Banda's First Year Reflections

Dear Seattle Public Schools community:

As the 2012-2013 school year draws to a close, I want to thank you all for welcoming me in my first year as your Superintendent. It has been a pleasure to get to know the schools and community and learn about the ideas and concerns each of you have. My conversations with educators, students, families, staff and community members have provided insight for changes and priorities, both for this year and for the future. 

Throughout the year we’ve celebrated successes and addressed challenges. The 2,900 students graduating from high school this year are a visible reminder that our primary purpose continues to be ensuring that students graduate prepared for college, career and life.

We are building for the future
Our enrollment continues to increase, with more Seattle families choosing to send their children to Seattle Public Schools. Thanks to approval by Seattle voters, two key levies will help us address running the District and improving our schools to better meet student needs and our growing enrollment. 

We are setting high academic standards for all of our students
Closing the achievement gap continues to be a key focus for Seattle Public Schools. Implementing Common Core State Standards (CCSS) plays a major role in our efforts. CCSS have been adopted by 48 states, including Washington, to provide consistent learning goals in English Language Arts (ELA) and Math. Students learn transferable, 21st century skills, including critical thinking, collaboration and self-assessment, to help them thrive after graduation from high school. CCSS foster equity in education as all students are ensured of comparable learning expectations no matter where they live.

Safety of our students and staff remains a top priority
The safety of our schools was brought into sharp focus in December. After the tragedy in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, we conducted safety audits of all 95 schools. One result has been to increase security patrols of our elementary and K–8 schools. We will continue to use safety protocols and drills and work with the Seattle Police Department to keep safety a focus each and every day. 

We have a plan for the next five years
One final item I’d like to mention is our work to update the District’s Strategic Plan. This plan will guide our District for the next five years, and has included participation from families, staff, teachers, students and community members. It is expected to be presented to the School Board for approval this summer. 

As part of our work moving forward, it is our goal to continue to develop strong family-school partnerships in every school, in order to help our students achieve. We will also build upon our strong community partnerships. I look forward to meeting families, students and community members to ensure success for all of our students. 

I hope you all have a safe and enjoyable summer! And thank you for supporting Seattle Public Schools.



José Banda
Seattle Public Schools


One correction; 45 states have adopted Common Core along with four territories and the DOD education activity. This from the Common Core website.
Unknown said…
He's no Joshua Starr, at least not yet.

I am more bottom-up in overall approach than Starr is, but inequity issues have to be dealt with top-down because they are system-wide problems. And I applaud what he has accomplished in Stamford and currently in Montgomery County, MD.

I hope Banda is paying attention. I would be delighted if he would emerge as the kind of firm, independent thinking, practical problem solver that Starr has proved himself to be. Maybe it's unfair because too early to say so, but so far it looks like the system is running Banda rather than he the system. It's a tough gig, I know, but I hope he has a better second year.

See also here.
Anonymous said…
I and others have deep reservations about Banda's leadership. So far, according to school and community members I have spoken to in recent months, Banda has not formed a connection. He deeply needs to connect, especially with his principal corps, yet both interpersonally and managerially has not managed to establish the type of rapport necessary to promulgate a vision staff can believe in. He appears sleepy or disconnected frequently in meetings, does not seem to recall crucial details, and does not appear to warmly connect. This may sound unimportant but it's crucial: school leaders will champion change only when they deeply respect their leader. Community leaders are saying the same things. Many top leaders in the district (the kinds we want to retain) are leaving or have left. I believe Sup. Banda can make a difference. I and many others share his values. He needs to connect with frontline staff and community members and provide inspiration and vision. If that is not accomplished as the next year begins, I worry it will be too late.

Enthusiasm Please
Oh Please said…
Banda HAS reached out and connected with many communities.
Disgusted said…
"He appears sleepy or disconnected frequently in meetings"

Come on. Who wouldn't fall asleep with endless babble?
Anonymous said…
Oh Please,

I am curious to know which parent, teacher, school leader or community groups are feeling that he is a strong advocate based on actually interfacing with him? I would be happy to stand corrected. I am raising concerns because I have been hearing them from many quarters.

