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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Husk Interview

Sandra Husk was our last finalist interview.  She speaks in a crisp, polished manner and with confidence.  There were three people in our interview; Lynne Varner and Brian Rosenthal of the Times and me.

Q&A
Why are you the right person to lead SPS?
When you look to fill a superintendent position, you need a good match between needs and talents.  You look for a track record of closing the achievement gap, a good communicator and someone who can build a team. 

You had some sort of professional business certification for your district in Tennessee.  Do you believe a district should be run like a business?
She said she had this certification in her district in Oregon as well and that it is a quality assurance one.  The idea is to make sure your district and central office are providing services to schools.  She said we benchmark student progress and teacher progress but it's rare for the whole central office to have that kind of accountability.  She said it empowers employees to be involved in problem-solving and efficiencies.

About today's school scandal, she said she had read the paper.  She said that any indication of things not working should be address in how checks and balances work.  She also said that it was important to get accurate and timely info out to the public and be respectful of the need to know while having a balance.
The follow-up question was whether it would be announced to the press if she knew there was this kind of issue in a school?
She said to keep trust the public needs to know there is an issue and that there is an investigation going on.

(I followed up on this question at the press conference on the Van Asselt investigation and asked Sherry Carr about reporting this issue earlier.  I told her what Husk had said about telling the public earlier and Carr said that isn't how the district does it.  Carr stated that the district doesn't discuss on-going investigations.  Interesting difference of opinion.)

She was asked about the last time she fired someone and seemed uncomfortable with the question.
She stated that she had had to let someone "go" or have a difficult conversation around employee performance.

She was asked about governance with the Board and that she had indicated in documents obtained that she had wanted to have more governance over decisions in her current district without the Board approval.
She said the policy governance she followed was from John Carver and that the most important question to sort out is how the Board will measure success.  She said who is accountable, you or me?  If it is her, then she said she wanted the "executive progative" to do what needs to get done.  She said also said it was important to revisit these issues annually.

She was asked if she had looked at the governance in SPS and said she had not studied it enough to know.

What are the first things you will do on the job?
She said she would design an entry plan before she came in and how to know the community quickly.  She said she had looked at the strategic plan and thought it had the "right activities" but could be made simpler to understand.

She was asked about another offer.  She said yes but couldn't say more.  Lynne Varner extracted that it was likely in the NW based on Superintendent's Husk comment that "we" are committed to stay in the NW.

I asked her about Advanced Learning.
She said they had a TAG program (talented and gifted) in her district.  She said these students had different needs with an emotional component.  She said there were times they needed to be together and times they needed to be "part of a whole community."  She said her district had no official pull-out program but did a little of one and differentiated teaching and she liked both.

She was asked about teacher evaluation systems.
She said that in her district it was a "class project" with federal funds and Chalkboard funds (no, I don't know what Chalkboard is).  She said it was similar to what we are doing in SPS and that evaluation is a tool.

She was asked about how she measures success.
She said there was, of course, the academic outcomes and achievements but also a happy workforce and a respectful organization.

What about your communication style with the public?
You need to find a style that fits your community.  She said in Tennessee she was asked to church by some African-American groups and did go when invited.  She said she attends music events in her current district.

Charters?
She said that "evidently not" was the answer from Seattle on the issue of charters.  She has no experience with TFA.

This felt like the least comfortable of the interviews.  I say that not to mean I was uncomfortable but it felt less like she was trying to win us over with her answers than the other two candidates.  I felt that her answers were fairly generic even if the question was specific.  

Frankly, the answer on governance surprised me because clearly it has been an issue in her own district and she has been working on it for years and yet she hadn't read any of the governance issue information about SPS?  It seemed odd.

I was also surprised she didn't have more to say about parent engagement and outreach because Mr. Banda and Mr. Enoch had enthusiastic things to say about that issue.

16 comments:

mirmac1 said...

Melissa, did you read Alison Krupnick's article over on that 'zine website? Did she meet the same person you did because according to her Husk was adamantly "pro-teacher", that she "was strong on specifics, but answered questions concisely, though in a targeted manner" and was neither pro nor against charters and TFA?

Watching said...

