Seattle Schools Parents have a friend in Danny Westneat

And why not? He's a long-suffering SPS parent as well.

In this particular column, Westneat asks some hard questions in his usual gentle manner.   He's writing about the Mayor's upcoming Education Summit and how the Mayor seems to be figuring out what he might think needs to be done for/to Seattle Schools.
It’s dicey politically because the mayor has zero authority over the schools. Still, I give him credit for using his bully pulpit to make the schools such a citywide priority.
At the first meeting, a facilitator presented some rules, or “norms,” for the group. Here’s the first one:
“Norm 1: Meetings will be closed to the public and press. Mayor wants a robust conversation where people can speak freely and question one another.”
You can go to to a series of community conversations and then a summit on April 30 and tell them what you hope they’ll do. But when they get down to the nitty-gritty, you can’t even listen in.
Says one of the group’s co-chairs, Ron Sims: “We were told the mayor likes to have them closed, and that his housing committee did it that way.”
Sure, that one went off without a hitch.
There was also this:

Sims, the former King County executive, said the advisory group is new and has no set agenda yet. But he said the mayor definitely is not trying to take over the schools.

“The whole issue of governance [of who runs the schools] is off the table,” Sims said. 

That's news to me because at the December holiday party for the 43rd Dems, he told me it was a "moral imperative" for him to do something about the opportunity gap including governance.   And I'm not the only one to have heard him say this.  I'd like to take Sims at his word but I don't know.

I also note this committee has a decided lack of educators (and the district had to ask to even get the Superintendent and Board President Patu on the committee.)

He ends this way and I'm sure there are plenty of parents who would echo his thoughts.
I’ve got two kids in Seattle schools, and I’ve grown a little weary of them being used as guinea pigs for one reform experiment or another. So I don’t think it’s too much to ask that parents at least be allowed to monitor the discussions about our schools. 
That’s the thing: They’re our schools. Norm 1 for this group might as well say: “Meetings will be closed to the owners of the schools, and the press.”


Anonymous said…
Only the rich elites - politicians, business owners, heads of (supposed) non-profits - know what is best for the children and families of Seattle. They are the only ones qualified to talk about public schools and make decisions about public schools even though many of rhem have never set foot in a public school, let alone volunteered or taught in a public school. Teachers, parents, students - you just don't know what is best for you.
Isn't that right, Mr. Mayor? I'm pretty sure that is the message you are trying to get across.

Anonymous said…
CT, in addition to the "elites," the mayor's advisory group includes:

Seattle Superintendent Larry Nyland
Seattle School Board President Betty Patu
Cassandra Johnston, Seattle Council PTSA
Fern Renville and youth representatives, Red Eagle Soaring
Jennifer Mims, Parent
Kaaren Andrews, Principal, Interagency Academy
Phyllis Campano, Seattle Education Association
Dwane Chappelle, Seattle Department of Education and Early Learning (former RBHS principal)
Kristin Bailey-Fogarty, teacher at Eckstein Middle School

Clearly could have some more parents and students. But K-12 educators are definitely represented. And your inference regarding "(supposed) non-profits" is seriously misplaced. There are a number of people on this advisory from non-profits who are you engaged actively and significantly with people in need. Your inference insults them and the people/populations they serve.

--- aka
aka, I see only two people representing the tens of thousands of parents in this city - the very people who ought to be leading.

This whole process is entirely inappropriate. We won't get better schools by having a bunch of corporate elites meeting in a secret room making decisions, with only a handful of people present who actually know anything about education.

Anything this committee proposes will lack credibility, as long as it remains secret and unrepresentative.
Anonymous said…
aka swk - not all of those were on the original list. Some were added later after blowback for not having enough representation from SPS and its stakeholders. Even then, some of those now on there were chosen not because they represent parents, teachers, and students, but because their input will be what the elites want to hear. If the mayor was truly interested in helping public schools, he would have sought more teacher/parent/student input, and not from the usual suspects. But he's not interested, not really. We saw that when he was in the state legislature, and not much has changed now.
As for non-profits - lets see - College Board is a nonprofit, raking in the dough, as are many other ed deform orgs that all claim to be doing things to benefit students. Non-profit doesn't have the same meaning that it once did - nowadays it's mostly a classification to try to avoid some taxes and because saying you work for or run a nonprofit sounds better than saying you work in/for a for-profit education deform corp. Those corporate orgs hiding under the banner of non-profit are the ones that negate the good work many true nonprofit orgs do.