Enthusiasm Please
mirmac1 said…
Speaking from personal experience, I can say that he has vastly improved the communication with special education families, by empowering staff and directing them to work with parent advocacy groups. This is a 180 degree change from Susan "Soup with the Supe" Enfield and MGJ.

Yes, I would like him to be more hands-on, particularly when it comes to decisions he leaves up to the Asst Supts. I see them as the problem these days.
I feel Superintendent Banda is quite warm. He also seems to listen AND get what I am saying.

That said, I have heard some concern over his lack of face time at JSCEE (being more visible). I also have concerns that he may be ceding too much power to some of the assistant superintendents.
Anonymous said…
Bob Vaughan is retiring -
This from an autoreply email:

After 30 years in education, I'm retiring. For assistance contact I will also check email, but infrequently, until I formally separate service on June 30.

Anonymous said…
Melissa, I think the perception of Banda ceding too much to assistant supts is likely to grow wider. His recent set of appointments are quite out of touch. The Kimball community feels insulted to be landed with a principal nobody else has been able to tolerate. The Central District Ed Director choice shows that he is not listening to the community or staff. Few families see the benefit of an internal appointment at McGilvra. The list goes on. I think he is making quite poor leadership decisions.

- reader
mirmac1 said…

He has received that direct message from me. Whether he will heed it from us parents has yet to be seen. I know a number of us have held off on criticism because our kids come first and the churn must end. Furthermore, he is a genuinely warm, very smart superintendent. That said, patience wears thin...
Anonymous said…
I want to point out a specific leadership issue that can only be handled by the Superintendent, and hasn't been. According to OSPI, the only person who can apply for a new school identification number is the Superintendent or his/her designee. (OSPI's Title 1 office also says the process is fast and in no way burdensome and happens all the time - it just needs to be the right person applying). Why then hasn't the Superintendent given a school with over 500 children an OSPI number?

Not a big deal? Consider:

The kids in North APP at Lincoln are still listed, according to a phone call today with OSPI, as part of Lowell on Capitol Hill, after two full years in separate locations. The state records Lowell having 614 children, of whom 106 (17%) qualify at the poverty threshold, and thus Lowell is NOT one of the 33 schools receiving federal Title 1 funds. However, more than 500 of those "614" students the district reports at "Lowell" are actually sitting in Lincoln, and almost all of the 106 who qualify for Title 1 funds are in the Lowell building. The Lowell building has extremely high rates of Title 1 eligibility. The children in the Lowell building would, if separated from the other group, absolutely qualify for a share of Title 1 funds. As it currently stands, they DO add to the total $ the district receives - but they DO NOT receive any of those dollars.

However, because SPS has separated the children (due to capacity, NOT APP wishes), the ones still at Lowell do not receive any financial benefits. That one particular group of children has been completely #$%@ed by SPS - for the last two years, and also for next year -- total of three years -- they have not been given their appropriate share of Title 1 funds b/c the Superintendent has not applied for an OSPI number for the other school.

The APP parents at Lincoln didn't want to leave the community on Cap Hill - but the district has really made it worse and worse for the kids still there, by taking away the extra support from within the APP community and yet not following up with the one form required to get them the replacement support Title 1 would provide. Why? The Superintendent can fix this. It's not hard. It's a form.

-- sign me 'wishing I was a civil rights attorney'
Anonymous said…
I am completely disappointed by Jose Banda. He's been totally ineffectual so far, and keeps hiding behind the excuse of "I'm just learning about the district", etc., etc.... Honestly, by now we need some actual leadership.

He seems content to let power-hungry and mediocre administrators like Shawna Heath lead the show. He never acknowledges or apologizes for missteps, and it's hard to tell that he's even there.

From what I can tell, it's the Shawna Heath and Carmela Dellino show bullying principals and teachers without restraint, especially in West Seattle.

In a meeting related to a complaint filed by a parent against a principal, Banda sat completely impassive, without once responding, even to nod, smile, acknowledge, etc. Useless and pathetic, even if Ron English directed him to be in that mode.

If he's not going to help the students and families of the district, the money could go to better use. Sorry to be harsh, but I'm fed up.


