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Sunday, July 28, 2013

From the Washington State PTA

WAPTA will no longer have a lobbyist at the Legislature.   Expect to be asked to send someone from your school/region to the Legislature to testify; it will become more important than ever.

Dear WSPTA Members:
As you may have heard, WSPTA took action this week to align our staffing and expenditures with our mission. In particular, WSPTA eliminated three positions on our staff, and made other spending plan changes to align our actions with our mission. We acknowledge these changes will be difficult for the three employees who have left us and for those of you who had meaningful relationships with them. We wish those affected the very best in the future. I want to explain why we took the staffing and cost realignment actions and what we can expect in the future as a result of these changes.

As the WSPTA Executive Director, I understand that “everything we do is for kids.” Every dollar we receive from a member must be spent on our mission. Members must be supported with the tools they need. I was hired by the Board to ensure the organization’s current and future sustainability. When they hired me, the Board sought to supplement membership dues with grants and other resources. Also, the Board wanted better communications with membership. My first action was to direct a complete review of all operations. This included all staff positions for current and future contribution to our mission requirements. No position, including my own, was exempt from the review. It included consideration of new potential positions. More on that later.

The Board had already begun an assessment of the IT infrastructure and our database. Recently we completed this work. We determined that the organization was better served by outsourcing most IT functions. As a result of the decision, the database administrator position was eliminated, at a substantial budget savings. We expect service levels to rise significantly and will hold our database vendor accountable. This will provide the best service to our members, board and staff.

Also, we eliminated the governmental relations position. The present Board seeks to return the organization to the grassroots efforts for which we have been known historically. Our greatest impact has and will come in the future from parents, teachers and students, passionately testifying before the legislators. We will not leave those who take up our cause unsupported or unprepared. WSPTA will engage lobbyists as needed to prepare our members and staff to testify and lobby our agenda. This may take many different forms in the future.

Finally we eliminated an administrative position, primarily with bookkeeping functions. Our remaining staff is now asked to absorb additional functions and we will supplement with outsourcing as needed. These staffing changes alone will allow us to devote about $120,000 each year to our core mission at a time more critical than ever for Washington’s schoolchildren.

Our review did not involve only staffing. We scrutinized expenditures and budget as well. We reduced the cost of board and other meetings. Some Board members, have elected to donate meeting expense reimbursements as an additional contribution. All these changes are expected to result in savings of about $100,000 per year. This is again, more money for our mission-critical actions.

Our great organization cannot survive or sustain itself without making tough decisions. We acknowledge they are painful for those affected. But we must move forward together. We truly believe that these changes will drive forward our mission, ensuring that every child has the education and tools they need to be successful in life.

Thank you for your support! If you have questions, please communicate with us. I promise we will return every phone call and email on these issues.

Kathryn Hobbs, Executive Director, WSPTA

13 comments:

Patrick said...

I'm really surprised that the state PTA doesn't see lobbying on behalf of students, parents, and teachers as part of its core mission! Organizations that don't lobby don't get squat, and there's no other organization equipped to lobby on students' behalf besides the state PTA. What does the state PTA think their mission is if it's not lobbying the legislature?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Patrick, I had long wished the PTA would be more about helping PTAs do better but had said, well, they are working in the Legislature.

Well, now that will happen in a very different way.

More and more, the Seattle Council and state entity almost seem uneccessary.

mirmac1 said...

I can't say I'm sorry to see Ramona Hattendorf go...

Anonymous said...

has 'mission critical' been defined as kicking it with the powers that be of LEV & SFC & the pooh-bahs of gate$ astro turfs?

melissa? dora? someone had some diaries about trying to participate in the Potemkin democracy of PTA - reminded me a lot of what passes for "democracy" in the Seattle Education Association and WEA - those with the temperament to have their time wasted on cliqueish insider double dealing get to rise to "leader", and stand at the front and call their organizations grassroots and democratic!

