Maybe I should quit

I have been an education activist for over eleven years. Over those years I have devoted thousands and thousands of hours to efforts to get Seattle Public Schools to fulfill its commitments. I have never asked the District to do anything more than what the District promised to do. I have worked for community engagement, for transparency, and, more than anything else, for the District to keep its commitments to students and families. I have worked really hard at it for a really long time, and I must admit that I have not had any effect at all. Frankly, I'm getting tired of it.

At what point is it appropriate for me to stop? At what point should I determine that Seattle Public Schools is irreparably corrupt and incapable of reform? When should I quit?

And what then? Work to establish some alternative structure, like charter schools? Work to dismantle the district and make every school independent? Work for a City or County takeover of the schools? Just stop working on public education entirely?

People sometimes ask me how I can sustain my sense of outrage for over ten years. I can't. I can't sustain my sense of outrage for that long any more than anyone else could. The secret is that I don't have to sustain it. The District does something every week or so to renew that sense of outrage. The District breaks promises so frequently that they are constantly providing fuel for my burn.

I guess I'm just old-fashioned because I care about the truth and keeping commitments. What I'm learning is that people just don't care about those things anymore. I feel like some fuddy-duddy who's irked by casual Friday. Politicians freely tell convenient lies and no one cares - not even when the lies are identified. The Seattle Times editorial board has no trouble telling lies. Why should anyone care when school district officials lie or break promises? And, with the insane turnover in District management, there's no one to hold responsible for the lies or the broken commitments. Mr. Banda can no more be expected to keep Dr. Enfield's promises than Dr. Goodloe-Johnson felt obliged to keep Mr. Manhas' promises. Wendy London came and went so fast that I didn't even have time to figure out whether to call her Ms London or Dr. London before she was gone. Her replacement won't even know who June Rimmer is, let alone have any interest in keeping Dr. Rimmer's unfulfilled promises - or Mr. Wilson's, or Ms Santorno's, or Dr. Enfield's, or Dr. Thompson's or Wendy London's.

I don't think I have the strength to write off all of the promises again. Over and over again the district officials indebt themselves to the community with promise after promise and then, shortly after reneging on the promise, they move on and the community has to write off the debt.

I spoke with Mr. Bousche when he got the job of interim CFO. He got hit with a lot of distrust from the community and he didn't think he deserved it. I asked him if he wanted a blank slate. He said that he did. Too bad, I told him, we're out of blank slates. He inherits the history of the office - for good or ill. Of course, I never heard of anyone who inherited good will asking for a blank slate.

Now we are looking forward to having an entirely new top management in the District, none of whom were there even two years ago. Most of whom didn't even work for the District or live in Seattle two years ago. They will all want a blank slate. They will all want the community to write off the promises of their predecessors.

Add to that the fact that no meaningful reform of the District culture is possible without consistent leadership. On the contrary, the revolving door of leadership makes change harder and harder to achieve and makes it take longer to gain support.

At some time doesn't it make sense to just give up on the whole effort and adopt another tack? Doesn't it make sense to dismiss Seattle Public Schools' central administration as an irreparable cluster and find a more effective outlet for my passion? What could that be?

Would my efforts be better served working to develop an elementary charter school in the Columbia building that would have true inclusive classrooms and would really work along all of the principles that serve students best? I don't think I could make the switch over to the pro-charter side.

Would my efforts be better served working to support city or county takeover of schools? Could the city or county officers provide better management and more honest administration that the District? Could they fail to? But this promises to be just as futile.

Would my efforts be better served working to help one school - like Madrona K-8 - to have the resources it needs to properly serve its students? I could, but it seems patronizing.

The one idea that is actually appealing to me and suits my skills would be to start a new public school fundraising foundation that doesn't have any political positions and doesn't try to influence policy, but just raises funds for the District. It could also act as fiscal agent for school-based funds as the Alliance now does. Surely there are some people who just want to donate without all kinds of strings attached.

Or maybe I could just quit. Just unplug. Just stop reading the news, or going to the meetings, or having anything to do with the District. Maybe if I didn't watch them, then they couldn't get me riled up.


Anonymous said…
I was leafleting this week with someone against the yuppie scum sell out charter initiative -

I told someone that I couldn't do this stuff because I expected things to change - I can do this stuff because the people who are in charge excel at lying and excel at getting paid more than everyone they're in charge of, and, stupid me, I think if you make more than everyone else you should be better than everyone else!

Can you imagine how traffic departments, and regional health care and ... the auto industry were run by people who excelled at optimizing the productivity struggling between the natural tensions between those who paid the bills to start the service, those who work day in and day out delivering the services, and the customers of the services?

Instead of managers highly skilled in the running of their corner of community and the economy, we have managers who specialize in running their empires for the benefit of their cronies. Some of the few things American management does right is that when you're training managers to be non-violent thieving warlords, it doesn't matter what sector of the community they're in!

