The Stranger vs The Seattle Times: School Board Endorsements

District IV:
Times - Eden Mack
The Times gave Mack their strongest endorsement for school board as compared to Chelsea Byers (tepid, both with what the Times said and what Byers said) and Alec Cooper (short).
Eden Mack is fully prepared to be on the Seattle School Board.

The Stranger - Eden Mack
"Eden Mack is the wonkiest education wonk who ever wonked."

Me - Eden Mack
Ditto on the comments made by the Times and The Stranger.

District V
Times - Alec Cooper
But his experience as a director at both Amazon and Microsoft, plus volunteer work as treasurer and president of the Garfield High School PTSA and his deep knowledge of district and state education policy, make Cooper uniquely qualified for the school-board position. 

The Stranger - Zachary DeWolf
Good stuff from The Stranger on DeWolf
 "Racial, gender, economic, and social justice [work] is a way of life and should be embedded within how we teach and how students learn... throughout their whole career at Seattle Public Schools," DeWolf said. "It's what makes quality public education."
 but also this:
If we're being real, with a résumé like his, DeWolf is a little too qualified to be a school board member—the school board is where political ambitions go to die. We'd much rather be endorsing DeWolf for city council or state legislature.

This is true; Seattle School Board is no launch pad for higher office.

Me - I find Alec Cooper, Zachary DeWolf and Andre Helmstetter all to be credible candidates who each have strengths and weaknesses.  I give the nod more to Cooper and Helmstetter if only because of their deep knowledge of the district which is an absolute plus for a new director.

The other candidate - Omar Vasquez - who was rejected by both the Times and The Stranger is my sole (and loud) no for this race. 

District VII
Times - Chelsea Byers
"While I agree with a lot of the values being expressed by the current board, I think we need different leadership to be able to put the policies in place to get us there," she said.

Not sure you can get more bland than that.

The Stranger - Betty Patu
As a teacher in the early 1990s, Patu, who is Samoan, created programming to better support Pacific Islander students. Her work directly lowered high-school dropout rates in the community. 

Me - Betty Patu
Byers is a nice person whose heart is in the right place.  That does not qualify her for this office.  And, she hasn't lived in Seattle long and seems to know very little about the district.

Betty Patu has shown a commitment to kids and this district that I believe continue to make her the best choice.  

Times - Jenny Durkan
I couldn't get an interview with Durkan on public education but she told the 36th Dems that she finds the School Board a problem. Uh oh and no, no on her for mayor for public ed.

The Stranger - Cary Moon
Moon wasn't strong in my interview with her on public education.  Other candidates The Stranger gave a nod to include Mike McGinn, Jessyn Farrell and Nikkita Oliver, all whom I gave a thumbs up for public ed.

Me - Nikkita Oliver, Mike McGinn and Jessyn Farrell.
All three have a good grasp about public education issues in Seattle, with Oliver the strongest.

I note that if you follow the Times' recommendations, the Board would have a single person of color on the Board - Director Scott Pinkham. 


Watching said…
I'm voting for Andre Helmstettler. In addition to The Weekly's endorsement, Helmstettler is highly qualified and offers unique gifts to the district. Here is what The Weekly had to say:

Seattle School District 1 – Director District 5
André Helmstetter A Central District resident since the 1990s, André Helmstetter used to run a cafe where Broadcast Coffee now sits. He’s seen the process of gentrification worm its way through our city as only old-timers can. A black man in a blanching city, Helmstetter takes a historical approach to understanding the causes of Seattle schools’ appalling racial achievement gap today. Now a policy consultant, the Navy veteran has been involved in the PTA as a parent of two students, and he worked with teacher Jesse Hagopian (now famous for being randomly pepper-sprayed by Seattle’s Finest) in 2009 to oppose the closure of Seattle schools by the School Board.
LizaSfT said…
Jenny Durkan finds the school board a problem!? She wasn't at the top of my list anyway,
Watching said…
DeWolfe seeks to:

DeWolf wants to curb out-of-school suspensions for students up to fourth grade, host "Know Your Rights" trainings for undocumented students and their families"

I will gently point out that the district already has a policy to limit out of school suspensions for students up to fourth grade, and the board signed a resolution for undocumented students. There are procedures around these issues.