Anonymous said…
Robert, I agree unreservedly with you on the lack of parent representation/input. As for the process, I can see both sides. But after the HALA debacle, the decision to host secret meetings of the advisory appears at minimum tone deaf.

--- aka
Anonymous said…
CT, your response reeks of conjecture and innuendo in regard to our local non-profits.

--- aka
Anonymous said…
No need for conjecture and innuendo, simply follow the money....or the ideology.

We've got (supposed) non-profit veterans groups

We've got (supposed) non-profit colleges

And then there's the corporate overlords who want to remake public education in the Walmart image via their (supposed) "local" nonprofit groups.

Not to mention the new favorite non-profit money maker - charter schools.

And how many non-profits has Campbell Brown started up in her quest to "save" public schools from evil union teachers, even though she and her children have only ever attended private schools?

As I said before, there are some good nonprofits - I previously worked for one - but the water is tainted. Just because an org is non-profit, doesn't mean their motives and work are lily-white, and as funders change, sometimes the org does too, taking on the ideology of their new corporate masters. (See Stand For Children as a prime example of that - originally a parent created advocacy group, co-opted by others and now is the corporate-funded anti-public schools/teachers Stand On Children.)
Wasn't it the great GOP savior, Reagan who said "trust but verify?" Non-profits are not above scrutiny or questioning, especially when their funders push a particular ideology.

Anonymous said…
@ aka, how many of those K-12 "educators" you mentioned are teachers?

Anonymous said…
EE, I don't know. Why don't you look it up like I did? I'm not involved in the summit/advisory in any way. I'm not a member. I don't work for the city. I'm not defending the summit, the advisory, or the mayor. CT said it's all "elites" and I got curious and I went and looked things up. I saw a long list of people on the advisory and a number of them were educators with a few parents and some kids.

If you have questions about the summit, please feel free to contact the mayor's office.

--- aka
Anonymous said…
I think the point is that there does not appear to be any practical way to form a cohesive vision for education in this city. I'm not so worried about "representation" of various interests, but it is important that all the interests and authorities not work at cross purposes. I would want a school board member involved, for example, who was committed to following up any recommendations with policy that could make it happen.

The mess going on right now in Loyal Heights is a perfect case in point. Where did the notion of a 660 elementary model come from anyway? Not school board policy, that's for sure. It came from a couple of out-of-Seattle consultants spurred on by a skin-flint board enamoured with the hiring of a superintendent from California who knew nothing of the history or future of Seattle's neighborhoods. There was no theory of instruction for that model -- is it supposed to be four classes of 26 at each grade level plus a few self-contained Special Ed kids thrown in for good measure? Should an elementary school that size have a counselor (the Ed Specs designed for equity by said consultants do not include a counseling office, however)? How would a change in class size (up or down, depending on the fortunes or whims of the Legislatures of the future) affect a school built with a large core but small classrooms? Are the gyms and child care spaces community centers whose cost should be shared by the city or are they redundant?

So, I just want there to be some practical coordination. I don't see anyone on this panel who could speak to how a 660 elementary school actually works (because, except for Cascadia, which isn't a neighborhood school, we haven't had one in Seattle in almost 50 years). I don't see anyone who could speak to real program pathways to work K-12 for kids.

There's plenty of work to be done, but until the mayor and the superintendent to-host this summit with a strong mandate from the school board and city council to make some bold shared decisions, I don't see anything productive coming from this "summit."

cmj said…
CT said
As I said before, there are some good nonprofits - I previously worked for one - but the water is tainted. Just because an org is non-profit, doesn't mean their motives and work are lily-white, and as funders change, sometimes the org does too, taking on the ideology of their new corporate masters. (See Stand For Children as a prime example of that - originally a parent created advocacy group, co-opted by others and now is the corporate-funded anti-public schools/teachers Stand On Children.)
Wasn't it the great GOP savior, Reagan who said "trust but verify?" Non-profits are not above scrutiny or questioning, especially when their funders push a particular ideology.