"She said she would design an entry plan before she came in and how to know the community quickly"

Similar to MGJ, I suspect she would bring in a lot of expensive consultants to find out what principals and teachers already know. My assertions are based upon her actions in Salem.

Sounds like her answers were generic and vague.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I did see Alison's article.

One very fascinating part of this process is the reaction on the part of the reporters/bloggers. We all have our own takes on the interviews.

I will say that I didn't hear all the interviews (as Rosenthal did because he taped them all) so I didn't hear the "pro-teacher" comment nor did I hear that at our interview.

Alison may have indeed heard specifics; I didn't.

Anonymous said...

"She has no experience with TFA. "

That may be true, but she didn't answer the question. A good way to keep both sides happy.

Floor Pie said...

What did she have to say about special ed?

mirmac1 said...

Floor Pie,

Near as I can figure it, she thought she addressed with:

"She said they had a TAG program (talented and gifted) in her district. She said these students had different needs with an emotional component. She said there were times they needed to be together and times they needed to be "part of a whole community." She said her district had no official pull-out program but did a little of one and differentiated teaching and she liked both."

Huh?!

mirmac1 said...

The Stranger Slog asks "Is Schools Superintendent Finalist Sandra Husk Just Right for Seattle?"

mirmac1 said...

Melissa, I'm curious. Was this the only one Varner attended? So that she can start writing her editorial? No need to visit with the others because the A4E/DSA/OSC/Burgess mind is made up.

Anonymous said...

Dora has a great piece on Dr. Husk and Dr. Husk's lack of use for a pesky school board:

http://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/the-superintendent-candidates-for-seattle-public-schools-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/

Haven't we been down this road?

I'm sure Directors DeBell, Martin Morris and Carr will vote as they always vote -- what do the Big Boyz of Billy's A$tro Turf$ think is important? These 3 Directors can pretty much count on the support of Burgess and Knapp, so that means ALL the city and ALL the teachers like what Billy'$ A$tro Turf$ like ...

WheresRueven

Anonymous said...

Regarding the "speed dating" article in Crosscut - the (sub)title says it all...

"...in the state's superintendent search..."

Uhh, I thought it was a search for a superintendent for Seattle. Huh.

Oompah

Floor Pie said...

mirmac1, if I read that correctly, I think Husk was just spouting a common talking point around gifted education. "[T]hese students had different needs with an emotional component" and therefore need to be in their own group sometimes.

Gifted is different from special ed in that a lot of parents WANT self-contained for a variety of reasons, including the social/emotional component. (That's a hot issue with Spectrum right now.) If a child is placed in a self-contained class with all gifted students, it doesn't bear the same stigma as a child being placed in a class with all autistic students. Some even see it as prestigious.

This is hard for me to get my head around sometimes, given the overlap of social/emotional issues both groups face...but that's a philosophical question for another time. In the meantime, it doesn't sound like we know much about where Husk stands on special ed. I wish we knew more, but I guess we'll find out soon enough...

SeattleSped said...

Floor Pie,

I'll tell you that I did a little sleuthing on my own. Talked to an S-K SpEd staffer who actually answered the phone (!?) Said my husband was relocating for business and I wanted to talk with SpEd parents re: S-K's programs. She didn't know of ANYONE I could talk to outside the org, but very nicely said someone in-house would follow-up with me.

Never heard from anyone.

Floor Pie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Floor Pie said...

(messed that up, trying again...)

SeattleSped, that could be telling, or it could simply be indicative of the special ed parenting culture in that particular community. Some of us are out-n-proud, some of us...not so much. Culturally, I'd guess it would be easier to be open about being a special ed parent in Seattle than it would be in Salem (not to be Salemist or anything...correct me if I'm wrong). So, if people are less likely to be "out" in the first place, they're less likely to be organized? I don't know.

If it is Husk, and if she does turn out to be as clueless about special ed as we fear, I'll be happy to welcome her to Seattle with a pie and a copy of John Elder Robison's Be Different. And we live to fight another day...

Anonymous said...

I believe Husk was less than forthcoming re: governance philosophy. Good thing her hometown paper did a thorough write-up so that everyone, especially the Board, could see for themselves. I believe they have received a copy of all the news articles. : )

Googler

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