Center School Award from the City (and what McGinn Had to say)

At the Slog, they covered the mayor's award that The Center School received from the City's Human Services Coalition for student support of the race and social class at Center.  What is interesting to me is that Mayor McGinn stood very clearly on the side of the students and didn't mince words (bold theirs).

Because it’s the mayor's award, it was given by Mayor McGinn himself and accompanied by a signed mayoral proclamation, which said that "Seattle is battling inequality in our schools" and "we need to have more discussion in our schools about race, not less." It concluded: "I applaud the Center School Community for their dedication and perseverance, and I agree with them that the Social Justice Curriculum should continue at The Center School."

One more big statement:

A student said to the room: "We ask everyone in support of keeping this curriculum at Center School to come stand with us." And the banquet tables emptied, as virtually the entire room swarmed up to the front to stand with the students.  

We may never know the whole story on this issue and there is no one to blame for that but the district.  So we are all free to consider any scenario or motive that we want.  It is not enough to use vague wording to justify this situation and its outcome. 

It doesn't help students, parents or teachers if we aren't all clearly schooled on what the district expects in the classroom (especially if we are talking about teacher responsibilities). 

A black mark on the district.  Again.


Po3 said…
Where has the principal been in all of this. Why wasn't he/she at this event supporting the school and the students?

Makes me question the leadership and the roled they played in this debacle.
Anonymous said…
At Center School, one of the students gave an impassioned speech for the teacher and the class and asked supporters to stand at the end of it. The support was widespread.

The students at Center School walk to get their diplomas to a short speech written by someone they had chosen -- the teacher wrote several of them. All of the bits written by the teacher showed a teacher invested in the success of the diverse group of students he teaches (not just in the standard ways, but in every way, the artists, the musicians, the outspoken students, the struggling students, . . . )

Michael DeBell handed out diplomas and gave short speech. He appeared bemused and went off script, talking about his own protest days, against the Vietnam war and the Iraq war, and commending the students for standing up for something they believed in. I'm projecting, probably, but he looked like a man who was a little bit surprised that students still fought like that for something they believed in.

Anonymous said…
Pointed words from Joel Connelly on the Seattle PI blog:

Center School kids get award, but not their teacher

Proud to Wear Green
Joel said…
sounds a pile on against Banda. everyone knows it was letting petition signing occur while the complainant was in the classroom that got him reassigned. Totally inappropriate and akin to bullying. The district cannot legally discuss disciplinary actions. Where is the mystery?
Anonymous said…
This was such an unnecessary distraction for the District. Something that should have been handled between the teacher, principal and parents was fumbled and turned into a PR disaster.

Our family started in the early years at Center. Students who wanted a smaller, more personal high school found a home there.

Jon Greenberg was my son’s favorite teacher and mentor. He should not be removed because of one opinion.

Since when is sending around an all school petition the same as bullying? If the students started harassing the student then that could be addressed. But so far they sound more mature than the grown ups involved.

S parent
Anonymous said…
Yes, Joel, the blame lies squarely with Mr. Banda for allowing one family to bully the District into suspending a school curriculum because they were unhappy and had the legal means to harrass and intimidate the District until they got their way. Again, all the Humanities teachers allowed students to circulate the student-driven petition and, so far, none of them have been transferred. I almost certain the principal had to be aware of the petition (this is a small school, the senior class numbers 48), yet she has not been disciplined. I agree that bullying and intimidation are involved in this situation but it didn't originate with Mr. Greenberg or his curriculum.

Joel, I updated this with Joel Connelly's column. Apparently the family filed TWO complaints so there was confusion over what the issue truly was (and what the discipline stemmed from).

So "everyone" did NOT know and the district didn't do a lot to let people know.

Charlie is right - what is the policy on allowing students to circulate ANY petition?

The district cannot discuss disciplinary actions but they certainly can explain to parents about what teachers can and cannot do in a classroom.

Louise said…
Oh come on. A student-generated petition to reinstate their curriculum is in no way bullying. To me one student and her litigious parents seem to be the bullies here.
mirmac1 said…
The district cannot discuss disciplinary actions but they can release an investigation report to the Seattle Times?! Yeah, right.

Joel, this is how it works. A teacher pisses off somebody but manages to keep his/her job. From that point on, the powers-that-be (too often Exec Dirs who base their decisions on personal relationships) will look for the very next opportunity to "bust" that teacher. Didn't enter your grades correctly into Powerschool? Get written up. Didn't immediately respond to a parent's email? Disciplinary action. When Sue Means and friends have their sights on you, you're toast. And guess who gets to pay for these witchhunts? Our students.

Sorry. I'm still waiting to see this investigation under the Public Records Act....
Anonymous said…
The District is notorious for "investigating" all kinds of claims and yet no one has ever seen/read nor heard of anyone being inquired, interrogated or even asked what transpired under their watch. There are utter morons in HR and they use the legal parameter of "minors" who cannot be revealed under statue of law. It's a joke and a farce and in 4 years the Teacher or whomever can petition the district to have the "investigation" removed from their file.

