Meet the Alliance for Education, Seattle's Shadow School Board

Or it seems like they want to be.

In the latest batch of public disclosure documents, it appears that Director DeBell did not, as he claims, sit around by himself during the holiday break in December writing up Policy 1620.   He has said that Erinn Bennett, Board Office manager, and Holly Ferguson, SPS Governance, helped him shape it.

But he left out that he asked for guidance from both Don McAdams, consultant to the Board (going on 5 years now) and Karen Tollenaar Demorest, Vice President of Programs at the Alliance. Now why them and not say, other duly-elected Board members, is a question only he can answer.

It also seems the Alliance was not particularly happy about the superintendent search in an e-mail from the Alliance's Sara Morris to the "Our Schools" coalition on Feb 2, 2012:

Director DeBell shared some info yesterday.  It does not exactly align with our expectations for a high quality search.

The OSC went on to share their thoughts with the Board a day later (partial) on their unhappiness with who will interview finalists:

In our view, this does not qualify as a list of "community representatives."  The organizations listed below share the expectation and belief that the search process, as with all district business, be transparent and inclusive.  The education ecosystem in SEattle is large and varied and it is impractical to think everyone can play a direct role.  But the undersigned have collectively invested millions of dollars in SPS, directly served thousands of students, campaigned for levies and fought for policies with student interest at their heart.  Given the long-standing partnerships these organizations have built with SPS, the omissions are bewildering.  The Board imperils the success of the Superintendent search - and its own long-term success - by ignoring the perspective of teachers, direct service providers, advocacy groups, business leaders and philanthropists.  

They end:

We will happily organize to collectively fill a mere one of those 20 slots.  We look forward to your invitation.

So there.  I see their point in some fashion.  But there are many people who do not belong to any of these organizations who have, in their own small way, invested in schools, advocated and voted for levies, etc.  Why does the dollar amount matter?  

And, of course, it is quite amusing that they ask for just one seat because when the Alliance and LEV were told they could come and meet with the search consultants, well, Sara Morris and Jon Bridge went for the Alliance and as well, more than one LEV person showed up.

The Alliance seems to be the driving force in the Our Schools Coalition, continuing on from when they "started" it.

The OSC was developing its own list of superintendent candidates.

 Also on their list of next steps was this one - "grassroots parent engagement."  Look for that soon at a school near you.

After Dr. Enfield's State of the District speech on Nov. 16, 2011, they put out a sheet of their assessment of what was said.  It included:

- staying consistent with your own motto - AGREE - "Attaching Gaps, Raising Expectations Everywhere (but look for that to go away when we have a new super)
- increase access to Spectrum and ensure consistency across the district.  Spectrum (conceptually) is important to effectively prepare our students for college and life...but Spectrum does not exist in every school and even where it does exist, quality and rigor vary greatly.  I wonder what drove that thought.

Last fall, we find - again - that the Alliance was not happy with the Board.  This time it was the Board's choice of Survey Monkey to use for their survey last fall.  Sara Morris said this:

I'm disappointed (and have expressed this to board members) they are utilizing a "Survey Monkey"-style online tool that is not statistically valid and will not produce objective research findings amongst a representative sample of public education stakeholders in Seattle. 

I'm thinking she forgot that the Board had no money for a full-out poll.

In early January a number of OSC members wrote about having a work session.  Included in the work was the following (partial):

- How to engage with the sup search (sic)?
- what are new/different ways to engage with School Board members?
- what/who are other groups/individuals we can genuinely engage in the coalition?
- should we set up an "Implementation status report" schedule that we ask the District to commit to? (or other formalized accountability mechanism(s)?

That last one is quite the head-scratcher.  The rest of us get our "formalized accountability mechanism" through our votes for School Board members but I guess the OSC members feel they can ask the district to provide accountability to them on their terms.  I guess it never hurts to ask.

The OSC is also are scheduling set-up of their own blog.  Honestly - I can't wait.


Concerned about DeBell said…
"But he left out that he asked for guidance from both Don McAdams, consultant to the Board (going on 5 years now) and Karen Tollenaar Demorest, Vice President of Programs at the Alliance. Now why them and not say, other duly-elected Board members, is a question only he can answer."