Back out in reality, juggling the resources and demands of running education or health care or making cars or ... ummmm - there aren't a lot of transferable skills, except thieving.

Hope for the best, expect the worst, do what you can stomach, and

Anonymous said…
I think you may have more influence than you think. When my kids were in public school a few years ago there were no outlets like this blog that called out the SPS Administration. It is very helpful for parents to know the inside story and who they can trust.....or not. You are a strong voice to keep SPS accountable. The leaders there may not seem to be paying attention but I suspect they do.

The Seattle Times has given up any attempt to inform its readers and is now a mouthpiece for the ed reformers. Thank goodness we have another viewpoint. You and Melissa are giving critical alternate opinions. I am sure many parents and teachers appreciate what you are doing.

I share your frustration, since I have been trying to change the math curriculum for years. It has to improve and I hope Banda and the new board will finally respond to parents and the math pros who have been so critical of Discovery math.

It may seem hopeless, but somebody has to point out the rules if they are broken. SPS can be much better than it is. Please don’t stop.

S parent

Anonymous said…
Don't give the bastards the satisfaction Charlie. Hang in there.
Ivan Weiss
Charlie Mas said…
Maybe I should just try a hiatus and let someone else carry the ball for a while.
mirmac1 said…
Now we are looking forward to having an entirely new top management in the District, none of whom were there even two years ago. Most of whom didn't even work for the District or live in Seattle two years ago. They will all want a blank slate. They will all want the community to write off the promises of their predecessors.

And this top management, led by a new superintendent who pledged to "listen", has done diddly to get outside the A4E/LEV/bureaucratic Beltway. A "welcome" banquet at Holly Miller's? Sure thing! It's on the calendar!

Charlie, don't let one pisser stop you. But I understand. I've only been at it for two years, and I think everyday of saying "shove it!"

Still, we keep the eye on the prize.
mirmac1 said…
from previous thread, Charlie says:

"I have thought a lot about what Amused has written, and it has made me question - again - the value in my crusade for accountability. Maybe I should just quit. I'm not doing any good and I might be doing some harm."

For those (few) who may not have guessed, my name is Cecilia McCormick, and I don't give a sh*t about attracting bees with honey. It wasn't until I set up SPSLeaks that many saw what some district staff really were doing. I have been threatened and personally attacked (like Charlie), even though I am not a "public figure" or a (so-called_ "journalist". Again, I don't give a sh*t. Will it stop me? Hasn't so far and I doubt it will. Charlie, we don't see eye to eye on everything, but I'm glad you're committed to the fight. Either way, see you on the other side.
Anonymous said…
I think that when you can't stand it anymore, you should let someone else carry the ball.

I have no reason to believe that SPS is any more corrupt than any other organization (and, remember the old maxim about never assuming corruption when incompetence will do).

In politics (and, really, politics is anything where groups of people who don't always agree have to work together), all praises/institutions/choices are compromised. But, we have no alternative but to try to make them work as well as they can.

Anonymous said…
Isn't this thread one of the best arguments FOR charters?

If good people working hard are unable to change an incompetent, unethical, and even occasionally criminal school district management, isn't it time to explore alternate approaches.

Charters are an experiment with uncertain results, but many parents are willing to "roll the dice" and hope for a better educational outcome than stick with the guaranteed mediocre outcome provided by SPS.

- Willing to take a chance
seattle citizen said…
Charlie, it IS about individual students, succeeding where you can. I am certain that your contributions to discourse, here and elsewhere, and your actions have contributed to students succeeding.
Of course I hope you continue, because you have become a vast repository of knowledge (how 'bout taking a break, to work on a book about Seattle Public School?) and I would certainly miss you insights, whether I agree with them or not.
If you don't want to take a complete break (to write that book), how 'bout a partial break, and spend some time in a school? Your actions there, working with students, would give you immediate gratification.
Do what you need to do. Public education will always be difficult, so the "battles" will never stop. We benefit from your knowledge, but you have to take care of yourself, too.
seattle citizen said…
@Willing to take a chance - No. Difficulties with school admins and policy and parents and other stakeholders is no reason to throw up one's hands and start and "experiment" with charters.
Charters, as we've seen, perform worse than publics twice as often as they perform better. They have less accountability to the public. They have just as many problems as publics and fewer opportunities to address those problemss (or even speak to them: How am I, a taxpayer, to pay attention to the various and sundry policies of a bunch of individual schools? In the public system, I can pay attention to the policies of my district because they are district-wide, at least.)
Charters are worse than publics, they are more isolated from the public than publics, and they are less public. Not a good argument for "experimenting." Instead, continue, one and all, to support publics instead of opting out into a charter.
Anonymous said…
But if you open the door and let them in, will you ever be able to open that door again to say good-bye? There is no doubt some will work. Some of everything always work. But the majority will fall to the same base corruption, incompetence and greed as everything else that's been privatized.

Our politicians have let us down. Have let kids down. They pretend to be curious and intellectual but in the end they are as incompetent, greedy and corrupt as everyone seems to be in positions of power today.