It seems like northwest aversion to being real wins out again - some clique of mayberry Machiavellians get control to tamp out all unnecessary openness because unnecessary openness leads to that nasty divisiveness (AKA as people having different ideas) ... so instead there is an insular clique out of touch with much beyond the machinations of the clique.

Yawn.

Unknown said...

Here are some comments on Ramona, and the Washington State PTA.

1. My experience was generally positive with Ramona Hattendorf. I first met Ramona while trying to get a bill that required parent notification for use of restraint and seclusion passed in the legislature. Ramona was very helpful, gave comments on this and testified in favor of the bill several times. Since then, she has met with and helped various parent/special ed board members from different districts from special education to keep us abreast of several national and state-level issues including the ESEA waiver.

2. The Washington State PTSA listserv, which is administered by Ramona, is extremely conservative and is dominated by people who are averse to hearing anything negative about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. By criticizing an "open Letter" put out by "Teachers United," and calling it a clone of "Teach Plus," and criticizing the fact that it was funded even before it was established as a 501(c)3, I elicited a warning email from Ramona and a round of criticism from the members of the listserv. A funny side light from that event was the number of emails I got from 50 year old women not addressing any of my points, but letting me know that Chis Eide was a nice guy. No, he was a really nice guy. Wait, he was a really cute nice guy. Hey, did I say that he wasn't? I've never met him, but in my mind, Chris Eide has been morphed into the Justin Beiber of the Washington State PTA Chris Eide Fan Club.

mirmac1 said...

I swooooooning!

Anonymous said...

Mary, if you want to stay in "education" in this state and not actually teach and interact with students, the career pathways are admin or with the more prestigious BMGF and all its funded offshoots. You gotta network and be cordial with potential employers. That means joining the Chris Eide Fan Club!

eidemanic

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Mayberry Machiavellians" Ha! I'm going to use that.

Mary's example of the lack of free speech at the PTA listserv just illustrates the problem. I don't actually think Teachers United should have been about to post anything since it is a PTA listserv.

As for Chris Eide, if you like Mayberry Machivellians, you'll like him.

Unknown said...

Just to clarify, the listserv I was refering to was the WA State PTA legislative listserv. Chris Eide was not posting anything; someone else posted a link to his "open letter" on the Teachers United website. I don't think Chris Eide was a member of the listserv. But like I said, he sure has a fan club there.

Like Melissa, I got a kick out of the Mayberry Machivellians characterization.

Unknown said...

Apparently Mayberry Machiavellian was coined by John Diulio, a Professor at the University of Pennsylvania hired by Pres. George W. Bush to run his Faith-Based initiative. Diulio was a fan of Bush but became disenchanted with the lack of basic knowledge of policy and was his first cabinet member to resign.

In a ,long letter to author Ron Suskind, and quoted in an article in Esquire, Diulio describes a West Wing that was wholly uninterested in policy and only interested in furthering the political fortunes of Bush and the Republican agenda. He coined the term Mayberry Machiavellis to describe "staff, senior and junior, who consistently talked and acted as if the height of political sophistication consisted in reducing every issue to its simplest, black-and-white terms for public consumption, then steering legislative initiatives or policy proposals as far right as possible."

Beth Sigall said...

