Another Juicy Friday Memo

Aw, dude, you have GOT to start reading the Friday Memos. They are full of juicy, juicy tidbits. This week's edition is full of tap dancing lies and deceptions. It's wonderful.

It begins with the Superintendent's letter. Here we find Dr. Nyland's explanation and weird half-truth style apology for signing the Gates grant prior to Board approval.
"My early signature was obviously not appropriate policy or practice. I apologize. What I know now, but did not know then, is that we have a routing form for all contracts which require multiple signatures by different departments – ending with the superintendent. That did not occur in this case."
Artful use of passive voice. He apologized for the outcome without apologizing for the real failure: he doesn't know the policies - even though he should. He has seen them played out and he should have read them.

The memo from Ken Gotsch is devoid of critical information and chock-a-block with passive voice. He never mentions who sent Dr. Nyland the contract to sign or what Dr. Nyland did with it after he signed it. The memo contains no material information at all. The whole problem has been conveniently swept under the rug. It's a mystery!

He offers equally namby-pamby responses to other issues "Teaching and Learning did send a memo to schools asking them to do something during November to recognize Native Heritage month."

He did not offer any explanation for how Garfield could have higher enrollment than projected, have students on a waitlist, and still need to reduce staff due to low enrollment.

He doesn't do much better with the Lunch and Recess problem. He names all of the demands and limitations on schedules, but doesn't actually explain why all of the other demands are met and the need for lunch time was not met.

The Teaching and Learning update from Michael Tolley is a knee-slapper. He acknowledges that he doesn't do any program evaluation - that's why there are no program evaluations in the program evaluation report. But then he tries to blame it on the Board for not providing a budget for program evaluation. So it's the Board's fault that we have no program evaluations. This sounds good - right up until you remember that the Board doesn't write the budget. The superintendent and the staff write the budget, so the Board is blameless and the superintendent and the staff need to budget for program evaluation.

Funny enough, he uses Advanced Learning as an example. You remember Advanced Learning. Those are the programs that Ms Heath promised she would review annually - but has not.

He also provided an update on Special Education. He mentioned the appointment of Kari Hanson, as the new Director of School Based Special Education. I'm still trying to figure out what kind of Special Education there is other than school-based. Church-based? Park-based? Home-based?

Folks, you have just got to start reading these Friday memos to appreciate the staff's efforts to buffalo the Board.


Good Question said…
"He never mentions who sent Dr. Nyland the contract to sign or what Dr. Nyland did with it after he signed it'
Gates Gate said…
Nyland signed the contract before the contract was reviewed by Ronald Boy. Did Nyland have legal advice before signing a grant for $750K? If so, who provided legal advice.

"At this point, Grants Administration also received an unsigned copy of the Gates Foundation grant
agreement, for which grants staff began an approval routing form verifying that Kevin Corrigan
reviewed the draft grant agreement (on 10/6) and legal reviewed (Ronald Boy on 10/7)."
Greenwoody said…
Nyland is a sock puppet for the Gates Foundation, the Alliance for Education, and the other education reform suspects. Someone probably put the grant in front of him and told him to sign it. Which he did. But rather than try and root out the responsible party, he's just doing as he's told, saying that it was all just a small misunderstanding, nothing to see here.

There's no reason this guy should be made permanent superintendent.
I will have more to say about Nyland in a separate thread but on the subject of the Gates Foundation grant, I told him I understood that he was new but who was explaining policies to him? Shrug. Didn't someone notice that you should not have signed? Shrug.

You can't get more patronizing than "do something in November to recognize Native Heritage month."
Anonymous said…
I met Kari Hanson, the new Director of School Based Special Education. She has zero applicable special education experience.

She is to be in charge of SPS special educational services,but has no idea what they are.

You would think for $117K they could hire a top level special educational administrator from a national search.

SPS does not want outsiders getting a peek under the hood SPS only wants people they know they can control.

It was also interesting to hear Wyeth Jessee admit they are not going to make the June 30th deadline. Judging by the schedule provided to me my OSPI SPS is 2 months behind.

Anonymous said…

Where I land with all this? Dr. Nyland is a 'pass', as in, a 'no thank you, not for my kids' district'.

