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Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Times School Board Primary Wrap-Up

In a phrase, not good.

The Times is not consistent in what they say about what they want in a School Board.  First, they want continuity.  Then they don't like that and want new people. 

At the last election, according to them, the sky fell because two incumbents (rightly) got ousted and two new members were elected.  These were not people they wanted and they proceeded - from day one - to lambast Directors Peaslee and McLaren.  (Do a search and see the contrast between what they have said over the last two years about those two plus Smith-Blum versus DeBell, Carr and Martin-Morris.  They strangely omit Patu but I think there's a reason for that.)

But now they like change and new people are a good thing.  So really, it isn't about consistency or continuity or Board unity - it's about getting people on the Board that THEY like.

This piece starts off okay.  It states the outcome of the primary and rightly talks about more in-depth discussions among the candidates during the general election.  (They mention Sue in the very first paragraph but only have photos of Dale Estey and Blanford.)

What is disturbing about this editorial is the contrast between District IV candidates, Sue Peters and Suzanne Dale Estey.  The Times, like the Chamber of Commerce, refuses to accept that Sue is NOT just a blogger but a writer and journalist.  A trained one.  With a Master's in Journalism from Stanford University.

(I note that Lynne Varner, who writes about education for the Editorial Board at the Times, does not have a journalism degree.  She has a BS in Communications.  She was, like Peters, at Stanford but was there for an academic fellowship on international/domestic policy and healthcare. )

What is worse is that Varner claims Peters has only "talked or blogged" about education and not worked on it.  That's hard to fathom because Sue has done extensive research and writing about education. She has served on several district-appointed taskforces and, by virtue of all that work (as well as being a long-time parent in the district) really KNOWS this district. Dale Estey does not know this district in any manner close to Peters' knowledge base. 

But Varner, like the PAC supporting Estey, is going to play the game of omission.

She goes on to say that Dale Estey worked on the Road Map project.   That will be a good question to ask Estey at debates.   What is clear is that it was part of her job in Renton to be involved in this effort (although it also seems that she personally was committed to it).  But one education project doesn't make a person an expert.

What is also an issue is this statement about Dale Estey - "she knows how to take an idea and develop it into a working plan.."  But that's not a Board member's job.  That would be micromanaging.  Policy creation and enforcement -that's a Board member's job.

Then, again with omission in mind, Varner says that Dale Estey has the support of Ed Murray and Senator Reuven Carlyle.  That's true but if you want to play that card, then name the supporters that Peters has in the Legislature.  But the editorial doesn't.

Then, it gets unpleasant and it's where I believe some kind of throwdown is happening beyond this editorial or even this election.

Peters may give Dale Estey a run for her money. But the effort would have to begin with Peters broadening beyond the “education activist” description. Here’s why: Any parent volunteering in the classrooms, on field trips, attending school board meetings, raising money for education or in myriad other ways working to improve their local schools is an activist. So is Peters merely one of them? Or is the “activist” moniker code for membership in a small cabal of district critics who have not changed their reflexive oppositional stances since the early 1990s? Conversations leading up to the November general election should provide answers.

Oh so Varner gets to define what an activist is?  Broadly - and I mean very broadly speaking - she's right.  An "active" parent could be called an activist.  Except that it usually means going beyond your own school.  She knows that (or she should).  

Then she talks about "code" which is ironic given the use of ed reform code words she uses in her columns all the time.  

So there is a small "cabal" of district critics?  Well, there's an even larger -but much more selective and closed-off - cabal of ed reformers.  And no one need apply because they only let the "right" people in.  (I also have to laugh at Varner saying Peters may give Estey a "run for her money."  Money is right, given how much more Estey has and who she gets it from.)  

I'm fine with being challenged and I'm sure Peters is as well.  Let's get into the debates and see who knows this district, its challenges and needs and how to find and create better academic outcomes for all Seattle public school students.  

Because I'm not certain Varner does. 

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

"But Varner, like the PAC supporting Peters..."

Just claritying above. Should that read Etsey instead of Peters?

I am in Peters' district and I am supporting her run. My kid is in the same school as Peters' kid (well, one anyway), so I know her and how she handles things. I have not always agreed with her, but I have admiried how she is willing to stand by her beliefs even when she know many others sitting right next to her disagree. Many currently on the school board are meek, and I am hopeful Peters would not be.