Anonymous said…
Disgusted: and yet, some principals get away with so much! What is the recipe? Agree that Heath was another of Banda's Really Weird Appointments. At this point, Tolley seems to be in that category too. You just have to wonder who is holding Michael Tolley accountable for anything. Isn't he the frontline with principals? Did he propose the Kimball appointment? McGilvra? Sure looks like he is in his own world.

shaun skeptic
Anonymous said…
Banda seems like a competent manager and a decent guy. But, and it's a big one... The appointment of Chris Chronos (dismantler of Spectrum and mis-quoter of research on gifted ed) to be planning principal of WP, where APP will be housed, combined with the sudden retirement of Bob Vaughn, makes me VERY nervous that he agrees with Joshua Star on this approach (from Jack's linked article)

" He consolidated middle schools tracked by performance, saying that the distinction led to racially- and socioeconomically-divided classrooms...He also sparred with the school board and some parents, who claimed the approach undermined high-performing students."

So much of what was good about SPS has already been dismantled. Is meaningful advanced learning next? Maybe I'm paranoid, but Chronos? yikes.

--looking at private middle schools
Phil said…
We are with "Disgusted" and have been for months.

Can't we make someone else a priority?

We've given up on him and his talking head act.
Po3 said…
I am mixed overall. Banda seems like a great super for Seattle - but the MAPS testing, the Center School teacher, the 3 year math adoption cycle and some questionable leadership picks have me concerned. I think he is getting bad advice.

Anonymous said…
The issue that 'wishing I was a civil rights attorney" brings up about Lowell being cheated out of their Title I money is really awful, and needs to be fixed. It is intolerable that this is happening, and that a population that can use these funds aren't getting them because of District indecision or poor planning. I know people are pursuing media interest in this story, and I wouldn't be surprised if this resulted in yet another lawsuit against the District (that they will lose, and we will all pay for).

- Shed Light on Lowell
Anonymous said…
Re Media interest in Lowell's Title 1 Funds -- I HOPE SO! Personally, I've been hesitant to call the media b/c the Seattle Times has such a huge axe to grind into SPS - even when they don't do anything wrong - that it's hard for me to add to that. For me personally, the Times has lost a lot of credibility in its education coverage. But this is an issue that only daylight and outcry will fix, b/c two years of PTA and parent involvement has met a dead end. I had to call OSPI to get the facts.

-- from Wishing, Second Post
mirmac1 said…
Lowellites, submit an OCR complaint! Will that get things moving?
Anonymous said…
To Shawn Skeptic: Yes, I agree, for the most part it's impossible to fire a principal- just look at Jo Lute-Ervin, who's now resurfacing at Kimball after having been hidden as "co-principal" at South Shore.

On the other hand, the Exec Directors have plenty of power when it comes to reassigning/dropping principals without notice/explanation/community involvement, such as with Madison and Sealth, among others.

The word around Madison is that the district has known for months that Carlisle was going to be replaced, but that they didn't announce it until mid-June so that they could announce a (controversial) interim principal, Dr. Robert Gary Jr. He's coming to Madison from the Interagency Academy and Skills Center, which was included in an initial letter to families from Banda, but was dropped in the press release version from Banda. In that version, it says that Gary is coming from Rainier Beach. They don't mention that he left there unceremoniously after an incident of failed reporting after abuse allegations. Another great choice by Carmella Dellino, apparently sanctioned by the MIA Banda.

As far as Michael Tolley, he's the counterpart of Carmella Dellino in the Southeast region. They're both Exec Directors running a muck. Again, either Banda approves of their decisions, or he's showing no leadership, and ceding his authority to these people.

I'm not sure whose brilliant idea it was to put Jo Lute-Ervin at Kimball. The Exec Director territories are supposedly listed here, but I'm not sure if they're current:

Anonymous said…
BTW, here's an article on the incident at Rainier Beach when Dr. Robert Gary Jr. was principal:

mirmac1 said…
I'm very disappointed in Carmella Dellino. After giving her strong backing, and observing the events in WS, I am disgusted too. She has drunk the koolaid.

Unfortunately, Mr. Banda thinks Tolley is the cat's pajamas. I think he will see the error in his ways, but who will suffer in the interim?
Anonymous said…
Disgusted said: "for the most part it's impossible to fire a principal- just look at Jo Lute-Ervin"

Wouldn't it be kinder and better for everyone involved to reassign failed administrators like Ms. Lute-Ervin back into the classroom as teachers again?