Outright lying from a Presidential candidate? And his minions? What's left? Maybe we are done.

Cecilia McCormick, you are an original. One of a kind. We need you. You will lead the revolution.

seattle citizen said…
Charlie, it IS about individual students, succeeding where you can. I am certain that your contributions to discourse, here and elsewhere, and your actions have contributed to students succeeding.
Of course I hope you continue, because you have become a vast repository of knowledge (how 'bout taking a break, to work on a book about Seattle Public School?) and I would certainly miss you insights, whether I agree with them or not.
If you don't want to take a complete break (to write that book), how 'bout a partial break, and spend some time in a school? Your actions there, working with students, would give you immediate gratification.
Do what you need to do. Public education will always be difficult, so the "battles" will never stop. We benefit from your knowledge, but you have to take care of yourself, too.
SC Parent said…
IMHO, the only chance we have is splitting Seattle schools into 2-4 reasonably-sized districts with revenue sharing.
Eric B said…
A few months ago, one of the Coast Guard people who oversee my clients said, "I hate getting into an argument with Eric! He wins every time!" Really, I win a quarter to half the time. It's down to perception--if you think you lose every time, then you do. The blog has had some successes. The Principal Floe unfiring and the change in high school start times are two good examples. Sure, other people took the ball and ran with it, but this site was a clearinghouse for information.

All that said, if you're sick and tired, do something else for a change.
"Charters are an experiment with uncertain results, but many parents are willing to "roll the dice" and hope for a better educational outcome than stick with the guaranteed mediocre outcome provided by SPS."

From the frying pan into the fire. Okay if crossing your fingers is good enough. It isn't for me and the outcomes, overall, will hurt district and taxpayers. There is no question about that.

I would not be fighting charters if I didn't believe public education in both Seattle and WA State wasn't turning around. There could be no force on earth to make me say that if I didn't believe it to be true.

I am also dismayed at the number of people who think their kids got (are getting) a mediocre education in SPS. I don't think my kids did and I don't think that is true overall.

Be careful what you wish for and let me just say, I rarely say "I told you so" but I will if charters pass and it slowly dawns on voters just what they have brought to bear on our state.

You think there has been criminality in this district? Wait for it - charters are no better.
Charlie Mas said…
It is impossible to achieve any kind of final victory in an argument against charters because charters are all hope. There are no facts that we can raise that will stand in the face of hope.

So long as people approach them with optimism instead of skepticism, there will be people who are willing to buy that lottery ticket.
Michael Rice said…
Willing to take a chance writes: "Charters are an experiment with uncertain results, but many parents are willing to "roll the dice" and hope for a better educational outcome than stick with the guaranteed mediocre outcome provided by SPS."

What this says is that you think the teachers in SPS don't know how to teach and don't serve the students of Seattle. I know this person did not mean to do this, but as a teacher, I take great personal offense to statements like that. I (and the teachers I work with) would never stand for that. That statement goes against everything that I went into teaching for. I am headed into my eighth year and I spent my summer working more than ever to refine what I do. I take what I do very seriously what I do and I am constantly working to make what and how I teach better.

I don't know where your child goes to school, but I would like to invite you to come visit Ingraham. I think you will find that there are no guaranteed medicore results. Talk to the parents and the community. I know you will find the exact opposite.

If your child is close to high school age, I would encourage you to do some research. I think you will be able to find a school where your child will be challenged and you will feel like your child receives a quality education.

If a traditional comprehensive high school is not for your child, Seattle has many alternative options that may be a great fit for your child. This is just another reason why the charter school initative is not needed.

I know you did not mean to take a shot at teachers with your comment, but your statement says otherwise.
Jan said…
Michael -- it may not be a shot at teachers at all. It may be (and in fact far more likely is) a shot at the administration. If you live in Rainier Beach and have no car, Ingraham (and RHS and Ballard) are no consolation. If you have a SPED kid who has been warehoused for years -- and sent to schools that are not committed to their success -- regular school success stories are no help.

Of course, charters will not fix either of these problems. But the campaign lies, and claims the initiative language addresses these issues, when it clearly does not. If people want any say, ANY say at all, in the kinds of schools they have, how they are staffed and run, and whether neighborhood kids get to go there -- they will not vote for this charter initiative.
Greg Linden said…
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Greg Linden said…
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old salt said…
I have followed this blog closely since it started. I haven't posted much lately but I still read. I have used information that I found here to help myself &/or others get sped services, get high school credit, supplement math instruction, figure out the transition rules for the NSAP, find a support group for 2E in the district, support principal Flow, keep another principal honest in explaining the WSS changes, distribute the later start petition, & clarify the contents of the charter bill. I depend on this blog for information about the district, about personalities that can influence decisions about individual schools & even individual children and for some really fun debate where I often learn something. I am so glad that teachers contribute to the discussion here too. I wish that more would so.

