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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

It Will Only Happen Again if Everyone Turns Away

I see we have come to a sorry place where, once again, the district says things like "handled", "controls are in place" and they "investigated" and all is well.

Problem is, we've heard that before - with the Hill scandal, with Silas Potter, etc. 


For those of us who are community members and taxpayers, it's a sad thing to see schools that are probably not working as well as they should.  It's sad to see, once again, that the focus is off academics because, once again, the district has a crisis.  

Parents, are you really willing to turn away so easily?  All parents, not just Lowell parents should speak up because if you think things like this just happen at other schools, you'd be wrong.

This is your district and you have a right to ask for better.  If you accept every decision and explanation - without question - you will not get better from this district.

Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Speak up to whom, Melissa? Susan Enfield is on her way out, and likely does not care anymore. The ethics hotline outs whistleblowers and leaks anonymously submitted reports to the accused. Board members are saying we should move on, and are actively voting away their own oversight duties.

I am serious about looking for suggestions on how to proceed from here, because I am truly at a loss as to what to do next. All I know is that this situation cannot continue as is. I do not want to see another Hill case ever again in my lifetime.

- frustrated parent

Anonymous said...

KSB's "it's been handled" is the LOW point in her Board career. (But she has applauded King in the past so she probably wants this to go away.)

The report was handled, but no, Kay Smith-Blum, the issue has not been resolved. Not by a longshot.

No notable operational changes have or will be made. The principals - who the report said lied to cover themselves - remain and will affect staff and students. (Possibly infect, depending on how poisonous the relationships get.)

If the district said something like "Next time we will xyz as a result of this incident, then perhaps we would assume that someone in administration or board cared about student safety, professional learning environments and public perception. But at the moment, it appears it is all CYA. CYA from the Board to HQ to Lowell staff. No lessons learned. No additional safety precautions for our most vulnerable children. And another stain on public education Seattle-style.

DistrictWatcher

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, Frustrated, you do ask a good question.

I think the answer is - all of them. Wayne Barnett at the City, Dr. Enfield, the Board. The point is to tell them what they are saying and doing is not good enough. And it's not good enough because of the signals it sends all around the district.

Tell Brian Rosenthal at the Times - if every single person who feels worried about this "move along" mentality told Brian, he could write more about it. Write to Brian at brosenthal@seattletimes.com.

Anonymous said...

Do we really think the PTSA L@L came up with the concept and wording of its "support" letter on its own? Whaddya want to bet it was a well-orchestrated behind-the-scenes maneuver between someone on L@L PTSA and Coogan or the prinicipal. SPS administration 'suggests' it to a friendly PTSA parent and voila. Because that's how this stuff works most of the time. Bet the same thing was or is being attempted at 'Lowell at Lowell'.

PTSA for better and worse is all about calming the water, even when stirring the pot to get some answers is what is called for. An 'official' PTSA letter is not at all the same thing as consensus from the majority of parents. Most PTSAs are 10 people staring at themselves month after month. And right now those well-meaning 10 people are not helping get to the bottom of some huge issues of trust in this district. Bah.

Savvy Voter

Anonymous said...

Savvy Voter hit the nail on the head.

- Me

Jon said...

As Savvy Voter said, the PTAs are captured, more concerned with not rocking the boat than doing the right thing. When it comes to doing non-controversial things, they do good work, but they hardly are a spot to turn to for advocacy or change.

Not sure what we can do, but this blog is a great start. It's at least shining sunlight on problems, and we can't fix what we can't see.

I'd say the two new school board members are moving in the right direction too. I used to think Kay Smith-Blum was a force for good as well, but her latest statement makes me wonder if she is increasingly becoming captured as well, more concerned with protecting the administration than improving it.

In any case, getting new school board members in, in the long-term, might be the best hope we have for real improvement. Until we get some checks on the behavior of the district administration via a more powerful board, we'll continue to have a bureaucracy that primarily serves itself.

Juana said...

Perhaps the strategy lies in how we vote on the next levy. Seemingly voices are heard mostly when there are dollars attached to the argument. People always say that they must vote for the levy because of the kids. I understand but when the adults squander the money, it never gets to the kids.

Anonymous said...