Yes, he made a mistake, and yes, people make mistakes. BUT, this was a huge mistake. Not following protocol for procurement or grants and contracting, that is beyond amateur hour. Especially for somebody in his senior position with his decades of experience.

But what really cinched him as MAJOR NOOOOOO is what he did after the mistake.

I tell my kids ALL THE TIME that it is NOT interesting to me that they made a mistake, I expect them to make mistakes, everyone does. It's how we learn, it shows we are going beyond our comfort zone. But, I tell them that what IS interesting to me is what they do after they realize they made a mistake. Do they take responsibility for it? Do they own it? Do they strive to understand what went wrong and make sure it won't happen again? Do they fix any damage that may have occurred because of their mistake?

Nyland? Nope. He failed my test.

I get the feeling he is looking for a few more years of high income to pad his retirement savings. Saying all the right things in the most innocuous ways, that's not the mark of a leader. Who is this guy? Just vanilla on a stick? Does anyone have a sense of his true leadership? What his vision is? And Fitector Peaslee and McClaren have their pants on fire to hire him permanently? WHY???? I don't think he should be hired at all. Just not seeing it. Feels liked he's going to do a bait and switch on us, on our kids. Hire me now, then I'll really show you who I am and what I believe.... no thanks.

Anonymous said…
OSPI sent me the RC-CAP dated 9/4/14

OSPI told me the plan needed FULL board approval. The signature page has all the board members signatures except for Harium Martin-Morris.

Doesn't look like FULL board approval to me.

Anonymous said…
Did anybody go to the "coffee chat" today and could you please provide a summary?

Lynn said…
It sounds like Melissa was there. Here's a short report from the West Seattle Blog
I was there and I'll have a write-up in the morning.
Wow said…
The West Seattle blog reports:

"(This is the first time we’ve heard the district back off the previously voiced plan to turn Schmitz Park into an “early learning center.”) The concerned parent meantime says the new boundary changes aren’t going to make anything better. “We’re trying a lot of things,” offers Dr. Nyland"

When was Schmitz Park going to be turned into an "early learning center???
Anonymous said…
When was the Schmitz Park supposed to be turned into a preschool farm? That has always been there plan, for several years. Just another one of their secret plans. That's idiotic.

Why is it idiotic? Because West Seattle has a grave capacity problem, there will be a predictable bottle neck of capacity at middle school and high school in a few short years. They will need that property to be either the new site of STEM k5 in a new building on that site as Denny moves to Boren and Stealth with its IB program takes over new Denny... etc etc

There is also a quasi-secret plan to turn the Decatur building at Thornton Creek, once those kids move into their new building on their site, into a preschool farm. But wait, isn't the District trying to land 4 ADDITIONAL portables at Laurelhursy?!? Yeah, giving away Decatur building - great idea. Not!

Again, Flip is giving away buildings to preschool when he can't even house all the k-12 kids? Why? Then he/they go after a downtown school? Wait-- they either have a capacity problem in the system or they don't. And if they do have a capacity problem, then DON'T give away buildings to the City for preschool..,. and if they don't have a capacity problem, then don't go after a downtown school, Oh wait, didn't they just turf a preschool -- a SPED preschool -- OUT of a district building (oh yeah, they did, The NW Center -- folks who did SpEd right and was most definetly a 'high quality' preschool).

FACMAC is being avoided by Flip. Any guess why? Maybe it is because they know these problems need to be addressed right now... It takes planning.,,,

Facilities ?Planning?
Anonymous said…
Michael, sounds like you think OSPI gives a rat's a$$ about sped in Seattle. It does not. Now that Gil's friends are out of the picture as far as collecting free federal IDEA funds, I'm sure everything will be hunky-dory in SPS from his perspective. He'll move on to squandering resources in other districts. Gil doesn't want anybody poking around his neck of the woods either. And if Harium MM didn't sign some paperwork, it is clearly just an oversight. Because, obviously, he is never going to stand up for anything.

David said…
Tolley essentially seems to be saying, You don't give me enough money for me to tell you if I'm spending your money well.

This obviously should be unacceptable to the Board, but they'll probably just let it go by like they always do. If the Board wants any of this to change, they're going to have to react to things like this.
mirmac1 said…
If Nyland didn't know about the routing form, his very able assistant did. Nothing gets to him, except through her. I don't believe his spin. Sounds like the 'splaination of the data breach.
Eric B said…
I received an interesting explanation for the grant failure the other day. The story goes like this:

Staff applied for the grant. It wasn't Gates money being airdropped from on high. SPS worked to get it.

