Harmon Leaving Seattle Schools

I cannot print the word that came out of my mouth when I saw this from the Superintendent. 

It is very, very upsetting because Harmon was truly one of the good guys and one of the most calm and dedicated employees at headquarters.  I had kind of thought he might be promoted to Bob's position. 

With him leaving (and Bob Boesche), I have deep concerns for the district.  Something has to change to stem this flow of good people (and I don't think it has a whole lot to do with the Board but I'm sure that's how it will get spun).  And, I have seen a few names for Bob Boesche's job and it's worrying.   It feels like people are using SPS as some kind of stop-gap place on their career ladders (but I do not mean that about Duggan, obviously).

It is with mixed feelings that I announce that Duggan Harman has resigned, effective August 31. Duggan has accepted the role of Chief of Staff for Superintendent Susan Enfield in Highline School District.
I am considering best options for filling the role of Assistant Superintendent of Business and Finance, including possible appointment of an interim. I expect to make that decision by mid-August. We are fortunate that Duggan has built a strong team of managers, which will help greatly with continuity.

Duggan has worked for Seattle Public Schools for 21 years. He has been a strong leader who contributed to many areas, from operations to academics. His leadership during the last several years of unprecedented budget shortages has been invaluable.

It has been a pleasure for me to work with Duggan during my first year as Superintendent in Seattle. I know that I speak for all of Duggan’s colleagues in saying that he will be missed, and that we wish him the best for the future.

Good for Susan Enfield.  She's going to build herself a powerhouse team.  


Mark Ahlness said…
I agree, he was one of the good guys, a class act. Even dealt with him a few times as a classroom teacher. Tough to replace a guy like that. Best wishes to him.
mirmac1 said…
I guess that, as a Sped parent, I absolutely did not see the "good" side of him. Harmon was part of the "blame sped" club. I suppose we have him to thank for their admitted shortchanging of sped (of course in their mind, "ICS" was a cutting edge improvement) which places us in the crosshairs of Fed/OSPI punitive action. He played hardball with sped consulting teacher positions, while miraculously finding money for language immersion "necessities"

We will agree to disagree on this development. I think we both can agree that Paperman is not ready to fill the position.
Anonymous said…
I can't understand why you would think that the board is not a key factor in the senior members of the leadership leaving. Didn't the board just received an evaluation that identified the concerns that the senior staff had with the board? Isn't the superintendent a reflection of the boards choices? It's either got to be the superintendent or the board (or both) that's causing people to leave en mass.

SWED, as a long-time district watcher, I read the whole evaluation. As I have said previously (and from the words of Director Martin-Morris), I believe there was exaggeration from some Board members and staff members. To what end, I can't say but I don't believe it in totality.


Well, Michael DeBell has proven his willingness to break district policy and leak to the media and even call members out by name.

As well, if you were on the staff and wanted less oversight from the Board, wouldn't you do what you could to curb it?

And, the Board voted, the majority of the time, 7-0 or 6-1 - that's not a a dysfunctional Board. I think the Alliance's constant pushing is another cause.

No one can know for sure why senior leadership doesn't stick around and they will be keeping their own wise counsel.

No, I would think the real reason is what some of us of known for years now - the culture of bureaucracy at JSCEE. Moss-Adams said it - what is it now - a decade ago and no one listened.
SWED, as a long-time district watcher, I read the whole evaluation. As I have said previously (and from the words of Director Martin-Morris), I believe there was exaggeration from some Board members and staff members. To what end, I can't say but I don't believe it in totality.


Well, Michael DeBell has proven his willingness to break district policy and leak to the media and even call members out by name.

As well, if you were on the staff and wanted less oversight from the Board, wouldn't you do what you could to curb it?

And, the Board voted, the majority of the time, 7-0 or 6-1 - that's not a a dysfunctional Board. I think the Alliance's constant pushing is another cause.

No one can know for sure why senior leadership doesn't stick around and they will be keeping their own wise counsel.

No, I would think the real reason is what some of us of known for years now - the culture of bureaucracy at JSCEE. Moss-Adams said it - what is it now - a decade ago and no one listened.
Michael H said…
An absolute shame that he is leaving.
Anonymous said…
Agree with sped parent mirmac. Institutionalized discrimination against special needs is what Duggan delivered. No surprise at all that this recommends him to Enfield.