Um...this news broke on Saturday. It is Tuesday. I don't think it says anything negative about the SNAPP board that they haven't yet formulated any action to take with respect to the investigations. I personally think they're right to focus on the very immediate need to ensure the best possible future location for the APP program. These decisions are being made *now*, and while I'm uncertain even their best arguments will be listened to by the District or the school board, if the PTA doesn't pay attention to this now the APP program could be drastically changed (and I would say, diminished). We've had a lot of this in recent years, and we can't have any more.

So, no, the PTA shouldn't be rushing off a plan to try to deal with this new issue in the (again) 4 days since we all learned about it.

Finally (responding to a couple of posts), have you been to a PTA meeting, volunteered for the PTA or served as a board member? No one is "captured," and no one would ever let the District write a statement from the PTA board. That's just a ridiculous conspiracy fantasy. Give your PTA board members (your fellow parents, assuming you have kids at Lowell @ Lincoln) a bit more credit than that. And hey, if you are a Lowell @ Lincoln parent, join the PTA if you're not yet a member, and run for a board position!

- Reality

Anonymous said...

To Reality: Are APP parents so beleagured that they'll do anything to keep a program in a building? Sure, programs that don't have a principal on the political inside are always facing the rope. My sons flourished at Summitt. Look what happened to them. This circling of wagons doesn't give you pause? Really, Reality? You can't trust any of these people in charge. I taught my boys it's ok to ask questions and leave anyplace they don't feel safe and that included classrooms.

Mr White

Anonymous said...

@Reality, good points, but can you confirm that either SNAPP took a poll of the L@L parent body before sending this letter of support or even took a vote of the full L@L PTSA before the letter was written? There seem to be a number of parents who either do not know about or do not agree with the letter.

And I wouldn't call it conspiracy to think that a letter of support was 'suggested' from within the district. If the author of the letter wants to state otherwise, great. SPS has a history of trying to shelve parent concerns by any means necessary. They want this episode gone from the press, and I can see them 'working with' willing PTSA reps to make it happen. On the other hand, the district does not run the parent concern timeline and after a year-long investigation a lot of us have questions and would never signed off on such a letter at this time.

Curious

mirmac1 said...

Savvy Voter,

I'm doing my best to avoid that at Madison...

mirmac1 said...

"Finally (responding to a couple of posts), have you been to a PTA meeting, volunteered for the PTA or served as a board member? No one is "captured," and no one would ever let the District write a statement from the PTA board. That's just a ridiculous conspiracy fantasy."

I'm sorry, but I am all of the above and I can say it is VERY easy to lead the other BUSY parents by the nose...

Anonymous said...

Reality:

See this thread to understand a bigger picture PTA-as-pawn. Plenty of us in the community have solid reason to raise an eyebrow and question a letter from the PTA.

Ex-PTA

Anonymous said...

Curious -

Did you read the first line of the SNAPP message:

"A Message from the SNAPP PTA Board"

This does NOT say it's from all the parents. I am not sure how or why you would assume it was when it says it's from the board.

-paying attention

Melissa Westbrook said...

I am wondering why the district or Board has made no official statement. The investigation just stands by itself?

I'm getting this vibe that perhaps Enfield and/or the Board don't actually support the findings.

Because with Silas Potter, the same lawyer, Patty Eakes, released her report on a Friday and by Tuesday, Steve Sundquist had put out a two-page announcement that the Board had discussed the report and

"Board members agree, however, that the investigations reveal deeply troubling actions and a series of red flags that should have been heeded."

The announcement ended:

"The disturbing evidence of repeated violations of the public trust demands swift and decisive action by the board. We are uniformly committed to restoring public confidence and to ensuring this never happens again."

I would think for the safety of the students and the protection of the careers of staff that the Board might have something similar to say in this case.

Anonymous said...

Melissa-

I wonder if that's why there's negative comments towards the PTA? The district needs to diffuse the situation. They are the ones with the power to answer questions and make any changes, not the PTA.

-tired of turmoil in APP

Melissa Westbrook said...

Tired, I haven't said anything negative and yes, I think people should wait until a meeting is held for that community. That said, I'm not sure why the PTA Board made a statement.

But you forget the power of a PTA - any questions, ask the Ingraham PTSA.

Anonymous said...

Lost in some of the bigger discussion is the more mundane issue of how much is this all going to cost and who takes responsibility for wasting public resources? I am speaking of budget line items, though of course there are all sorts of costs that could never be quantified. Where does the money come from? What are children in the district going to do without, in order to pay for this investigation that could have been prevented if people had behaved honestly, professionally and responsibly?

