Thursday, July 11, 2013

School Board Candidates

Charlie and I have attempted to interview all the School Board candidates (with only partial luck). (I have since updated Sue Peters' section as iPad was making it difficult when I first published this thread.)

To note:
- despite the Times' drumbeat of unhappiness about the Board, yes, there will be two new Board members (Director Patu is running unopposed).  That it may not be the members they think need replacing should not be the issue.  The issue is who will work as a team player and yet be sensitive to constituent concerns.
- Stephan Blanford, in District V, for all intents and purposes, will win.  Neither of the other candidates are credible.  So like, Betty Patu, it's pretty much a done deal.  
- In the PRIMARY, only those voters who live in a district where a position is up for a vote, will see School Board candidates on their ballot.  In this election, only voters who live in districts IV and V  will see candidates on their ballot.  And, they will see only the candidates from their district on the ballot.

Basically, you do NOT vote for School Board candidates in the primary unless you are in a district where the position is up for a vote.  That's why some people don't have any School Board candidates on their primary ballot. 

When the primary has whittled the candidate pool down to two, then, in the General election, everyone will vote for candidates in all three races.  The SB elections are then a city-wide race.

In short:
In District IV, all three of the candidates are, on paper, qualified to run.  Who probably knows the district best (and therefore has the least learning curve) - Sue Peters.  Who has the most governance experience?  Dean McColgan.  Writing policy?  Suzanne Estey.  The most ed reform? Suzanne Estey.  The most likely to work well with the Board that remains?  Sue Peters.

So it's a tough call but we would say that Sue Peters definitely should move forward to the General election.

In District V, Stephan Blanford is the clear choice but definitely a wild card in how he sees policy, governance and accountability. 

District IV (Michael DeBell's seat) - candidates - Dean McColgan, Sue Peters, Suzanne Dale Estey (I can't find a candidate website for Mr. McColgan.)

Suzanne Dale Estey
Charlie interviewed Suzanne
- Ms Dale-Estey's stated priorities for SPS (from her web site):

1) Ensuring educational excellence for every child while closing the achievement/opportunity gap: 
2) Adequate and sustainable funding for public schools, and fiscal responsibility with our investments.
3) Fostering strong family and community partnerships.

Ms Dale Estey doesn't share many specifics about her intentions or positions on issues. That may be irritating, but it has been shown to be the smart way to campaign. When specifically asked, she stated her opposition to charter schools and her dissatisfaction with the current math curriculum. She didn't have any specific ideas about how to do things, and she very correctly pointed out it is not the Board's job to set that path. That's how Board directors get in trouble, micro-manage, and cross the line from governance to management.

- She says that she wants to focus on "policy and governance work". She reluctantly acknowledged that this included enforcing policy, I had to press a bit to get her there, but, once there, she said that she would do it. Of course, this is the same for all of the existing board directors and I haven't seen any of them enforce policy yet.
- She believes strongly that the budget is a policy document and committed to ensuring that the budget is aligned with policies.
- She specifically said that she will demand a plan from the superintendent for closing the achievement gap. No more of this claim that it's our top priority without having a plan to achieve it.
- She is politically connected with ed reformers. You can take that for whatever it might mean to you.
- She is politically connected with Seattle-area Democratic party elected officials. This may make her more effective in securing funding from the state legislature. On the other hand, the obstacle to education funding is not from Seattle-area Democrats.
- She has a lot of corporate, government, and non-profit experience. She has served on the board of a number of non-profits.
- From listening to a taped interview and reading her answers to questionnaires by election groups, I see real policy skills and has worked for governance officials.  She says she is a "quick-study" (but I think many people underestimate how complicated the district is.)

She received an "outstanding" from the Muni League.

A very interesting interview from the 36th Dems. The question on charter schools was interesting; she said she did vote against 1240. But one person at the 36th Dems says that she did say she supported charters so hard to gauge that issue. She repeatedly, says she has "a lot" to learn about SPS.

Here are her questionnaires for the 32nd District Democrats and the King County Democrats.

Endorsements (partial) - Seattle Times, 46th Dems, Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE),  Seattle Metro Chamber of Commerce's political organization, Dow Constantine,
Rep. Reuven Carlyle (note; he is a parent in this region), Ron Sims, Councilperson Sally Clark, Michael DeBell, Peter Maier

- Melissaone interaction with her was at a mayoral forum where she came to me and, in a friendly manner, introduced herself and asked if we could talk sometime.  I gave her my card and said of course.  But, during the course of the conversation, she told me that my early analysis of her was "judgmental."  I told her I was only wrote about what I found about her through various sources (and I never said at any post that she was not a decent candidate).  She said she'd like to talk but then, again, said I had been judgmental.  And, this was in front of another person so it was a bit uncomfortable.

If she feels unhappy over someone writing what is publicly accessible about her, she's going to need a tougher skin to both run and then, if she wins, serve in office.  Because if she thinks I was judgmental, I'll like to hear what she thinks of the The Stranger's editorial board. 

Sue Peters (Updated 7/13/13)
Melissa interviewed Sue alone.

- Sue has been a writer for a long time.  Because she write for the Seattle Education blog and is a long-time Seattle schools parent, I believe she, among all the candidates, knows the district well.