Charlie Mas said…
How's that fresh start working out?
Anonymous said…
No matter the churn, this district is way better off than it was during the Goodloe-Johnson days with her rubber stamping school board.

It's also better off without Susan Enfield, the TFA backroom dealer who went out regularly with the ed reform crowd for wine, but not one time had a "Soup with the Supe" with teachers, after promising these regular meetings. A big part of DeBell's problem is that he still isn't over Enfield. Analyzing that one is way beyond my job description.

If this is where Duggan Harmon's loyalties lie, then I wish him godspeed.

--enough already
mirmac1 said…
Somehow, I don't see Harmon as a "powerhouse". He is the epitome of a bureacrat, uses measured tones but shades the "truth" to fit the establishment's purposes.

My only concern is that Banda should not be held to a standard of keeping EVERY one of these folks. Some are best let go (remember Holly Ferguson?)

Now, if only Enfield had a high level, political job for Michael Tolley. Preferably before he elevates his friend circle to high level positions. That would be great.
Anonymous said…
While I wish Duggan Harmon the best, I can't say that our interactions with him concerning our school were great.
Our students are not numbers--and we have had to try to push him to step out of the box.

We really did not appreciate being treated as if we knew nothing about what was best for our students because we were just teachers. Even getting to compromise was tough with that attitude.
I hope Highline is a good home for him.

Anonymous said…
I third the sped observation.

Harmon was at the center of an unrelenting smear campaign against special education students, whose only intent was to denigrate students with disabilities and to reduce their already low stature in schools. The latest smear - "oh the sky is falling, we have a 40% percentage increase in the number of special education students!!!! Whatever will we do about THAT and THEM????" That number was floated to the board in an attempt to portray special education families as undeserving slackers, fakers - not really disabled or needing services. The reality is, he never bothered to count the number of sped students each year. 2009 there was one number. Lo and behold, in 2013 there's a much larger number of special education students. Instead of using year over year figures, he simply published results from one year... to another year 3 years later. Unbelievable. Yes, there are more students now in special education than there were years before. Furthermore, the minute increase in percentage is easily explained by the larger preschool numbers. When a district grows, the preschool numbers grow too - and that is a growth that appears more heavily in special education because there is NO state funded preschool for general ed students as there is for special ed. That is to be expected in a growing district.

When you claim that "everything's amiss" in special education. That there are HUGE increases here and there you harm students. Misinformation on enrollment negatively impacts families who are raising students with disabilities. This inaccuracy minimizes, discredits, and discounts the needs of students. And, it appears intentional. It enables principals to ignore the needs of students with disabilities.

Then, of course, is the ongoing misappropriations of special ed funding at Ballard high school. Why no flag waving there? Clearly, accuracy in reporting is not a goal at all.

Quite simply, these district finance people have an axe to grind against students with disabilitgies.

See ya Harmon. And take your colleagues with you to where ever you are going. I'm sure there are other districts with sped kids in need of smear.

-another sped reader
mirmac1 said…
another sped reader,

You capture the essence of his hypocrisy. With people like him around, people like Wynkoop at Ballard feel totally okay using funding for the "excess costs" for supporting special ed students, as a honey jar he can dip into for general education. WRONG. And he's been busted. Not for lack of Harmon's disingenuous rationalizations.

So these "data-driven" honchos are kinda like Tony Bennet in Florida. Data's nice only ifyou can twist it to serve your purposes.
Anonymous said…
Duggan is so much more than Mirmac and Sped Reader espouse. He knows the system and has tried damn hard for years in the face of SPS disfunction and no coherent software or steady governance to provide good data to staff and public including around special education. His loss is a blow for this new administration and for the district as a whole.

Coupled with the loss of Bousche -spelling?- who seemed a straight shooter and a grown up among childish pettiness from staff and public alike, SPS is once again on a steep slide down in senior administrative talent.

Just who is going to want these jobs when armchair QBs who don't spend 70+ hours week in and week out trying to do the right thing by this district pick them apart publicly and relentlessly? I'm not talking about this blog's owners. I'm talking about some of the more vocal commenters who pick their little piece of the pie be it APP, special education, STEM, northeast seattle buildings, dual language, whatever and expect administrative perfection of their tunnel view of SPS. It is not possible. Yes, there have been lacking administrators in SPS, just like in any other district. There are also SPS people who do their best. Duggan was one of them.

