Thursday, March 06, 2014

Updates on People and Organizations

A couple of readers asked about some people and organizations that they feel have been perhaps too quiet.

First is director Sue Peters.  I'm not sure exactly what people were expecting from Sue but I think she is doing exactly what she should do as a new director.   She's behaving like the new director that she is - i.e. learning respectfully from her peers on the Board with more longevity and listening and learning.  There are two reasons for this behavior.

It's good to get the lay of the land before you start pushing for something different or changing something that exists.  Who are the staff members related to any program, how long have they been there and what's their take on the issues - these are all good things to find out before trying to chart a different course.  There is a huge learning curve to School Board work so be patient.

When I watch the School Board meetings at home on my tv, my husband often shakes his head and asks how I can stand it (he thinks it's boring). It can be but when you know the players - who's there, who isn't there and the sub-text - well, it can be like watching Game of Thrones or House of Cards (without all the murder, of course).  These are all valuable things for a new Board member to learn.

I understand the impatience to see some change in the district (and I'll have some thoughts, along with Charlie's, about change in the district) but it comes slowly.  I sense something of a power vacuum on the Board and I'm sure that is working to the advantage of staff where I think power is being consolidated to a very few.  This could be a good thing if staff is creating a solid team or a bad thing if it is just a few key players who are directing the district.  I will say I do not think the Board is really overseeing what is happening and may not even really know what is happening (and won't until it is too late).

I note that both Peters and Blanford were not at last night's Board meeting.  We were told Peters was ill but I heard no reason why Blanford was not there.

Second is the League of Education Voters.  LEV, like the Alliance, has morphed from one thing to another.  This is not necessarily bad and many groups change over time.  But LEV has taken a pretty hard turn towards ed reform and yet, they still try to reach parents.  I myself find it confusing.

LEV is mostly about state education issues.    They have changed their website to reflect their priorities and, indeed, call them "their agenda."  It includes Early Learning, Discipline and charters(among others).  LEV does what I avidly dislike in most ed reform groups - they tell half the truth.

I don't mind honest disagreement.  But tell the whole story - the good, the bad and the ugly - and allow grown adults to make up their own minds.  But today's public education is all about messaging.  You don't tell the whole story, you don't concede the other side might have a point and, naturally, what you support will work the best.

LEV is also surprising quiet about South Shore School that they took over from the New School Foundation (that they absorbed).  It's surprising how little they say about it.  I guess when you  have a school that has had free pre-K for at least a decade and gets about $1M more per year than other SPS schools and has made good but not great progress, well, maybe you don't want to say as much.

LEV has been a big voice in many key issues like McCleary and disproportionate discipline and yet,   they don't even put passing charter legislation under their accomplishments even as charters is one of their agenda items.  Odd.

LEV, like Stand, has some parent outreach but it's not like you "join" LEV.  I find that confusing as well.

As well, I think that some of their staffing is, well, quirky to say the least.

Last is Stand for Children.  Honestly, they don't really appear on my radar much because I don't think most people know about them or care about them.

They are certainly pushing Common Core like nobody's business, that's for sure but that's also corporate ed reform. 

Stand is pretty clear on its goal of creating a network to support its candidates and its goals.  

Stand had a recent tweet about why the rate of private school K-12 attendance in Seattle is double the national rate. Their explanation?  A link to the recent Crosscut story by Robin Lake.  Note: customer service is NOT the reason why that rate is so high but that's their story. 

Both LEV and Stand are pushing for the 24-credit diploma which I think is a mistake.  Do we have the supports in place for students struggling with the current diploma requirements?  No.  So how is adding more to the plate going to change that?

Both LEV and Stand have a "blog" (and you can make comments) but naturally, there will be no real discourse.  That's not their way.

LEV has parent seminars but you don't join their organization; at Stand, you do.  I see that Stand has a new director; both organizations are both very female-driven.  


Greg said...

It might have been my comment on an earlier open thread that prompted your note on Sue Peters. I know I shouldn't be impatient, and I apologize for being impatient, but I do have high hopes for Sue's impact.

I completely agree Sue is doing the right thing learning and not disrupting in these first few months. But Charlie Mas' recent comments that getting good people on the school board doesn't matter has me worried. I have high hopes for Sue, but I had high hopes for Marty and Kay too.

Maybe I am expecting or hoping for too much. Or maybe it really is all futile. Right now, I feel like things are looking bleak for our public schools. Overcrowding, with the only plan to deal with overcrowding relying on portables and hope. Politics, incompetence, and dishonesty from district leadership and administration, to the point that our schools succeed not because of central admin but in spite of them. And Banda is supremely disappointing, more of a don't-rock-the-boat figurehead looking to jump for the next step in his career than someone trying to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our administration and operations. Meanwhile, the Board seems incapable of even doing the basics of enforcing policy and auditing budgets. It's all very depressing.

Melissa (and, I hope, Charlie), I look forward to seeing your future posts on what, if anything, can change Seattle Public Schools administration for the better.

Anonymous said...

SFC is also emailing their list to contact legislators re: the highs school that they support the evaluation bill (so as not to lose the federal funding $)

Just received it yesterday. I stay on their mailing list b/c I like to know what they're up to and saying.

The RE: line was the nice, consensus building (not) "Whose side are you on?"

Whose side are you on?

Today at a press conference, Governor Inslee stood up to the special interests that would refuse $44 million in flexible federal funds for Washington, forcing closures of preschools and after-school programs. Now we need your help to make sure lawmakers work together to protect that funding.

Without an update to our state teacher evaluations, Washington will lose its waiver from the No Child Left Behind law – and lose control of the $44 million in funding that goes with it.

Click here to ask lawmakers to do what’s best for students, update teacher evaluations, and keep our preschools and after-school programs open.

People like you have already sent over 1100 emails to lawmakers. And 7 major newspapers across the state – in Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, Vancouver, Yakima, Walla Walla and Spokane – have called on the state legislature to update teacher evaluations so that local school districts can choose which academic supports work best for their low-income kids.

Our schools can’t afford to turn down millions in federal funds – but it’s not just about the money. Like President Obama and Governors Gregoire, Locke, Lowry and Gardner before him, Governor Inslee knows that clear and consistent teacher performance evaluations make our school system better – and that’s good for students.

Click here to send an email to your legislators.

Thank you for standing up for students.

Anne Martens
Communications Director

PS – Low-income students don’t have lobbyists or political action committees. They depend on us to do what’s right. Please, email your legislators today.


Anonymous said...

re: the high school diploma (the College and Career Ready Diploma)

and everything from "Whose side are you on?" through the PS is the actual email pasted in. I should have italicized it but always forget how to do that..


Anonymous said...

PTSA General Meeting
Thursday, March 13 at 7 pm
BHS Library

Please join us in welcoming
Sue Peters, Seattle School Board
Current state of SPS, parent / school priorities, capacity issues, high school start times and more!

Q&A session, questions can be submitted in advance by clicking here.

QA Mom.