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Saturday, February 09, 2013

Notes to Aspiring Activists

In the continuing kerfuffle over BEX, one of the women in the trio of NE moms trying to get the BEX to fail (albeit quietly via very large neighborhood e-mail lists) has sent quite a pointed e-mail to Director Peaslee that was less-than-effective. 

This e-mail is in reference to a video that Director Peaslee helped Jane Addams K-8 make in order to try to attract more students that in turn, would help take the pressure off neighboring elementaries and, of course, Eckstein. 

This mom seem to believe, without quite coming out and saying it, that Director Peaslee has done something unethical.  (And fyi, the district HAS a method to alert them to any potential or perceived ethics violation and it has been well-advertised.)  The mom asks a laundry list of very pointed questions to Director Peaslee, most of which should be answered by district staff, including the Legal department.

Short of name-calling, this e-mail breaks almost every rule in the activist rulebook.  So I offer these suggestions for future reference.

1) When you write to any elected official, do try being polite and starting with "Dear 'Elected Title' Jones".  When you start, "Mr. Jones", it's off-putting and frankly, less than polite.  This is especially true even if you don't like this person's work but have chosen to send your e-mail to OTHER elected officials.

They do take their cues from how you address other elected officials.  They are the ones elected and it never hurts to be polite. 

2)  It's fine to give a parameter of when you would like answers to your questions but putting a hard date (with a specific time, no less) to ANY elected official, is again, off-putting and will not serve you well. 

3)  It is confusing to tell an elected official that you "understand" something without explaining where you got your information or if you have even tried to get an official explanation (particularly from the people/groups you reference).   It is even more confusing to say you "understand" something and then ask that official questions about the exact thing you say you understand.

That elected official may not even know what you are talking about and may have to go to precisely the same people you should have gone to in the first place for answers.  

Again, if you are asking questions rhetorically ( maybe to try to embarrass or bully the elected official), remember that cc'ing other elected officials will likely may them wary of you in the future.

4)  The MOST important thing to do, early in any e-mail to any elected official, is to state the point of your e-mail.  You can blah, blah, blah but busy officials have no time for that.  Get to the point.

5)  Don't ask questions you can look up on the website.  No elected official has time for that.

6) Don't sign your missive "respectfully" when you have been aggressive and frankly, not-so-respectful.  It comes across as flip.

Just a friendly word to the wise to one who has been in the trenches for years.  

54 comments:

Anonymous said...

For those who haven't seen it, here's the email (part 1):
-----------------------------

Subject: URGENT Questions re: Jane Addams Promotional Video & Mailing

February 9, 2013

Ms. Peaslee,

I have learned some things over the past few days that give me pause and raise some pressing questions. I am hoping you can clarify the facts for me. Here is what I understand:

On February 8, 2013 a Sharon Peaslee published this video on YouTube titled "Choose Jane Addams for Middle School: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFYxwVJAPvE&list=UUJ7_enFE8x_tdH-DuO7g_6Q&index=1
According to the Flying Lula Productions web site http://www.flyinglula.com/home/index.html:

"Flying Lula is the production company of Sharon Peaslee. She has light years of experience writing, producing and directing. More than anything, she enjoys collaborating with others in a freely creative mode, exploring the ever expanding possibilities of artistically applied technology. Sharon produces documentaries, promotional and fund-raising videos for artists and non-profits. She also works for corporate clients and ad agencies."

I understand that there is a promotional mailer for Jane Addams K-8 that will be sent to all Hamilton and Eckstein families.
I further understand that the Jane Addams PTA is funding the printing of this mailer, while the School District is providing the labels and the staff to stuff the mailer.
It has been suggested to me that the Jane Addams K-8 promotional mailer may violate District policy relative to ethics.
In light of this information, can you please answer each of the following questions for me?

1. Did you publish this YouTube video?



2. Are you the owner of Flying Lula Productions?



3. If yes, when did you or Flying Luna begin production of this video?



4. If yes, was it prior to or after FACMAC and the District made their recommendation to open Jane Addams as a comprehensive middle school for 2013-2014?



5. Was it prior to or after your vote as a School Board member on January 31, 2013?



6. If yes, were you paid to produce the video, or was the work pro-bono?



7. Did you or Flying Luna obtain releases from the families of each child who appears in the video?



8. Did you or Flying Luna receive written permission from the district to videotape at Jane Addams K-8?



9. If yes, can you please provide me a copy of that documentation?



10. Are you or Flying Luna willing to work to provide equal access to videotape conditions at overcrowded schools?
-----------------------
SPS Parent Too

Anonymous said...

and part 2:
------------------------


11. Will you or Flying Luna donate your services towards these efforts, or would there be a fee involved?



12. Is the District, in connection with the Jane Addams PTA and the support of Board members, coordinating a mailing to be sent to Hamilton and Eckstein families in an effort to recruit families to Jane Addams K-8 for 2013-2014?



