Harsh Words at Seattle Weekly about the Board

What does Adele say in her soundtrack song, Skyfall? 

"This is the end.  Hold your breath and count to ten." 

I guess so for Director Michael DeBell who lets loose in a damning article against the entire School Board (and I think he forgets - he's a member of that august body).   Any thought about a Board working together over the next six months seems out the door.  Good work, Director DeBell and I point out here, he has just violated the Board's own policy in saying this:

Over coffee last week, DeBell calls Smith-Blum “not very trustworthy” --a comment that drove the board president, upon hearing it, to send out an angry e-mail to DeBell, other board members and the superintendent demanding a retraction. 

This because of this:

After she was elected president in 4-3 vote, Smith-Blum gave the old guard members one committee assignment each while giving those who voted for her three. It was a move she said was meant to allow the senior members of the board to take on other time-consuming tasks besides committee assignments, like legislative advocacy; but to DeBell, it felt like a way of marginalizing the long serving members, and still evokes bitterness.  

Again, to understand.  President Smith-Blum asked every single member about assignments being aware that work beyond committee assignments also includes travel (Director Martin-Morris travels a lot for Board work).  But DeBell sees it as being marginalized even as every single director can go to any committee meeting and give input and question staff. 

I need to get out the door so I can't list all the issues with the article (and there are several including DeBell's old song-and-dance as to why Dr. Enfield left.  I hate to tell him but he was an issue as well.)


mirmac1 said…
DeBell has no shame. His arrogance is astounding. Thank you Kay Smith-Blum for putting up with this crap. And Sharon and Marty, I'm sorry you are the target for his absurd claims.
Sign. Again?! said…
Smith-Blum is a respectable board member that serves Seattle's children and families with distinction.

Publicly released documents- obtained via FOIA- indcate that DeBell uses his media connections and Frank Greer to intimidate and coerce other board members. Healthy interaction would require DeBell to work out issues with board members; not use a third party. Frankly, DeBell's use of the media is getting old.

Many good things are happening in the district. This is where attention must be focused.

I watched DeBell get sworn into office. He quoted Socrates. I very much appreciate DeBell's service, I'm disappointed that DeBell decided to stoop to a low level after voters decided they didn't want "old guard" management that left our district in financial shambles.

Nina Shapiro gets it wrong; Banda was NOT the last guy standing.

I'm hoping Mirimac attaches DeBell's e-mail to Frank Greer to this article. DeBell needs to be called out for abusing board members in the media.
Charlie Mas said…
It doesn't matter how he plays on the field if he's poison in the clubhouse.
Sigh. Again?! said…
You are correct, Charlie.

It hasn't been pretty watching DeBell sink to this level.

Looking forward to November; we need less toxicity.
Po3 said…
“not very trustworthy”

This tactic is out of Greer's playbook - say it, back it up with something completely unrelated and people will leave with the impression you want them to have.

Patrick said…
Very disappointing behavior from DeBell. I hope he doesn't seek elective office again.
Anonymous said…
DeBell has short-timers disease. Also known as a lame-duck. And how lame he is! First it's blame the SpEd students. Next up, it's blame the other board members. Hello! It's "democracy". They are elected too! Just like you. Let's just call him what he is - a Blame-Duck.

Thank you for your sevice Michael DeBell - but you are DONE!

-Good Riddance
Anonymous said…
Kay Smith-Blum is leaving as well. I guess it is to show the rest of us that he is unprofessional and petulant. Just a jerky thing to do.

mirmac1 said…
DeBell, just resign already, if you're so unhappy...
Sooooo, after 8 years on the board many as president he leaves behind a dysfunctional board that does not know its role and its got nothing to do with him!!. Seriously is he becoming delusional?. In a way it is quite sad to see him actively trashing his own reputation like this. It seems he will leave behind a legacy of being the grumpy guy who attacked the board members.
Anonymous said…
For those thanking DeBell please refrain from using a thanks normally reserved for grunts who did something of value with integrity. Not every veterans is a shining star but most in my experience did our best in spite of the worst of others, both inside and outside our ranks. Name one thing he's done to help a student.

Mr White
Anonymous said…
DeBell thought he could avenge the school board losses by annointing Susan Enfield as superintendent, buddying up with Frank Greer's money, and then helping Tim Burgess become mayor.

Instead, he has to deal with an adult in charge (Banda), an emasculated Burgess, and an outed Greer.

No wonder DeBell is so bitter. He bet on every wrong team and has nothing to show for it except his own arrogance (plus a prolonged and creepy grief over the loss of Susan Enfield).

BTW: Charlie, some of us have not forgotten that DeBell was your homeboy until very, very recently.

