Thursday, May 23, 2013

Seattle School Board Candidate Questions

I'm reaching out to all the candidates for School Board and I'm thinking about what to ask. 

Naturally, I will be asking most of the same basic questions to all the candidates but then, asking about what they would bring to the table.

What would you most want to ask a candidate?


mirmac1 said...

How do you feel about the disclosure of nearly every detail of our childrens' educational records, without parental consent, to for-profit and non-profit entities?

Anonymous said...

I would really, really love to hear from almost anyone at JSCEE, but especially current school board candidates, about how we can meet the needs of both our SpEd kids (primarily I am concerned about implementation here) and our advanced learning kids (primarily I am concerned about goals/program stability here). Do we have an integrated vision for the district which includes both of those groups, and is NOT a zero sum game between the two? Can we? How do our disparate groups of students fit in the current educational mission?

I also want to know who believes in in class differentiation as the standard for advanced learning so I can vote against them, but that is more nitty gritty and much less of a discussion starter.

I am hopeful that we have a good slate of candidates, and thankful to all of them for giving up their time and trying to help our kids. It is a really hard job they are asking for.


John S said...

Will you accept campaign donations from donors outside of Seattle?

Unknown said...

I'm not interested in their opinions, which can be canned, so much as the way they think and who are the people who have influence their thinking most.

Ask them what books on education they've read recently, and what they've learned from them. Ask them who are the educators they admire most? Who are the people who have influenced their thinking most? Whom do they disagree with most?

Greg Linden said...

Thanks for doing this, Melissa. Here are some ideas for questions:

What percentage of budget should be allocated to central administration? If the current allocation is too high in your view, what specific steps would you urge Superintendent Banda to take to reduce it?

Are too many big decisions made in this district hastily, at the last minute, in a crisis? If so, what specific steps would you take to reduce the effectiveness of crisis politics on bypassing the School Board's oversight role?

To a great extent, funding is the biggest issue in the district. Maintenance, repairs, and seismic retrofits have a deep backlog. Many schools struggle to provide basic supplies and meet children's needs, and even our flagship schools make do with surprisingly small levels of funding (Garfield, for example, has funding of merely $5,600 per student). As a school board member, do you see any role in advocating for more funding? If so, what specifically would you do to try to get more funding?

In 2009, the district and school board closed several schools and sold properties and committed to long-term leases. In 2010, the district found itself with a shortage of schools and with increasingly severe capacity problems. Why do you think this happened? What could have been done to prevent it? As a school board member, what specifically will you do to prevent decisions like that one from happening again?

Anonymous said...

Well, I've got a bee in my bonnet about school safety at the moment so I'd be interested in their level of knowledge, and views about the vulnerability of some of our older schools, lack of sprinklers, not meeting minimum seismic standards etc.
This seems to be an issue in many states/school districts that have a large number of older/unsafe buildings and are in high-quake risk zones.
Seems addressing these issues in an adequate and timely manner is beyond what a single school district can accomplish - but I would like them to think about how could they work with local and state government to make our schools safer (grants/funding/promoting legislation?), and at a local level how could they better prioritize use of BEX levies to ensure all buildings at least meet the minimum structural safety standards and all have eviqualent disaster-preparedness kits/equipment/planning (independent of PTA/school funding and involvement).

Disaster Aware

Po3 said...

If you could change three things in the district, what would they be and why?

Anonymous said...

Lots of good questions so far. I would ask how well they feel they can work with others on the board, even those they are not in agreement-perhaps strongly so. I'd ask how much they will let their personal opinions sway their decisions. I'd ask them how familiar they are with student and family populations in the areas of the city where they do not live. For example, how conversant would a candidate from Ballard be with Rainier Beach? Finally, I'd ask how much of their time they can devote to the job. Kay stepped down in part because she couldn't devote the time she felt it took to do it well, and let's face it, this is pretty much a FT job.

Eager to see the replies.

Least Photogenic

Melissa Westbrook said...

Least, the state should be funding salaries for SB directors for the three-five largest districts in the state. It so narrows the pool of who can take the job because of the lack of money AND the huge time commitment.

RosieReader said...

Describe your vision of governance/oversight. Compare/contrast the role of a Board member versus 1) a senior executive in the District; 2) a parent activist?

mirmac1 said...

I would ask them, if Highline can offer free full-day K, why can't Seattle? What is their priority? Putting money in the classroom or "implementing the PG&E and Danielson Framework with fidelity"?

Anonymous said...

When will you change the math from conceptual textbooks to a better curricula? I think the current approach is confusing to many students and lands too many into remedial math in college.

S parent

Anonymous said...

Are you seeking to be a leader creating ed deform doublethink, do you only want to be 1 of their head lackeys, do you community values over worshiping rich people values, or, do you not know what I'm talking about?


Anonymous said...

