Seattle School Board Elections 2017: District VII

Please note this thread where I outline my guidelines for the interviews.

District VII
Currently Director Betty Patu represents this region.  She is running to retain her seat and has two challengers.

- Tony Hemphill.  He is a chiropractor who also has an MBA and graduated from Garfield in 1991.
- Chelsea Byers.  From her work bio:
She spent several years as a Teach For America math teacher in Oakland, CA. After that, she went to England to earn a masters in quantitative analysis from the London School of Economics, where she also helped to train teachers and develop curriculum for a flagship outreach program at University College London. She then followed this line of work to Hong Kong and Italy. Now at General Assembly, Chelsea manages training and development for instructors and leads a team of instructional coaches.

She currently works for a local company, Galvanize, which provides tech training services.

Only Patu and Byers are registered at the PDC; neither has any contributions to date.  I only interviewed Patu and Byers.  I did have a phone interview set up with Hemphill but he was not available and did not contact me back as to why he was not available.

This is the Board race with the fewest candidates and so I believe it is Patu and Byers who are the favorites to move forward out of the primary (unless Hemphill decides to have more of a presence in the race and soon).

I am endorsing Betty Patu to keep her seat in District VII.

Patu is the blunt sage we need.  She continues to show energy and zest for the work despite eight long years on the Board (which should be enough to wear anyone down but not her).  Her dedication to the region is legend.

Not only has she shown dedication to the work, she has the institutional memory that is so important in a district that has frequent JSCEE staff movement. (And her memory is great - I cannot believe the things she can readily date and then bring out in discussions).  The district will already have two new members of the Board, given that Sue Peters and Stephan Blanford have chosen not to run.  I believe retaining Patu makes sense for Board stability.

For those who may not know, Patu worked for decades in the district and her own children went thru Seattle schools.  One daughter works at Rainier Beach High School.

Byers seems a bright person but she does not know this district and my worry - again back to the idea of having three new people on the board - about losing institutional memory. 

Betty Patu

She believes that one of her goals - fewer suspensions and fewer out of school suspensions - is showing progress and that keeping students in school is vital.  Interestingly, she said in our interview that much of this is being done via principals and not thru any direct district initiative.  For example, Van Asselt has a "green room" where students can go for a time-out and continue their schoolwork.

One of her priorities is a more streamlined Strategic Plan, again, with ideas about supporting students in their schools with buildings that meet those needs. 

She is also concerned that there has not been real and obvious work on the ending opportunity gaps.  She thinks there has been much talk but she's wondering what the real plan is.  (I note that the African American Male Advisory Committee (AAMAC) will present their recommendations today at Nova but that's just advice, not a district plan.)

In terms of considering superintendent qualities, she said that she wants a superintendent to look at community "as a whole."  She doesn't have a sense at this point that the district is moving forward.  She doesn't believe the district needs an educator but wants someone with "common sense" and a good rapport with communities to come in with a vision for our district.

On Advanced Learning, she wants to see better recruitment for students of color.  She does not believe in self-contained classes for HCC students, saying they need to be with other students.  She did say she remembered how classrooms used to have IAs who could support learning needs and admitted that would be hard for a single teacher to do if the spectrum of abilities was broad.

On Special Education, she believes that there is more learning and less segregating going on but that there continues to be issues of program stability.

On CTE, she was very enthused.  She has been working - by herself - in organizing with labor groups for an aerospace and construction skill center at Rainier Beach High School.  It would tie in with the IB program.

Chelsea Byers

I was pleasantly surprised by Byers; I had expected more of a passionate ed reformer.  Byers is a pleasant, sincere, soft-spoken person.

She went to mostly public schools in Indiana and Oregon, had one middle school year in a "hippie" middle school and ended up finishing high school at an on-line school.  (She was very into horses and was balancing that interest with her school work.) 

Byers has lived in Seattle for two years and has no children. 

She did know the answers to my basic questions on SPS.

She said she was running because in her current job she sees many adults come in who lack basic technology skills that they desire for jobs in our region.  She noted that the district doesn't even track the number of students who take computer science courses.  She said the Board isn't there to impose ideas but to build good leadership, what she called "a team of teams" model.  She said her strengths are her knowledge about technology and teaching about it and that she has familiarity with looking at operations and budgets. 

I asked her about her priorities and she (honestly) admitted there are "some things I don't know about the district."  She said the technology skills issue is an important one to her as well as supporting teachers.  (She taught in an Oakland public school for two years via Teach for America and also in Italy for a year in addition to working with at-risk youth in London and currently tutoring with Treehouse which supports foster youth.)

She believes more teacher support is vital with an evaluator in the classroom to help teachers with strategies. 

The qualities she would want in a new superintendent are being able to reach out to multiple communities especially those who don't traditionally show up at Board meetings.  She also noted someone with a record of improving the system for equitable outcomes and who is comfortable talking about systemic racism.

She does not support privatizing public education but does support charter schools.  She said they are not the solution to equity but if communities are not getting what they want from traditional public schools, charters are one way.  She feels Seattle could have a more open discussion on this issue.

On Advanced Learning, she said she had been in Oregon's TAG system (talented and gifted).  But she said all students should have access to "academic rigor."

On Special Education, she said one issue she had found in teaching in Oakland was that ELL students seemed to be misdiagnosed with Sped issues when it was more about language barriers.  She said an IEP is just "a piece of paper" if there is no follow-thru.