13. If yes, who is funding the printing of the mailing?



14. If yes, who is funding mailing supplies including, labels, envelopes, postage, etc.?



15. If yes, are District staff members spending time on the mailing by stuffing envelopes, etc.?



16. Are these efforts in any way a violation of District policy with regard to ethics?



17. Are you offering your video production services to other under-enrolled option programs in the District such as Pinehurst, Madrona?



18. Are you offering a promotional mailing to other under-enrolled option programs in the District such as Pinehurst, Madrona?



19. If so, who do school representatives contact at the District to obtain these services?



20. If you feel that under enrolled option programs need promotional videos and mailing to increase attendance, how do you justify spending over $40 million (per BEX levy) on a brand new building for Jane Addams K-8?



21. Have you disclosed your video work and your true position relative to Jane Addams K-8 when voting as a Seattle School Board member?



22. Do you believe that your role as the owner of a production company that produces video(s) for a Seattle Public School in any way poses a conflict of interest with your role as a Seattle School Board member?



With the levy vote at hand, I respectfully request your responses to these questions by 5:00 PM on Monday, February 11, 2013.



Respectfully,



A.S.

SPS Parent of Three
---------------------
SPS Parent Too

SickOfThis said...

They're not worried about ethics violations. All they want is a middle school at Jane Addams as soon as possible. That is the beginning and end of their agenda. They're getting it, but not soon enough, so they're going for this scorched-earth strategy every time anything to do with Jane Addams comes up.

Anonymous said...

This absolutely feels like bullying to me. I didn't like what you decided, and I will find a way to take your efforts down. This woman is seeing this board vote as a personal offense and now she's doing some desperate things under this guise of being official, reasonable and clever. It's not clever, it's gross.

YUCK

Anonymous said...

"a Sharon Peaslee"?!

Is this person related to Chris Korsmo or Michael DeBell in some fashion?! They have said similar rude, childish things...

Signed,

Take a Flying Lula, why don'tcha

mirmac1 said...

Seriously, report this person as a spammer. That should close their account straight away.

suep. said...

I truly hope the person who wrote that accusatory and off-base e-mail is not the same person who sent the demanding e-mails about opening JAMS immediately, using our school's PTA listserv.

Anonymous said...

The person who wrote the letter to Director Peaslee is also featured, along with her No-on-Prop-2 views, in this recent article on Crosscut: http://crosscut.com/2013/02/06/seattle-schools/112830/seattle-school-levy-dealing-doubts/
I agree with SickOfThis's assessment that this, along with the fire hazard letter, is all about the Board's majority decision to begin Jane Addams MS in Sept. 2014.
How incredibly selfish and shortsighted of her.
- Voting Yes on 1 AND 2

Anonymous said...

When I first watched this video, my first reaction was that it seemed unfair and biased to have a school board member "favoring and promoting" an individal school while other schools don't have this advantage. Then I though about the purpose which is to help alleviate crowding at Eckstein and Hamilton for next year. I also thought about how Sharon probably feels tremendous pressure to "recruit" due to her ammendment antd the threat of having it result in worse over crowding issues. Then it didn't bother me as much. I really don't understand why the sender of the e-mail (whom I've met and respect) is so upset as the video's purpose is to help lesson crowding at schools like Ecstein. It makes me feel like there is something more there.

Just curious - how did you get access to this e-mail?

NE Mom of 3

jack in the box said...

Not like you ever do this Melissa Westbrook

jack in the box said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Revenge of the Nerds said...

Bullying is what the Seattle Schools Community Forum
is best known for

FactChecker said...

@suep - It's the same person, Alissa Sweet. See the Crosscut article.

FactChecker said...

Spelled her name wrong: Allisa Sweet

Yes, I see the irony in my pen name.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I got access to the e-mail from several readers - the video is on You Tube. I'm sure it was sent so far and wide that many people have access to it.

Sharon did this work, for free, on her own time, to support her own amendment to try to get more attention to JA to increase their enrollment. I"m pretty sure if any other school asked, she would help.

suep. said...

@ FactChecker -- Actually, that's not the same person. (Though, she's elsewhere in the picture.)

Anonymous said...