Thank You Charlie for your years of reporting, reminding & keeping people honest. I really value institutional memory as an important part of moving forward, and there is very little of that around SPS. Charlie, if you have any inclination to keep it up, I wish you would.
word said…

Charter schools aside, the math curriculum is a hideous yet eminently fixable problem and with a new superintendent who may very well have much more practical views on what's best for the students - now is the time to push on that issue. Those of us who follow this blog don't understand policy like you do (at least I don't). Your guidance is essential.
Greg Linden said…
I agree with "S Parent", Charlie, that you have more influence than you believe. Influence is a series of soft nudges, and its diffuse impact can be hard to discern. Don't be overly discouraged, you are having an impact.

As for your idea about fund raising, I think that is an excellent idea, though you might also consider running for school board again or helping people with similar beliefs as yours run for the board.

Improving public education is difficult. If it was easy, it would already have been done. Keep fighting the good fight, Charlie.
seattle citizen said…
What do you mean when you write that "schools that are not committed to [a student's] success"?

The whole school? Or just some people in it?
Watching said…
You may not always influence the district, but you influence the community. The community, in turn influences the district. You will never have an 100 % batting average, nor should you.

What would happen if issues weren't daylighted? We'd have DeBell and others running a muck with unlawful policies.

We know Brian Rosenthal, the district and others in the community check this blog for information. How many are lurking? Don't you think that matters?

Many would like this blog gone, that is why you should stay.

Anonymous said…
No, take a few steps and a large breath. You bring community into the discussions and more than a few of us volunteer our time at locals schools because of this blog's passion. It will take time to turn the Titanic soooo keep chipping away !

Public School Parent
Anonymous said…

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
-Martin Luther King Jr.

uxolo said…
What sounds like it needs the biggest fix in Seattle is the service for students who require special education services.

The APP population has grown. Spectrum will continue to die its slow death and those who must get that accelerated program will find their way to APP.

New Board and new supe will ditch the bad math.

Families with children who qualify for special ed do not have the time to fight the system individually. That's what needs attention - especially if charters exist. District administrators (still in place) talk the talk: RTI, multi-tiered blah blah blah, but there is no evidence of it existing.
SP said…
Watching (and many others above) said it spot on, "You may not always influence the district, but you influence the community. The community, in turn influences the district... What would happen if issues weren't daylighted?"

Charlie- You & Melissa have made a tremendous difference in this district and in so many indirect ways that can't be counted. Just making this blog a powerful communication tool between parents from all over the city has opened up avenues for change, trickling down through all the schools. Issues which we used to think were just specific to "our school" or to our region are often daylighted as district-wide, and thus any changes that we work for can become district-wide changes rather than just for "our children" locally.

No, please be assured that your contributions are tremendous, like underground roots which cannot be measured with a traditional yardstick (do those things even exist anymore?).

...again, "What would happen if issues weren't daylighted?"

Thank you both!
Anonymous said…
Gee SC. Do you really think very many schools are committed to the success of students with disabilities? And I believe she meant the whole school, from top to bottom. And I mean committed in way to make any difference for them? Sure, the sped teachers are presumably invested, at least to some extent. But they are isolated from both other peer educators and from an understanding of the broader needs of special eduation students. How many principals do you know have ever done anything beyond provide real estate (class space) for their students with disabilites? General educators too. It's always about the "IA"... or transferring responsibility to the lowest possible ranked employee, and those without any real education. Students who get anything at all - do so because their parents are in there every single day eeking out every little scrap they can.

-Sped parent
Anonymous said…
To quote Hoodwinked Too, "The Only Failure is When You Quit Trying."

But if your advocacy is interfering with focus on family, children and what is most important - then please take a break. Relent, recharge and refocus.

Cherish your family and return to any other heart/head nags when you are able. The opportunities will always present and you can choose. Your efforts are truly appreciated.

Disgusted said…
@willing to take a chance,

If you think the schools are mediocre, what do you think would happen as dollars exit the current system?

Over the past several years, SPS has closed a funding gap of over $100M. Elementary school counselors, summer school, drug and alcohol counselors, truancy specialists and more were taken from the system. Do you really think taking dollars from the system would really help an already underfunded system?

The original Republican budget called for additional cuts to education. The state didn't cut education this year, because McKenna was running for governor. So will we have more cuts to education next year? I'm not expecting an influx of dollars for quite a while and the legislature has not provided a funding stream for charter schools.
Jan said…
seattle citizen: yours is a good question. I am not sure I have a great answer for it. I guess what I mean is -- when a parent seeks help, through the IEP process, and the IEP is written (and the services delivered) in a manner that doesn't work. When you say your child needs several hours of speech therapy a week, and they only offer 2 (and it is clear that you get no more without a lawsuit you have neither the time nor money to pursue -- to say nothing of your fear of how your child may suffer if you sue). Where the "classroom aide" either is nonexistent, or the "help with notes" that was promised simply does not appear, week after week. Clearly, it can't be a whole "school," (whatever that is --it is sort of like Charlie's "failing schools" idea-- what? dumb bricks?). And because the delivery of SPED services is spread between downtown folks you rarely see and can't get on the phone, school-based SPED providers, classroom teachers, and the principal, it is like herding cats to try to get everyone aware of an issue, in agreement on its causes or solutions, and on task to deliver a fix.