To me, this highlights the fact that DeWolfe is not up to speed on the district.
Patrick said…
The Seattle Weekly did endorsements for this election too:
Eden Mack, Andre Helmstetter, Betty Patu.
Anonymous said…
Go, Eden, go!

Though the loss of Sue Peters, as she has decided to not seek reelection, is truly a HUGE loss for our 54,000 public school students, at least it is possible that she will be replaced by a tireless, and I mean TIRELESS, well informed, committed, smart, ethical, and collegial public-school advocate, Eden Mack.

If the trifecta of important endorsements (The Stranger, The Times, and Melissa) is any indication, it looks like Eden will win. Her presence on the Board will support common sense and smart policy and adherence to policy

Thanks for stepping up Eden.

VOTE Eden!
Anonymous said…
Eden Mack, Andre Helmstetter, Betty Patu - this is a good slate. Zach DeWolf doesn't understand the district at all and thinks that this is just a political stepping stone for him. But he's better than Omar Vasquez, who got clowned in these endorsements. He couldn't even convince the Times to back him.

carol simmons said…
Betty Patu, Eden Mack and Andre Helmstetter have all been endorsed by the Metropolitan Democratic Club (MDC)of Seattle.

The MDC has followed School Board elections as well as other campaigns forever. They study, discuss, challenge and endorse.

They have supported the following candidates for School Board, Betty Patu, Andre Helmstetter and Eden Mack. The MDC is totally knowledgeable about the city, the schools and the school district. Please vote for Betty, Andre and Eden.
Anonymous said…
Betty Patu is not good for the whole district. She has given us 8 years of nothing notable. With 8 years under her belt she should be a driving force for the entire district, but she chooses to focus on race and mostly complains about inequalities in her part of town.

She an incumbent deserving of being voted out of office.

Keeping expectations low will open the door for charters.

--ED voter
Anonymous said…
Why hasn't Alex pulled in support? Just because he works for Amazon? I like his ideas and hope he makes it past the primary so I can vote for him. His thoughts around data make a lot of sense and I would love to see him call the folks at the District to the carpet when the ditch policy and steamroll families.

AC supporter
Anonymous said…
I'm worried that Sue Peters won't be around to prop up Patu. It like losing two board members even if Patu wins.

ED Voter, well, if Patu only focuses on race, so did Blanford. And he never got much done on that front, either.

As for Peters propping up Patu, I note Betty had a full four years before Peters came on the Board. I think she'll be okay.
Garfield PTA said…
There are very concerning comments regarding Cooper in the Times comment section. Cooper's relationship with the PTA needs to be explored.
Anonymous said…
Hard to know the veracity of comments in Seattle Times (or this blog). A past article in the Stranger with Helmstetter wistfully reminiscing about polite drug dealers (was it in jest?), brings up questions as well.
Anonymous said…
I'm leaning toward Moon for mayor. She might not be the strongest on education, but she's not the weakest, and she's not angling to take over the school district. She strikes me as someone who'll be reasonable when it's required and stay out of it otherwise.

Anonymous said…
Regarding the times comments, as a GHS parent, my guess that it is a teacher that is still pissed about the opposition to the way that "Honors for All" was foisted on parents. The principal made the announcement in the paper, after school was out. No community engagement, no details, no CSIP. Is that the way we want our schools to run? This year, the school has made it clear it wants the PTSA to go away - the principal will not attend any of the meetings and does not host any parent meetings.

---GHS Parent
Anonymous said…
Betty Patu is a leader on a wide range of issues, including stopping charter schools, ending bad testing policies, and pushing back hard on the district's contemptuous attitude toward families. If we lose her, she'll be replaced by a corporate ed reformer who wants charters and to replace teachers with iPads. Not good.

As to Alec Cooper, what specific ideas does he have? He keeps referring to vague concepts and says he has ideas but I've never once seen anything detailed or concrete from him.

District II
Anonymous said…
Betty Patu has institutional memory and a spine. Two things that are very valuable in a non-paid position. She gets my vote.