She really believes in CTE and thinks it creates more pathways for students in "auxiliary tech jobs."

She said one thing she learned from her "hippie" school days was that whole child education is important.  She said that she had been reading about a new school in Denver with a more holistic approach where students have basic questions about themselves and work the learning out from there and was interested in that idea.


Anonymous said…
Chelsea may not sound like it but based on her comments she is absolutely, 100% an ed reformer. Just think about these:

"She believes more teacher support is vital with an evaluator in the classroom to help teachers with strategies."

This is definitely ed reform. This sounds like KIPP (or is it another charter chain?) where teachers have a monitor whispering into their earpiece to tell the teacher what to do at any given moment.

"She said the Board isn't there to impose ideas but to build good leadership, what she called "a team of teams" model."

This is definitely ed reform - they really, really do not want democratically elected board interfering with their goals. Anyone who says something like this is automatically rejected.

"She does not support privatizing public education but does support charter schools. She said they are not the solution to equity but if communities are not getting what they want from traditional public schools, charters are one way. She feels Seattle could have a more open discussion on this issue."

This is exactly what Omar Vasquez says. We have already had an open discussion on the issue. We've already rejected charters. Fully and completely. There's literally nothing else to discuss.

I think you need to be more careful in giving a boost to candidates by praising their personal qualities when it's clear that she's a big threat to our kids and schools.

Horatio Hornblower
I don't know that I praised her; I reported what she said. I'm appreciative of the input from readers as to what they hear in candidate's words. I try to do this full reporting to be fair to candidates but yes, they are their words.

I do agree that there's this new trope for ed reformers over not wanted to "privatize" education but some charters, etc. are ok. In fact, I found some wording in our WA state charter law that gives me pause and I think the authors got away with some privatizing of charters. I'll have a thread on that after more investigation.
Anonymous said…
Reading Melissa's summary of Chelsea I would have to agree with Horatio. She seems well-equipped to promote her employer's corporate agenda within the district.

Anonymous said…
I don't understand. Our current system isn't working well, but when others make suggestions for different approaches they are labeled an ed reformer?! So are we looking for ed stay-the-samers?

How can we improve if we don't change? I'm not pro-charter, but I am in favor of finding ways to meet the needs of all students. We know a teacher can't effectively teach a classroom 4-5 years of material.

We need ...

New Ideas
New Ideas,you were smart to avoid the dreaded "status quo" with "stay-the-samers." But no, there is no person residing in these borders that doesn't want to see education get better. So no fair saying if someone doesn't like the ed reform agenda, they don't want change.

Anonymous said…
People have to remember this blog holds a strict pro teachers union stance. I'm not saying it's right or wrong.

SPS cleanup
SPS Cleanup, wrong. I support teachers. My support for the union? Middling. I've had experience trying to understand/work with the union and came away disillusioned. As well, Randi Weingarten, head of the AFT, is a union head I don't trust at all.

Anonymous said…
Pro teachers' stance? On this blog? Go to Soup for Teachers for that.

Melissa was on the fence about the strike until the gales were blowing,
and she routinely allow Garfield teachers to be trashed.

This is the HCC proxy blog.

Get Real
Owler said…
I appreciate hearing more about Betty Patu. You raise good points about institutional knowledge, as I feel like the district doesn't learn from its mistakes.
Anonymous said…
Ok, so exactly how do you support teachers?

SPS Cleanup
Okay, so I will ask that comments be about the candidates and the race, not me. If not, I will eliminate them.

If you want a thread on a different topic, ask for it.
joanna said…
Betty is deserving of this support for her constant work in the District and for the schools in Southeast Seattle. By the way to those supporting Ed Reform, you can't starve the schools and cause constant disruption, and then say privatization is the answer when that is not a new idea either. Charters have been around for quite sometime and generally are not doing better with more and generally doing worse than real public schools. There is much more corruption (more difficult to track and stop) and lack of transparency in the privatization movement. There are models of innovation in Seattle, but the constant pressure to do more with less is not helping. Of course, we can do better, but please let's recognize that a vast majority of the teachers are excellent and privatization movement has not offered solutions to areas of weakness. The politics of the district can be frustrating, but adding yet another layer to be politicized will not be productive.
Anonymous said…
Over the years I've seen a cadre fantastic experienced teachers hold the district together and provide inspiration for kids in the face of all manner of administrative tomfoolery. Those same teachers are often dis-respected by the district because neither they, nor the ed-reformers want to acknowledge that teachers are talented professionals. Many terrible changes I have seen over the years have been along the lines of:

1-terrible expensive curriculum choices that put teaching in the hands of publishers.
2-switching teachers all over the district under the mistaken and misguided idea that any teacher should be able to teach any subject in any class. This negates professional specialization. The district wants to be able to put a trained monkey in front of every classroom who is controlled by an electric collar provided with each curriculum package. (Exaggeration?....think about it!).

What many people here mean by teacher support means: money to purchase enough experienced teachers to teach the classes, and respect for teacher professionalism - (ie pay them what they deserve and respect teacher specialization). Everyone (parents, kids and administrators) in the district knows who the good teachers are - respect their methods and put them in mentoring positions.

This is just a start but the reason these ideas are not respected (especially by district leadership) is that they are not new ideas that plug into corporate culture and money-grubbing. They are old tried and true ideas that have had the financial underpinnings removed to support them.


Unknown said…
I do agree that there's this new trope for ed reformers over not wanted to "privatize" education but some charters, etc. thanks

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