As a PTA president, I have received a few emails Ms. Sweet (1. Re: no on prop 2 w a 17 page attachment and 2. the email to Director Peaslee shown above) over the last few days.. She sent it to all the PTA presidents whose emails she was able to llift from the various school/PTA websites. Which is a pretty big routing.

One PTA president replied all asking for Ms. sweet to stop spamming us and wrote a few paragraphs advocating for levy passage.

It hasn't changed my yes vote and our PTA already voted weeks ago to endorse. Ms. Sweet's strategy (tone, mass emailing etc..) strikes me as "desperate times call for desperate measures" since the election is so close. But her goals (to the extent you can figure out what they are) do seem limited in focus and don't come off- to me at any rate- to be universally focused on the grater good for all students districtwide.

-PTAmom

FactChecker said...

@suep - We must be talking about multiple spammers, then. Lovely.

Anonymous said...

A few comments about the email from Ms. Sweet, this blog entry and the above comments.

First, as someone who got the email and not one but two responses from the PTA president of John Muir that declared the email to be incredibly offensive and nothing more than spam, I found it ironic that anyone responding to what they found to be spam and offense would hit reply all in response. All that did was hit my in-box and everyone else’s with another round of spam. Unless of course the author of the response thought their opinion and views to be inherently better and thus more entitled to hit my in-box than the emails of Ms. Sweet.

But I often find irony in the hypocritical responses that leaders give. And yes by being on a schools PTA board and putting ones email out there, we take on a leadership role and we have to take the good with the bad.

Second, and more to the point, I am disappointed by the attacks against Ms. Sweet and the others that have put their names out there. Whether we agree or disagree with their position, they are at least standing up, putting their name out there and advocating for what they think is right. I always thought it was best to listen and engage in dialogue with those who speak up, regardless of how much I might disagree with their position. Open communication, and not condescending tips or uninformed attacks always seemed more productive to me.

Third, it is disappointing that on a blog dedicated to Saving Our Schools Ms. Sweet and the others who share her view and are against Prop. 2 would be attacked. Back in October I recall seeing on this blog JA supporters and others declare in comments that they would vote no on Prop 2. The negative attacks on such comments were few and far between. Accusations of only caring about their school had a similar absence on the blog.

It is disappointing to see the parents of Seattle behave in such a hypocritical manner. It can’t be OK for one group to play the NO vote card but not a different group. Arguably, both would be equally wrong as the Levy is, as pointed out in recent entries on this blog, necessary.

Ms. Sweet appears to be a parent that is very concerned about the state of at least one school. And if you take her emails at face value, she is concerned about all overcrowded schools. Taking an objective view, one could conclude that she is concerned about what she perceives as a lack of transparency by the Board or certain members of the board, the failure of the Board to follow the recommendation of Staff (remember the Board did ago against the staff recommendation – which is their right) and the lack of a clear detailed plan on what will be done for the over crowed schools next year.

Can any of us really be surprised that a parent in this District might have questions about the leadership of the district and whether they can be trusted? Can any of us fault someone for questioning what providing “mitigation funds” to the over crowded middle schools actually means when no details are provided? Perhaps those on this blog can. I know that I can’t. And while Ms. Sweet’s message may not clearly hit these points as clearly as possible, her passion (misplaced or not) is evident.

Disappointed in Seattle

Anonymous said...

Disappointed in Seattle Cont.


Given that passion, I wonder why people don’t reach out to her in a constructive fashion. Take the time to talk to her (or at least she if she is willing to talk) and see if common ground cannot be found. Perhaps she could be offered some guidance in finding the answers she seeks. If (as alluded to in another post) her questions have been asked before, direct her to those answers.

But, I know that is unfortunately na├»ve on my part. It is far easier to simply attack and mock and ridicule, even when we describe some tactic as desperate. No reason to lend a helping hand. How foolish of me to even think that is possibility. Instead let’s attack, pit parents against parents, and schools against schools.

Despite my hopes, it appears Seattle at the end of the day is no better than the rest of this country.

What a shame.

Feel free to ignore or delete.

Disappointed in Seattle

suep. said...

@ Disappointed,
People are certainly entitled to their opinions on how to vote on the levies or any other matter. But Ms. Sweet's email to Director Peaslee is ridiculous and offensive. That's not passion; it's petulance.

I think the other objection to the approach of this particular anti-levy effort is the use of list-servs to spread their message willy-nilly.

Steve Sundquist said...

The Worst... Blog... Ever

Anonymous said...

