Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Value of Experience

Odd as it seems, most school board candidates have little or no direct knowledge of the District prior to their election. Most of them never went to Board meetings before filing for their candidacy. Most do not follow the board of the district closely. They are unfamiliar with the schools, the programs, the departments in the central administration, the current issues, and the history of how we arrived at our current status. Consequently, they spend their first couple of years just learning who people are and how things work. During this period, when they don't know much of anything about the district, they are not only ineffective, they actually cause damage.
They are ineffective because they don't know what was promised in previous years, so they don't know to hold the superintendent and staff accountable for fulfilling those promises. Of course, even the continuing Board members have shown that they have no interest in holding the superintendent and staff accountable for fulfilling commitments. They don't know about previous audits so they don't know when audit findings are repeated.

They are ineffective because they question things that should not be questioned. They ask questions about routine activities.

They are ineffective because they don't question things that should be questioned. They don't ask when the staff contradicts a previous statement. The staff has re-defined the term "curriculum" no less than four times in the last five years. The staff pretends that new changes are long-standing practices - Spectrum, until recently, was defined by its self-contained delivery model. Staff claims that they can do things that they previously claimed they couldn't do - and vice versa. They don't know what annual reports are supposed to be provided so they don't know when they are missed. More to the point, they don't know what's supposed to be in those annual reports, so they don't notice when those elements are missing.

They also have to be educated about programs. They don't know what ALOs are, they don't know about the various Special Education programs or delivery models. They don't know the additional costs associated with language immersion, STEM, or Montessori. You'd be surprised how many of them don't even know what Spectrum is. While it could be argued that no one knows what Spectrum is (Director Martin-Morris, at the work session on Growth Boundaries this spring, asked the question "What is Spectrum?". He didn't get an answer.), the Board should know something about it. They don't know about our alternative schools. Many Board members don't know the difference between AP and APP.

They have to be educated about the District's processes. They have to learn about the process for adopting instructional materials. They have to learn the budget process. They have to learn the process for capital improvements. They have to learn the process for the Transportation plan, the annual approval of schools, and the annual revision to the assignment plan.

So, no matter how much a new Board member knows about anything else, the ones who haven't been following the District closely for years - and that's nearly all of them - have a huge and steep learning curve to get over. It generally takes them from 18 to 24 months to do it. About half of their term in office they are dreadfully ill-prepared to do the job. It would be a real plus to have a new Board Director who actually knows something about the District and how it works.


Anonymous said...

Sue Peters has contributed and participated quite a bit, as someone could read on her blog.

Suzanne Dale Estey will certainly be able to call on all her endorsers among the Powers-That-Be. She'll definitely be able to vote the way the Powers-That-Be have always voted!

For those Seattle-ites with Shrines-To-The-Great-Bill in their homes and minds, the choice is crystal clear.


dw said...

I agree with what Charlie is saying here, but it's a pretty thinly veiled message of support for Sue Peters.

Not that I disagree, I think Sue has the most district knowledge of any of the candidates, and I don't trust Estey for a NY minute, given her association with CCR and their ongoing collection of children's personal information.

Anonymous said...

The Value of Having Convictions

The reason I'm supporting Sue Peters is because she has been an advocate for students, teachers, and the voice of community in education for years.

She has had the courage to speak out against the corporate takeover of schools (which climaxed during the Goodloe-Johnson reign and was manifested in MAP testing). For no other reason except conscience, she has spent years working to improve schools by advocating reform that is based on research, not greed and political power.

In contrast, the first I ever heard of Estey is when she announced her well-funded and polished candidacy.

I'm a teacher. I appreciate the long-term advocacy and devotion to education of Sue Peters.

She has already proven herself to those of us "in the trenches."

--another Peters supporter

Charlie Mas said...

Since we now have the illusion of bias should I now write a post of the value of connections among elected officials and other members of the establishment - to restore the illusion of balance? I would be happy to do so.

I'd rather this post was seen as fact-based and rational exploration and explanation of a comment made by Melissa on an earlier post.

Steven Colbert tells us that the facts have a liberal bias. Is it therefore biased to share the facts? Have I been selective about which of the relevant facts I chose to share? If so, this is an open discussion and people are free to talk about any relevant facts I left out.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, the problem is that this post isn't fact-based, it is conclusion-based. You have made conclusions and are dressing them up as facts. I'd have been more receptive to this post if you said somewhere in it that this is why you think candidate x is unqualified or that you're thinking of voting for candidate y. I think dw is right and that this is a thinly-veiled note of support for Sue Peters, and frankly, the tone and substance of it makes me not want to cast a vote for her.

--Fremont Dad

Charlie Mas said...

Have I been selective about which of the relevant facts I chose to share? If so, this is an open discussion and people are free to talk about any relevant facts I left out.

Have I made conclusions and pretended they are facts? Point them out.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Fremont, we DID write the thread about the candidates and their qualifications. But Charlie going beyond qualifications to ask what is the value - as set forth by the powers that be - of (1) knowing our district well and (2) relationships with the Legislature, business, philanthropic groups, etc.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I need to add that it is not just Sue Peters who knows this district well. I think Stephan Blanford -between his own experience as a parent AND professional background AND his wife working for the district - also knows the district better than most candidates.

You can take from that what you want but just as one candidate may have more experience of serving on a board, another may know the district better. You can decide what matters to you more.

Whoever clears the primary, then you can ask see what they say in specific.

dw said...

Fremont Dad said: I think dw is right and that this is a thinly-veiled note of support for Sue Peters, and frankly, the tone and substance of it makes me not want to cast a vote for her.

The difference is that while I believe (if you've been following district politics for at least a few years) that the post does read like a message of support for Sue Peters, I don't question the veracity of his points. They are relevant and important.

That said, what I would hope to sway you on, just a bit, is not to let your like or dislike of a blogger's words override the meat of a campaign/election. No matter what Charlie's tone is like, I hope you look at the candidates' knowledge, history, issue stances, etc., and make a decision based on real data, not the tone of a post that you obviously didn't like.

For me, I'm very suspicious of a slick candidate that comes out of the blue and has lots of support from the movers and shakers. Sue Peters has been down in the trenches for several years now, and has probably rubbed some of those people the wrong way, but there is absolutely no doubt that she knows our school district far, far better than her opponents.

If you were a fan of Steve Sundquist, perhaps a vote for Estey makes sense, because they seem to come from the same background. For me, personally, I thought Sundquist was a disaster, and I'd like to not make the same mistake with my vote this time.