Friday Open Thread

A bit of a stir at the Roosevelt High graduation on Wednesday night when author David Guterson apparently gave a somewhat downbeat speech, talking about death repeatedly.  He got heckled by a few parents and students.  Story at the Times.  (Link to speech via The Stranger Slog.)

(I read the speech and while I might not like some references, to me, it would be one of the more interesting and blunt commencement speeches.  I think it better to be challenging (if you can't be funny) than boring.

I like this part:

From these philosophical and political roots, the primacy of the individual has grown and spread to subsume nearly everything, and that, in the end, has not brought us happiness, because the you that matters so much every second of every day is in fact mortal and even ephemeral, and you know this, and isn’t it sad, even tragic, to know that in the end all of your hopes, dreams, and aspirations don’t amount to much, that they take you nowhere, and that this constant obsession with them is really just another form of unhappiness. To put this another way, if my life is first and foremost about me, I will never be happy.

He ends:

Don’t settle for the answers all around you that are not really answers. Don’t settle for a life of quiet desperation. And most of all, don’t settle for unhappiness. I want to tell you that happiness is possible, and that you don’t have to be despairing and afraid. But it’s up to you, to each of you, to seek out the wisdom that happiness requires. Not learning but wisdom, which is something else altogether. I wish you a long life, the better to find and deepen that wisdom. And I wish you happiness.

Looks like candidate Suzanne Dale Estey is running to win.  She has a strategy group (Argo Strategies) working for her and is having a fundraiser tomorrow where you can donate in categories from families to "stupendous- all in for Suzanne" at $1800.  To note, an individual may only donate up to $900 in the primary and $900 in the general. If you were to donate to any candidate up to the $1800 level, you better hope they clear the primary or that general election $900 is gone.

(Charlie and I are in the process of interviewing the candidates and it's been interesting.  Threads to come on the candidates who we do interview.  A few haven't answered and Ms. Estey seems on the fence about talking with us.)

What's on your mind?


David said…
Good rant of a TED talk by Geoffrey Canada (founder of the very successful Harlem Children's Zone): "Geoffrey Canada: Our failing schools. Enough is enough!"

It's a good talk, gets the blood moving.

Note that the success of Harlem Children's Zone has very little to do with it being a charter school. What makes it successful is double the funding, which allows it to offer year-around school (no summer vacation = no summer learning loss), free food (kids can't learn when they are hungry), and free clinics (kids can't learn when they are sick).

I have to say, I think the entire battle over charter schools misses the point. We already know what would improve our schools, but it requires more funding. We could continue what is likely to be a futile search for ways to improve school performance with public school funding levels 40-50% that of private schools, or we could stop trying to be cheap with other people's children and do what we already know will work.
Anonymous said…
I still need to learn more about the school board candidates in Debell's district, but seeing who at my kid's school supports Suzanne Dale Estey has me very nervous about her. The few parents I know who support people in the "reform" type groups are very excited about Estey. I need to read about her closely.

Eric B said…
My 9th grader had a great experience at Ingraham this year. We were nervous about high school after issues in middle school, but found Ingraham to be nothing but welcoming and academically focused. Thanks to everyone who makes that happen.

I should have mentioned this on the Ingraham PTA disaffiliation thread, but didn't think of it in time. I also want to thank Heidi Bennett for her leadership on basic education funding. There are places where we don't agree, but she has been relentless in pushing the Legislature to do their constitutional duty.
Anonymous said…
Ms Estey seems a very nice person and she seems well prepared for the fundraising (according to her nicely done website). But I really hope she is prepared with the ongoing school issues the same way (because she doesn't seem to have a long history with SPS) and I would love to hear her to talk about her vision for her district also.
HIMS mom
nobody's business said…
The program for my child's 8th grade promotion had stars next to kids name for different designations. One type of star indicated the child had a 3.5 to 4.0 GPA AND met standard on the 2012 MSP. Another type of star indicated the student had a 3.5 to 4.0 GPA OR met standard on the 2012 MSP. So, if there was no star it was apparent the student did not meet standard on the MSP. My student had a star, but I thought it completely inappropriate to basically call out students who did not meet standard on MSP. I understand wanting to recognize students with a god GPA, but think it's no one's business whether my child met standard on the MSP. Is this standard practice at other schools?
Jon said…
Pickle, I agree, Suzanne Dale Estey is clearly well qualified, but I suspect she'd be similar to DeBell or Maier in what she does on the school board. Note she is endorsed by former school board members DeBell and Maier.

