffice to say that it was (1) hurry, hurry (2) staff made it clear that some options were not going to be taken no matter what and (3)I think we should have had better and more clear guiding principles from the Board.

I can also say that, from the e-mails, it was almost 50-50 on whether you close a school because of a failing program versus a failing building (the structure). Many felt a good program in a failing structure could be moved and others thought you close a failing program but reuse the building.

I did research on school closures and at least SPS allows multiple measures of input as compared to other districts that give one night for rants and that's it. But there is no easy/best way to close schools.

I would have to know what someone means by institutional racism (because I wouldn't want to work off my own beliefs) but I do believe this district did operate with a system of benign neglect.

Meaning, the squeaky (and more vocal or powerful or connected) voices in schools (or regions) got the grease. That RBHS has been allowed to twist in the wind for this many years is not just an accident. Nor is it on purpose. It's just...well, one of those someday issues they would like to solve but prefer to avoid. That the SE had Board Directors that talked a lot (and yet little happened) is troubling.

I also think that in some communities, their leadership has been more interested in voicing their unhappiness than finding solutions. As Charlie has pointed out, the African-American Academy was created in response to those voices. They got some autonomy and a new building and yet...it failed (and that was the case for a large part of its existence).

People really need to leave their baggage at the door if they want to move forward.

I am seeing this kind of "let's get this done" attitude in the PTSA leadership at RBHS. They don't seem all that interested in pointing fingers or talking about the past - the here and now and the future of their children seem to interest them more.

Marty McLaren said...

Murky Water, I will contact some of the people who were involved over time, to remind me of the history of institutionalized racism in the district's decision to close South Lake in 2000 (the decision was later changed, as a result of public pressure). This may take a day or two.