A few clarifications.
I was involved in the exchange Mary Griffin is partially describing concerning Chris Eide. I wanted to clear up a few things I was the person who posted a blog post on the WA State PTA listserv (the "open letter" Mary references) during the legislative session. It was written by teachers at a Title I public school in Seattle. They wrote about why they were supporting the bill (SB 5242 which ended up not passing) to end the forced placement of teachers. Here's the blog post - it was published on the Teachers United website. http://www.teachersunitedwa.org/an_open_letter_from_seattle_teachers
I posted it b/c I thought it was compelling first-hand account of how the current placement system has shortcomings, particularly given that it was a Title I school. Mary Griffin responded this way:
"The three “teachers” that are referenced in the “open letter” were graduates of the “Teach for America” program. Whether or not they were hired has nothing to do with forced placement. There has been and there always be significant pushback to hiring Teach for America grads to teach in Seattle Public Schools. Teachers United is a Bill and Melinda Gates-funded astroturf education reform front, having most recently received $291,390 from the Gates Foundation to further their educational reform goals."
I checked w/ Chris Eide -- head of Teachers United -- to see if this was the case -- that these teachers were TFA and thus not impacted the same as traditional SPS teachers. He responded by stating emphatically that the teachers who wrote the blog post were not TFA teachers and that what they wrote was accurate. And so I shared that info on the list - to clear things up. In the course of that discussion to give it context, I mentioned that I had met Chris Eide a couple of times as he speaks on panels at events, and that I thought he was a nice guy. And, catty remarks notwithstanding, I still think he's a nice guy (I'm quite certain I never used the word "cute" -- I reserve that for my 3 kids & my dog, and sometimes my husband :-). But of course, that was merely an aside to my main point, which was to confirm the credibility of the teachers who wrote the blog post. Mary held firm and indicated she'd do some further digging to prove her point. I don't recall a follow up, but I might have missed it. As I recall the dialogue then pivoted to issues involving whether Gates Foundation is or should be involved in education policy. But again, my sole aim was to correct the misimpression that the views of the teachers were somehow inauthentic. They weren't.
Some additional clarifications --I'm actually 45 years old (not 50), and due to the overabundance of freckles on my face I'm often mistaken for 40, but, sadly, not by much younger. I've been involved in education advocacy for over 12 years in multiple roles, including as a special education attorney (my oldest son has autism - that was my springboard). I also advocate for foster children (I'm a CASA), and I'm the VP for Advocacy for Lake Washington PTSA Council (that's the school district encompassing Redmond, Sammamish, Kirkland & parts of Woodinville). I did go to college in North Carolina, but not in Mayberry (in Durham -- Duke University) but I do recall watching the Andy Griffith show as a kid. thanks
Beth Sigall

Unknown said...

Beth!

Our paths cross again electronically! Someday we will have to meet in person, and again, agree to disagree.

You would be surprised to know that besides the number of responses that I got online to my posting about whether or not Teachers United was a grassroots organization, I received a number of personal emails stating that Chris Eide was a nice guy and one person who said she thought he was cute as well as nice. I do not know the ages of the persons involved and have no interest in determining all of their ages. I made an assumption based on two people that I had met, and by the general appearances of most of the people at all the PTA functions that I have attended.

I stand by my statements that the listserv is overly conservative and I also stand by my statements that Ramona Hattendorf was very helpful.

It's nice to know that you read this blog.

Beth Sigall said...

Oh, and yes, one additional point - I worked w/ Ramona frequently over the past 3 years, and in every instance found her to be professional and doggedly thorough in her work. She did an abundance of behind-the-scenes work as well that is super important but goes largely under the radar. She answered every question w/ either a solid answer or a place to find the answer. We didn't agree on every issue (who does) but she will most definitely be missed at PTA, and I'm sure she will find a new job soon. As to the political leanings of the PTA listsev, while there are certainly conservative voices, there are also many self-described liberals and progressives who post passionately about their views, as well as moderates and everything else in between. I would add though that what I think has happened over the past year or so is that the list has become somewhat polarized, with the same small group of people posting frequently and kinda saying the same things each time. It happens on lists, and these things tend to go in cycles, particularly during the legislative session when feelings run high.
I will say in terms of advocacy -- while I certainly hope we find some way to maintain our presence in Olympia (& I think those discussions are happening), the absence of a government relations director will in no way deter us on the ground at the region/council level in PTA from advocating wherever we think we can make an impact -- local unit, school board or in Olympia. Just today I started booking up my September calendar for coffees w/ legislators and PTA members. Cause I'm Mr. Brightside :-)
Beth Sigall