That is hardly a reason to disqualify her, as she is clearly a very strong candidate for the board, but it does make me question whether she would be actively monitoring Banda and his organization on efficient budgets, policy compliance, and legal compliance, or if she would favor the more laissez-faire, hands off, don't interfere strategy that DeBell and Maier used so unsuccessfully with Goodloe-Johnson.
suep. said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
suep. said…
Hi Melissa and everyone,

As a candidate for School Board in District 4, I'm in it to win, too, but with a grassroots, community-based campaign.

I've had a great response so far.

I'm thrilled and honored to have endorsements that include State Senator Maralyn Chase, the 32nd District Democrats, Local 609, UW Professor and math advocate Cliff Mass, and 4 of the 7 current members of the school board, Betty Patu, Kay Smith-Blum, Marty McLaren and Sharon Peaslee.

With 9 years of direct experience and involvement with the Seattle School District, I will be able to step right up and get to work representing the families, children and school communities of SPS.

Please visit my web site or contact my campaign for more information:

And please remember to VOTE AUGUST 6

Happy summer, everyone!
Kathy S. said…
I'm supporting Sue Peters for school board.

Sue's view on educational issues are solid and unwaivering. She is a smart and courageous woman that has worked on national and local levles.

I'm confident Sue will represent the voices of teachers and parents.

Sue has earned the endorsements of Senator Marilyn Chase, Director Smith-Blum and others.

Kathy S. said…
Sorry, I typed to fast. I meant to say: Sue Peters has worked at national and local levels.
mirmac1 said…
Sue Peters is strongly opposed to Big Brother collecting data on our kids, whereas Suzanne Estey's only ed policy background seems to be the Road Map Project. Bzzzt, wrong answer!
Patrick said…
Nobody's Business, I don't think the graduation ceremony is the place to mention GPAs or test scores. Publish an honor role or something for the kids, but the graduation program should be a valued memento for all kids, not just those who scored high. Also, ANY release of GPA or test scores should have the family's permission in advance, in my opinion (I am not a lawyer...)
Jamie said…
Nobody's business, I have only been to one 8th grade promotion but no, there was no such asterisk system on my kid's program. That would make me mad. Like Patrick said, publish an honor roll if it's so important but don't do a side by side comparison of kids. That's annoying.
Anonymous said…
Question: Does anyone know how to handle an Assistant Principal possibly being intoxicated at school?

On several occasions,teachers and parents have smelled alcohol on the breath of our assistant principal. Teachers have called the district to report this to the Executive Director of our region, but for whatever reason, no one from the district has been willing to come to the school to check this out.

This person takes the bus to school, so she wouldn't be guilty of a DUI, even if she were found to be legally intoxicated.

Is there anything that parents could do? What would the penalty be? Obviously, it's too late this year to catch her in the act, but she'll be back next year...

Concerned, you need to go to the principal first. If the principal does nothing, then you should contact HR, ccing the Super and the Board.

It doesn't matter if the person takes the bus - they are violating their contract if they are drinking on the job.

At least get it on the record and come next year, if this is the case again, you can say you told them. And then follow-up and say the next time you see this person appearing intoxicated at school during the school day, you will call the police.

(FYI, sometimes people with diabetes can display behavior that makes them appear intoxicated. If that is the case, HR can handle it.)
Anonymous said…
District's policy on drug use:

Drug-Free Schools, Community, and Workplace

Anonymous said…
Thanks, Melissa, and thanks to Parent for posting the district policy.

Unfortunately, the principal is a dead-end. And, parents are pretty cynical about reporting suspicions to HR/the board/Super, since there would be no proof, just allegations. Could it even be considered slander or libel, especially if the allegation is in writing? Without proof, the person in question could just deny it, and could even counter against the reporting parent(s).