In my view, the system only works where the head of the school -- the principal -- really owns the problems, really cares, has authority over the service providers (teachers, aides, therapists, etc.), and follows up on whether services get delivered and problems get solved.

I had this in my child's pre-SPS private schools. I never had it within the SSD. And I never had a clue of how to fix the problem.
Mary G. said…
Charlie, as someone once said to me, "oy vey." I can't speak to what you should do--but I do know that the current political climate of "lies and the lying liars who tell them" as well as The Seattle Times capsizing support for public education are separate problems from Seattle Public School Issues.

Three years ago, after twenty-four years of parenting neuro-typical kids and experiencing nothing but joy and wonder as they were miraculously educated and matriculated, I enrolled our new nine-year old son in Special Education at Seattle Public Schools. From that point forward, I felt like I had fallen down a rabbit hole and was participating in some kind of barbaric tea party run by lunatics. The teacher was the Mad hatter and various school and administrative personnel held down the roles of the Queen of hearts and the Cheshire cat. Black was white, big was small, and at some point the only thing I could manage to do was to go to school with my child to make sure that he suffered no further harm.

You need to know that you have been one of the few people or entities that has been able to say up is up and down is still down. For me, to have that support as I attended meetings, wrote letters, made phone calls and testified, has been one of the more sanity-inducing influences of the past year. So for very selfish reasons of my ownn, I would prefer that you not quit, even if you need to take a break. On the other hand, I will echo the opinion of others who feel that the education of children with special needs is a deplorable mess in SPS. Even if you need to take a break, somebody needs to keep on SPS at this critical time. In addition, the charter schools iniative must be fought, as it would further divert funding from SPS as well as underserve the special needs population. That's my 2 cents.
seattle citizen said…
Thank you, Sped parent and Jan for your detailed answers. As Jan notes, clearly it isn't "the whole school" (brick building and everyone in it) and that is why I asked - I reflexively react when I hear talk of "the whole school" or "failing schools" because problems (and successes) always lie with the individuals responsible for them. There ARE problems with special ed delivery, there is no doubt. Sped parent, I disagree somewhat with your characterization of principals and gen-ed teachers being dis-interested. As Jan notes, a student needing five hours but getting only two is being denied needed service. But this is not the fault of the principal or the gen-ed teachers, it is the fault of the budgets. Additionally, gen-ed teachers (generally) do their best to serve ALL the students in the classroom, but what is the best way to do this? The inclusion model, without supports, seems doomed to failure as gen-ed teachers are expected to basically do the impossible: Teach three...or four or five...levels of instruction at the same time (in other words, "differentiate," to use the heavily emphasized skill that is talked about but, I sense, no one knows what it is, how it looks, if it's curriculum, instruction, assessment...what?)
While I completely, wholeheartedly understand your frustration, Sped parent, and agree that there is a big, big problem in delivery (not just for SpEd students, but for students at all "levels" as these levels are further categorized, quantitated (is that a word?) measured, and assessed but few tools are in place to actually address the needs of students of students at various levels in various ways...
My issue, when asking "the whole school?" was with that assumption, and what it drives. I read in your words vast dis-satisfaction with the services, but it is NOT whole schools, it is the individuals: students, teachers, building admins, district admins, school board members, state and federal legislators, and, ultimately, taxpayers and voters. These individuals must be held "accountable," not whole buildings.
It is the "schools failing" cry that brings us charter schools, it is THE driving fallacy that is enabling some people, with good hearts or not, to demand that we offer some alternative to the whole school.
I don't think that's wise: As we've read and seen during the debate, charters, as a whole, seem to be less accountable, to the taxpayers and, I posit, to the parent/guardians chooosing them - they have a "choice," sure, but is the charter accountable and responsive to them, to all the parents in the building an to all the parents in the city, when (and I mean this respectfully and not as a slam) many, if not most, of parent/guardians are not knowledgeable about how schools work and so, understandably focused on their own child, don't hold schools accountantable for ALL children? I guess I mean that a school can be unaccountable when the community (its families) are not aware of best practice and are suckered in with grand claims...
Hmm, I ramble. It's early. I only ask that we look at the failing components instead of avowing that "whole schools fail."
po3 said…
I think if it werent for district watchdogs and this blog MGJ would still be in seattle.
Anonymous said…
As a teacher I have often felt that way myself. I am battling so many forces, both known and unknown, to make a difference in children's lives and I don't feel like my one piddling year will make any difference. But of course it does. But sometimes it seems like nothing will ever change. It is important to remember that if it were easy to change, other people would be able to easily make changes in the wrong direction too. Not that your concerns and frustrations aren't true, of course. Power, money, lies, corruption, inconsistent leadership. These are powerful forces. And there is a reason we give teachers the summer "off": to regroup, reanalyze, reimagine and reinvigorate for the year to come.