I've been an avid reader of this blog and if a JA supporter said anything about voting no to the levy (which I never read here), it was an individual opinion expressed, not an attempt to impact/influence the vote by emailing THOUSANDS of others via local email lists. This is not someone who is expressing a personal opinion - this is someone misusing email lists to make a concerted effort to sink the levy.

Oh - and regarding the board voting against the district's recommendation. The district made that recommendation less than 24 hours before the vote. The recommendation that had been in place for weeks had been to wait until 2014 to open JAMS. I asked Pegi in person whether the enrollment numbers had changed when they were released. She said the only numbers that had shifted were the APP numbers, which were higher than expected. Regardless of whether JAMS opens in 2013 or 2014, it wouldn't make a difference at Hamilton - Hamilton stays the same either way.

This leads me to believe two things - that these APP parents (the few leading this charge) are hoping to get JA K-8 into John Marshall so APP won't be moved there (throwing another program under the bus) AND that they are really ANGRY that they didn't get their way.

This is petulance and pouting at its extreme - and if you believe they are concerned about all of the children district-wide, you're wrong.

~ thinking it's time to grow up

suep. said...

@ thinking - Are you sure they are all APP parents? Of the three in the Crosscut photo, I only know of one who is.

Whatever the case, I hope people realize that the views of these few are just that, and do not represent the greater communities they may belong to (even if they are a PTA president).

Anonymous said...

I hope this does not make Sharon Peaslee anti-APP.

It looks like the president of the APP PTA at Lowell at Lincoln may have been involved in writing this letter. She is in the picture in that Crosscut article.

If you are in APP and support Sharon Peaslee, you might want to e-mail her. If all she sees is APP groups attacking her, she may become less supportive of APP.

-- Doesn't APP have enough problems

Anonymous said...

This wouldn't be the first time an APP parent has used email to tell people how to think, nor the first time an APP PTA officer has spoken in an "official" capacity whether or not she has the support of others in the group. If her position is NOT the position of APP as a whole, people had better speak up.

Glad SPS is in the review mirror

Anonymous said...

1 - Only one parent in the Crosscut article is an APP parent. The other 2 are parents with kids at two NE elementary schools. The APP parent's kids formerly attended one of those 2 schools.

2 - Hamilton is getting some relief by feeding Laurelhurst kids to Eckstein. The original option to do nothing for a year kept those kids at Hamilton until the following year. Eckstein's numbers go up unless Sharon's & JA K-8 recruiting efforts are successful

3 - I agree with Disappointed in Seattle and my e-mailis are "spammed" all the time and I personally like to read others opinions when making my own. It is a free country. I felt the way this blog entry was presented was mean and I did vote yes. Her e-mail made me more curious than anything about why she is so upset about the video.

4 - as a parent at Eckstein, I do want to know what mitigation efforts are happening to help in the hallways. You can all cry foul until your child is knocked into, has her binder fly into the hallway with papers everywhere, and nobody stops to help her as she fights through the crowd that includes some not so nice 8th graders risking getting trampled as she retrieves her work.

NE Mom of 3

Anonymous said...

Ms. Westbrook, you apply the term "activist" too loosely. I've just checked my address, and dang, I've got the zip code to prove I'm a NE mom, too. We NE moms prefer the term micro-local slactivist. And when we're not squeezing our SUVs into too-small spots over at the Village, we set our well-manicured hands down on our keyboards to write our communiques to "elected officials" as you call them. And when we click on "send", we don't waste our time on just sending to people we may already know. We send it to as many lists as possible, because we mean business.

Elected officials, or Johnny the pizza delivery boy who parked a little too close to our azaleas, we treat them all the same. We give them a piece of our mind.

Granted, our mind may not be as well-ordered or as well-educated as yours, but we don't let liberal-elitism stop us.

And when giving our mind to someone doesn't produce the effects we favor, we call up our like-minded friends (2) and we talk to a journalist who knows her way around a simile or two, because just like a phoenix who rises from the ashes of a bad country music ballad, we will rise again!

Respectfully,

Just another NE Mom

Anonymous said...

My 9 year old was angry with me earlier this week for telling her she could not go to a sleepover so she refused dessert (ice cream!!). These parents who are trying to get people to kill the levy seems to be doing the same thing. We do not have enough seats for all the children in the district; everyone agrees that is true. I do not see the logic of voting against a levy that will provide more seats. What are these parents trying to do? Send a message ? What message? It is easy to say the district can put on another levy in May. There is no guarantee that That levy would please them then. And it costs lots of money to put on a levy, money that the schools desperately need. This just seems like a tantrum to me. And the mass emailing using listserve is very disturbing. I am so glad I limitted my contact info.