Yes, non-profits are not above scrutiny, but please explain why all the non-profits on the mayor's education committee are not operating with good intentions.
seattle citizen said…
The only actual teacher on the list is the co-founder of the Gates-funded, anti-union Teachers United, Kristin Bailey-Fogarty. Hmmmm....No other teachers. Just a Teachers United teacher. Hmmmm....
She's a co-chair of the upcoming summit.

Here's the entire list of advisory committee members:

Seattle Superintendent Larry Nyland

Seattle School Board President Betty Patu

City Council President Bruce Harrell

Cassandra Johnston, Seattle Council PTSA

David Beard, School’s Out Washington

Ed Taylor, Vice Provost, University of Washington

Erin Kahn, Raikes Foundation

Erin Okuno, Southeast Seattle Education Coalition

Estela Ortega, El Centro de la Raza

Fern Renville and Native Youth from Red Eagle Soaring

Howard Frumkin, University of Washington School of Public Health

James Smith, The Breakfast Group

Janis Avery, Treehouse

Jennifer Mims, Parent

Kaaren Andrews, Principal, Interagency Academy

Kent Koth, Seattle University Center for Community Engagement

Maud Daudon, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce

Omar Vasquez, Davis Wright Tremaine

Pamela Banks, Urban League

Phyllis Campano, Seattle Education Association

Roxana Nourozi, OneAmerica

Saadia Hamid, Seattle Housing Authority

Yolanda Watson Spiva, College Success Foundation

Dwane Chappelle, Seattle Department of Education and Early Learning

See more at:
Anonymous said…
Isn't Nathan Bowling-Gibbs a member of Teachers United? And isn't he also a member of WEA? And didn't he give a well-received speech at the WEA Rep Assembly this weekend?

Are you sure TU is anti-union?

--- aka
Anonymous said…
Meant Gibb-Bowling...

--- aka
Anonymous said…
Typo. Typo. Typo.

--- aka
Anonymous said…
the Raikes foundation, along with Gates and Ballmer, donated heavily to Dale Etsey's unsuccessful school board campaign. Raikes Foundation, along with Gates and Bezos and Seattle Foundation, funded the $4000 per hire TFA fee. Part of the Ed Reform establishment. Two people, at least, have kids who have never attended SPS, though they live in Seattle. Others have never participated in SPS because they have no children. These folks weren't able to buy elections or drive the TFA/anti-Union/Ed reform agenda so they'll just try an end run around the district. So nice that they care so much. Not.

seattle citizen said…
aka - Don't know about Mr. Gibb-Bowling. Yeah, I'm pretty sure TU is anti-union.
Anonymous said…
PW, 501c3 non-profit organizations like the Raikes Foundation are prohibited from donating to political campaigns. Are you sure that they donated to Dale Etsey? That's quite a serious claim that you make. Do you have proof of this?

--- aka
Anonymous said…
seattle citizen, Nathan Gibbs-Bowling is our current state teacher of the year. He's a teacher in the Tacoma School District. He is president of TU and I'm very sure he's not anti-union. As I said, he was very well-received at the RA this weekend.

--- aka
seattle citizen said…
I haven't kept up on TU lately, I just remember when they started they seemed pretty anti-union.
Not much on their webpage, but they crow about being in favor of using test scores as part of teacher eval and being pro-charter.
Anonymous said…
Phyllis Compano is a teacher.

seattle citizen said…
Oh, yeah! Yay! Missed her. So TWO teachers, one SEA and one TU....
Anonymous said…
Sorry - Jeff Raikes himself donated - from Seattle Weekly Oct 2013

Skeptical? Down-ballot school board races don’t normally command a lot of attention. But consider this: Dale Estey’s contributors include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Jeff Raikes, head of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Prominent real-estate developer Matt Griffin, venture capitalist Nick Hanauer and others have also poured roughly $96,000 so far into a PAC that supports Dale Estey and Stephen Blanford (the leading candidate in another, nominally contested race). That’s in addition to the roughly $104,000 in Dale Estey’s own campaign fund to date, which dwarfs Peters’ $28,000.

