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Monday, February 25, 2013

Seattle Schools This Week

Monday, Feb. 25th
Open Enrollment starts today and ends on March 8th.  Info on enrollment.

Wednesday, Feb 27th
Oversight Work Session:  Technology Services - 4 pm - 5ish

Work Session: Budget - 5:30- 6:30 pm

Saturday, March 2nd
Board Retreat - no details available about where or when.  

A few words on the retreats.  The Alliance for Education has been gracious enough to sponsor Board retreats, probably for the last several years.  Usually this has been in the form of finding a site (although I don't know why they pay for an off-site rather than using one of the many SPS sites for free), food, printing, etc.

However, at the last Board retreat, the Alliance staffer sat at the table, with the Superintendent and the Board.  This was not the norm.  She then gave input during the discussion.

 I was completely dumbfounded as this retreat is for the Board, the Superintendent and the staff.  I asked the facilitator (also paid for by the Alliance) who set the agenda and he said, "The Board, the Superintendent and the Alliance."

I was not the only non-SPS person in the room; Linda Shaw of the Times was there and saw and heard this as well.

Why does this matter?  It matters because it means if any person or entity wants special access to both the Board and the Superintendent, then sponsor a retreat and you can sit at the table and be part of their discussions.  Now understand, the retreat discussions are high-level, pertinent-to-the-work-going-forward discussions.  This is not a coffee chat.

For months, I have asked, over and over, how I might sponsor a retreat.  Silence.  Finally, I heard from Ron English, SPS Legal, that the decision to have the Alliance coordinate the retreats was decided in the fall by the Executive Committee as the Alliance had a grant.

Now understand, there is nothing in the SPS/Alliance MOU that says they have sole ownership of coordination of the retreats.

President Smith-Blum admits there is nothing in the MOU that allows the Alliance to cover the retreats.  Mr. English said the Alliance does not control or set the agenda.  Here's one thing he said and it's quite the lawyer-speak:

At the retreats themselves, the role of the Alliance is limited to clarifying the process and providing background information. The direction and decisions in the retreat are controlled by the Board members themselves.

The Alliance can do all that BEFORE the meeting.  And what does that even really mean "clarifying the process and providing background information?"  I don't know.

No one is disputing to me or even admitting that yes, the Alliance person sat at the table and gave input.  No one is disputing to me that the facilitator was mistaken in saying the Alliance helped craft the agenda.  It's a little suspicious that, e-mail after e-mail, those two elephants in the room get ignored.

And, no one has told me that the Alliance will no longer be allowed to sit at the table and give input.

Why is this a big deal?  It further pushes the Alliance into the decision-making process of our district.  It means that if you pay to sponsor a Board event, you get special access to the Board and Superintendent.

No one else is being allowed to do this and you have to wonder why.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

We can point directly to the president of the board Kay Smith Blum on this one.

She appeared to be at odds with Sara Morris, head of the Alliance, in past years. But now that she's the president of the board, she is apparently happy to be cozy with the group. After all, she sits on the Alliance board as part of her president duties. She socializes with the downtown set.

We all know the cliche about what happens when one assumes absolute power.

DistrictWatcher

Melissa Westbrook said...

I don't know that the Board even seems to get the problem. I am quite surprised that they seem to be playing dumb on this issue.

Access=power - that's the bottom line. They are publicly elected officials. They owe their allegiance to ALL voters.

Anonymous said...

Has the board really not figured out, after the years of the Goodloe-Johnson administration, that what looks bad and smells bad to the community is liable to blow up in the district's face and the board's face in particular?

Shame on the board if they haven't learned this lesson, and in particular the two new board members who were elected in part because of perceived and real ethics and business issues.

And agreed it is strange that KSB, as a board president who seems fond of lecturing staff and board about how to conduct themselves with regard to the community, would be playing coy on this issue.

Anonymous said...

Above is from SavvyVoter.

Melissa Westbrook said...

SavvyVoter, I would venture to say that sometimes people go along to get along. The Board needs to strive to stay in the good graces of many groups and may perceive this issue as "small." That's their right but again, if they allow this opportunity to one group, they must open the door to all.

The Alliance can organize the retreat - the logistics - to their hearts content. They cannot direct/manipulate/pull strings to get in their own agenda wants.

Anonymous said...

Melissa - in reading your last comment, I had a question. You express concern that the Alliance pulls strings to get their "agenda wants" - what would you describe these wants as? There isn't an agenda up for this week's meeting, but looking at the last agenda, it's all pretty vague and high level. What do you see as something that the Alliance would have pushed to have on their that wouldn't have been there already?