She must have been successful in some way as a teacher. Let her go into her own classsroom and teach in peace as long as she can do so effectively.

As far as I know, there's no law that says that anyone who tries and fails at administration can't return to doing something more appropriate. If she can't even succeed well enough in the classroom, then that's another matter for another day.

Anonymous said…
To "Just ask Lafayette": I have no idea what Jo Lute-Ervin was like in the classroom, but that's not where the district is putting her.

They're putting her in charge of an elementary school with 497 students. She lacks the judgement, skills and ability to be in that role. Strictly from an administrative perspective, she has told both parents and teachers that she doesn't know how to complete online forms in the district's database, and she wasn't able to properly complete the budget or teacher's evaluations. Those are absolute requirements for a principal.

I don't actually have any ill will toward Jo Lute-Ervin as a person. I'm sure that outside of her principal's role, she's a perfectly pleasant person. She probably means well. She's just not fit to lead a school, though, and the district is opening itself up to liability to place her in that position with the history that precedes this placement.

As just one example, she turned a kindergartner out onto California Ave. without a parent, and the child was rescued while crossing California Ave. alone and in tears by another parent who recognized him. The district was alerted in writing to this incident, but failed to act. What if that child had been hit by a car or kidnapped? I am only speaking up because I don't want a tragedy to occur without at least having raised the alarm.

Anonymous said…
If you look at the pdf of the 2013 school budgets on the SPS website, it's pretty clear that Lowell and Lincoln are totally separate for budgeting purposes.
The reason Lowell isn't a Title 1 school has nothing to do with Lincoln--Lowell by itself is below whatever the FRL threshold is.
Satisfied Lowell Dad
P.S. I do agree that Lincoln should be registered at OSPI as school separate from Lowell.
Anonymous said…
Dear Satisfied Lowell Dad -

I would LOVE to believe that Lowell is above the poverty threshold for Title 1 funds. That would be a positive for the school.

But I'm relying on the 2012-13 numbers I heard this week from OSPI - 614 students in "Lowell" (which is only the Lincoln group and the general ed at Lowell), of which 106 were listed as Title 1 eligible.

When Lincoln was having a teacher cut in the fall, people went over the statistics in the building closely to consider the weighted staffing standard. Lincoln has roughly 520 or so kids (a few have moved since fall) and roughly less than ten FRL. (#please, bloggers, don't get on the "rich privileged" horse - the FRL threshold is far, far too low in our city - many of the students in every school who do not qualify as FRL are nevertheless NOT wealthy and not privileged, but that's a different issue).

Honestly, the OSPI numbers shocked me at many levels. First, b/c I thought there were about 200 students in general ed at Lowell, but subtracting the 520 Lincoln kids from 614 yields about 100 general ed. What's the real number? Is the district completely miscounting one of the groups? Misreporting to OSPI? If there are approximately 200 at Lowell, which is what I had thought, then is the district under-reporting how many are at Lincoln by 100 students?

So the basic population numbers aggregated from the two schools are inaccurate, somehow, aren't they? Is Lowell only about 100 gen ed kids?

I don't want anyone to think I'm criticizing any school - but I'm a numbers person. I believe having the numbers right matters. It certainly matters for both receiving and fairly allocating state money, so if the district isn't counting correctly, then their budget isn't correct.

It's possible OSPI gave me old numbers from 2011-12 (first year apart) or 2010-11 (when the schools were still together), I suppose - but I asked repeatedly if those were the 2012-13 numbers b/c they didn't fit with the total population I thought I knew.

--still wondering
Anonymous said…
Still Wondering,
The number of K-5 kids at Lowell-- in 8 Gen Ed classrooms and 4 Special Ed classrooms--has been right around 200 for the past two school years.
Marion Smith investigated the issue of Title 1 funds early in the school year and confirmed with staff and families that Lowell (without Lincoln) is below the threshold. He also shared that the amount of funding that comes to Lowell in the form of LAP funds is comparable to the funds that would come from Title 1.
That's all I know.
-Still Satisfied

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