CCA

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Second, and more to the point, I am disappointed by the attacks against Ms. Sweet and the others that have put their names out there. Whether we agree or disagree with their position, they are at least standing up, putting their name out there and advocating for what they think is right."

I agree but I will point out that they waited until AFTER the interim vote to launch any kind of effort. That points to concern not about BEX itself but another narrow issue.

Again, you can protest vote on any grounds but it's less believable when it's this narrow. I don't recall JA parents early on saying they were voting no (maybe you could find those comments) but at least if they did, they did early and not when they didn't get their way.

I'm not being condescending and I'm sorry if anyone takes it that way. But I also think it wrong to act in a condescending way towards elected officials who are not paid. I'd be willing to bet she doesn't call Director DeBell, "Mr. DeBell."

And I will say, welcome to the party. Charlie and I have been worried and outspoken for YEARS about building issues and we certainly didn't get much praise or backing for our views. But, as I warned Jean Bryant, putting yourself out there means criticism of all kinds, and so it is here as well. I did reach to Jean whom I know from the AL Taskforce (and who has never been anything but kind and gracious to me and indeed she was in her reply to my e-mail.) But she also didn't really indicate that she wanted to talk.

This blog has never supported pitting any groups or schools against each other but yes, we're going to point it out when it looks like it.

As for APP, well, there are a number of unfortunate statements out there made by active APP parents about BEX and APP. I had thought to print some of it but I'm not going to.

What I will say is that no director would believe any one person speaks for an entire group unless that person said, "We surveyed, voted and this is our opinion." So despite some APP parents being less-than-helpful in their remarks, I do not believe any director would take their remarks to represent APP. I give the directors more credit than that.

One issue, though, is that I will write a thread on is the role of advisory committees, their make-up and what weight any final recommendations should carry in any decision. It is NOT a good track record and I am hearing early reports that there are issues now with the new Asssessment Taskforce.

Anonymous said...

I found the tone of this email to be disrespectful, and the topic to be very petty and shortsighted. By sending this out in the manner in which it was sent, the sender deserves all the criticism that comes her way.

CT

Unknown said...

Melissa,

I have less admiration for Ms. Sweet's type of activism than you do, and I know that you don't have much.

I object, however, to your recent comment about your disappointment that Ms. Sweet is being attacked. I disagree with you that simply by the fact that Ms. Sweet signed her name to her email affords her respect. It might afford respect if she truly had written in an appropriate fashion and disseminated copies of her letter in an appropriate way.

As such, she would have done better to 1. have someone edit her letter before she sent it and 2. not misuse email lists.

None of the responses to your post are as disrespectful as her original letter to Director Peaslee. If somehow Ms. Sweet's feelings are hurt by the responses in this column, then so be it. She incited these responses herself via her own tactics.

mirmac1 said...

Interesting, Jean Bryant (who's also in the crosscut article) is good friends with Michael DeBell. She was one of the so-called "Quiet Voice Majority" that DeBell also pushed.

So DeBell is likely part of an effort to destabilize our district by a) bullying Sharon again; and b) encouraging failure of Prop 2.

DeBell has used Crosscut for his hachet job last year on the "micromanagement" board. I see he steered his gal pals to Crosscut for this piece (and Alison Krupnick is clearly a pawn).

Can he sink in lower in my esteem. Hardly. He's bottomed out.

mirmac1 said...

Disappointed,

I have expressed my doubts about Prop 2 and facilities management. Now do I use my 10,000 parent email addresses to urge people to vote one way or the other? No. If I did, I would deserve to be slammed and would expect it.

suep. said...

@ mirmac 1, Do you mean the "Moderate Voice Parents" who popped up to support DeBell's superintendent power grab of last year disguised as 'governance'?

Anonymous said...

I agree with some of the other parents that this email being sent out on neighborhood group emails was inappropriate. I belong to a neighborhood email group (not one that got this email, thank goodness), and I do not want to see emails like these. The neighborhood blogs are for parent information about child care, plumbers, good parks, etc, not for propaganda. This is a political email, it is not generic information.

I also don't understand why the writer using her name turns her into a super hero who can do no wrong. The fact she used her real name does not meen she is above reproach or that people should be offering her suggestions/advice instead of criticism.

The email was poorly written, and there is no issue with calling it out. Melissa's advice is correct. If you are wanting information from someone, you should not begin by putting them on the offensive. The email was aggressive.

You get more bees with honey, as the cliche does. This email was poison.

-APP parent who voted yes on both school issues

Men Without Hats said...