These questions apply not just to building administrators, but to central administrators and HR, also. Perhaps some did not know the whole story on 4/6 (though they darn well could have ASKED some questions or made some phone calls!). However, as I stated on another thread, everyone involved in the investigation received an email from me (direct, cc'd or forwarded) on 4/10 expressing concerns of retaliation, unfair allegations and a conflict of interest. I also provided a detailed timeline of C1's and my reporting. In addition, I twice mentioned the adverse health consequences C1 was experiencing. Both Dr. Enfield and Board President Sundquist responded to my email. Mr. Sundquist also forwarded the email to Ms. Coogan and Mr. King, who forwarded it to Ms. Garmoe and Ms. Lewis in HR. (This email exchange was in my HR file which I obtained through a public documents request. Since the names were not redacted, I am including them here.)

Cristen Kent's report suggests the decision to investigate us was rushed. Why was it so rushed? This did not involve an emergency such as weapons or drugs. Weren't these serious enough accusations to merit a 5 minute phone call to the Safety and Security person whose report was the "basis" of the accusations? They would have "learned" of previous reports and that C1 and I had been told by Safety and Security we were reporting correctly.

If your children put so little effort into their homework you would be pretty upset. If classroom teachers put this little effort into lesson planning, they would be out the door. But we excuse administrators and HR managers from exercising the critical thinking skills one expects to be used when making serious decisions about other people's lives and careers? They could have asked for more facts. And when the facts showed up in their inbox under a subject line "unfair allegations and perceived harassment at Lowell", they should have paid attention. Lack of honesty got this mess started. Complacency turned it into the expensive fiasco and waste of resources it has become.

-Jennifer

Anonymous said...

More than likely, after the SDS has given the parent community the channel of speaking out and being heard, they will sweep the concerns raised about these two principals under the carpet. The SDS holds the trump card on APP in general. If they are too much trouble, they can just put the students back in their home schools.

No Faith in SPS support for Gifted Ed.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

It's not possible to meet the needs of gifted students by putting them back in neighborhood schools. After all, 50% of a gifted curriculum comes from the interactions that students get from each other. The other 50% comes from the curriculum itself.

Our school district has regulated APP curriculum to mirror what is being offered throughout the district. Many of us saw it as the "dumbing down" of what we saw as "gifted education." If you go to conferences on Gifted Education, you would see that the research suggests curriculum and approaches that our program no longer incorporates.

I'm just saying, when you don't let a gifted program use all the techniques and dynamic freedom needed to generate creative curriculums, then it is easier to claim that these gifted students could be housed anywhere. That's not true, but the School District is not actually very committed to the real needs of gifted students.

former Lowell teacher

suep. said...

The KUOW story about the investigation is now available online:

Seattle Principals Disciplined For Mishandling Abuse Allegations

Ann Dornfeld
03/23/2012

Inside as well said...

Jennifer

Good comments. The problem as we see it is that the bloated HR Department is popoulated by staff (and assistants and assistants-assistants)who have been conditioned (hired) to "hear no evil, see no evil" when it comes to District "higher-ups".

Take on an administrator and you are gone.........soon.

Check the record.

Melissa Westbrook said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
suep. said...

Share your concerns/thoughts about L@L leadership with the SNAPP PTA:

Hi everyone,

Apparently one of the heads of the SNAPP PTA claims she has only seen one e-mail that expresses concerns about the investigation and Ms. Geoghagan's leadership at L@L.

It's been less than a week since the report was released last Friday night, so I imagine most families are still processing how they feel about the whole matter and what's best for the future of our school.

I also believe that families may be calling or sending emails to people with greater authority than the PTA, like Susan Enfield, the ombudsman Ronald McGlone, Nancy Coogan, which the PTA have not seen and cannot tally.

It would be troubling and inaccurate if the PTA leadership were to interpret L@L families' lack of e-mail to them these past five days as a tacit approval of current leadership or indifference to the results and implications of the investigation.

If the PTA does plan to use this as its sole measure of parent satisfaction with L@L leadership, then apparently anyone who has concerns would be advised to share them with the SNAPP PTA board, beginning with the leadership:

jeanmbryant AT msn.com, jgbiely AT comcast.net