Anonymous said…
I am hearing lots of buzz in my northend neighborhood about Harley Lever. Did you get to talk to him? I am wondering what his views on charter schools and mayoral control of schools are.

Cap hill said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cap hill said…
District II, thank you for the question. I believe we need to make structural changes in the relationships between the district/schools, schools/families and voters/district.

Families send their children to schools, not the district. I believe we need to empower our schools even more than we do today. As an example, school leaders should have more control over (and responsibility for) the personnel in their schools. At the same time, there needs to be a real accountability mechanism for individual schools, with very clear and consistent goals set. The school reports are ineffective - first, there are no thresholds for what constitutes good and what doesn't. Second, each school today is free to make up its own goals - which is likely one of the reasons we aren't making as much progress on student growth and closing the gap. I do believe that closing the gap needs to remain at the top of the goal list.

We also need to strengthen the concept of school community by more precisely describing the accountability of the school to its family community. Parent representatives must be included on BLT. It should be a requirement for school plans, goals and progress to be reviewed in a public forum with parents every semester. Parent satisfaction with a school should be a strong factor in the evaluation of school administration - and the evaluation criteria for principals should be made public.

Finally, the board (on behalf of the people of Seattle) needs to establish an accountability culture within the district. Goals were set in 2013 which are not being met, and have not been met each year. The district set 30 goals: it can measure 24 of them, and is missing 11, and cannot even measure 6. There needs to be a much more public mechanism for reviewing progress and then making changes in the district when the district is failing to meet its commitments to the people of Seattle, and the board must be more assertive on calling the district out when it fails to enforce policy. The district needs to be far more transparent with aggregated data to give us early indicators on where we need to invest in more services. Finally, I would like to see major departments (such as enrollment) within the district evaluated based on family satisfaction surveys and the data (and improvement plans) made transparently available.

I hope that helps answer your question, please let me know if you have other questions.

Anonymous said…
The problem with allowing parents more control of their local schools is problematic in many ways.

1. Which parents values and ideas get implemented. In the PTO model a handful of aggressive parents take control and end up bossing the school staff and alienating anyone who disagrees.

2. Schools start acquiescing to pushy parents and students to avoid negative ratings. (Just look what has happened to Evergreen collage)

3. Many students education could be marginalized by majority PTO rule decisions.

What schools and the district need to do is set district wide policies and core standards and enforce those at each and every school building every single school day.

There could possibly be room for some deviation once the core responsibilities are met, but SPS is a long ways away from that.

Well, any comment without a name is just a comment (and I find the Times' commenters usually have some axe to grind). Also, try being on a board of a large high school and not see people who complain so I can see how Cooper might have detractors there.
Voting Helmstettler said…
I was just looking at Cooper's endorsement page, other than the great big Seattle Times endorsement, I am not seeing a lot of community support.

Andre Helmstettler, on the other hand, has received sole endorsement from the 37th and 36th legislative district and a dual endorsement in the 43rd. I've noted that Helmstettler has been endorsed by the Vice President of the Seattle School Board; a clear indication that the VP desires to work with Helmstettler. Helmstettler brings a plethora of organizational, policy and technology to the board, as well.

Voting Helmstettler said…
School based management is great. The problem is that there is no effective mechanism for the board to oversee the workings of 95 schools. I've yet to see a candidate draft and effective oversight plan. It appears the district does not have a mechanism to keep the board updated.

I want to see an actual plan.
Anonymous said…
Lets get real, every single school board member is a non-paid position. Why do you expect Patu to get points for that?

Patu might be good for minorities, but she is not good for the district as a whole and her record over the last 8 years is not notable. Why should Patu get a pass for all the SPS issues over the last 8 years? Some horrendous things have happened on her watch and when things get tough she disappears.

As others have pointed out, she has some strong biases that are not based in facts and not helpful.

She has also a strong connection with BAMN. Look it up.