Does this count as misleading the public? I think so. Is it time for DeBell to step down from position of president? I think so.

What else is he up to?
Anonymous said…
What/who are other groups/individuals we can genuinely engage in the coalition?

As opposed to the groups and individuals this arrogant Master of the Universe group does NOT genuinely engage? Or doesn't deign to engage in the first place? Freudian slip there.

What IS IT with the Alliance for Education? They expect to buy their way in to both choosing leadership and setting direction? Because they are gooder and smarter and richer? Seriously?

One percent snotty exceptionalism and hubris alive and well in the name of "doing best for the kids". Sorry Muffy and Biff. The riffraff have voices too.

Sincerely, (Actually, insincerely,)
'Public Schools Equal Populism'
dan dempsey said…
Great insight:

Masters of the Universe group .... sounds a lot like the Board and the Superintendent's kind of people.

The "Masters of the Universe" Board simply ignores anytime they are asked about violations of RCWs and WACs when it makes decisions and same for Enfield and Ferguson when writing action report proposals.

Disregard for the law ... indicates ... Masters of the Universe. .... No wonder the Board members DeBell, Martin-Morris, and Carr never write to me as they often prefer to disregard data and the law while fabricating and presenting fairytale explanations for their actions.

So when will a careful review of all options for closing achievement gaps be completed? ...
(or how about started?)

The SPS has been expanding achievement gaps ... Guess its not in the Board's and Superintendent's best interest to ever have such a review.
Anonymous said…
Michael just oozes weakness these days. In his desire to offend no one, he fails everyone. Surprising? No.

It's particularly telling - of Freudian proportions - that Morris's first statement is "We've invested millions.." Kind of says it all, doesn't it? With fund-raising comes entitlement. (Ed Reform philosophy in a nutshell.) Where's my payback, damnit?

Hearing Michael now bashing Colleges of Education as well proves he's drunk on the Ed Reform Industry's Kool-Aid. So, Arne Duncan's got his hand in Michael's back. Disappointing, but inevitable.

Whenever we ask "why" or "how" concerning the perplexing, unresponsive policies and decisions, we have to remember an important fact: Lots of careers are riding on the perpetuation of the "Education Crisis" in America.
The Ed Reform Industry also needs its double-agents, like DeBell, and it needs it's WMD, which is the Achievement Gap. If the Gap were eliminated, what would the Ed Reformers do for a living? How would Rhee, Moskowitz, and Kopp pay their mortgages?

Like Oil and Gas, Big Pharma, and Big Agriculture, Big Ed Reform is an Industry. Again, follow the money.

mirmac1 said…
Actually, you can count on DeBell popping a vein if you get him on the subject of those irresponsible citizens and their dam public records requests. Recently he blustered "Why, SPS even has to have an FTE (!) to fulfill them!" Could the emails Melissa talks about and those on SPSLeaks have anything to do with his discomfiture?

Earth to DeBell, that FTE is called a Public Records Officer. The public has a right to know who is REALLY drafting our district's Board-Superintendent board procedure. We have a right to know who is feeding the puff pieces to the press, and telling Lynne Varner what to write. Tuff.
Michael is unhappy about the public disclosure requests?

It's called transparency and the Board and the Alliance bring it up all the time. I guess it might be just a word but I like to think it means something.
Someone said…
This is a totally frightening sentence:
"should we set up an "Implementation status report" schedule that we ask the District to commit to? (or other formalized accountability mechanism(s)?"

Seriously? The Board/District is ACCOUNTABLE TO THEM????!!!! But clearly, not us, the taxpayer/citizen/parent. Oooohhh that just really burns my toast. I know it's naive in a world where "money talks" but I guess I still foolishly believe in the concept of democracy - one voice, one vote.

I wish I had the feeling any of them actually reads emails from us plain vanilla constituents - I've been known to write them, but my sense is they engender hollow laughter...and not much else...sigh
mirmac1 said…
The Master of the masters tells KSB to change her behavior, or else.