I have only found this blog in the last few months, as I am new to the system. But everyone I mention it to has heard of it. Some read it, some don't, but everyone knows it. I think it is an invaluable resource and I truly appreciate it.

I do hope you continue, but I also know that whatever you do, you will be fighting a good fight, looking at the big picture and speaking for little people like me: parents and teachers who can only work with their little pieces of the universe. We are all doing the best we can, and that is the only thing anyone can ask.

Anonymous said…
What Mary G said. Having landed in the alternate reality of Seattle Schools upon moving here, I appreciate the candor of this forum. I don't know where else I'd get some of the info that parents, teachers and others post here.

violetb said…
From a completely selfish perspective, and as a relative newcomer to this blog, I have to ask you not to stop. There is nothing of this kind that I have been able to find with the honesty and amount of information that you provide. My son just started kindergarten and so our adventure has just began, and I have begun to rely on you guys to give me the real story. But I realize that it's a drain on you to put yourself out there and to constantly feel disappointed. I guess I just wanted to let you know that we are here and listening and what you do means a lot!

Sincerely, Violet B
Carol Simmons said…
Good morning Charlie,

I hope on this day you have reconsidered. You are not a "quitter", as I said previously you are made of "sterner stuff."
Now, good grief..the students and families of Seattle need your voice. While you have been at this madness for a long time, so have I (40 years.......both serving in schools and in the community.) We have sometimes worked on the same issues and sometimes on different issues....but always with the goal of equity in educating all children. There has been no one more critical of the machinations of the District than I. The Disproportionality which continues to exist between certain groups of students of color and white students in academic achievement and discipline sanctions must continually be addressed. You, Melissa, I and so many others must continue to work on improving our public school system. And we will succeed. We have a new Super, we have new board members, some with institutional memory. Charlie there have been positive changes and you have been an important contributor to these changes. And, two other points; 1. To go to Charter Schools is not to see positive change it is destructive to public education; and, 2. The reason that there is no institutional memory is because strong supporters such as your self PLEASE DON'T.
Sometimes it is necessary to leave the arena of social, educational and economic injustice and retreat to re energize, but if you decide to take a break, don't stay away too long. We need your voice.

Thank you,
Johnny Calcagno said…
Briefly, and selfishly, I urge you NOT to quit. This blog is by far the most informed and informative resource for Seattle public school parents. You and Melissa are an amazingly talented duo, and it is an honor to have my name associated with this site under the Contributors list.

Now that I think about it, forget this quitting talk, and instead articulate what the rest of us (passionate, but somewhat quiet parents) can do to lighten your load.
Unknown said…
Charlie and I do experience some exhaustion and discouragement.

But I have so many people tell me the value of this blog and so many telling episodes that let me know, it matters.

Someone has got to speak out.

There has to be someplace for parents to discuss, vent and suggest. As well, it's someplace to note the good things in this district and state. And there are many.

I'm not going anywhere.
Anonymous said…
The inclusion model, without supports, seems doomed to failure as gen-ed teachers are expected

Well SC, if you think the "inclusion model" is doomed, I suggest you go look at any secondary self-contained classroom for special education. They are nothing. I guarantee you, nobody would want their child in one. Maybe there's a good one out there somewhere, but I have yet to find it and I have looked pretty hard. They have failed, and failed completely, from day 1. These are essentially daycares - and it is painfully obvious at the secondary level. The fact is, these classrooms exist for the benefit of general education teachers and students who don't wish to provide services for the entirety of the student body. They aren't for the benefit of the students in them. Teachers need to use universal design to design curriculum accessible at many levels. There is training for this, which you may call "differentiation", and then take responsibility for delivering it to all students. Right now, I can tell you for sure, general educators do not generally care about students with disabilities in their classrooms. Never once, has any general educator my child had asked for any training on provision of instruction for students with disabilities. So, the crying about "we don't know how to do it" really does not seem valid. The teachers wish the responsibility to fall on someone else. And, very often, that winds up happening. The system heavily supports it.

I guess I don't understand what you mean by "failure of the whole school". The principals don't generally own the problem, and neither do the teachers. Who else is there? As Jan notes, central sped staff doesn't really believe their job is anything more than kick the can to another school. They rarely even can be bothered to reply to an email or phone call. It seems Jan has had better luck, and that's great. Many haven't.

I don't know about charters. But I would say the idea that "whole schools" are failing is true for many classes of students. And, not just sped students. The fact is, if you're willing to write off whole groups (like students with disabilities) that failure will not be isolated to that one group.