Duggan Fan
In the know - really said…
@Duggan Fan: I wholeheartedly agree. Well said.

For all you naysayers - you think things were bad under Duggan? Look at the big picture, and not your narrow special interest. (BTW, you are absolutely delusional). Wait to see what happens. God forbid we get another Kennedy or some bozo recommended by the Council of Great City Schools. I fear the District is going to have more risk than ever before.
Anonymous said…
He may have left bc of the Board, bc of the atmosphere at HQ., the Supe...I would also put in the lot that he may have left bc he is tired of all the swiping, grouching, and I know better than thou that is always written on this blog. This blog must be included on this list. Not sure all of this is helping????

Long Gone
mirmac1 said…
In the know,

If we're delusional, then I guess OSPI and the State Auditor is also. Hmmmmmmm.
Charlie Mas said…
There can be no doubt that there are all kinds of problems in Seattle Public Schools, but due to the total absence of transparency it is usually impossible to assign any accountability for the failures. In the majority of cases you can't tell who is screwing stuff up, who is drifting with the tide, and who struggling against it.
"Look at the big picture, and not your narrow special interest."

You might - in the future - rethink statements like that. A person's child is not a "narrow special interest." Someone who has a child with special needs has to find joy and acceptance in every single day in ways that parents with so-called normal children do not.

As for Harman leaving because of this blog, maybe. I can only say he never anything but willing to answer questions and polite and professional to this blog.
Anonymous said…
Could he take Tolley with him.

signed - waiting for banda to make better leadership decisions
Anonymous said…
I agree Duggan Fan, I'm sure that he's much more than his job. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have blindspots, and blind spots that negatively impact families. I'm glad he is more than that.

Right on Melissa. I agree that some of the groups listed fall into the category of "narrow special interest". Families raising children with disabilities - are not some sort of special interest. Nearly every single person will experience disability in their lives. It's really hard for some people to remember that disability is natural and widespread, exactly the opposite of "narrow special interest". Indeed, serving these families is explicitly both a federal and state mandate in public education, unlike the so-called "special interests".

I'm not interested in people's 70 hour work weeks. It is not a measure of competence, nor production. Often people who claim to do this are simply inefficient.

Under Harmon we had financial audit after audit coming back with negative results. We had Silas Potter stealing money right under his nose. We have the state auditor pointing out that schools are stealing money from special education programs. Where was he?

When his department created the "40% increase in special ed enrollment" scandal, the special ed department was put into alert. They had to stop what they were doing, stop serving families, and start doing "deep dives" into enrollment as a result of board alarm. Families had to initiate expensive public record requests to validate. (or invalidate in this case) Why? It all turned out to be nothing except a ploy to denigrate students. And guess what? All that costs money too. Where's the financial audit of the costs of this misinformation campaign? All those things costs money too, and those costs are not insignificant.

I'm sure nobody can be immune from the bigger agendas in the district. If the administrators wish to keep their pals like Silas Potter with jobs, then I'm sure there's pressure to not look too closely. Similarly for sped students. If the supe doesn't care about it, then nobody else will either. So yes, his job is hard.

Another sped reader

Anonymous said…
Another sped reader, you're off on your timeline. Don Kennedy was the chief financial officer and chief operating officer and oversaw both finance and capital projects during the Potter era. Bob Boesche came in to oversee finance after Kennedy was fired, then when Noel Treat left Bob replaced him as Deputy Sup, which elevated Duggan Harmon to head of finance.

Anonymous said…
Thanks for the info FYI. Was he not working there? Problems don't exist in a vacuum, and culture isn't just one person. He shouldn't be a scapegoat. Yet, being a long time part of a department fraught with problems does rub off on you as well.

-Another sped reader
Anonymous said…
I feel confident in stating that the replacement for Harmon will be inferior to Harmon himself. A "victory" for a few special education parents is a loss for the district as a whole, and in fact may be a defeat for the special education parents too, depending on the lack of knowledge or commitment to public interaction that his replacement may have. There is also the fact that after his promotion to head finance administrator, in meetings with peers and with public, Harmon spoke of the need to serve special education students as a core commitment of this district. Perhaps it was a new commitment. Perhaps it was an old commitment. Doesn't matter now.