SPS has higher standards for grants than other districts. According to the source, we treat grants like contracts (well, because they are in many cases because of the strings attached to grants), where other districts treat them as a straight up donation with little need for review.

As Marysville Superintendent, Nyland was used to getting large grants, often from the Tulalip tribe. The source talked about him getting a million dollar check in his office and then walking down the hall to drop it off in accounting and let the Board know.

Nyland didn't show up for work in Seattle until late August or early September due to other commitments, and the Gates grant showed up in his first few weeks on the job.

To some extent, this is a whitewash. I have trouble believing that a public official would think it was part of normal business to pick up a check with two commas on it and take it down the hall. It's great that the Tulalip tribe is able to give that kind of no-strings-attached money, but that's not the situation Seattle is in. Nyland should have checked on the procedures. That's part of learning a new system that a new leader should go through.

That said, I blame BMGF and staff far more for this than Nyland. Both knew that this was not SPS procedure. Staff in particular should have pulled the emergency brake immediately after Nyland signed the grant. The grant could easily have been "un-signed" and taken through the normal procedures. That would have been a straightforward whoopsie on the new job, and the whole mess need never have gotten this far. The fact that it didn't says far more about SPS upper management to me than Nyland.

I still want an open application process.
mirmac1 said…
How does Nyland's oopsie differ from that of the Exec Dir of SpEd, currently on leave?

Yes, Schmitz has been long-discussed as one of Murray/Burgess' PreK hubs. Herndon has never managed a facilities program before - and obviously he still doesn't.
Longhouse said…
"How does Nyland's oopsie differ from that of the Exec Dir of SpEd, currently on leave?"

That's what I've been thinking too. Nyland did exactly what Z. McWilliams did but on a much larger scale.

There's been no news and no movement on Z's status or in officially naming Jessee as her replacement. Why?

When you have a department in complete disarray and confusion wouldn't designating some poor fool to be in charge be the first thing you'd do?

Also, what's this "change of course" for Sped stuff Nyland talked about?

The only thing that makes sense to me is that the district fully expects the feds to take over Sped so they're not going to bother putting anybody in charge.

Eric B said…
Mirmac, that was exactly my question to McLaren. It really smells of rules for thee and not for me.
Anonymous said…
There is NO WAY SPS makes the June 30 SpEd C-CAP as Wyeth Jessee hinted at last night. It's interesting there was NO mentioned of the consulting agency hired?

We need to see all the emails and reports to date around the C-CAP, who wants request the data?

I'm juggling multiple law suits and don't want to take on more work.

Anonymous said…
Aiyiyi - every time I think SPS can't possible seem more dysfunctional they out do themselves. Why the bleep doesn't someone replace Mr.Tolley??? He has proven himself useless on so many occasions and this whole whiny "I'd evaluate but I think I need money to do it" bleep! Bleep I say!!!

I worked for a small state agency once upon a time and we did this kind of thing all the time ourselves - there was no "program evaluator" position, nor money to do so but it happened. This is about will, not finances.

And Dr. Nyland - I totally agree that he's out to get more $$ in his pension if nothing else. Everyday he seems more of an empty suit than a truly working Supt. Oh how I wish they would find someone who knows how to take charge and clean house. If I were queen of the world, I'd tell SPS admin that from now on, anything that doesn't DIRECTLY help the classroom is over. Thats it, that's all we are doing and everything (and everyone) else is off the table.


Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Po3 said…
Eric B. That explanation sounds very plausible to me...except for one thing. Nyland has also, in his very short tenure, been on tour with the Mayor touting PreK. He's embedded too deep too fast with these folks and has given us a pretty clear picture of how he will shape the district, if given a chance.
Yuck said…
"When was the Schmitz Park supposed to be turned into a preschool farm"

One may or maynot believe that there is an intention to use entire school buildings for prek. The intention to use a preschool may be 100% correct.

One thing is for certain: Charter schools (!) want entire buildings. The Gates grant is not entirely clear.
Oy said…

"To some extent, this is a whitewash. I have trouble believing that a public official would think it was part of normal business to pick up a check with two commas on it and take it down the hall."