Anonymous said…
I don't think anyone who regularly comments here could come to an agreement on membership of this thing - there's plus & minuses on both sides of the equation. For me, primarily, the real issue is the mandate for secrecy. This hasn't worked so well in the past (HALA) and is already not working well for this advisory Board. Not to mention that Mr. Murray would seem to have a number of burning, unsolved issues on his plate that remain unresolved - the homeless emergency, development backlash, traffic issues, the potential problems with Bertha, Pronto bikes etc etc etc. Perhaps he could leave education to the educators and work on these things first??

Plus he had years and years in the Legislature to work toward fully funding public schools and doesn't seem to have been terribly outspoken on that issue - its hard to not see this tactic of secrecy as a really really bad idea...time will tell I guess.

It's worth contrasting this secretive, closed, and unrepresentative process with the Youth and Families Initiative that then-Mayor Mike McGinn launched six years ago. More than 2,500 people, mostly parents, met in 130 community meetings, all open to the public, to give their opinions on ways the City of Seattle could help improve education and other conditions for kids. You can see some of those recommendations here (there's a more complete list that I can't find offhand).

It's a bunch of common sense stuff, from more family support workers (Ed Murray and DEEL are currently cutting them) to better funded community centers and improving cultural competency of government staff.

Rather than yet another set of meetings, and a secretive process that the public rightly doesn't trust, why doesn't the mayor, the City Council, and DEEL simply dust off the list of things the community told the City in 2010-11 they wanted funded and just pay for those things?

Oh, I know why: because parents then, just like parents now, didn't say they wanted a mayoral takeover of our schools. They didn't say they wanted big corporations telling us how our schools will teach kids. They didn't want to base it all on test scores.
Charlie Mas said…
School reforms can't happen without buy-in from teachers and families. You can't get buy-in if you don't allow people to invest in the decision.
Anonymous said…
Thank you Seattle Citizen! My short term memory is so bad I can't remember where I put my reading glasses, but the name Kristin Bailey-Fogarty rang some dusty bells - I searched this blog and she testified for TFA. The only remotely reassuring name on this committee is Betty Patu. Wonder why they didn't pick Blanford, lol.

Chris S.
Jet City mom said…
It concerns me that I don't see anyone representing the needs of students with 504s & IEPs.
But not surprised.
Anonymous said…
Again. Phyllis Campano is a special education teacher.

Unknown said…

I'm going to set aside the issues of 1) whether the mayor has any business doing this, and 2) whether the Mayor should be doing this in the closed door way that he is doing. Those are all huge issues.

Moving on to the whole special education issues, I have great respect for Phyllis Compano, but most law respects that parents of special education students are representative of the interest of special education students, not teachers or administrators. At times, parents and school personnel are clear adversaries, and the law recognizes that. Phyllis is a special education teacher, and she probably knows a lot about special education, but she is probably on this panel to represent the SEA. The way that you can tell that federal law recognizes the input of special education parents is that input of parents must be obtained at an IEP meeting in order to have a valid IEP. Additionally, all states are required by the federal governments to have panels which oversee the provision of special education in each state. By federal law, 51% of the composition of these panels must be persons who qualify as parents of a student who receives special education in the state.

Moving on to equity and excellence, it's super-interesting to me that in all the power points I have watched about equity, the first illustration that gets thrown up on the screen is the one where there is a tall kid, a medium-sized kid and a short kid, and they are all standing on their own crate presumably so they can see over a fence to see a baseball game. In the first illustration, both the tall and medium -sized kid can see over the fence and the shorter kid can't. This is supposed to illustrate equality. Equity is supposed to be illustrated by redistributing the crates so that the shorter kid has two, the taller kid has none and they can then all see over the fence.