I say again that this is terrible news for SPS at a sensitive time, with contract negotiations under way and a new year about to begin. Does anyone in blogland really think that SPS will be better-able to meet state and federal mandates, let alone macro and micro budget planning without Harmon? If they do, they should either apply for the job themselves, or nominate the candidate who they have in mind.

I am in grief mode. Every time I think this place is getting better, it is not.

Duggan Fan
Anonymous said…
duggan fan, i don't think the state auditor saw it your way but i am also looking askance as his leaving only because i can't really think of a single instance when banda's leadership choices have been convincing. michael tolley? pu-leeze.

Anonymous said…
No need to knock Tolley on a thread about Harmon. No doubt there will be other threads dedicated to Tolley.

The Supe is losing his left and right hands with Boesche and Harmon gone. Bad.

Treat bailed when Enfield bailed. He was a straight arrow. Bad.

Senior management gone. All the new hires don't know about all the issues of the MGJ years, so history will be repeating itself. Bad.

Anonymous said…
Why do all the administrative types leave? Well it's simple. They get better jobs. If you are motivated by something other than students, and you want to work in a "school system" - you become an administrator. People who are motivated by power, position, money, or climbing a hierarchical ladder - can not stay a teacher too long, and they can't stay in any given job too long either. Hence we have churn. It doesn't reflect poorly on anybody in SPS. Not the leadership, culture, or board.

Sometimes a reader
Sometimes, good points. Because of ed reform, we see an increasing churn of administrative positions as more people jockey for jobs.

That said, I think Harman put in a lot of years here and the loss of him in a key position is not good.

(I had to laugh at the Times and their "Today" file where they wrote about this. It happened yesterday but it seems the Times is becoming a day late with a lot of education stories.)
Anonymous said…
One consistent issue is that this district does not know how to develop talent and then promote it. Everyone knows that you have to leave the district and come back to get a promotion.

From a comment at the Times by someone who claims to have worked off and on in the district for years (partial):

"That is just in the department I worked in. Since this is a cultural problem, surely other departments are experiencing similar degrees of oppression and strain. This isn't just about lack of money. How do you change an "us against them" culture within a school district?

Never in my life have I experienced such a disconnect and discord between divisions. The schools are their own entity, entirely separate from the district office. There is a deep gulf between the decision makers and the folks in the schools. Truly, it is no wonder people are leaving their jobs at Seattle Public Schools. It is easy to work for Seattle Schools and have your sights set on something else.

Coming into work each day, only to be mired in a culture that lacks graciousness, collaboration, and a spirit of abundance - irrespective of funding status - would cause anyone to depart when the opportunity arises. It is a shame. I've seen great teaching and student engagement happen in the schools where I have worked. I've also seen folks at the district office rise above the occasion.

Mr. Banda, I know that you are well liked and respected. But do know - if you don't already - that district employees don't take the school district seriously. They do their jobs, yes. But comically poor communication, irreverent culture, and deep dysfunction are part of the folklore exchanged on a daily basis."
Charlie Mas said…
Link to Times story.
Anonymous said…
That eloquent and heartfelt comment gets at the root of the psychological toll that this district takes on its employees.

Lemons made an excellent point about the lack of promoting talent from within. I would add that the opposite is also true--that nepotism has been the guiding principle in SPS hiring for years, especially "downtown."

When promotions are based on kissing up, all kinds of dysfunctions occur--divide and conquer, no accountability, lack of respect for others' work, and a sense of entitlement and privilege that separates downtown people from the peons at schools. Goodloe-Johnson and Enfield showed contempt for teachers in no uncertain terms. Their attitude further legitimized the us/them divide.

It is heartening to know that Banda is respected. My guess is that he sees it clearly. He's got some serious cleaning up to do. Being pressured to hire Tolley (and then doing it) was not a good place to start.

--enough already

Popular posts from this blog

Tuesday Open Thread

Seattle Public Schools and Their Principals

COVID Issues Heating up for Seattle Public Schools