What it means is that nothing ever gets done except kabuki theater. You have no legal rights, protections or security when you work for the district. Any kid, parent, co-worker can make an allegation which is then badly handled with no procedures in place, no jurisprudence, equality or transparency. A nasty letter will then be signed by one of the morons in HR, usually written badly and inaccurately then you move on.

Yes Seattle this is your school district. A joke, farce and an enigma rolled into incompetency.

Been there done that seen that and bought the T-Shirt.

---Victim of SDS
Anonymous said…

There are many of us- teachers and former teachers of SPS who have suffered the same treatment as Mr. Greenberg-and worse.

All it takes is a denouncement by a student or parent or co-worker and the Gestapo principals who are the minions of HR set the wheels of our inevitable destruction in motion.

SPS has destroyed the careers and futures of many competent and capable teachers in their power mongering quest to install ed reform lackeys who will never make teaching a career.

Mr. Greenburg is lucky. At least he is allowed to continue teaching while the rest of us lose everything.

One would think that the SPS community would be up in arms about this. That the parents of the students we teach would be assembling at the John in protest. But alas, we are all, in the end, disposable.

There is no justice in the Reich of Seattle Public Schools.
CS said…
It's the last day if school. Summer is upon us. Families on vacation. Is the timing of this just coincidence? Or is SPS hoping this will all blow over and be forgotten over the summer? Ahh, the reprieve of summer...
Johnny Calcagno said…
This whole episode is mind boggling. Greenberg seems to be exactly the kind of teacher that we need in this district, and every scrap of information I have read in the Times and on this blog would indicate that at the *very most* he should be reprimanded. By moving him, not only is he being punished, but so is the Center School community. All for one family's complaint(s)? Ridiculous.
n said…
Sort of depressed tonight mostly because I'm just plain tired but I'm pretty disillusioned with principals. We've had a couple changes in the last few years and it seems like the new ones are all about control and keeping that pretty decent paycheck coming in. Between controlling and nit-picking principals and their executive-director bosses, teachers are now peons in the system who really don't know anything at all. The teachers who lie the lowest and do the least to attract attention get by the best. Teachers get an awful lot of feedback from parents. We often know who is a strong teacher and who isn't. Principals have no clue. What an upside-down academic community we've become.
A-mom said…
Keep fighting for your teacher at Center School. Do not be "patient" (from last Board meeting closing comments-Peaslee) for Peaslee, or buy into DeBell's feigned commiseration. Their words mean nothing. Just watch what they do.

DeBell was bemused because he has no empathy for those who call for justice. DeBell doesn't even try to act concerned for the future of my school community. "Why would we want to save Pinehurst?" (Debell quote from community meeting.)

Pinehurst was patient with Peaslee and we were strung along for 9 months. Now a letter from the superintendent, who has never talked to us directly, saying there will be "discussions over the summer about the school's future beyond the 2013-2014 school year."

I'm sorry but I don't get the feeling he intends to discuss the future of Pinehurst with Pinehurst since we have had no communication from the district for three weeks (other than the letter mentioned in the thread below).

As for pulling the band-aid off, they probably would, but the district has to show that they followed policy when closing a school. They got a slap on the wrist from a judge when they closed Summit without due process, and they do not want to repeat the same mistake. So we get platitudes instead of honesty. They may be following the letter of the law but not the spirit. I can only conclude that their efforts are not in good faith.
Charlie Mas said…
Look. This should be simple. The District says that Mr. Greenberg broke the rules. The question is: What rule did he break?

Is it against the rules for teachers to allow students to circulate petitions in class? Where is that rule written? Show it to us.

If that is the rule, then there are a lot of other teachers who should also get transferred.

If the Center School principal, Oksana Britsova, really has been as passive as she appears to have been through all of this, then I don't see how she can continue in that role. Surely there will be some sort of no-confidence action against her. It appears, at least to outside observers, that she has taken no role in this.
Anonymous said…

You, me, we are not alone. This is a countrywide problem.

SPS is a joke but check out Denver and they have a well established charter system and in turn same problems.

This site is just one of many that discuss what is the real core and problem in schools.

This is why I quit teaching full time years ago. This district is not exceptional in any way.

If you want to understand why what happened at Center School happened do your homework in this district. There are many "stories" of this every year.

Good luck in getting a record of these "investigations" as they don't exist.

All it takes is one allegation. ONE and that can be from anyone and the career and employment and record of that teacher is seriously damaged. This particular case was public and in turn interesting as it exposed the district for what it is.. corrupt and idiotic

Victims of SPS
Anonymous said…
Charlie - The Center School PTA voted unanimously to ask the Board to reinstate Mr. Greenberg and the Courageous Conversations curriculum at Center School -- with one abstention, Oksana Britsova. I think that pretty well answers your question.

