Thursday, February 14, 2019

New Head for Advanced Learning Should At Least Have Some Background Experience

Update: Peters tells me that the AL head job description hasn't been posted yet; what is there is just some old description they have for the job.  As she points out, it is odd that even the old description says nothing about 2E students or even accurately describes the scope of the job.

end of update

The following is a guest post from former Board Director Sue Peters.  I note that in addition to the departure of head of Advanced Learning, Stephen Martin, SPS is also seeing the exit of Executive Director Kim Whitworth (corrected, my error).

What is stunning is the lack of detail in the job description; no mention of actually working in gifted education with instructional practice and content, including social-emotional needs of gifted students, no mention of twice-exceptional students,  knowledge of multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) or successful state level experience (e.g., role, leading committee or advisory groups).

For this particular post, I am not allowing comments as I know this topic tends to break down quickly into more arguing than discussion.  So this is an informational post.

Guest Post

Head of HCC/AL programs Stephen Martin is retiring from SPS this year. Speak up now to request highly qualified, appropriate replacement. 
Dear HCC/Spectrum and AL communities,

You may be interested to learn that the District’s Supervisor of Highly Capable and Advanced Learning programs, Stephen Martin is retiring from SPS as of 9/1/19, per a recent Personnel Report that was approved by the Board at their Feb 6, 2019 Board meeting: https://seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/School%20Board/18-19%20agendas/February%206/C02_20190206_Personnel%20Report.pdf

I encourage any families in the HCC/Spectrum/AL community who would like to weigh in on the new hire to contact the Board and Supt Juneau ASAP. It looks like this is being done quite quickly and with no public input.

Write to them at: superintendent@seattleschools.org; spsdirectors@seattleschools.org

The job listing has already been posted, here: https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/seattleschools/classspecs/750082?keywords=Advanced%20Learning&pagetype=classSpecifications

But missing from the listing is any requirement for experience and expertise in gifted education. Instead the focus is primarily on administrative tasks, with one reference to advanced learning.

To the best of my knowledge, Martin is the only one in the Advanced Learning Department with significant experience in gifted education. Here’s his bio: https://www.seattleschools.org/departments/advanced_learning/department_information/contact_advanced_learning/stephen_martin_bio

I have written to the Board and Supt. Juneau noting this discrepancy and have asked that the district hire a highly qualified replacement with meaningful gifted ed experience. (Letter included below.)


Sue Peters

Request for highly qualified replacement for retiring supervisor of HCC/AL Stephen Martin

Dear Superintendent Juneau and Board Directors,

In light of the fact that Stephen Martin, the District’s Supervisor of Highly Capable and Advanced Learning programs, is retiring from SPS as of 9/1/19 (per a recent personnel report: https://seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/School%20Board/18-19%20agendas/February%206/C02_20190206_Personnel%20Report.pdf), I would like to take this opportunity to urge you to hire a highly qualified, appropriate replacement for him.

Currently, Mr. Martin is the only member of the Advanced Learning Department staff with significant experience and expertise in gifted education (as his bio demonstrates, included below). So it’s important that his replacement be at least equally as knowledgeable and experienced.

The candidate should also have a proven commitment to ensuring robust and appropriate programs and services that meet the academic and emotional needs of all gifted and advanced learners throughout the district, and a commitment to outreach to those who have been underrepresented in the programs.

Yet, the job listing that has been posted by SPS for Mr. Martin’s replacement makes no mention of the terms “gifted education” or “Highly Capable” among the skills, experience and education requirements of the position: https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/seattleschools/classspecs/750082?keywords=Advanced%20Learning&pagetype=classSpecifications (excerpt included below).

The position as posted doesn’t require teaching experience or familiarity with gifted ed pedagogy, nor is there any mention of experience with twice exceptional students, also a group whose needs must be understood and met by the AL Department. The position doesn't even require an MA in education, just a “closely related field.”

I hope you can agree that this description does not accurately convey the appropriate requirements for this position. So I ask that it be revised to better and fully reflect the demands of the position and the expectations of families and students of SPS, so the District will be better able to recruit the best candidate for this position.

The new hire should be someone who:
  • Has a proven track record of relevant and substantial experience working with gifted children.
  • Is committed to genuine efforts to expand diversity in the program, such as expanding and simplifying referrals, investing in teacher and administrator training, and community outreach, rather than through superficial measures such as limiting private appeals (which does little to nothing to increase diverse representation in the program).
  • Understands the need for gifted education and recognizes that it is part of basic education, as established by state law.
  • Is committed to providing meaningful, appropriate curriculum, as prescribed by law.
In sum, I ask that the district hire a highly qualified, talented replacement, quite possibly from outside of SPS, to address the needs of the roughly 4,000 students in SPS identified as Highly Capable, and the over 8,000 students identified as Spectrum or HCC, plus the many advanced learners districtwide.

Lastly, please reach out to the Highly Capable and AL communities for input. And please let me know if I can assist in this process in any way, as a past SPS Board director and member of the SPS APP/HCC community for the last 14 years.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Sue Peters

SPS & APP/HCC parent since 2005

SPS Board Director (President & VP), 2013-17

Founding Member, Parents Across America

Founding Editor, Seattle Education Blog