And Frank Greer and MD work on a "story" about "who" really "talked" to the "press." (why all the quotes?
Anonymous said…
(from Greer's bio on
"Over the course of his extraordinary career, Frank has helped elect U.S. President Bill Clinton, South African President Nelson Mandela, Czechoslovakian President Vaclav Havel and Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom."

After these illustrious accomplishments it must be so frustrating to poor Frank when he has difficulties manipulating people and opinion in his own back yard. I would like to call him a name here but I will refrain.

Kathy said…
Thanks, Mirimac.

I'd never heard of Frank Greer before today. This is an excellent example of the pressure these folks put on our Board members.

So, you get a DeBell, Frank Greer, Lynne Varner, David Brewster..and your name reputation gets smeared if you don't agree with these folks. In my opinion, it is coersion.
another name said…
I don't know how often people click on these off-site links, but this is a good one. Fairly short, sweet, and shows the kind of pressure that outsiders are foisting on our board. Here's that link again:

Frank Greer leans on KSB

These are powerful people. I don't envy board members having to stand up to them, but I hope they can withstand the pressure. Mr. Greer is certainly not the only one; logic would dictate that it's coming from many different directions at once. That's how you wear people down.
mirmac1 said…
From Greer's email, sounds like Jon Bridge (who elsewhere whines about getting heat on the blogs) went crying to him about not getting their way. Called out the Big Guns, so to speak.

I'll bet Greer left off the Shah of Iran and Manuel Noriego off his bio
mirmac1 said…
I may have to ask for those pesky public records with Frank Greer's name on them...
Mr. Greer does indeed seem to be a powerful person and I suspect he is the head of any Board campaign committee out to get Kay and Betty off the Board (as well as find a replacement for Michael should he not run).
mirmac1 said…
Well, I wonder if his firm had to refund the Sundquist and Maier campaign (snark)
Anonymous said…
Frank Greer is a professional politico and he knows how to make fake real. You guys don't have K street balls, much less money or connection to play hard with him. He bites.

Real world
Someone said…
I hadn't heard of Mr. Greer till I read some of those emails - it's all so...well - slimy, for want of a better word -manipulative, and yes, I do see how one could make the case for coercion, though more evidence of same would be needed. I hadn't made the link to the conversation that took place here a while back re: GMMB & the Stand For Children website.

It's all starting to make sense... still makes me livid - but makes sense...
Someone said…
@Real world
I tend to agree that he's playing in a different league and has connections and $$ that far outweigh anything the average citizen brings to the table.
Doesn't mean one can't be a thorn, should that be a goal - if ever there was a case of "silence equals complicity" this whole sordid mess is it.
Anonymous said…
Hint: Who better to run DeBell's campaign? Think of it as a Ms. America's pageant.... who wouldn't want world peace, jobs for all, and education for kids......

Real world
mirmac1 said…
Well, he can bite me.
Kathy said…
I'd like to know more about Frank Greer and his relationship to SPS.

In my opinion, there is an attempt to manipulate the board through coersion, fear and intimidation. Yes, even if it means using the press to discredit highly respected Board members. There is a question if Brewster had ever spoken to some of our newly elected board members.

In my opinion, I also felt there was a lot of political pressure to prematurely pass the MOU for Creative Approach Schools.

Greer, Bridges etc. may have their thoughts, but Directors hear from a wide variety of constituents. They should be able to speak freely without fears of the Board President going after them via media or political connections.

It looks likes the lines of communication are becoming clearer. Thanks.
Real, now that just sounds like a challenge to me (but in a fun way).

I see a lot of what is happening as a tsunami of money, connections and power that yes, we can't fight back as long and as hard as we wish we could. I don't know how long we can hold back the dike that is charter schools.

BUT, every time I see people like the parents in Florida saying no to a parent trigger (I'll link the story in another thread) and see that yes, grassroots work CAN change outcomes for School Board elections and that TFA is mightily exasperated/frustrated with their lukewarm reception in Seattle, I know that there are possibilities everyone.

As for having "K-street balls" (and that is hilarious phrasing so thanks for the laugh), here's one of my favorite sayings:

"Balls said the Queen, if I had 'em, I'd be King."