I am afraid I have to agree. The question remains: Did Nyland receive legal advice before signing a check for $750K? We all know that strings are attached.

I am having a hard time believing this was a simple mistake.

When Nyland was hired...he claimed that he would consider charter schools because they are being provided for low income children. It appears that the city wants ENTIRE buildings for their prek.

I would like the district to have superintendent continuity, but more questions need to be answered and I'm not buying Nyland's story.
Greenwoody said…
Yuck and Oy have this right: the City's Pre-K program is in part designed to help facilitate the entry of charter schools into Seattle. Several key SPS leaders and board members are colluding with this plan, despite the board's opposition to charter schools. This is one major reason why Nyland can't be hired on as the permanent superintendent, and why Peaslee/McLaren's willingness to back him is so disappointing.
Oy said…
My nagging thought: Nyland will be the guy that brings charter schools into Seattle via Gates dollars and the city's prek program.

We can't forget that the city's prek program was funded at $1.2M and by the same individuals that funded the charter school initiative.

Truthfulness and trust go a long way.
Eric B said…
Michael, that does put a different spin on the McWilliams situation. Is that information out in the public domain anywhere?
Sigh said…
Does Nyland have a consulting business? Does Nyland train superintendents? Wouldn't he have known that different school districts have different policies regarding checks valued at nearly $1M?

Do I have misinformation?
Sigh said…
Nyland's consulting business:

"Since retiring from the Marysville School District, Dr. Nyland has spent the past year as a leadership coach, work that he has done through most of his career. This past year he has been in more than 100 classrooms working with 40 districts in the areas of superintendent evaluation training, superintendent coaching, student assessment consulting and as a leadership coach for principal evaluations. In fall of 2013, he worked with the Seattle School Board to facilitate a meeting on the superintendent evaluation process."

Nyland is in the business of coaching superintendents. Are we to believe Nyland's story?
mirmac1 said…
Here are SPS Start of School Procedures, including how student counts are developed:
Charlie Mas said…
The excuse "I was new when I signed the contract; I didn't know the rules." is false. We know it is false because Dr. Nyland, at his very first Board meeting on August 20, saw the Board approve the Highly Capable Student Program grant application. Check the Board Action Report for it. His name is on it and it includes this statement:

"Further, Board Policy No. 6114 requires approval of the Board for grants over $250,000."

He should have read the district's policies when he took the job. As superintendent he has a duty to know and follow them. But still, even if he failed to read them (has anyone asked him about that?), he had to be aware of this policy because he saw it in action at his very first Board meeting.

He's either an idiot or a liar. Either way we should seriously question his qualifications as superintendent.
Two things:

1)Michael, you may noticed your comment deleted. That's because you made accusations w/o a disclaimer that it's your opinion (I believe, I've heard). Because I'm not printing heresay without a disclaimer or proof. Please everyone, do not do this.

2) A lot of these comments are lining up with what I saw last night and believe is happening re; Dr. Nyland.

I'll put it all together in my thread on the Coffee Chat but I do not believe he is the person to lead our district. If chosen, you will see the district take a sharp turn to ed reform and it will be one that we will not easily recover from.
Longhouse said…
I think you're right Melissa. Nyland tipped his hand with this one.

It's not surprising that the ed. reformers/Gates Foundation are relentless. I never expected McLaren to side with them.
Anonymous said…
I have the emails via public information request that I made back in August after the TIERS meeting.

I believe others also have seen these emails. I passed them on to OSPI, DOE and DOJ. These emails were material to McWilliams being placed on leave.

I was willing to let it lie, but if people or the district are going to defend her actions I will have to remind them of the severity of her actions.

KOMO 4 wants to see the emails for the SpEd story they are working on, so you might have to wait until then.

Anonymous said…
Thanks "sigh" - that is interesting. I'd forgotten he was supposedly a trainer of Superintendents. That raises even more questions in my mind. I really really really want to know who is pulling Peaslee's strings on this one.

Hello Denmark? Something's rotten

Po3 said…
Knowing who brought his name forward for consideration for interim super would provide a lot of clarity.
this stinks said…
Peaslee is rushing this because she won't be President after this meeting
Anonymous said…
Considering the current state of SPS SpEd and the mess Nyland left Marysville SD SpEd in, Nyland is the WRONG person for the job.