This blog has never supported pitting any groups or schools against each other what a Lie Melissa Westbrook !!!!

Bob Marley said...

pitting any groups or schools against each other is what Melissa Westbrook and Charlie Mas do Best

cpvmac said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why Ms Westbrook is being so personal about this. I don't see how the author has done anything wrong.

She raises some reasonable points about whether it is appropriate for a school board member to work on promotional work through her business in lobbying public support for a position for which she will be voting on. It is a little weird.

I've attended many public fora and seen lots of public communications over the years and people's passions and caring about things sometimes come across a little too strong. Such as it is -- we are human -- and not everyone is as skilled in nuanced communications.

If it was my email being picked apart I would be flabbergasted. Let's leave the activists alone.

GMG

Melissa Westbrook said...

How am I being personal? I didn't call her a name or say she was wrong for speaking out. I did point out that her methodology was questionable (and, coming up, more proof of that - she's quite the e-mail writer).

It's fine to ask about a Board director working on a video except that (a) that's the Board director who said the district would BE supporting efforts to do outreach and is using her own expertise to do so (thus saving the district $$$) and (b) if you have ethics questions, you go to Legal.

Unknown said...

Ms Westbrook is being so personal about this Because she Does Not Understand Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Anonymous said...

As a worried and concerned parent of two in the Seattle School District with one about to attend Eckstein next year I applaud Ms. Sweet’s efforts. She is asking questions, and whether it is in the right form or using the right tools doesn’t mean that the messenger, or in this case the questioner, should be shot.

I asked a member of FACMAC if the questions that Ms. Sweet is asking were already answered. The answer I received was “No one has dived into this as thoroughly as Ms. Sweet.” This tells me the questions on safety and overcrowding are worth being asked, even if how they are being asked is not the best way to do it. And if that FACMAC person was wrong, and they have been answered, why don’t we point Ms. Sweet to where those answers are?

Ms. Sweet is getting a lot of criticism for being “disrespectful” and “petulant.” Everyone has a right to his or her opinion of course, and maybe those opinions are more valid than mine. But I would ask those that criticize Ms. Sweet’s wording, approach and the questions she is asking, but at the same time indicate they have concerns and doubts about the District and its leadership, why not see if you can work together to address those common concerns regarding District leadership? While I haven’t seen anyone calling her a hero or saying see is above reproach, I guess I just don’t get how name-calling and attacks move us towards finding the solutions of the admitted problems that our school district is facing.

Like others, I am concerned about what real relief all of the overcrowded schools will get next year. What is the Board and District planning? Will any real relief happen if recruitment efforts don’t work? What is plan B? Can anyone guarantee that the Board won’t just move on and say what’s one more year of overcrowding? Or two more years, as this has been going on for 10 years in the NE?

To me, health and safety are pretty basic needs for kids at any public school and should be at the top of our leaders list in both words and actions. I understand this is a $2 billion problem that no one Levy can fix. I also understand that to make this District work and to make our schools work we have to be team players, pitch in and work together. I have been a Seattle Public School parent for 6 years now. I have supported my children’s public school with both volunteer time and financial support over the years. I have always supported the district as a whole and all of our schools by working phone banks in the past for school levies. What does it say that I now question if I should vote yes for this levy, because I have doubts if the leaders really are focused on the health and safety of our kids, instead of getting them to MAP tests?

Worried SPS MOM

Nick Esparza said...

The Legal Department of Seattle Public Schools has ethics? this is News Melissa Westbrook !!!

Anonymous said...

Melissa, this post is beneath you. Your tone is condescending. Really, criticizing her for signing it "respectfully"? I understand (that word!) that you don't support her position, but if she had written this email in support of a position you favor, would you have written the same post? I disagree with her, but I respect her right to advocate for her position. Good for her for being more involved than I. She's as much as a watchdog for SPS as you are, and I'm grateful for both of you to daylight these issues. I wish you were more respectful of differing opinions on this blog.
-You can do better

Anonymous said...

You can do better -

You must have forgotten that this is the Melissa and Charlie show.

_amused

mirmac1 said...

Yes suep, that sounds about right.

Worried SPS Mom,

As a parent at an overcrowded elementary school that was told that parents could not enter halls because of overcrowding, I believe this person's methods are unsound. There are "grown-up" administrative ways to ensure the safety of your child. My child's MS has done this to great effect.

So do we have to impact the children and families of schools that ARE well-managed? Bullies run rampant in schools of every economic and social class. Frankly, whether there are too few or too many, I expect to see pro-active measures to ensure children are not knocked down and trampled in the halls. Mine was not, despite being well over 120% capacity.