But while I write, Sue is a journalist.  From her website:

I am a journalist, editor and communications strategist. Publications I have worked or written for include: Seattle Weekly, San Francisco Chronicle Features, Huffington Post, San Francisco Examiner, Salon, Race, Poverty & the Environment, Crosscut, Consumer Reports Travel Letter, Lonely Planet, Public Art Review. In recent years, I have applied my research and journalistic skills to the analysis of public education policy and practice, both local and national.

She has a degree in Journalism.  As well her leadership can be seen in creating a math coalition, helping to found Parents Across America and serving on several district taskforces/committees.  

(Her community experience - not just being an active parent in the district - is the key to my contention that she has both the abilities and the background to dive into the work better equipped than the other two contenders.)
 Her three areas of focus:
- making sure money flows from the McCleary decision, setting priorities and making good choices
- replace K-8 math curriculum
- making fiscally and academically responsible decisions that help all students

She said she believed the role of a School Board director is oversight - policy, curriculum adoption, taking a look at where budget allocations are coming, exercise due diligence and evaluating the Superintendent.  She said in practice that would mean asking follow-up questions and getting answers and trying to have fewer top-down decisions.

Sue, like the other candidates, says she does have much to take in about the district.

Peters received a "very good" rating from the Muni League.

Endorsements (partial): King County Labor Council, 32nd/43rd Dems, Metropolitan Democratic Club of Seattle, King County Councilman Larry Gossett, Betty Patu, Kay Smith-Blum, Local 609, Social Equity Educators

Dean McCoglan
Charlie and Melissa interviewed Mr. McColgan together. 

- Because of Mr. McColgan's background in governance in Federal Way (as an elected city councilman and then, elected by the council, as mayor), he certainly has governance experience.  (I think it would be interesting to see how someone with his background would interact on our School Board.)
-  He sees a role for both TFA and charters but believes there may be more to be learned from charters than having charters.
- In speaking about governance, he gave the example of working on the Federal Way City Council to find and hire a city manager (much like finding and hiring a superintendent).  He also said that if the Board has policies that are being violated, that he would want to find a way for the Board to have a mechanism for enforcement.  He said the entire Board would have to be on the same page for this to happen. 

Areas of focus:
- achievement gap - He said just because it's "big" doesn't mean it can't be addressed.  He would approach it largely at the middle school level.
- teachers - Encourage them to be part of the solution, give them professional development, learn about other solutions and models and encourage their input

He mentioned that his daughter-in-law was a Special Ed teacher and that you need to be clear on your Special Ed approach.  He said the district "can only do what you can do" because of the Special Ed population and the size of the district.

He said he would represent schools in his district first and was hoping not to give up volunteer activities to be on the Board.

When asked about student data, he said did not believe third-parties should have access to student data and if so, it should be limited.  

Dean McCoglan, received a "very good" which is the next level below "outstanding."

District V (Kay Smith-Blum's seat) - LaCrese Green, Stephan Blanford and Olu Thomas.  

In Kay Smith-Blum race, Stefan Blanford received "very good", LaCrese Green received "not qualified" and Ulu Thomas was not interviewed.

LaCrese Green

Ms. Green ran for School Board a couple of cycles back.  We did not interviewed her because we could not get a firm date from her on when we could talk.

Olu Thomas

Ms. Thomas seems to be running to try to keep the Mann building open for community use (as opposed to the district plan of taking it back for use by Nova).   She did not answer e-mails and I have found no other interviews with her.

Stephan Blanford
We did not interview Mr. Blanford; he never answered repeated requests for an interview.

Mr. Blanford has a wide background in advocating for low-income students and students of color.   He also worked for the Alliance for Education.  He has a child in SPS and his wife, Janet, is the SPS director for high school.  (I have to wonder if he might not have to recuse himself on some votes around grants for his wife's area of work.)

He does seem like a deep thinker on education a la Director Martin-Morris.  (This can be good and bad as we see from Martin-Morris who sits back a lot especially around the role of the Board in seeking accountability from the district.)

He was rated "very good" by the Muni League.

On the Muni questionnaire, he referenced the duties of the Board from the SPS website which is interesting given that they expand on the duties written in the RCW.  His Muni questionnaire does not have him stating any real focus for his work on the Board.

What is odd about his campaign is that there are no real positions staked out at his website (but he does give his reading list).  Here's all I could find:

As a school board member, his primary goal will be to ensure that every person employed by Seattle Public Schools is focused on improving outcomes for all of the nearly 50,000 students enrolled in the district, and that they have the resources and leadership in place to accomplish this ambitious goal. 

Endorsements (partial):  Kay Smith-Blum, Chamber of Commerce endorsement committee, Metropolitan Democratic Club, Councilman Tim Burgess, former Board director Brita Butler-Wall, Michael DeBell, Patrick D'Amelio (Washington STEM)


mirmac1 said...

McColgan said the district "can only do what you can do" because of the Special Ed population and the size of the district.

Did a shrug accompany that remark?

What a cop-out. Would he ensure the district complied with federal civil and disability laws? or just do what they can do...

Disgusted said...

Would like to know the manner Estey supported I 1240 in the 36th.

Blanford does not support public funding to fight I 1240. We should "accept" I 1240- an unconstitutional mandate.

David said...

Thanks for doing this. The interviews are useful. Too bad Stephan Blanford refused to be interviewed, but that might make sense if there are no other strong candidates running against him.