--enough already

Mr. DeBell

An interesting article;


Not so much for providing insight into the school board but more so for demonstrating how bitter you have become. It seems
you have been on a downward spiral since Maier and Sundquist were found by the voters as being unsuitable for the board. I guess you realized that days of the gang of four
simply voting at your whim were over and you no longer controlled the agenda. After that we have seen news leak after leak, allegedly
some aided by Frank Greer, which demonstrates a childish and bitter side to you I did not realize existed. The recent board survey indicated the
board is dysfunctional and apparently does not know its role. Personally I suspect the dysfunction is more due to the rump of the
gang of four and yourself than the majority. What shocked me was that even though you were president for many years apparently you
contend this situation has been brought about by every one but you. If you wish to see the face of dysfunctionality look who is smiling at you
from the news article - the very fact you provided background for that article demonstrates you are actively undermining the board and promoting dysfunctionality.

Trust me on this, having the gang of four rubber stamp everything the superintendent and you wanted was not a functional board.
Sure it was easy for you but not functional - although I doubt you will ever understand this.

Lastly as this train wreck of the last few months of your elected period tick away I would suggest if you bring no value to the board
but rather detract from the important work ahead then simply resign - we deserve better. At least that way you may retain some semblance
of dignity.

I took the liberty of CCing the Board
I do wonder about his motive. What good does this do?

It certainly does no good for the Board. One comment from the Board evaluation (made by a Cabinet member) is that if the Board can just work together for the next six months, it will smooth the way for the two new directors who come on-board in December.

Well, he just flushed that idea away.

Is he planning to leave and this is his grand flourish? I'm with some of the commenters - why doesn't he just leave if he is so damn unhappy?

Hard to fathom.

I'm sure if he runs for Legislature, his opponent will have a field day with a guy who says everyone else needs to abide by policies and then ignores them himself left and right.
n said…
Calling a colleague "untrustworthy" publicly is just plain smarmy. He's got the arrogance of the elite who always think they are right about everything. It is called privilege.

That he can't see his own short-comings tells the tale fairly well. Smith-Blum knew she was headed in a new direction. He just couldn't find a way to help instead of judge and hinder.
Anonymous said…
Here's Linda Shaw (Times) on the Board Banda performance eval


Bait and switch. ! Where's the meat!

waiting for substance ...
Anonymous said…
"No decision has been made about whether he will receive a raise."

Why would anyone receive a pay raise after the first year on the job when he was only listening to the different members in his community, taking notes, making no big decisions while the whole district is suffering of the lack of funding.
Anonymous said…
I think Enough Already and ConcernedSPSParent have things covered pretty well, but I would add that DeBell needs to distance himself politically from a Board that won't take direction from his deep-pocketed allies on the cocktail circuit around town. The last thing he wants is to be scratched off the guest list of Gates-backed parties and events. Never underestimate the hunger and desires of social climbers like DeBell.

I don't like to insult him and impugn his motives personally and publicly, but he's been playing dirty against his board members, and thus, our community, for too long now. Shame on him.

Anonymous said…
A different way of looking at this...

There are three sides to every story, no?

Perhaps Mr. DeBell's comment about 'untrustworthy' is very, very minimal compared to what the underlying fact pattern is.

Have you been to the Operations Committee? It is not asking the right questions: the last segment of BEX planning was incredibly rushed, and, poor choices which were unvetted are being sent through to the Board for rubber stamping. Cedar Park opening with 8 portables instead of Lake City, new school at Thornton Creek instead of wings, with the theory that the old building is being knocked down (HA HA!!), no real attention paid to the problem of high school capacity, an over-sized K8(which will require a variance) being built at Pinehurst when Olympic Hills will get a K5 building, resulting in too many middle school seats and not enough K5 seats in that region, a high school going into an elementary school (TT Minor), which, per the equitable access framework, makes no sense at all (too far from where students live)... just some examples. This is all Ops territory.

Meanwhile, the Audit and Finance committee is asking the right questions, and plenty of them, managing the state audit, and, ensuring that problems with the budgets are daylighted.

Free time to 'advocate'?

Time will tell. It is not about the personality conflicts, it is about doing the job. Ops is pivotal right now, its performance is up for debate (time will tell). Audit and Finance also must function to get the District staff to tighten up systems and procedure, and, they are chipping away at that steadily.

You may not like Mr. DeBell, you may hate his methods (talking to media), but what I am saying is, pause and look a little deeper. Don't get distracted by the messenger, pay attention to the message and consider that.

Anonymous said…

How are you insulting the guy? I've seen him at a number of these ed deform-ie things over the last bunch of years - he and his buddies love rubbing elbows with The All Powerful and The All Knowing. If you or I were 1 of the All Powerful All Knowing, you'd know how great it is to bask in all the power! You and I can't know cuz we aren't powerful, we're just little nobodies who don't know anybody!

Debell has done a GREAT service - when you need a template for how to lie about dysinfection, or dysepticism, or divisiveness, or dysfunctionality - all the while you're pushing a 1% agenda down the throats of the bill paying working stiffs which the working stiffs will pay for - google "Debell" and get his stuff from The Weekly and Crosscut.

Anonymous said…

You forgot to mention the "Green Building Resolution," which came out of the blue for most Board members, and, if passed as originally-written, would have dictated building designs which were not vetted in the BEXIV planning process, and would have dictated changes in the scope and potential costs of some BEXIV projects, without first going through a design team process.