Furthermore

you can do better,

As the major snark on this blog (made cynical by the sleaze I've read behind the scenes), I say don't try to lay this on the ONE MEANS the vast majority of parents have to get beyond the scripts read at board meetings and Lynne Varner's ridiculous sell-out posts.

As for the trolls, I say if you don't like this blog then don't read it. Your cowardly gibes and one-liners contribute nothing to the edification of families in this district.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"She is asking questions, and whether it is in the right form or using the right tools doesn’t mean that the messenger, or in this case the questioner, should be shot."

No one said that.

Worried, Ms. Sweet's concerns WERE addressed. By the district and by the Fire Department. She apparently still has to hear from the City on pedestrian issue. That she doesn't like the answers is separate issue.

As for Plan B, well, DeBell said there isn't even a Plan B if the levy fails so yes some worry. As for the overcrowding at Eckstein, that I believe they will plan for and, since it is for one more year, I feel everyone will get through it.

"To me, health and safety are pretty basic needs for kids at any public school and should be at the top of our leaders list in both words and actions."

Good but understand there are MANY schools with safety issues (and they have been pointed out at this blog) and yet Ms. Sweet says nothing about them. If you are concerned about health and safety, it should be for all the buildings in the district.

As I pointed out, as she led with the not-so-respectful "Ms Peaslee" and then ends with the "respectfully" makes me wonder about her use of the word.

The "Melissa and Charlie Show"? Well, you could call it that. We are the writers, we are the moderators, we are the "reporters". What else would it be? We get to lead with the stories we think important, offer open threads, post information, offer to put up threads on any school topic but yes, we do get to decide about what the discussion is.

Anonymous said...

Trying to get different perspectives of how people are feeling since the 1/31 board vote, I stumbled across the following in the "Discuss APP" blog.

[from http://discussapp.blogspot.com/2013/02/latest-on-capacity-and-app.html]
Gramps said...

Lori said...
"I agree that no one knows what might happen at Hamilton this coming fall.
With Laurelhurst now going to Eckstein, it takes some pressure off Hamilton's numbers, so theoretically, there's room for current Lincoln APP kids plus those who opt into APP for 6th grade. Theoretically."

That's not only true, it would have been true if the Board had voted to start JAMS this fall, as that proposal also had Laurelhurst feeding into Eckstein instead of Hamilton.

If projections are right, APP will enjoy another year with grades 1-5 at Lincoln and 6-8 at Hamilton. If projections are wrong...

...6th Grade APP at Lincoln?

Well, it certainly clears Occam's Razor: APP @Hamilton is running out of room; APP @Lincoln, practically next door, has room. And the District has already proposed it once.

But what if, instead of letting District Staff and the Board mandate how to use the capacity surplus at Lincoln to mitigate the capacity deficit at Hamilton, the Lincoln and Hamilton APP communities got together and brainstormed how the capacity in these two buildings could best serve APP grades 1-8?

Maybe 6th grade at Lincoln is the way to go, but maybe other ideas are better. What if they moved the 8th grade homerooms to Lincoln? Moved certain labs or subjects? Segregated the middle school by sex (e.g., boys at Lincoln, girls at Hamilton)? Really I am just throwing a few ideas out there, I am not saying they are any good ;-)

But I'm just one old man. I think if the Lincoln and Hamilton APP parents, teachers, and maybe even our their[sic], problem-solving kids got together they could arrive at a brilliant way (or ways) to use the Lincoln surplus to manage a capacity shortfall at Hamilton -- should one arise. (And remember, until the new schools at Wilson Pacific are built, we shall be involved in capacity hassles year after year).

Could the two APP north communities start this conversation now? So we're not blindsided again in June?


Sorry to hear the president of SNAPP PTA is part of a defeat-the-levy campaign. Hope to see others pick up the ball for a more proactive approach.

North end parent/Levy supporter

Anonymous said...

To me, health and safety are pretty basic needs for kids at any public school

Yes! That's why you should vote for the levy. The plan calls for 37 schools(!) to get earthquake retrofits.

-vote yes

Anonymous said...

Melissa,

My don't shoot the messenger comment was not directed at anyone person. Instead it was a comment on what I view as the unhelpful and unproductive attacks that are (1) being directed at a parent(s) that are speaking up; and (2) that are focused on the way in which the questions are being asked/communicated. I get that there are some camps that are very pro Prop 2, some that are in favor (but only because it is needed), some who are against it (because they hate any tax) and some, like me, who are torn because they are sick of a district that has failed to have sound leadership for so many years.

