Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Seattle School Board Candidates at Uptown Alliance Forum

Update: The Stranger announced their picks - Mack, DeWolf and Patu.  Best line?
Eden Mack would saw off her own arm if it meant fully funding Washington's K–12 public schools.
 Worst line?
The SECB wants to see a school board appointed by the mayor, who can then be held accountable for the state of Seattle's public schools, instead of the never-ending shit show that is, was, and seemingly always will be Seattle School Board elections.
My response to them (and pardon my french but it is The Stranger):

Wrong, wrong - and for the SECB - fucking wrong. Look to NYC, Chicago, etc. where they DO have a mayor in charge. Better outcomes? Nope. Biggest parent complaint? No one listens at all now. Sorry, you don't dump a mayor over schools (see Rahm Emanuel) so voters would not have any real say in their schools. Moon doesn't want that but Durkan does. Do your homework.  

end of update

I attended the Uptown Alliance Forum for Seattle school board candidates last night.  It was a sparse crowd - maybe 20 people. 

It was informative and infuriating, sometimes at the same time.

All the candidates were in attendance, save Chelsea Byers for District VII, who was represented by her husband, Andrea.  Byers had a family member who was ill.  Director Betty Patu, her opponent, also had a stand-in for a brief period of time in public ed activist, Kathy Smith.  Patu was at a Board committee meeting.

District IV
Herbert Camet
Eden Mack

District V
Zachary DeWolf
Omar Vasquez

District VII 
Chelsea Byers
Betty Patu

The Uptown Alliance said this was their first forum and it showed.  They had mostly QA/Uptown-centric questions which was hard for both audience and candidates because it was so localized.  For example, there were two questions about downtown schools.

(Public disclosure: I'm supporting Eden Mack, Zachary DeWolf and Betty Patu.)  Also to note, I'm not doing a blow-by-blow report.)

How did the candidates do? 

Except for Herbert Camet and Byers' husband, they were fine.  I think, overall, Mack did the best job especially around specifics.  (Byers' husband tried to reflect what he thought would be important to her but he knew nothing about any of the specifics asked in the questions.)

Who was the worst?  Herbert Camet.  When he arrived, he did not attempt to talk to any audience members.  During the debate, he fidgeted, rolled his eyes (and did so when DeWolf mentioned his husband) and sat with arms crossed 90% of the time.  He sneered at all the candidates, saying he had more years of educational experience than all of them put together.  He said this a couple of times.

But he saved his worst for the end when he was giving closing remarks.  He was seated next to Mack.  He stood and then turned to her (and he included DeWolf) and near-yelled his remarks that this was a non-partisan race and they were taking money and endorsements from political groups.  He continued, looming over Mack who just sat back in her seat as far as she could, wagging his finger at her, saying that she and DeWolf were "politicians," using this race as a stepping stone to higher office.  It went on so much that several of us told him to stop.  The organizers should have done something because it's one thing to be passionate and another to be a bully.

He showed his ignorance then and throughout the debate.  Seattle school board has seldom been a steppingstone to higher office.  As well, he claimed that the Board only supervises the superintendent and that the superintendent and his staff decide on plans for the district.  That's half-right but he left out that the Board gives input on planning, votes on plans and then votes on funding for plans.  He also said that if parents and community want a new school, the district should open it.  Just like that? He clearly does not know what the office is really about.

In short, his lack of knowledge about the role of the a Board member, about this district and his mannerisms make him unfit for this office.  He very clearly is not a team player and being on the Board is being part of a team. 

Second worst?  Omar Vasquez.  I based this on a couple of things he said and did.

He once interrupted Mack when she was discussing BEX V saying, "Oh, it'll pass."  That's disrespectful to her and added nothing to the forum.

During the downtown school discussion, he contradicted an earlier statement he made.  He had earlier explained how the district got its enrollment numbers completely wrong this year and yet then said "we need a downtown high school."  He also told the audience how he "knew" Jenny Durkan and if she's mayor, he'd know how to work with her and, as well, he already knows people in the Education Department.  That would be okay but it almost sounded like he was already a man with a plan with those people. Again, the Board is a team job.  It was a smug performance.