-sped Parent
kprugman said…
Its not a level playing field - I've been in this activist business for more than 10 years and faced equal disappointments. However...this year may prove even better than last year. My union is proving more helpful than Seattle's and with the sort of personalities and intelligence that we are dealing with - there's never only one person falling all over their sword. I am simply amazed at the outright stupidity of some people when they attempt to conceal their lying.
kprugman said…
The biggest liars are concealing or manipulating their test scores. Statistical neons don't understand how school test scores can be crosschecked. Look for schools that serve large numbers of Title I students, spend huge amounts of money piloting new curriculum, and publish fantastic results. Chances are its a big fat lie.
kprugman said…
The reason collaborative or inclusion models fail are five fold: Lack of training, lack of curriculum, lack of classrooms, lack of teachers, and unrealistic expectations, like demanding immediate results. Great teachers spend time modifying student behaviors and exhibit excellent management and organizational skills. My saddest complaint is that teachers are frightened to attempt new ideas when test results get so much fanfare. They are frightened when get assigned to teach challenging students.
Patrick said…
Charlie, I hope you don't quit. I think you're selling yourself short when you've said that you've never had any victories. You and Melissa may not get credit, but victories that we've had would not have happened without the blog. MGJ would probably still be here, or we might have gotten a reformist new super. A couple of school board races might have gone the other way. News that the district might have preferred to stay secret becomes public here. Not to mention many parents gain understanding about their specific issues. It's up to you, but don't quit based on not doing good here, because you are.
Anonymous said…
kprugman, I'm wondering what your definition of "fail" even is. Are students are "failures" because they don't achieve standardized results? Should they be segregated out if they don't achieve those results? ALL the alternatives to inclusive education has failed the most since there are absolutely no results anywhere in sight and none are expected. Why should students be segregated out if the alternatives are actually worse? If both models "fail" by some measure (I'd like to know the measure), then students should definitely be inclusively educated since they've got nothing to lose.

But you are right about 1 thing. Standardized tests pretty much reveal the demographics of the students, including their disability status. Their use to measure teachers needs to be moderated. I wouldn't say elliminated, but more thoroughly thought through.

-sped Parent
Michael H said…
Yes, please quit.

And mirmac1: you've been threatened??? What a load of horse s**t.
Anonymous said…
Given how frustrating and discouraging it is to work with this district, I would certainly understand if you were to throw in the towel. I wouldn't blame you one bit.

With that said, I sincerely hope that you will keep at it. You've DEFINITELY made a difference in this district. Just think of where we'd be without your efforts. Your knowledge and experience with the district make you an invaluable asset to the cause of accountability in this corrupt district.

Whatever you decide, THANK YOU for all your service to the families of this district. And the same goes for Melissa. Thanks to you both, and I hope you'll keep plugging away.

-Seattle parent
Anonymous said…
My personal opinion is that "advocates" should be members of the group they are advocating for. Your kids are aging out of the system, and therefore it's time for you to start thinking about moving on as well. The blog is good for getting basic information that is hard to find, both from posters and authors. It also has some entertainment value as well.

But really, I'm pretty glad that "changes" aren't the results of bloggers.

Mary G. said…
@ the most recent comment from anonymous "reader," the argument that the best advocates for certain groups can only come form a group itself is fallacious.

Oftentimes, there are fabulous advocates for many groups who have knowledge, experience and passion for an issue who at first glance, are currently not members of the group. Charlie is such an advocate for the community. The schools do not just serve the students, or in a broader fashion, their parents. They serve, and are responsible to, the community at large, including the taxpayers. As a parent new to the special ed system, I have spent so many days and nights in abject despair over the morass that is SPS's "system" of special ed. I am glad for Charlie's opinions, his knowledge of the people and the system, and generally speaking, his hope for improvement. While I don't always agree with everything he blogs about, I can only laud him for doing so.

I think if you take a look at the composition of the school board, you will see many people like Charlie, who have "aged" out of the system, yet who believe that they have knowledge, experience and passion for the issues that present themselves on the school board. There are also people at the Seattle Times who also seem to think they are similarly qualified to offer an opinion. Should they all be disqualified from advocating on the SPS issues at hand because they no longer have children in the system? I think not.
Watching said…

Individuals don't need to have children in the district to keep an eye over district finance and operations. Frankly, I'm glad we have committed citizens willing to spend their time in audit and finance meetings.
Watching said…
Committed citizens don't need children in the district to watch over unlawful practices, either. It wasn't too long ago that a group won a lawsuit over DeBell, Burgess and Knapp peddling unlawful policies.

Anonymous said…
As a person who has worked in the district on and off for years its worse than ever. Its been like this for decades. The secret reality is Seattle is incapable of dealing with its real closet issue - racism. Its on all sides of the fence and not exclusive. The closure of schools to avoid busing to the closure of schools to avoid facing the facts its never changed. Its always been this way it always will. The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again thinking the outcome will be different. I am happily moving out of the area. I never want to spend another minute in these damaged schools in this very city of de-nial. You can face the truth or not. Seattle Schools are beyond saving. I am leaving AFTER I vote for charters. Frankly its needed. There is nothing else left. Do what you want but if you can't beat it beat it.