My statement about my concerns for health and safety were not limited to Eckstein or any one particular school. If you go back and re-read it. It was not about Ms. Sweet. It was about my personal view. I think health and safety should be the first item on the list of all of the districts leadership and that the actions should match the words.

Using Eckstein as an example the comments of many on this blog, including you seem to indicate that it has been over crowded for 10 years. That is sad to me the district has allowed this to continue for so long. That fact is then used to imply that because it has been that way for 10 years, one more year (assuming the District actually follows thru) doesn’t really matter. I can’t share you optimism on that point of view for Eckstein or any of the other over crowded middle schools and grade schools, of which I am aware of many.

The lack of leadership is what has me worried. The lack of communication as to what the plan will be. How can the district staff not have its final recommendation until the day of the vote with years to look at this and plan for it? That is a leadership issue and it causes at least this concerned mom to be worried about the safety of all of our children.

Also, have you seen the report from the Fire Department? Do you know if it addressed whether the width of the hallways provide sufficient clearance for an evacuation of the building in the case of an emergency? It would seem that if the stories of students not being able to safely pass in the hallways between classes are true, that the hallways might not be able to handle the mad rush of children in the event of an actual fire evacuation. Until we have actually seen the report(s) for all over crowded schools how do we know if these types of issues have been looked at and appropriately addressed? These are the questions that jump to my mind when I go back to the statement I received from a FACMAC member that “No one has dived into these issues like Ms. Sweet.” It would be good for everyone to deal with the facts and to have these facts for every over crowded school in the district.

Respectfully,

Worried SPS Mom

kgroth said...

I've been following this post and comments with interest. I forwarded the original email to Melissa Westbrook to get her comments regarding Director Sharon Peaslee's company creating a promotional video for Jane Addams. It sounds like it is within guidelines. Also, Sharon strikes me as savvy in my conversations with her so I would be surprised if she did anything involving using her private company for public schools without vetting that it's appropriate.

If the parent who wrote the email was unsure if the video was appropriate, then to Melissa's point, there are better ways to seek answers than to send a mass email to the elected City officials, School Board, and many PTAs. I appreciate if the parent was taking a watchdog role since a reasonable person could have doubts regarding the video's propriety but the mass email loses the parent's credibility. Due to political scandals in the past, people are sometimes skeptical when an elected official uses their private company for public purposes, even when done pro bono. Though it seems Sharon had good intentions in creating the video and it supports her amendment to support enrollment at option schools. I think if a similar video was created to promote the Pinehurst option school, there would be less public outcry since it's hard to imagine that Pinehurst has received special treatment from the Board or District with its frequent threats of closure.

If the parent wrote the email had the intention to shame or discredit Director Sharon Peaslee and also undermine the School Levies, (which by the way I voted yes for both), then that is inappropriate, misguided, and could be considered libel or slander. I would be very careful if I were that parent in making public, seemingly unfounded accusations regarding an elected official.

At the end of the day, we want what's best for our kids. It's counterproductive if we pit school communities against each other. We all want our kids to go to safe schools that aren't overcrowded and that includes APP, Eckstein, Jane Addams, Pinehurst, etc. So let's pass the two Levies and focus our energies on working with the District on getting schools that accommodate all our kids and their unique needs.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I have seen the Fire Department's statement, not a report. I'm not even sure they did one nor is that what they do when they inspect. You can certainly request one.

My point is - where is the specific concern for other other overcrowded schools? It sounds like every school for themselves and frankly, with a BEX, that isn't how it should be. And again, this BEX has nothing to do with the overcrowding next year at Eckstein. Nothing.

And, if it fails, Eckstein will be even worse off. That is a fact.

Jolly Roger said...

Dear Worried SPS Mom,
You cite a "statement [you] received from a FACMAC member that 'No one has dived into these issues like Ms. Sweet.'" You identify neither yourself or the FACMAC member in question. I appreciate your wanting to remain anonymous, but do please disclose the name of the FACMAC member who made this statement. If she or he is willing to offer an opinion as a member of FACMAC (as opposed to a private citizen) then s/he should be willing to identify her/himself in this context.

Given that committee's shortsighted recommendations, less-than-transparent processes, and an active membership heavily skewed to APP and schools on the south end of the NE -- who in addition to pushing their agenda within FACMAC, collaborate in activist campaigns outside of it -- I wouldn't (and don't) assume that just because someone is on FACMAC, she or he has a shred of credibility. If you're willing to disclose which FACMAC member made the above referenced statement, I'd be willing to reconsider this particular case.

Hope this helps,
JR