Etsey's followers just flat out scare me, including a very active parent who is also at the school where Peters and I have kids. This parent has backed "reform" types before, so whatever she does I tend to do the opposite (affter researching on my own, of course).

-pickle

mirmac1 said...

you are wise, pickle

Unknown said...

I have a feeling that you are spot on about the Community Center for Education Results/Road Map "involvement." I can find nothing anywhere that indicates to what extent, in hours or position, what that "involvement" boils down to. Someone needs to ask her this question.

Anonymous said...

Whom would typically organize a candidate debate for school board director positions?

GMG

Anonymous said...

More and more, it sound like Zelig is running for school board director.

--enough already

Melissa Westbrook said...

GMG, last time The Stranger did one as did the League of Women Voters. Usually the solid citizen groups (although I suspect some ed reform group like "Our Schools" might try.)

Anonymous said...

People tire of sanctimonious bloggers - who oppose everything, often and publicly. That is basically what Peters offers and is the hole she needs to dig out of. "I did some research" and "I was on a task force" doesn't cut it. For all its faults, the Gates Foundation does occasionally change its tune.

-reader

mirmac1 said...

This is my response to the Times "in-kind donation" to the Estey campaign:

Here it starts. We'll see Estey's face smiling from Varner's edu-campaign op/ed/ads every day until the general election.

Varner is careful not to mention the many high-profile endorsements Peters' has received, including from Diane Ravitch. I would pick her over Reuven Carlyle for ed policy advice anyday.

While Varner will be sure to throw in "blogger" whenever she tries to discredit Peters' journalism, I remind readers that Varner blogs; it's just nobody reads it.

You know who else blogs? Varner's friends like Chris Korsmo at the "League of Education Voters". She is, literally, on Bill Gates' payroll and sends out pithy emails to all the "Edu-mutts" who are part of Varner's inner circle. That group includes, among others, Tim Burgess, a few assorted millionaires who are "edu-hobbyists" (and are backing Estey all the way), city bureaucrats, and syncophants.

Estey's involvement in the Road Map Project is nothing to be proud of. Sure, she was involved, as a mid-level Renton bureaucrat. Now, thanks to her and the in-crowd, the seven South King County school districts will release TEN YEARS of student personally-identifiable information to a group that will make it available to third parties. And do parents have any say in what a stranger can find out about their children? NO! Big Brother will now have access to their SSI, grades, disability status, socio-economic status, and test scores. And we're supposed to applaud Estey for this?!

So being an "activist" is okay if: 1) you're a million or billionaire; 2) you are beholden to same; 3) blog on the Times, LEV, or Our Schools Coalition websites; or 4) just act like an all-around education expert when you're really not. Like Lynne.

Sorry, one editorialist/blogger's "activist" is another person's hardworking, knowledgable parent

mirmac1 said...

pickle,

As the transparency hound, I understand the parent you're talking about has gone on a fishing expedition for Peters' emails with your principal, including emails regarding her children. NOT Okay! Even Julian knows that!

Again, you are wise.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Reader, said:
"People tire of sanctimonious bloggers - who oppose everything, often and publicly."

If you don't like a blog and what it offers, that's one thing. It is not true that either Sue's blog or this blog "oppose everything." Just not true but maybe you said it like that for effect.

Also, for the record, Sue has been appointed to multiple taskforces. We are still waiting to find out what Estey has done on the one education project she worked on. (I mean, since high school.)

Gates only changes its tune because they fail so often. And, they change but only within their own echo chamber.

Mirmac, if what you say is true and any e-mails Peters exchanged with the principal of her school about Peters' children are revealed, that would be very wrong. If they aren't, well sure but of course when you are an "active" parent, you are likely to have e-mails with your principal.

mirmac1 said...

I agree Melissa. And I trust the district public records officer is watchful of the boundary between what is "public interest" versus not.

In the (many) public records requests I've done, the only "fishing expeditions" I've embarked upon are the "Frank Greer and Friends" ones. And they were eye-opening.

I would NEVER request Estey's emails regarding her child at their school.

Yeah, I know. Hard to believe I have scruples...

Anonymous said...