A Former Teacher
Anonymous said…
I run into lots of folks who are unaware of this blog. This next year, get this website published in your school weekly bulletin, school website, at the PTA meeting, at the first day celebrations, or if necessary, buy an ad in your school yearbook! Spread the word and don't let anyone get in the way.
Two years and counting.
Charlie Mas said…
Do advocates need to have skin in the game?

Which school board members have children in the system? I don't think any of them do. Some graduated just his year.

Lynne Varner lives on the Eastside. She has no skin in the game as a taxpayer or as a student family member.

Liv Finne doesn't have children in our schools. Neither does Chris Korsmo, Lisa Macfarlane, or Mary Jean Ryan.

I was moved to activism more by other people's stories than my own and that continues to be the case.

It's funny to think that as soon as someone has acquired twelve to twenty years of memory and history it's time for them to leave. That's the number two reason (after the revolving door at the top) that the district has no institutional memory.

Maybe I can continue to provide information and history and just ease up on the ranting opinion pieces.
Anonymous said…
"Reader" says:

"My personal opinion is that "advocates" should be members of the group they are advocating for. Your kids are aging out of the system, and therefore it's time for you to start thinking about moving on as well. The blog is good for getting basic information that is hard to find, both from posters and authors. It also has some entertainment value as well.

But really, I'm pretty glad that "changes" aren't the results of bloggers."
My answer to that is: I never laid an egg, either, but I sure know a rotten one when I smell it.

-- Ivan Weiss
kprugman said…
Classrooms are by their nature exclusionary. So by the time the child reaches high school, there is 1-2 collaborative science classes and 1 collaborative math subject class and I am it. Every single child in that classroom has an IEP or is learning English.

Cut the textbook in half and its still too much material for these children to grasp in a year. It is six weeks into our school year and my class is finishing chapter 2 using curriculum I designed using total participation strategies. I am the only teacher at my school doing this and I am doing it on my own time by myself. After 4 years of support from my union (this is year 5) I am looking for a better job. My situation is less than ideal, as my administrators are converted Mormons and don't believe in evolution - before my arrival they were teaching Creationism in bible study on Sundays. The population of students that I am teaching are easy converts. The real culprits (my opinion) are the publishers and their pilot studies which are more fiction than fact.
kprugman said…
If the people in charge were truly interested they would work to improve public education. I just don't see it in today's schools. Science and math are especially vulnerable to any group of zealots who holds a grudge against Darwin or believes in the Millennium. I was raised in a community in your state where the biology teacher was also the local pastor of a reformed church in that town and half of them believed the world was only 6000 years old. They are nihilists and you can't convince a nihilist with the truth. Thats impossible.

I believe there should be common core standards, but the standards should be set higher, and the curriculum has got to get magnitudes better than what it is. Choose a standard that makes sense, like Singapore's. Otherwise, we are living in a world that sets two standards - one defined by wealth and the other living in poverty. I believe that is apartheid.
Dylan D. said…

I feel like some contributors here have missed the point of your original post.

Take a break if you need to, but I think you and Melissa serve a critical need in our community and I hope you both continue your hard work.

It is so important that community members get information from both sides of an issue, whether they are parents or not. I may not agree with all of your positions, but I respect spirited and informed debate every day of the week and I sincerely hope you continue with your extremely important work.

-Dylan D.

Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Charlie Mas said…
I think I've reached a decision.

I think I'll just pull back a bit. I'll continue to contribute to the blog and I will continue to be involved, but I will put a bit more division between news and opinion.

I have, for some time, thought of myself as the Dandy Don Meredith (and sometimes the Howard Cosell) to Mel's Frank Gifford. I have left the play-by-play to her while I have provided the color and commentary. I can pull back by doing more play-by-play and less color.

So I'm going to try not to rant and opine so strongly and focus instead on delivering the news.
Charlie Mas said…
I had to delete an unsigned comment from 11:32 last night and it was a shame to do so. The comment suggested that folks would guest post.

This is an open forum. Guest posts are welcome. If you send a guest post, we will probably run it (unless it is of a commercial nature). We have rarely turned them down.
Awesome teacher said…
I think that was me. I'll send you a sample of some of my thoughts on educating seattle's kids within our public system. I didn't scroll down on the phone during my nightly reading (and I had never posted a reply) so I didn't see the signature requirement.

I like your decision. It seems to honor what you were feeling but honor your hard work so far. It's easy when working with a system like this to just feel done. I was not kidding. I do it often.

I will find your email soon and send you some stuff so you can see if you're interested in any of it. Maybe some of it can help restore some of your hope.

You can call me "awesome teacher" and I'll try to sign something from this teensy phone.

Take care!
mirmac1 said…
AWESOME, awesome teacher! Looking forward to your post.
Scrawny Kayaker said…
I like the rants, so I hope you continue to do some. This is clearly all a ton of work, but it's very much appreciated!
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