CS said…
It seems that the handling of the original complaint of a student feeling "intimidated" was grossly mishandled. Sure, my daughter felt discomfort, intimidation, vulnerability, etc. when she took the class. It was difficult for her. She disliked parts of the class. But she became a stronger, more open, compassionate person through it.

Wasn't the petition about getting that curriculum reinstated? I saw how this class created a group of students with tremendous confidence to advocate for themselves. It may be hard for district administrators to believe that Mr. Greenberg didn't put them up to it.
Anonymous said…
Ignoring the usual malcontents, I want to know why everyone assumes all,kids like the class and it really is good thing to have Creative Conversation style classes in high school. As an elderly white male, I have used some of my time on earth to explore the racial and gender issues of this country and the world and, yes, discomfort is part of learning. However, I chose to go looking for these experiences, I did not have them laid on me by some high school teacher. If kids want to go down to SE and volunteer or just hang out and see what it's like, I highly recommend that to them. A class where they can "feel" discomfort? Come on, walk around RB high school with your north end buddies, during the day, and see if you can handle it. Then try it in the evening and then at night. Most of these Center School kids don't know the discomfort of a section 8 housing project or a homeless shelter. Maybe they have worked at a mission or shelter but what about staying at one? Or going out and panhandling? These are the things any kid can do with relative safety, on their own, and truly learn about life as they don't know it. I think Banda knows a thing or two about real world race and poverty problems and is just what we need in Seattle as the SAP resegregates schools. Look at that nasty McClure incident last month(see the letter in open Friday). Horrific. Lets just face it. We have a lingering, nay, festering, race problem in this town and it needs to be addressed openly by adults, not just kids at the Center School.

CS said…

You're right, experiencing racism, classism and injustice where people live it is the best classroom. You're under the assumption that this class was operated in the safety of school walls. I can tell you that is not the case. For instance, at one point they were on the streets in Federal Way advocating for a gay rights initiative that was not so well recieved in that neighborhood. The class was commonly out in various communities to learn first hand. My daughter lost her fear of street people she'd meet at the bus stop and learned to interact with them in a respectful and personal manner.

What better way is there to address racial issues in this city than by growing young adults who are less likely to judge, able to listen and make connections with individuals no matter what their background or circumstances.
Po3 said…
"However, I chose to go looking for these experiences."

As did these students, Center is an Option school, student must CHOOSE it, nobody is ever assigned to the school.

And one former Center student is now a teacher a RBHS.

n said…
You're a wordsmith, Charlie. The District changed Danielson's top category from "distinguished" to "innovative." How does that change the meaning of the rating?

I think Greenberg is "innovative." Why isn't he considered one of the best we have in the District? Does the District even know what it wants in its teachers? Does it even understand the meaning of the words it uses to evaluate them?
Anonymous said…
I had no idea what the class really does and yes, I thought it was all classroom, not on the street. Now, I could see how confronting people in White Center, although I fail to see why those folks would be any more homophobic than, say, Richmond Beach, would be an eye- opener, I would also understand parents being concerned for their children. Likewise talking to homeless people as a part of curriculum.
It also strikes me as a little like going to the zoo to see the animals, at least the way you describe it.
I guess I'm just a crotchety old pinko who has memories of the bad old days when it was so easy to tell the right from the wrong.

n said…
Seeing people living in their community is like "going to the zoo?"

I think you need to take Greenberg's class.
Anonymous said…
Blowhard, you are old and crotchety as am I. The big difference is you believe in the good old days where you think it was easy to tell right from wrong. Well for folks like me, that was never so easy. It has always been a struggle. What my parents tell me are the same lessons I teach my kids and nieces, especially the nephews 40 years later. My dad marched and protested in the 1960's for the1964 civil rights law in the South and worked to enforce those laws. He has seen the changes, good and bad. He reminds us all to be vigilant and not to take what was earned for granted!

You don't have to go to White Center looking for life's lessons. There is a lot to learn here behind the polished, well educated, more refined community too. That's the point of Greenberg's class. To bring forth uncomfortable conversations and awareness that are far easier to take and leave behind from the controlled setting of a classroom or your own armchair. But for some people, that is still to hard! That is why stuff like this is easy to ignore because you can choose to, especially where there are far fewer reminders of inequities and more homogeneity of race and wealth. It may seem like much ado about nothing.

That is why what happened at McClure wil continue, just in less conspicuous ways. We live it daily.

Different world
Anonymous said…

Charlie Mas said…
At his community meeting, Director Martin-Morris said that the transfer was not a consequence of allowing the circulation of the petition.

So what was it? What rule did he break?
seattle citizen said…
"Curiouser and curiouser..." Down the rabbit hole we've gone.
seattle citizen said…
Director Morris should get together with Teresa Whippel (district spokeperson) and get their stories straight, because the Seattle Times has her saying (June 5th) it IS about the petition.
seattle citizen said…
Excuse me, Director Martin-Morris.

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