Yes, I don't like her blog. But that isn't really the point. The point is that there is so much there that there is much to use against her. Like this blog, it is an echo chamber - much more so that Seattle Times. It's not surprising that her opponents, or her opponents' supporters are using it. I gently point out Charlie had the same problem, twice, if I recall correctly.

I also wonder if she has ever had an actual job? A full-time paid gig. You might scoff at the Times, but its writers are actually professional, paid by others.

-reader

Melissa Westbrook said...

Reader, you have a way with words.

Like this blog, it is an echo chamber - much more so that Seattle Times.

I don't think so. I think Peters' blog (with Dora Taylor) is more hard-line than this blog but a blog has a POV and a newspaper (except for its editorials) does not.

Have you not been here enough? We allow every kind of conversation and I see plenty of disagreement. (In fact, I posted a comment recently at LEV's "blog" - that was not snarky, name-calling, nothing - just to ask a question about an article written. It went up and it came down. Why? Because no one gets to challenge them.

As for "actual job" - I'm going to assume you mean in journalism because I know you would never try to call being a full-time mother not an "actual job." That would be disrespectful to at-home moms and dads.

Peters probably did have many "actual jobs" but they may have been a long time ago. Many of us have gaps in our resumes because we wanted to stay home with our children and we did volunteer work.

I hate this idea that if you don't get paid for work, it doesn't really count. But apparently, money may be the bottom line for some.

But there's another question to ask Peters just as there are many questions to ask Dale Estey.

mirmac1 said...

By the same token, is what Chris Korsmo does a real job? Certainly she gets paid, but for what? Is that the difference? If Gates is your sugar daddy, it's all gooood.

Anonymous said...

I am horrified at the possibility of a fellow parent requesting release of emails regarding another's child. I am careful in what I send - frankly, there's some info I wish other parents knew - yet I shudder to think a parent would go on such a fishing expedition. What are the limits to public record requests? I'm also wondering how people know such an incident occurred.

-feeling paranoid

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Peters probably did have many "actual jobs" but they may have been a long time ago. Many of us have gaps in our resumes because we wanted to stay home with our children and we did volunteer work.

Great! Let's hear what they were. Stay-at-home mom is great too. If that's what your or her job has been, then let's put that out there. If you were a professional at something - let's hear what your job(paying) actually was. How a person works in an adult setting is something voters want to know about.

Is Chris Korsmo running for anything? I thought we were talking about actual candidates.

-reader

Melissa Westbrook said...

Reader, interesting how your questions morph.

You won't get an answer to "how a person works in an adult setting" because who's going to go ask "how did so and so work at this office?" (this is how you phrased it). I think you mean you want a list of where they "worked."

You do know that Dale Estey worked at WaMu as a lobbyist and, during the revote on the Monorail, sent out an e-mail for WaMu telling 9,000 employees how to vote?

Anonymous said...

Melissa, I did not know that. Thank you for the information. Being employed and employable is something many people value, and would like to know about candidates they are electing. Gosh, that's pretty basic stuff.

I'm not sure why you feel the need to critique my writing style. I have never gone to journalism school nor do I have a degree in it.

R

mirmac1 said...

My point reader is that someone could actually get paid and really not DO anything worthwhile, nor prove they play well with others. It does not somehow give them more worth or greater accomplishment.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I think playing well with others is very important, even critical. A commenter above says they respect Sue for standing her ground, even when they disagree with her viewpoint.

Does that translate into "playing well with others"? I guess we'll find out if Sue wins. I'd like to see SOME level of flexibility, perhaps a willingness to change one's mind if presented with evidence. To me, that matters a lot more than who worked when or how much they got paid.

I would want my vote to be more than an "anti-Etsey" vote. I would want it to be a "pro-Sue" vote. I'm not there yet.

Still Deciding

Melissa Westbrook said...

Still Deciding, good point and that would be a great question to ask at a debate. Because I would have to wonder about both candidates (just like every other past School Board candidate).

I'll start a list of questions.

Anonymous said...

The epitome of irony is Estey claiming Peters, versus herself, represents the status quo. Estey defines it. Look no further than the Gang-Of-Four. Had Estey been on that Board, they'd have been the Gang-Of-Five, as there isn't a sliver of daylight between her promises and methods. None. She's taking the same money from the same people who want the exact same things as before. Follow the money, people. Follow the money, please. WSDWG

Po3 said...