My opinion
Anonymous said…
"Instead, I would argue that Seattle Public Schools could use programs such as Montessori to increase integration by doing the following things. First, what we should be doing is creating more access, not less, to programs such as Montessori that have proven to have positive outcomes across a wide demographic of children, including minority and poor kids in America. And we should deliver the programs as designed, with as little modification as possible because the programs are successful as designed for a reason. It’s best to keep them that way as much as possible, knowing that some things may have to be changed to meet whatever the local standards are for performance measurement and other policy and regulatory restrictions." -

Andre Helmstetter making total sense.


Anonymous said…

Link for above.

Anonymous said…
Voting H said, "School based management is great."

...except when it's not. More clarity (and accompanying oversight) is needed on what services and policies should be consistent across schools, and just how much of a reach individual principals should have.

-need balance
Anonymous said…
Thanks for those links Bee2. I like the cut of Helmstetter's jib!! He's got my vote.

My opinion, I would need evidence. Do you have links? As well, Patu has never shied away from any kind of situation so what are you specifically speaking of.

Ed Voter said…
I was not impressed with Betty as president. Eight years is enough, let someone else inject some new ideas someone without the baggage of a poorly run district.
Ed Voter, I'm fine with that thought. People can decide if they believe two terms is enough for any candidate. (I do think the record is Ellen Roe with about four terms.)
kellie said…
I frequently post about the lack of institutional memory and the negative consequences to every family in the district.

Betty Patu has tremendous institutional memory. I am thrilled that she is willing to run for a third term and it would be a great benefit to the both the board and the district to have the depth and perspective that she brings.

IMHO, school board director has to be one of the worst volunteer jobs ever. There is a good reason why few board directors run for a second term, let alone a third term.
Anonymous said…
Kellie, please spare us the sob story.

The district is a mess and much of the blame lies with the school board past and present. Patu's stint as president was painful, talk about NOT having any institutional memory! Maybe she was slept at all the past meetings? how else do you explain her lack of understanding how to run the meetings?

Patu has contributed to the mess for the last 8 years, she couldn't even take a stand on the teachers strike.

It was fine for Harris to attack a white seated board member accusing her of supporting institutional racism. Patu was there right along with the others, but she is spared from the same criticism, gee I wounder why.

Patu has shown bias against white students and Asian students. I don't believe her so called "institutional memory" is worth much.

I would like to see her in a head to head debate on any meaningful subject, my bet is she would not do well. Sure she is great at riling up the anti-white crowd in the 7th, but beyond that she is unimpressive.

Reality, you are entitled to your opinions but again, without evidence, I don't put a lot a stock in this "anti-bias" charge against Patu.

You are likely to see Patu in a forum for candidates; I wish there were more actual debates but I find that rarely happens.

Anonymous said…
I like Betty, she is nice and kind and tries hard. She really cares about kids, clearly, certain kinds of kids in particular: the most vulnerable ones, and, that is a good thing.

But, I will not be voting for Ms. Patu.

For one reason: I do not find her to be all that bright. She is just not up to the job.

That may be brutal to 'say out loud', but it is the truth of the situation for me.

It would be fine if Sue Peters was staying, they have a supportive relationship and a unity of what is best for students, but, with Sue gone, I am leery of what Ms. Patu can offer in concrete terms. She has said to me, "Well, I am concerned about this, but, I am not sure what to do. Sue is working on it, and, I will do what Sue is doing."

She seems not to understand operational things. When a south end elementary was being recast as an international school, she could not follow the boundary discussion. On the BEX oversight committee, she really had no clue about budget or implications of the choices being steered. So, while I like, appreciate, and respect her as a human being, being 'likable' and having solid values are not enough to equip her to challenge staff effectively and guide policy and enforce policy. And, staff need to be challenged, as most of what they do I find infuriating and ineffective.

Here's the big problem with all these complaints about Patu: even if I agreed with them, and I don't, this election isn't an up or down vote on her. It is a choice between Patu and another candidate who has ideas and thoughts of her own - and they're bad.

If you vote for Chelsea Byers because you're unhappy with Patu, you are voting for someone who wants charter schools, who wants to replace your child's teacher with an iPad, who will probably work to bring TFA back to SPS, and more bad corporate ed reform stuff.

If you vote against Patu, *that* is what you are really voting for. You're voting *for* charter schools. *For* TFA. *For* undermining teachers with ed tech. Even if that isn't your intent, that is the outcome. That is what your vote means.