I don't fear anyone.
Anonymous said…
To ALL, I didn't say don't be a pain. Go ahead, you should. I am. What goes on this blog and our schools is relevant for you and me and our kids. What gets played out on the public square is a reflection of one party machinery that dominated our city and state media and political process far too long (we're a lot more like Chicago than you think). Tim Burgess has discovered his passion for kids and education and Inslee and McKenna are bosom buddies on this issue. Director DeBell is being groomed...etc.

Education dollar is untapped in this state. Whether we fund it fully or not, that public tap is BIG and this state has the means now with the full blessing of both parties to turn it on for the right folks. Kinda like defense and banking. Too big to fail.

Which brings me to:
“Just tell 'em you're gonna soak the fat boys and forget the rest of the tax stuff...Willie, make 'em cry, make 'em laugh, make 'em mad, even mad at you. Stir them up and they'll love it and come back for more, but, for heaven's sakes, don't try to improve their minds. ”
― Robert Penn Warren, All the King's Men

Which is why I say, stick it to the man.

Real world
Disgusted said…
Ahhh. Greer Schmear. Don't be afraid of him.

Melissa, I absolutely love the quote.
Anonymous said…
Frank Greer

"We are societal problem solvers. Engineers of social change."

They are...
"...the firm of record for the US Program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and provide broad-based communications and advocacy strategy and support so that all students graduate high school prepared for success in college and career."

His company has also had a relationship with SPS; but does not list it on his web site.

Frank Greer is a QA resident, most likely working with the Moderate Parents Group (Stacy Lawson et al).

SPS Parent
Disgusted said…
And from Margaret Meade:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has

But, I might like Melissa's quote better. Keep up the good work.
Anonymous said…
"I may have to ask for those pesky public records with Frank Greer's name on them..."

yes you should, Frank does not like his activities to be made public!

SPS Parent
Sahila said…
Vulture Capitalist/Philanthropist ~ One who picks apart a business or public institution to obtain saleable parts/revenue streams to benefit himself....
mirmac1 said…
Real World,

I love you and want to have your baby! : }

Totally get the "All the King's Men" reference and how it pisses the hell out of 99% of us....
mirmac1 said…
SPS Parent,

Done and"don't even THINK about hitting Delete"!

It seems SOME QA residents feel like they deserve an "outsized voice" (using DeBell's "pre-1620" outrage), compared to the rest of us. I know for a fact that the Coe Elementary claque is happier than **** to have Lafayette's former principal. But, hey, I'll admit it: until WS parents orchestrate the same kind of deliberative, coordinated email campaign as Bridge's "general populace", then we'll be left in the dust...
Anonymous said…
I have noted how much this QA community is attempting to pull strings to get their agenda items "passed." SE "bailing" on them really threw a wrench in the works.

Looking forward to reading more from Frank.

SPS Parent
Someone said…
Just went back and re-read - does anyone have an idea about what Mr. Greer means when he says something to KSB about "your role in Susan's decision"???? Decision to leave???

My views of these people change so much when you read these emails - I just can't get over how dysfunctional SPS leadership appears again and again and again. No wonder the Auditor is always finding things to call out
dw said…
You guys don't have K street balls, much less money or connection to play hard with him.

I read "K street balls" and in the context of the emails I immediately saw KSB. Wow, I really need to get out more!
Google and Five Minutes said…
Greer has been around SPS for a while.
Google and Five Minutes said…
Hanauer and Greer:
Anonymous said…
From the comments section on the townhallseattle link:

"This event ended up in pandemonium, caused by some in the OS movement trying to take over the discussion. It was a sad outcome, because they shouted and jeered...Frank Greer, in particular, was shouted down. I felt so sorry for him."

--enough already
seattle citizen said…
SPS Parent, your comment rings true: People up on the hill purport to know what's best for those masses down in SE and SE is rebelling against the "holier than thou" pronouncements from on high...It's almost a 21st century version of Manifest Destiny: "WE are the chosen, and we will, in our munificance, deign to help the poor...cough-we create-cough... WE have the answer, and will do our very, very best to create a workable plantation."