There's been discussion of calling in police to do a breathalizer so there's proof. Could she just refuse to take it, though?

As far as the district policy, it seems to address drinking/drug use on the job, but not prior to arriving on the job for the day. I'm not a lawyer, though, so I'm not sure.

Thanks again for trying to help.

Anonymous said…
The policy states, The Board declares that the following behaviors for all staff, students, vendors, volunteers and visitors are prohibited:

A. Reporting to the workplace or being on district property under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances, which includes smelling alcohol on a person's breath.

Yuri said…
June 14, 2013

Dear McClure Middle School community,

I know everyone is eager for the last day of school and to start summer vacation. I want to thank students, staff and Principal Sarah Pritchett for your work this year; and congratulations to the eighth graders moving on to high school in the fall.

Earlier this week I met with staff at McClure to talk about an incident that happened at your school on May 31. A white parent confronted several African-American administrators and repeatedly used racial slurs directed at these school leaders. I want to be absolutely clear that we at Seattle Public Schools do not and will not tolerate this type of behavior. The parent was removed from the school, and we are reviewing our security protocols to ensure we always act quickly in our response to such situations and in support of our schools and school community.

I want to extend my personal apology to the staff members who were the victims of such reprehensible behavior. Our schools should be inclusive, non-threatening and safe places for students, staff and families. I also want to say thanks for the outpouring of support from other staff members and families who heard about the incident. I appreciate the concern and care you have shown to your school community. As we teach our students, we as adults also cannot stand by and watch when we see an injustice occur. We are striving for educational excellence and equity for all of our students and we must practice what we preach.

I want to thank Ms. Pritchett and her staff for handling the situation in such a professional manner and making sure that students were not in harm’s way. As you all know, Ms. Pritchett is leaving McClure to serve as our Executive Director of Schools for the Central Region. I know she will continue to be a champion for McClure as well as our other schools.

I look forward to seeing our students and staff back at school on Sept. 4.


José Banda
Seattle Public Schools

Eric B said…
@Concerned, I would write a letter to District HR, cc'ing the principal, the superintendent, and the Board. Ideally, the letter would be signed by the PTA president. If that's not possible, then any parent would be OK.

Dear [HR department head],

Parents at [school] have mentioned that they smelled alcohol on Assistant Principal [name]'s breath this year during school hours. This was reported this to Principal [name] at the time, but no apparent action was taken. This is obviously a very serious matter. While being under the influence of alcohol at the school is clearly unacceptable under SPS Policy #5201, we also recognize that unfounded accusations could damage an innocent person's career. I do not want to harm anyone over a misunderstanding.

Some parents have suggested calling the police to administer a breath test if such a situation were to present itself again. Is that the right approach? If not, how should this situation be reported?

Parents have also expressed concern about retaliation by school staff if they report such an incident such as this. Could you address the issue of potential retaliation? If that were to occur, would it be appropriate to report this to the ethics hotline?

Thank you for your help,


This does four things:
1. You're on the record that the incident happened before and that you reported it to the principal (assuming that you reported it) and nothing apparently happened.

2. You're not making an accusation--you're asking what the right procedure is to gather the right evidence.

3. You're letting HQ know that if parents don't have a better procedure, they may well call the cops. That should light a fire under them to give you a better reporting procedure.

4. You'll force them to go on the record saying that of course they wouldn't retaliate, while also letting them know that anyone who is retaliated against will call the ethics hotline in a hot minute if they suspect anything bad going on.
Anonymous said…
To Eric B: Thank you for this excellent suggestion and letter. I really like this approach. I will talk this through with other parents and work to implement this.

Thank you again!


Anonymous said…
Whatever one may think about McClure administration, this incident is beyond the pale. I am absolutely sickened to hear that such things occur and I hope the offending parent gets the help they need. There was a lot of stuff thrown at the principal this week on this blog and it may be the same person who came to the school. Thank you to the blog managers for taking down the most egregious posts.