So no, you don't get to make this a referendum on Patu (though if it were, she'd pass it). It's a choice between a defense of public education and a corporate privatizer who wants to bring in all the policies and things so many of us has spent years fighting.

After all, that's why they're targeting Patu. Patu opposes charters. She opposes TFA. She is working on better testing policy. She is a major obstacle to the gutting of public schools especially in SE Seattle. So any vote against her is a vote to help the corporate reformers get much closer to their goals, whether that's how you think about it or not.
Anonymous said…
Excellent Points!

Anonymous said…
A single board member can't bring in charter schools or TFA. You're using typical liberal scare tactics here. We have had boards with 3 ed reformers before and sky didn't fall. We have had boards with zero ed reformers and the sky did fall.

Anonymous said…
Oh and so what if she supports charters, so do many Seattle tax payers. Oh wait I see you don't want those tax payers to have representation.

Anonymous said…
So why was 2015 a referendum on incumbents. Harris sure painted very broad stroke against her opponent blaming her for all the problems in the district.

Betty was right the with the rest of the board for all the past fire drills. Ask Patu about entanglement...deer in the headlights.

Watching said…
Kellie is absolutely correct in saying that lack of institutional memory will harm the district.

She is the only candidate in this race that immigrated into the United States and went through the system as an English Language Learner. She represents immigrant and English Language Learners.

I also believe that Pacific Island students need Director Patu's representation. Here are a couple things to note:

"Samoan culture emphasizes the importance of family and community, rather than the individual, Mr. Franco said. Children defer to the judgment of the patriarchal head of the family. It is no wonder, he said, that these students feel lost in American schools, where a premium is placed on individual thought and studying is often a solitary pursuit."


"In Seattle, the result for school-age Samoans has been devastating. South Pacific islanders have long had the highest expulsion and suspension rates of any ethnic or racial group in Seattle, said Beverly Shanahan, a spokeswoman for the schools."

Director Patu actually barged into a meeting of Crisps gang members and forced her students back to class!

Director Patu is a legend. She has stood up for decades. The woman does not need anyone to prop- her up.

Anonymous said…
Wow so by your logic we should start making sure each district's director is focused on and culturally aligned with the lowest population ethic group?

Sounds like Patu would be a better fit in a advisory role, maybe even a paid position? But not continue as a SPECIAL board member. The district needs wide spread foundational improvements and financial streamlining. We need seven fully engaged minds creating and enforcing meaningful polices.

This a America not american samoa. We should not be changing policies or expectations based off of someones culture or imagination origin.

Anonymous said…
I would hope people will associate all things wrong with SPS and vote out of office every single incumbent. It would be great to get rid of Geary also.

Anonymous said…
BTW I voting for Bob Hasegawa for mayor...who would have guessed.

Watching said…
Years ago, Director Patu led the effort to increase budget transparency. There is more work to do. Director Patu continues to seek ways to increase fiscal transparency.
Anonymous said…
Years ago in a galaxy far far away.

Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
joanna said…
I am wondering why Bob Hasagawa is not among those you list. Does he lack knowledge? He seems to have been a solid supporter of education at the State level and was only one of two Senators to vote "no" on the state budget.
joanna said…
Also he was secondary sponsor of the bill that delayed changing the school levy lids, allowing local levies to continue until full funding is passed.
Anonymous said…
Jessyn Farrel stands out amongst other qualified candidates in her urgency to address rapid growth in our city.

She has a plan on how to fund sound transit from W Seattle & Ballard much much earlier than the current proposal. She wants to get that done now instead of much later. She understands that the rapid growth going on needs a much faster response. I think she is 100% correct. I think she was great in her interview on KUOW on multiple issues.
Anonymous said…
I just read Patu's statement in the voter guide. She comes off like an egomaniac. Obviously someone else wrote it, but come on.

The last 8 years at SPS central is not something to be proud of. She boast about a NYT piece that D.R setup for her. Do people really fall for this type of BS.

Insider said…
Does anyone realize that DeWolfe seeks to work with the Gates Foundation? Do your homework!

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