Nyland signed the RC-CAP documents on 9/4/14 and SPS is currently months behind according to the update presented at the Sped PTSA meeting. Looks like Nyland couldn't care less about SpEd.

Nyland isn't a student first person.

This Stinks, maybe, I don't know.

Yes, Michael, is right; Nyland's record in Marysville is not all that it seems.

Anonymous said…
Can I have a list of all the organizations you work for so I can use limited information to make inflammatory assumptions, declare you unfit, assume the worst motivation on your part and not at any point make a constructive criticism or suggestion?

The vast majority of comments in this blog are finger pointing, heads need to roll type of comments. I see a tremendous amount of behaviors, assumptions and ill-will toward others you would probably criticize your children for.

I encourage you to use your energy to look for constructive solutions WITH not against the people in these organizations.

Mark - an Organizational Development Professional
Anonymous said…
+1 to Mark's comment above.

While there is outstanding content on this blog, many of the discussions devolve into pure-paranoia.

Anonymous said…
@ Mark

I'm basing my criticism on Nylands history at MSD around Sped problems. Nyland's approved SPS SPED RC-CAP being months behind schedule. Nyalnds failure to place any blame on SPS legal dept for the data breach. Nylans premature boasting of SPED moving from level 4 to level 3 determination by OSPI without any understanding that the change was due to falsified compliance with citizen complaints corrective action and SPS will soon be back at level 4.

It that good enough for you?

Mark, you are probably new here.

Charlie and I have worked very hard for a very long time with various district staffs and superintendents and Board members. We have many solutions and suggestions, most of which are ignored.

The constructive critique that the overwhelming majority have? Lack of transparency and communication and this situation has that in spades.

People who are in public service can have their work criticized. We work very hard here at NO name calling, no swearing - make it about the job performance, not the person. That said, the superintendent is a public figure and it's worth considering how he comes across.

I do want my children to question and pushback and offer help. I've never done anything I wouldn't have said to my children.

FYI, we only allow one/two word names per our printed policy.
Anonymous said…
@ Mark said...

I encourage you to use your energy to look for constructive solutions WITH not against the people in these organizations."

Mark you have got to be kidding? Really? You don't think people have tried? Do you think OSPI and DOE are here because people haven't tried to work with SPS?

You would think while you are under a federal audits one would be smart enough to stop the behaviors which got you in trouble, right? Not SPS they have generated the most Citizen Complaints in the history of the district while under the audit. These are mostly repeat offenses some at the same schools that had the same type of complaint in 2013.

Anonymous said…
The problem with your statement (and I'm not saying it isn't partly true) is that "working with" is a 2-way street. It only actually "works" if the other party is equally willing to come to the table and discuss/listen/communicate.

The issue here is communication. The District seems to think the less it communicates the better. Why should those pesky parents and voters know whats happening and why? Why should the people who pay for the District's obligations be given the necessary data to make informed decisions?

That is what you see behind the utter frustration many are expressing. The decision to appt a Superintendent is THE most important job the Board has. THE MOST IMPORTANT!! And yet, they have chosen to play games about it. How can that not give rise to massive questions of why?

While I personally do not think Dr. Nyland is the right person, at the very heart of this whole situation is this question: "What is real reason to hurry and appoint?" There has been no adequate explanation of that, and I do believe the customers of SPS are at least owed that small courtesy.

Anonymous said…
My sudden interest in this has to do with being a soon to be parent. I also believe in collaboration over professionally destroying people. Also, for close to 100% people I have worked with over the years, their motivations are good.

If I was to base my entire opinion of SPS on the comments of this blog I could determine that EVERY person at SPS is not a person I would want to ever meet.

It is not possible (statistically) for there to be that many bad people in one place outside a prison. However, that is the perception this blog presents to the outside world.


You stated "People who are in public service can have their work criticized."

I agree with you. The point I am trying to make is when does the negative criticism stop? When do the critics roll up their sleeves beside those they are critical of?

@Michael - you seem to know a lot about the inner workings and you also seem to understand what motivates the people at SPS. Am I assuming correctly that you meet with SPS staff on a regular basis? I ask because as a person who coaches young project managers, it takes me a while to understand what motivates people to do things. You seem to know these people well enough to speak to their motivation.


you stated Mark you have got to be kidding? Really? You don't think people have tried? Do you think OSPI and DOE are here because people haven't tried to work with SPS?