Peters v Esty

Peters - highly-educated, stay-at-home mom with kids in SPS for 8-10 years. Volunteered at both school and district level.
Grassroots campaign, donations coming in small amounts ($500 and under)

Esty - highly-educated, working mom with kids in SPS for 1-2 years. Has volunteered at Blaine K-8, no district level volunteer experience.
Large organized campaign, with a PAC and large dononations (up to the $900 limit)

mirmac1 said...

Etsey is great. Not sold on Estey though....

Anonymous said...

What a surprise. Lynne Varner thinks another Seattle billionaire is good for education!

http://seattletimes.com/html/editorials/2021570617_lynnevarnercolumnxml.html

Bezos4schoolboard

Anonymous said...

Wow. Since when is having BS in something... "highly educated"? To be "highly educated", you need more than a bachelors. Not sure if either candidate, or any candidate is "highly educated". Near as I can tell, these are "went to college" moms.

Just Observing

Anonymous said...

According to Diane Ravitch, "Sue Peters is the real deal."

Please Support Sue Peters for School Board

Po3 said...

Just Observing

Both have masters desgrees - Peters masters is from Standford, not sure about Estey's degree.

But a masters degree puts you into the highly educated catagory, in my opinion. And Standford is pretty impressive. (Funny, never would have thought to look into Peters' education until the Estey mailer...)

Anonymous said...

Regarding Peters work history, just go to her website and it's right there:

"Professional Background: 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."

Here's the link


Not sure why the naysayers don't bother to do the most basic bit of research. I think Peters is quite clear and open about her background. She's got my vote and I have no doubt about her ability to work professionally.

-- SPS Parent and Voter

mirmac1 said...

It's my sincere hope that teachers will come out in force for Peters. DeBell/Banda and crew aren't making any friends playing hardball in contract negotiations.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Near as I can tell, these are "went to college" moms.

Honestly, my mouth dropped when I read this. And what of men who "only" have a bachelors?

Anonymous said...

It's "Stanford"

B.S., M.S. Stanford Mom

Anonymous said...

So no real fulltime work? It doesn't take much to be a gadfly blogger. Obviously those similarly qualified will disagree!

Passing Thru

Anonymous said...

Passing Thru @ 8/9/13, 1:07 PM said:

"So no real fulltime work? It doesn't take much to be a gadfly blogger."

Just keep passing thru please....your comments are pure dribble.

I know Sue personally and she's too much of a class act to respond to the likes of you. So I'll step in and do it for her.

San Francisco Chronicle Features Editor, Full Time
Consumer Reports Editor, Full Time
Lonely Planet Books Editor, Full Time
The list goes on but let's face it the proof is in the numbers. She's got the goods and garnered the votes to prove it despite being outspent 5 to 1.

Good luck peddling shallow commentary come November. Seattle voters are way smarter than you give them credit for.

-- Informed Peters Voter

Anonymous said...

It's Passing "Through" not Thru! I see you would not cut it as an editor. But maybe you work at a drive-Thru, so never mind... Not that there is anything wrong with that. I won't judge you.

JustPassingThrough

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa Westbrook said...

"It doesn't take much to be a gadfly blogger."

Maybe not but that's not what Sue is.

You see we are discussing the issue of the Times NOT being fair. Compare the candidates fairly and then we can decide for ourselves how we feel. But Sue's bio is out there so no one can say she has never had an "actual" job.

And again, she is still writing outside of her blog and she's a mom. Sorry you feel the need to putdown such an important job. (Doesn't matter that you think being a mom isn't a qualification - it matters that you think so little of the work.)

If that's a backhanded swat at Charlie and me, oh well. You could NEVER do what we do but really, go start a informational forum blog like this one and see for yourself.

Charlie Mas said...

I think it's very odd that the Seattle Times can support the idea of family involvement in school and district community engagement, but only up to a point. Checking your child's homework and asking them about their school day - good. Attending teacher conferences - good. Raising money - good. Volunteering in the classroom - very good. But once you express any kind of opinion of your own you've crossed over the line and now you're a dreaded "activist". Unless, of course, you're some kind of millionaire, then you have not only a right, but a duty to express and, if possible, impose, your education policy views.

It is very clear where the line is. It's very clear who is allowed to cross it.

It is also, of course, completely wrong-headed.