Anonymous said…
Saddened, you may be sickened, but we are not shocked. We and another parent like us who live in this neighborhood have pulled our kids from McClure because of similar issues. We like Ms. Pritchett, but wanted a true inclusive, diverse community. To this day when I toured the school, I remember the assumption I was one of the grandfathered parent outside NSAP. I heard the talk about those other kids and their clueless, negligent parents. How things were going to change once neighborhood kids flood the school and the school will fit the community better. It was never obvious, but after 20 years in this community, it's still here no matter how clever people appear, phrases are carefully couch and "post racial" society might be. And as long as you think it was one parent behind the deeds, that tells me how far the we have to go. It isn't just about race, but the demeaning attitude toward people who are poorer, who don't look like they belong, who aren't a good fit ( a phrase I hear A LOT).
Not surprised
Tired said…
Yes, some people are jerks to each other. Racism exists. Now can we get back to trying to make sure all the kids can read and do math?

Honestly, if this district spent even a fraction of the time it spends on racial issues working on teaching kids instead, test scores would be way higher, and everyone, especially the children, would be much better off.

There is so much pitting us against each other, anger and hatred, and fighting over scraps in this district. It's all a complete waste of time. It accomplishes nothing. Can't we all just focus on the educational outcomes of the children in our public schools?
Anonymous said…
No, we cannot ignore racial problems and give our children an adequate education. It is frightening that there are people who believe this is possible. Separate is not equal. Bigotry and misogyny is not okay. Look at the societies and countries who have accepted and encourage the idea that one ethnicity/race/religion/ sex/sexual preference is better
than another. Do we want to be like them? You might say that such things could never happen here. I'm fairly sure the people of the former Yugoslavia once also thought the same.
It does not even take that long, make abortion a crime, and contraceptives an illegal drug, and 99% of us women would be back inside the home in one generation. My mother was at the Sorbonne with several Iranian and Pakistani women, they all got their PHDs; when my mother died, they sent very heartfelt letters of condolences, which made me want to know them. None of them are living in Iran and Pakistan now; they would not be allowed to work there, or at least not allowed to do the jobs they are doing
in France and England and Germany. I do not know what the women of Iran and Pakistan of my generation or younger are like now, but
I think that they would not be the same as my
mother's friends. I believe they would be less; less confident, less tolerant, less caring, less intelligent, less capable, LESS. I do not want my children to be less.
I met a girl at a party in college once, who told me she was quitting to go back to North Dakota, because there were too many black people here. Here, in North Seattle. And, unfortunately, I've met many since who feel the same, and not just against black people, any non-white shade will do. I work in the sciences, you'd think there would be less of this kind of attitude, but I guess not. Or, heaven forbid, it might be WORSE in other fields!
We need to decide what kind of world to leave our children. Slippery, slippery slopes. Everyone is so outraged now to find out the government is spying on us. What did people expect when the Patriot Act was passed? Where was the outrage when we found out that Facebook was packaging all our info to sell to whomever wants to purchase it? I do wonder if people would be less angry if the FBI had paid for the information, instead of just demanding it. Because then their Google and AT&T stocks prices would be higher. But the government can't just spin money out of hay, you will need to pay more taxes if you want the NSA to pay for your emails and
phone records.


Anonymous said…

Opinion Piece on how Gates Foundation education work is a self fulfilling prophecy.

Anonymous said…

Opinion Piece on how Gates Foundation education work is a self fulfilling prophecy.

Anonymous said…
PhD, sigh. Why can't I spell on this stupid phone?

Anonymous said…
I was at the Roosevelt graduation. Guterson's speech was morose, ineffective, and insulting to students. It was inappropriate for the occasion. I felt bad for the students who deserved an inspirational message. They have enough to worry about in today's world without Guterson piling it on. He had a nasty tone too, in my opinion. Not impressed.

One student even lunged out of his seat and yelled at him to f--- off! (I don't condone this)

not smiling
Anonymous said…
Not smiling,
Did you not read any of his books before inviting him to speak at graduation?
If Nietzsche was still alive, would you invite him to speak, and expect a smily, inspirational speech? How about Sartre, Kafka, Bernhard?