Just curious

seattle citizen said...

Just curious asks, "what would you describe these [Alliance] wants as?...looking at the last agenda, it's all pretty vague and high level. What do you see as something that the Alliance would have pushed to have...?

The Alliance was/is the conduit for Gates Foundation money. BIG money. Millions. The Alliance was the handler for the Gates grant that brought us the "Excellence for All" Strategic Plan five years ago. Very "vague and high level" stuff, at least as far as the general public might read into it, but it also funded MAP.
The Alliance, these days, IS Gates, and nothing more. Gates feels that since they CAN spend big money in SPS, they should be able to, and they get to decide how the money is spent. Hence, the Alliance sits at the Board retreat table as the new Strategic Plan is devised.
What will they want in it?
Look for current Gates favorites: Parent and student surveys of educators; maybe some other test to add to or replace MAP (as it is under public scrutiny); CCSS (Common Core State Standards) curricular supplements and alignments to classroom activity and assessment (and the tying of those, through some "regression analysis" to teacher evaluation); perhaps some move to make Seattle's new Creative schools more charter-like....
We have a new Strategic Plan coming; we have a new labor CBA to be negotiated this summer. Since Gates (and others) have created all these various groups (Alliance, LEV, OSC, etc etc) to manipulate public schools and the labor contract, look for Gates, through the Alliance (and particularly through the Alliance/Gates puppet, Our Schools Coalition) to not only be after manipulating the new ST, but also the new CBA.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Seattle Citizen laid it out well.

Let's see, they want - as they did last contract negotiation - to be able to hire the district negotiator. Didn't know that fun fact? I just found out myself.

Why is the Alliance's hired gun, the district's negotiator? Luckily, I have it on good authority that it will NOT happen this time.

The Alliance has a business agenda, an ed reform agenda and we all know what that is.

Charlie Mas said...

Let's be clear - the Alliance is a finger puppet of the Gates Foundation. It has no real connection with anything local and certainly has no connection with anything local beyond the Downtown Chamber of Commerce. There are no ordinary citizens in the Alliance, they are all corporate representatives there ex officio representing their corporate interests or representing the Gates Foundation interests.

The Alliance has no authentic connection with the community at all.

mirmac1 said...

Agenda wants? They're right here:

How to spend over $2M for union-busting, half-baked Gates thingies

mirmac1 said...

The authentic connection with the community is essentially a token collection of "stakeholders." Whomever can cough up $2K and say they represent XYZ (preferably minority) group. Frankly, these sellouts piss me off: they lend credibly to a cabal that doesn't give a whiff about them.

seattle citizen said...

List of participants in meeting at Gates Foundation, from email sent by Sara Morris of Alliance to Supt. Banda (mirmac's link, above):
Microsoft
Gates Foundation
Raikes Foundation
College Spark Foundation
Seattle Foundation
Alliance
Nesholm Foundation
Bezos Foundation
Gates Foundation
Boeing
JP Morgan
and...
Tabor 100

Not only is it kind of sickening that these people all get together to buy SPS policy, but what is Tabor 100 doing in that list?

It's tokenism - Just as Our Schools Coalition is supposedly filled with minority groups, it's really only filled with the representatives of minority groups, and by representatives, I mean those that can play the game. I was a member of one of the minority groups listed in OSC - I had no idea the group was being added to OSC. Its leader did that, because the leader knew how to play politics - Burgess and other council members are also on OSC. You scratch my back, I'll scsratch yours.
Here, in mirmac's link, we se the same sort of co-option of the minority community: A bunch of, yes, wealthy white people want to run things, they SAY they know what is best for the minority community, but they need some street cred. So to a list of wealthy, white meddlers we see added one, lone minority group, a group that is NOT a foundation, but a coalition of supporters for Black empowerment.
I'm not saying it's bad that Blacks, and others, use politicians and wealthy people to get justice; I just think it's bad that wealthy white people bring along token Blacks, and others, to try to lend themselves some legitimacy.
In this case, the "reforms" these wealthy whites are bringing mainly to minority communities are, in my opinion, deadly for those minorities: "You are only measured by the tests," these reformers are, in effect, telling poor and minority people.
That Tabor 100 is on this list disturbs me very much.

Jet City mom said...

I share your concerns about Tabor 100. I hadn't heard of them before, but the first link that comes up is an article about firing an employee who critized the mayor in her blog.

mirmac1 said...

I just want to say, I knew Langston Tabor when he was an astute, scrupulous business in a difficult industry. If he were alive today, I don't think he would take kindly to co-opting to the billionaires.