Not to mention the plethora of introduction items which have passed through the ops committee this winter and spring without the proper contracts and supporting documents attached. Very unprofessional.

DeBell isn't perfect, but I can kind of see where he is coming from.

-also questioning
mirmac1 said…

You are DeBell surrogates indirectly attacking Sharon Peaslee's leadership of a committee formerly chaired by Harium "Pottergate" Martin-Morris. I don't hear DeBell faulting the work of that committee. And I don't hear Peaslee stooping to his level of personal attack.

If Audit & Finance was doing so wonderfully then why do we continue to get the same audit findings of incompliant processes and procedures, again and again? Why didn't their internal auditor (their one report) fail to note that nearly half a million dollars of grant money was misused and may need to be return to the Feds? How could this committee move forward a potentially >$1M program for the Alliance's Seattle Teacher Residency without asking uh how much will this cost us? How is it they allow continued incompliant overuse of personal service contracts. Why aren't they minding the sustainability of new ed reform initiatives that drain money from the classroom etc etc? Oh yeah, Sherry Carr and Michael DeBell sit on this committee.

"Have you been to the Operations Committee?"

I have - frequently. You are right about the territory BUT the Board as a whole could have asked more questions -either at intro or before, at Work Sessions. I surely would not lay BEX IV on the Ops Ctm. Why do you think Michael would make a difference? I don't recall him pushing back on any of this.

The A&F ctm is working harder (and split itself) because of the many bad audits.

I don't see how not trusting Kay has anything to do with the Ops Ctm.

The Green Resolution into was flawed AND it got kicked back, corrected and made better. Sometimes that's the way it happens.

Mirmac is right on the Seattle Teacher Residency program and the vagueness about costs.

How many times do parents ask, "Where does the money go?" and get vague answers. Well, it's going to STR, data warehouses, new district dept heads, etc. Taxpayers and parents have a right to know where the money goes and that's A&F's territory.
Anonymous said…

-DeBell surrogate? That is really funny. I barely know the guy.

As a parent of kids in SPS, I judge Board Director performance, in part, by how accessible they are to their constituents. DeBell, Martin-Morris, Carr, Patu, and McLaren hold regular, monthly community meetings. Kay Smith-Blum choses to hold hers only quarterly, and Sharon Peaslee hasn't held a community meeting since March.

I'm sorry if I don't conform to the DeBell-bashing of this blog thread, but I have occasionally attended his community meetings, and, although I haven't always agreed with his point of view, I appreciate that he has been accessible, and I do think he listens to those who attend his meetings.

Was it professional of him to vent his frustrations in public? Probably not. I am just saying that I can understand, to some extent, his frustrations.

-also questioning
mirmac1 said…
Okay, also questioning, I see that you were not touting the A&F as the paragon of functionality and performance.

I have often heard DeBell say in committee "Forget about constituent service. If I get an email from a parent, I tell them to talk to the principal. Period." He was proud of the fact that he does not view consitutent service as his responsiblity. Hmmmm.

I'm glad you question DeBell's methods. You can't question the harm that this kind of back-stabbing and sniping does to the focus on our students.
Someone said…
Probably unprofessional????!!! That is my biggest issue here. Repeatedly, Mr. DeBell comes across as a petulant child who doesn't get his way.

Does that mean he hasn't done good things? No. But frankly, this kind of behavior has a way of undermining/negating any positives he may have accomplished in the past. Sorry, it just does for me.

Also, considering he wants to run for higher office, I think it's a highly misguided strategy to come out (repeatedly) as the "negative nelly" of SPS. I for one would never vote for someone who trashed his compatriots. You can agree to disagree in a more professional manner.
Unknown said…
It is self evident that our school board is dysfunctional, and it has been so for at least a decade. We know, we know, we know, you and Charlie have let us know in every graphic detail. but instead of chronically complaining about them (which by the way, I glaze over after reading some of your complaints by now), so, can you put your political capital where your mouth is? Any solutions in your bag of tricks? With the six or so scandals that have been brought to light, why you keep frothing up the Silas Potter scandal? And I haven't seen your name on a lawsuit, nor have you run for school board. Either back up your views with facts and an edge, or sit back and transcribe. You can't play all sides.
Nick Esparza
Anonymous said…
Simply providing a clearinghouse of district information and enabling commenters to provide insights, rants, or whatever, makes this blog useful. The information provides the impetus for many of us to take action as individuals. You don't have to run for school board in order to push for change and improvements.

Any Board member that blanket discounts concerns of individual constituents is shirking their duty. There have been several instances where our school had internal policies that conflicted with state law. When brought to the attention of the school, they refused to budge. When brought to the attention of district administration, they shrugged it off and suggested the principal has final say and they have no authority to force a change. When it was brought to the attention of the Board member, the needed change was made (this of course was not in DeBell's region). Only after contacting the Board member did we get a meaningful response from the school. That's oversight in action.

appreciative reader

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