Anonymous said…
He has a world view. You invited him to speak to a bunch of people who are about to enter the adult world, and make decisions for and by themselves. He thought you wanted him to share HIS views with them. How was he to know that you wanted him to share SOMEONE ELSE'S views in his speech? I don't think the fault lie with Mr Guterson here. Perhaps you should write the speeches for the speakers from now on. Then all will be happy.
Anonymous said…
why do you assume that I invited Mr. Guterson? I did not.
I stand my experience. He may have had good points but they did not come across.
The valedictorian's speech wasn't fluffy either. It was way better and made the same points that others say he was supposedly trying to make. It was more succinct, better written.

cca, were you there?

not smiling
Anonymous said…
By you, I meant your school community. If you are going to invite someone to speak at your school, you need to accord them a measure of respect. It is your responsibility, as a community, to do your due diligence and research what your speaker is like before issuing the invitation. He did not say anything that was contrary to what is expressed in his books. To boo and heckle a GUEST you INVITED, is grossly inappropriate. What kind of manners are you modelling for
your children? And no, I was not there, I read the whole speech on Slog. My children are still at JSIS, they are supposed to go to Roosevelt for high school, but if this is how the ADULTS at Roosevelt behave normally, then
we will go to Lakeside or SCD if we can't get
into Ingraham.

Anonymous said…
And about that student who "lunged out and told him to f---off". What's next for this student? Shall he go to Congress and shout out on the floor that the President of the United States is a liar? Something to look forward to in this young man's future, yes?

Sam said…
Gotta say, heckling an invited speaker should be grounds for removal. The whole speech is on SLOG and its quite good in my opinion. It really hit home for me and the comments on SLOG were quite good as well. How come Greenberg is praised for the harsh truth while Guterson is disparaged for his harsh yet constructive critic of Western thought? He should be teaching his message, which if you haven't read it, please do.
Anonymous said…
I agree with you that Roosevelt folks should have researched their speaker better. I think they should have made a different choice.

I also agree that heckling a speaker is incredibly rude and wrong (I make exceptions for when there are big social justice at stake, which is not the case here).

I only point it out to show the impact of the speech. I don't think it accomplished what it intended.

You kind of had to be there in the context of a graduation and you kind of had to hear the tone in Mr. Guterson's voice (which to me and others sounded hostile and insulting towards the students).

I support realistic and meaningful talk with kids and young adults. It has to be respectful though and it has to be at the right time and place. Mr. Guterson's speech was none of these things.

not smiling
Anonymous said…
Just got this in an email from my union rep. Would be great if we could get the word out here:

I need you to join me on Wednesday, June 19th at 6:00 p.m. at Heritage Park in Kirkland ( for a multi-union rally. The intent of the rally is to create more pressure on the Majority Coalition in the Senate to compromise on our State’s budget to avoid shut down, and also to ensure that none of the bad policy bills are passed that would harm our members, our students, and their families.

This rally is deliberately planned for 6:00 p.m. to be on the evening news cycle, and it is in Kirkland because that is the legislative district of Andy Hill, the chief budget negotiator for the Senate Rs. Andy Hill needs to feel the heat in his home district, one that usually leans D, because:

· He has publicly said that the Senate Rs will not agree to a budget until several of these punitive policy bills are enacted.

· He is the Prime Sponsor of SB 5905 which eliminates District-provided health care for any employee working less than 30 hours a week (that’s a .857 FTE!) and force them into health care exchanges that have yet to be created

· His budget includes ZERO dollars for class size reduction

· He proposed a bill that would slash TRI pay, reducing pay across the board for our members

· He insists on the loss of due process for certificated staff that are surplussed from buildings

We’ve had some great editorials in newspapers across the state, including the Seattle Times (what a shocker!), calling on the Senate to drop the bad policy bills and focus on a budget compromise. We can’t let this momentum slip away.

Bring your friends and family, wear RED for public ed, and I’ll see you next Wednesday evening in Kirkland!

Time for change
A former RHS student (who still has friends at RHS) told me that Guterson's delivery left a lot to be desired (and it may have been that coupled with the death references that bothered so many).

She also said that the students had wanted to invite someone else but the parents overruled them. I get the feeling the parents wanted the "famous" person.

Roosevelt parents, as a whole, generally don't act like that so no, that was a few people who, for whatever reason, acted out. (As for the student, well, there's always one kid.)

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