Are you still trying? Is the tenor of your communication while trying to work together the same as this?

Mark you have got to be kidding? Really? You don't think people have tried?

Statements like this typically tell me the speaker has made their mind up and are not open to other ideas.

You also stated that "People have tried" Have you tried?


The problem with your statement (and I'm not saying it isn't partly true) is that "working with" is a 2-way street. It only actually "works" if the other party is equally willing to come to the table and discuss/listen/communicate.

When I have to help people communicate I often here this statement from both sides. Each side is waiting for the other one to communicate first. There is also typically the assumption that the other party is "holding back information" Most times, not all, but most, the people were talking past each other. And the most critical portion of communicating LISTENING was not happening.

In this case, I typically teach active listening skills to the project managers and the communication issues go away.

Anonymous said…
@ Mark

For someone who professes great project management mentoring skills. You wouldn't recommend to your students to speak before fully understanding the project and it's history, right? I would suggest you step back and do your own research on SPS. Then come back and it might be possible to have a productive conversation with you.

Anonymous said…
I would really appreciate if you could you please explain what do you mean by active listening between the Board and the Community in this special case of hiring the temporary Supe permanently in less than a week? I am really
Mark, you are talking to some of the most active parents in the district at this blog. We are not the ones to direct your ire at. I have rolled up my sleeves so many times, I have no sleeves left.

It might be good if you offered consulting services to the district because, overall, they need the help in listening. IN fact, Nyland wants to have a 100-day communication plan. There you go.

Yes, Mark seems to be ignoring the obvious situation before us.
Watching said…
Mark states:

"I agree with you. The point I am trying to make is when does the negative criticism stop? When do the critics roll up their sleeves beside those they are critical of?"

Clearly, you have no idea that the individuals on this blog have done an enormous amount of work in our schools and community.

I'm curious. There was an attempt to ram through the hiring of the superintendent over the holiday weekend. What are your thoughts on this issue?
Charlie Mas said…
I have often heard Mark's complaint:
"Why don't you apply that knowledge and energy in cooperating with the District?"

The people who ask that question hear that I'm complaining, but they aren't really listening to the complaint. The complaint is that the District refuses to work collaboratively. So how, exactly, am I supposed to collaborate with an institution that refuses to collaborate? Perhaps I could work with them to find new and more efficient ways to shut me out?

Oh! I know! I could volunteer to serve on one of the District Task Forces or Advisory Committees!
I have. So has Melissa. We have served on lots of them. That's how we know, first hand, that the District uses Task Forces to delay response to community concerns and to deflect criticism, not as a source of ideas for action. The District has a long and uninterrupted history of refusing to implement task force recommendations.
Anonymous said…
@ Mark
You said "My sudden interest in this has to do with being a soon to be parent. I also believe in collaboration over professionally destroying people. Also, for close to 100% people I have worked with over the years, their motivations are good."

Like you, I'm a full time working mother with a high level professional career. I have been successful because I believe in collaboration, alignment and working with not against. But, I am already a parent in the SPS community. When you get here as a parent and realize how many decisions are being poorly made, with no collaboration, no interest in the end customer (kids and parents) and how truly dysfunctional SPS is, you might understand a bit more why parents are so upset. I realized, sadly, very early on that SPS does not work like business where people are held accountable for not doing their jobs. It was pretty eye opening to me and it will be to you as well, especially with your background. There are very few levers that parents can use to make their voices heard. I am grateful that we have this blog because there is very little communication that does come from SPS and very little accountability within SPS. When you have been in the parent community long enough, you too will start to understand why nobody cuts SPS much slack. Yeah, there's some handwaving...but I encourage you to use your organization management techniques and also try to stay positive as you join the parent community in a few years. Then you can appreciate why the folks before you were concerned about Board vs staff accountability, leadership and strategic direction, lunch and recess, bell times, transportation, Sped issues, capacity, program development/delivery/evaluation, educational standards, curriculum development, data sharing to name a few. These issues WILL impact your family in ways you can't begin to understand. Welcome to the good fight!
-Already Here
Already Here, thank you for that input and positive attitude.

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