Wow. Great questions all. Thanks.

Who do you consider your stakeholders to be?


former dragon said...

Do you support Advanced Learning in its current configuration, and if not, what changes would you support?

Watching said...

What are their position on charter schools? If they are anti-charter, do they promise to maintain their stance throughout their tenure?

Estay is well known in political circles. She claims the ability to raise $100=$150K. Who are her donors and who will she represent?

dw said...

How do you feel about the disclosure of nearly every detail of our childrens' educational records, without parental consent, to for-profit and non-profit entities?

I'll echo mirmac's question. I guess that's two votes for this one. And I'll add: with no way at all for parents to opt out.

joanna said...

Some neighborhood schools have plenty of Seattle Public School students living within the assignment area and are under enrolled. How would you solve this problem?

How would you address the lack of equity in access to good schools and in the mix of good opportunities to a variety of programs?

How would you approach the issue of the achievement and opportunity gaps?

What are your thoughts on capacity management?

joanna said...

I think the wording of this one needs a little work:
How would you address the lack of equity in access to good schools and to a variety of good and popular programs?

Won't vote Estey! said...

dw asks a good question. It should be noted that Estey works on the Road Map Project with the community Center for Education- the organization that uses student data.

From Estey:

"So in Renton, I was very involved with Friends of Renton Schools and the Community Center for Education Results/Road Map"

The question begs: Will Estey continue to support grants that allow for sharing of student's personal and identifiable information?

Anonymous said...

I'd like to hear their thoughts on the impact of the NSAP on equity. There's been a lot of discussion re: equitable access to programs or special curricular foci, but what about equitable access to neighborhood school offerings? When schools in well-off neighborhoods can fund all sorts of activities, supplies, and staff that those in other parts of the city cannot, how is that equitable? Do they see these disparities as ok, just a fact of life? Or should the distict do something--and if so, what?


Melissa Westbrook said...

To note, I believe some of the candidates are monitoring this blog so even if I don't get to ask them these questions, hopefully you will find it at their webpages or hear them speak about these issues.

Anonymous said...

Hasn't the district created inequities by making what should be option schools, such as language immersion, into neighborhood schools? It also keeps the neighborhood school from being a neighborhood school for those that don't want language immersion.

The lack of district clarity around Spectrum also limits access for qualified students as some students have access to Spectrum classes, and other schools are relying on in class differentiation.

Also, some schools have been able to choose alternative math texts, while other schools are tied to the district texts. How is that equitable?

These are all inequities that stem from district choices and policies. All this talk about equitable access is confusing in light of disrict actions.


StringCheese said...

I would like to echo HIMSmom and add a bit more:

How would YOU define equity?

With the way the district and School Board bandy about this word, you'd think that they would have a clear message as to what this means. They don't. Ask a parent what they feel it means and you add in a third definition.

Forcing families into their neighborhood schools BEFORE establishing equity between offerings simply codified the socio-economic discrepancies between neighborhoods. The "haves" continue to have and the "have-nots", well... have not... with the difference being that the families in the have-not schools no longer have choices.

Do you support option schools?


Do you support advanced learning opportunities for students who excel in reading, math, or science, but not all? Math and science acceleration isn't possible through "differentiation" within a single classroom. How would you accomplish this?

Thousands of kids are not getting their needs met because funds and attention are spent on remediation but not acceleration outside of Spectrum and APP. Do you see this as an issue?

suep. said...

Hi everyone,

What fantastic questions, wow!
I'm in the process of fine-tuning my platform and will have that info up soon on my site and in my campaign literature.

I'm going to save all your questions and ponder them all.


Sue Peters

Sue Peters for Seattle School Board, District IV

suep. said...


In the meantime, please know that I support:
New K-8 math text adoption ASAP.
A plan and visionary new leadership for AL in general, reinstatement and investment in Spectrum in more locations, home for north-end APP.
A definition of equity that includes attending to the needs and abilities of all the kids of SPS.
Addressing the neglected needs of SPED community.
Meaningful investment of resources in schools where kids need extra help.
Decrease in standardized testing.
Cancellation of the MAP entirely (not valid or necessary for K-8 either)
Safe buildings for our kids (I was in San Francisco for the 1989 earthquake).

This is not a complete list nor in any particular order.

-- Sue

Sue Peters for Seattle School Board, District IV

Charlie Mas said...

While the Superintendent and his staff are responsible for management and administration of the district, the Board is responsible for policy and governance. What is your definition of policy and governance and how will we see you doing policy and governance work?

joanna said...

Given that SPS has moved toward neighborhood plans, how would you go about ensuring that students actually have access to good schools and programs? This is a detailed process, so I would appreciate some details region by region. I feel that this will give a hint to the candidates sense of the Seattle as a whole and their commitment to work for each region as a part of the whole.