So it's kind of disturbing to me that in this discussion about equity, we see representatives who presumably have been chosen to represent some racialized groupings as well as homeless, low-income, foster care, etc, but really no one who does represent the interests of students with special education, the kids who HAVE BEEN IDENTIFIED BY SEATTLE PUBLIC SCHOOLS AS NEEDING TWO BOXES TO SEE OVER THE FENCE.

For all those people who think we have given those kids all the boxes they need, statistics would prove otherwise. I am all about "outcomes that matter." Here's some outcomes that matter: graduation statistics.

Seattle Public Schools 4-year Adjusted Graduation Rates (numbers in parentheses represents students who started in grade 9 in Washington State):

All students (3111) 76.7
White (1302) 85.4
Asian (626) 88.6
American Indian/Alaska Native (37) 53.1
Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (23) 78.3
Black (565) 65.7
Hispanic (385) 57.9
2 or more races (173) 72.7
Limited English (254) 54.7
Low Income (1539) 66.6
Migrant (45) 52.8
504 Plans (186) 75.6
Homeless (213) 47.4
Special Education (423) 57.2

Students who receive special education services in Seattle represesent 13% of students, and presumably far more of the students who drop out and don't graduate. If the mayor is truly serious about looking at the kids who don't graduate, probably 25% or more of this commission should be representative of that issue. In a panel of 24 persons, that would be 6 persons. If we include Phyliss, that would be 5.

I, for one, think Murray should include more 1. parents of students who are Hispanic, 2. parents of students with limited English and 3. parents of students who have disabilities, as these groups are large in number as well as have graduate rates below 60%. I would also like to see someone from Open Doors for Multicultural Families, as well as the ARC of King County, maybe the OEO and Team Child. Those are just some suggestions. It isn't enough to put people on the committee who know about kids who do graduate, they need to put more on the committee who know more about the kids who don't graduate.
Anonymous said…
Thank you Mary G. for your post.

SPED Parent
Anonymous said…
Right on Mary. I just mentioned that Phyllis Compano is a voice, aware of at least some special education issues, because she is (or was) a special ed teacher. That said, she clearly has a skewed position. During the last round of union negotiations, she sold out many students with disabilities who will receive worse teacher ratios.... but improved the teaching staffing ratios for the students in the most regressive and restrictive forms of special ed, namely, the one type of class she teaches. This decision drives students to highly restrictive classrooms to chase staffing, not because they need it. It also drives up costs. More expensive and lower quality. Not what families want, nor what the district needs.

Outsider said…
Is there any theory or explanation about how the mayor expects to gain politically from this advisory group process? Explanations might be:

1) it's a mid-term sort of thing designed to suck up to some moneybags, and be long forgotten before the next election. As such, it's not really expected to produce anything.

2) it's designed to appeal to some significant segment of voters. In which case, which voters? If there is a built-in slant toward corporate ed reform and charter schools, which Seattle voter segment is both pleased and large enough to matter?

3) it's designed to propel the mayor to his next thing; he has no interest in re-election.
Greenwoody said…
4) It's designed to produce sufficient buy-in from certain "stakeholders" for a corporate-friendly agenda that involves a city takeover of SPS in order to push charter schools, teaching to the test, and other extremely damaging and unwanted "reforms." By putting together this group, Murray expects to get sufficient support to neutralize organizations that might be opposed and steamroll the mass resistance that will come from parents and community leaders to this attack on our schools.

In other words, he's extremely serious about it, and sees this committee as a kind of Death Star that can intimidate or obliterate opposition to his plans.
Outsider said…
Greenwoody -- you still didn't explain -- if the city takeover steamroll and subsequent reforms are extremely damaging and unwanted, how do they get the mayor re-elected? Either there must be public support for a city takeover, or your theory is just a variant of (3).
Outsider, what does the Mayor gain? The problems of taking on Seattle schools. Many, many pols always think they can do better and yet, don't. (The Mayor should chat up Rahm Emanuel in Chicago. Or, he could dial up Bill Gates and ask how Gates - with his billions - is doing with public ed. Not too many tallies in the win column for him, either.)

I think Ms. Andrews and Mr. Chappelle were both teachers.

My issue is seeing many of the same names over and over.