I'm reminded of an Episcopal priest I read about in an 1877 magazine article I have floating around somewhere...He was on his way to the Indian mission in the West, and said, "While I cannot raise them to our level of civilization, I will do my best to make good farmers of them."

Yes. Good farmers is what they are trying to make with their crammed classrooms led by uncertified newbies with one foot out the door, the only lessons being how to pass the test. You don't see Seattle Girl's School, on who board Mr. Greer sits in an honorary capacity, filling its rooms to the brim and turning its curriculum to pap. THAT is reserved for the farmers down in the valley.

Mr. Greer has done very well for himself. He has used his media and advertising and political acumen to do some great things. But in this instance he reveals a sort of noblesse oblige that is disturbing: A "master of the universe" attempting to sell his plan for the masses.

I aint' buying it: The SE, and others IN the city and OF the city, are capable of designing their own curricula to meet their own needs. They have no need, and indeed cannot afford, to be manipulated further by the people on the hill.
mirmac1 said…
Greer moves among the "K Street" crowd : )

Greer's PDC data
seattle citizen said…
wow, mirmac, so that's how those how those on the hill do it: Donate to a wide variety of people and causes, calling oneself "consultant" and "president" and "partner" and "communciations" and "public affairs consultant" and "principal founder" and....

That's how it works, I guess, once one clmibs to the heights: you scratch your fellow olympian's back and he (for it is still, alas, almost always a "he" - look at the gender of most of those he has given to) scratches yours. It's a self-perpetuating machine, and once your a part of it you're golden.

I grew up where this sort of thing was routine. The "right" church, the "right" company, the "right" fundraisers...And most of the children in that community went to the "right" schools and met the "right" contacts and could, if they so chose, continue as a legacy in dad's footsteps.

Masters of the universe, schmoozing each other for favors down the road at $500-per-plate dinner parties over at the Greer's expansive home.

Sweet work if you can get it. "I want to say one word to you, Benjamin just one word:, wait....Consulting."
Po3 said…
These folks on the hill sure spend a lot of time crafting emails and manipulating the media. In the end, what exactly have they accomplished? They lost the two board members in November followed by their beloved super. So then they had to spend hours writing all those emails about Policy 1620.

As my oldest likes to say, "well there's an hour of my life I will never get back," after spinning her wheels on some fruitless effort.

Fruitless indeed.
mirmac1 said…
Fruitless indeed, my thoughts exactly. I believe those who think they're money oughta buy anything are more easily discouraged then the rest of us bumpkins who never say die:

"Give me Liberty, or give me Death!"
mirmac1 said…
Amazing how my fingers and brain lose dexterity once I've had a glass of wine!
mirmac1 said…
Seattle Citizen,

Actually, I like when he once listed himself down as "Homemaker". Must've been an off-year election season....
Anonymous said…
Personally, I want to thank Frank Greer for exposing himself as a prime example of everything wrong with our democracy.

Sunlight is indeed the best disinfectant.

Anonymous said…
Hmmm. I thought that his SE bailing comment meant Susan Enfield. I will go back a re read for context. However, the exchanges between Greer and DeBell and Greer and KSB are revealing to say the least. DeBell should resign as Board president due to his lack of truthfulness, disrepect of KSB, and apparent belief in his own superiority over the rest of the Board.

Disgusted said…
" DeBell should resign as Board president due to his lack of truthfulness, disrepect of KSB, and apparent belief in his own superiority.

I agree. DeBell's lack of professionalism and unwillingness to communicate with colleagues before going to the press to promote BP1620BP is disturbing. Instead, he chose to use his political connections to discredit board members to promote his agenda.

Then, DeBell mislead the public and did not disclose the assistance he received from the Alliance of Education to write 1620.
mirmac1 said…
Okay, who wants to inform the Board members who favored a deliberative process, about their fearless leader's, um...shall we say, inconstancy.
Anonymous said…
A "watchdog" was quoted in the ST article.

We have a "watchcat", damnit.

--enough already
StopTFA said…
*huh*? oh...rowr
Anonymous said…
And you can call me Fred or Frank or whatever.

Greetings from the land of the interchangeable f words.

--enough already

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