The one good point he made was about how there will be, in the coming years - in the space of less than 6 months - four levies for public school funding in Seattle.  And, unfortunately, the two City ones - the Families & Education levy and the Pre-K levy - will come before the district's two which are the Operations levy and the BEX V capital levy.   He didn't say it but I will - among all those levies, the dollar total will likely be north of $2B.  That's a huge ask of Seattle taxpayers.  Will the City and the district get all that?

What else did Vasquez do that was really telling? He repeatedly looked at his phone and worked on his iPad.  He had out his iPad pencil and was tapping away.  Maybe he had notes there but frankly, it looked disrespectful.

Beyond how it looked, it appeared that he wasn't listening.  If he were elected, he would be working with some of these people.  Is he going to not listen when they are speaking then?  What other candidates say IS important and you'd think he'd want to listen.

But not if you're the smartest guy in the room.

As I mentioned there were questions about a downtown school and most of the candidates seemed to think it was needed which surprised me because there is no available data to back that up.  How anyone knows is a mystery.

DeWolf and Vasquez both noted how the district makes money from the parking lot but it was DeWolf who made the connection that those dollars would cease once building began.  That's about $2M of unrestricted General Fund dollars that would disappear for a period of years.

Interestingly, many candidates talked about how great it would be to have a high school that had access to the arts and tech that was near Seattle Center.  And yet, only Mack mentioned Center School.  Those words about a new high school were exactly the words used when Center School was being created. 

There was a question about what candidates had done to support fully funding the McCleary decision.  Clearly, that was Mack's to win and she did (she started Washington's Paramount Duty).  Vasquez tried to tell us something about how he supported Dorn's lawsuit and how that "pressured" the Legislature.  It did no such thing and the outcomes prove that.

There was a "if you had a magic wand" question.

Vasquez- "allow students to exercise true self-determination" and learning financial literacy
DeWolf - finding homes for all homeless students and fully funding public education
Mack - long-range planning and fully funding public education
Camet - student-focused effective instruction
Patu - closing the opportunity gap and fully funding public education

It will be a fascinating discussion this Thursday at the Madrona K-8 event being put on by the Central Area PTAs .  It starts at 6 pm (free pizza). 


muh said...

If Eden Mack is in this for politics she has made a long term investment in learning about and advocating for public schools while forgetting to make political overtures. While I do believe that Eden could make a political run beyond the school board (her in-depth knowledge and acute analysis skills go beyond school issues), I also see someone who is very pure in her desire to improve education in our city and state.

Joe Wolf said...

Melissa - thank you for your spot on response to The Stranger.

Independent Media said...

Who sits on The Stranger's editorial board these days? I'm enormously disappointed, but not surprised to see The Stranger's position on mayoral appointments. I was concerned when Tim Burgess got appointed to be mayor of Seattle and Burgess hired Dan Savage to work at city hall. Burgess has been a long time supporter of mayoral control of public education.

Here is Chicago's school governance system:

"Mayoral control of schools is governance over American schools based on the business model, in which the mayor of a city replaces an elected board of education (school board) with an appointed board. The mayor may also directly appoint the head of the school system, called the CEO, superintendent or chancellor.[1] Also known as "integrated governance", mayoral control of schools is a formal structure of governance that replaces a structure in which "an elected board insulates schools from formal mayoral influence".[2]'

Things are not working out so great in Chicago. Chicago's top ten reasons why they need an elected school board:


Camet is not fit for public office.

Next Please said...

@Independent Media, just a correction. It is the Pulitzer-Prize winning Eli Sanders that was tapped to work for Burgess for the expected 10 weeks before a new mayor is elected. Not Dan Savage. I don't disagree with any of your post, it was just an error I couldn't seem to let go...

Anonymous said...

The Times is supporting Omar Vasquez, because he has ideas.


Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

Omar has yard signs all around Eckstein. Someone up there loves him.