Greenwoody is right about laying the groundwork for a takeover and, with respect to Mr. Sims' remark, I do NOT believe for one minute that governance is not on the table. Someone on that committee will put it on the table.

But Westneat is right; this committee's meetings should be streamed live or people should be able to quietly listen.

I am reminded of when some people were angered when the Board's Closure and Consolidation committee had our final decision meetings be closed to the public. Here's the difference:

- Our meetings were two 12-hour meetings and we worried that people would wander in and out and take things said out of context. The Mayor's group will probably meet for 1-2 hours per meeting.
- Our meetings were for recommendations on decisions the Superintendent had to make. This committee is just making recommendations on possibilities and not actual recommendations (I would hope.)
Greenwoody said…
Outsider, I agree with you here. But let's consider the view from the 7th floor of City Hall. Ed Murray is a popular mayor who has racked up some big policy wins in his first two years, though not without contention. He and his allies, especially the big businesses, are used to seeing government as a blunt instrument to get what they want. They are convinced they can just ram this through by buying off some potential opponents, getting others to stay netural, and attacking and steamrolling those who refuse to surrender. They are flush with power and loaded with money, and convinced they can withstand the backlash.

After all, look at their unfolding strategy to justify this committee's work. They're going to say that whatever crazy stuff they propose is justified by the very real racial equity problems our city faces, including in our schools. Even though pretty much every policy they will propose has been proven to actually make racial inequity worse, they're going to just hope we all ignore those inconvenient truths. They will attack any opposition as being privileged white liberals who don't care about racial justice or about ensuring kids of color get a good education.

Such an attack will be extremely offensive and profoundly divisive, in addition to being just plain wrong. But it's their best shot, and it's going to be powerful.

In the end, however, they're too late. The movement to stop corporate education policies has already reached critical mass, both in Seattle and nationwide. We have more than enough evidence to prove them wrong and numerous models of successful resistance to draw upon to show that, in fact, the coalition to actually address racial inequities is the coalition that stands against these corporate education policies.

So in the end you're right, Outsider, that Ed Murray is putting his mayoralty on the line here. But he probably doesn't see it that way. He's too deep inside the bubble now, too convinced of his own infallibility to see how badly this is going to be received by the public - and how effective the opposition will be.
"So in the end you're right, Outsider, that Ed Murray is putting his mayoralty on the line here. But he probably doesn't see it that way. He's too deep inside the bubble now, too convinced of his own infallibility to see how badly this is going to be received by the public - and how effective the opposition will be."

Anonymous said…
Well said, Greenwoody! My nit to pick: is Murray really a "popular" mayor? I don't get out much, so I don't know. He was elected with the overwhelming support of the POTB by a comfortable but not landslide margin over an incumbent who was unusual even by Seattle standards, and who had himself been elected over the opposition of the POTB and governed with the relentless opposition of the Seattle Times and the POTB representatives on the City Council.

Murray's gay identity gives him an inherent sympathy boost with Seattle liberal super-majority, but has he actually governed in a way that is that appealing to the average person?

If he wanted to be mayor for a long time and benefit the city, I'm sure he could keep his head down, do a competent job, and get re-elected. Stirring the pot like this makes me think Outsider's choice #3 is the real plan. Becoming HRC's Arne Duncan or Ron Brown (BJC's Sec. of Commerce) seems like the goal.

-Scrawny Kayaker
Anonymous said…
Or rather Under-Secretary or something at that level would seem like a more realistic jump.
Anonymous said…
As a volunteer at Eckstein, I spent time in many classrooms. Kristin Bailey is truly a stellar teacher. She cares about connecting with all students, engaging them in learning and finding keys to their individual progress. I saw her just as determined with special ed & ELL students.

-Eckstein parent
Anonymous said…
Good ol' Greenwoody writes, "The movement to stop corporate education policies has already reached critical mass, both in Seattle and nationwide. We have more than enough evidence to prove them wrong and numerous models of successful resistance to draw upon to show that, in fact, the coalition to actually address racial inequities is the coalition that stands against these corporate education policies."

Really?!? Speaking of deep inside the bubble...


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