Seattle School Board Meeting - June 26, 2019

Previous to this meeting, I had reported that I thought it would be lively because of the main topics on the Speakers List, namely, Ethnic Studies and the abrupt end to the district's decade-long partnership with the Urban Native Education Alliance.

I was not wrong.

We were treated to a great performance by the Meany MS BWB Drumline that took the first place trophy at the 10th Annual BDX Drumline Competition at Garfield High School Their leader, Aaron Walker-Loud, stated that the City's Creative Advantage arts program as well as Arts Corps were a big help in supporting their work.

It went a bit downhill from there as Clover Codd, head of HR, had to come to the podium to read outloud a judgment against the district over harassment of a school custodian by a principal at an elementary school.  In case you were not aware, principals are NOT the bosses of custodians or lunch personnel.  I understand this issue dragged out for months before a hearing examiner found for the custodian.

Superintendent Juneau then started her remarks.  She was talking about the upcoming vote on the adoption of Time Immemorial, the curriculum about the Native American history in Washington State.  Just as she started, there was sound from the outside of the building.  It was UNEA members having a very loud and large protest.  There was some irony having a Native American superintendent explaining a Native American curriculum with other Native Americans protesting outside the building.

She thanked Gail Morris who heads that department and said, "Tonight's action sits on the shoulders of many people."

Then, there was another awkward moment.  It appeared that the district?Superintendent? invited the head of the Muckleshoot tribe to speak in advance of the pending vote.  It wasn't the head but the gentleman speaking was a surrogate for him.   This man spoke calmly but his words certainly undercut made for discomfort on the dais.

He said that Director Scott Pinkham's amendment to the Time Immemorial BAR was inaccurate and "a political statement of opinion" about the Duwamish Nation.  From the amendment:

The previous adoption on October 12, 2016 of Resolution 2016/17-1 formally established the Seattle School District’s support of the treaty rights and benefits of the Duwamish Tribe. The proposed Tribal History and Culture Extended Core Instructional Materials Adoption (STI) only focuses on federally recognized tribes. Given that the City of Seattle was named in honor of Chief Seattle, a Duwamish Chief, it is appropriate, respectful and educationally necessary to include in these instructional materials a reference to the Duwamish Tribe and the Seattle School District’s support for the Duwamish Tribe. 

I move that the School Board amend the motion on the Tribal History and Culture Extended Core Instructional Materials Adoption to include the following sentence as a final paragraph:
“I further move that Resolution 2016/17-1 Memorialize Support of Treaty Rights and Benefits of the Duwamish Nation be distributed with and included as part of the proposed Instructional Materials Adoption.”
He stated that this statement had been rejected by various courts and several Secretary of the Interior. He that his tribe believed that the curriculum "should be an accurate reflection of history."

The Superintendent said thanked him for "his opinion" and something about respecting "tribal sovereignty."   Awkward.

I also want to note the Superintendent's announcement of the last year as principal of Kaaren Andrews at Interagency.  Andrews works with high school kids who truly have major life challenges.  Several years back, she had to endure several students who either committed suicide or were killed.  Thank you Principal Andrews for your service.

There was the official renaming of the Rainier Beach High School Library for the retiring Betty Patu.  President Leslie Harris noted that the renaming will extend to the new RBHS building when it is finished under BEX V.

There was a break before the night's testimony and the participants in the rally which included candidate Eric Blumhagen came in to drumbeats and chants.  It was pretty amazing to see them fill the room.

The student speaker was Annakl Landwehr, a student who had been in the UNEA's Clear Sky program for Native youth.  She They said that there was "nothing in my education about my people but just white settlers." SheThey said she they didn't feel supported in SPS and UNEA was the "opposite" of what she found in her schools.  She They also noted that she was part of the Superintendent's Student Advisory Board.

The next speaker was Joanne Pinkham, Director Pinkham's daughter.  She asked the district to restart the Indian Heritage High school and the African American Academy, not to relocate Licton Springs, mend the relationship with UNEA, adopt her father's amendment, and she called out the Strategic Plan that doesn't reflect her people.

Another youth speaker, RenaMateja WalkerBurr, spoke in support of Ethnics Studies  and asked for more staff for that work.

City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant spoke of a letter she sent, opposing the ending of the partnership with UNEA.  She said that the Native students who participate in Clear Sky have a 100% graduation rate and that it was "an evidence-based approach."

I also spoke in support of UNEA.  The district recently put up a press release on Native American programs and activities in SPS but, shockingly, made no mention of Clear Sky.  Almost as if they didn't ever exist at all in the district.  Again, to SPS, no revisionist history.

I also noted within that press release notice of a summer program for Native students that had this requirement:

Allowing program staff to post my student's pictures at public education events

What?! There is nothing legal about that and I stated that they needed to drop that requirement immediately.  No student has to give up privacy to access an academic opportunity.

Another speaker said the Board had been sent a petition signed by 500 people asking the Board to review the process used to end the partnership with UNEA.

Sebrena Burr was another speaker who claimed that at a recent Work Session that it was "a table of white people telling half-truths and creating a false narrative" and she said the two people of color at the table sat in silence.

Sarah Sense Wilson, head of UNEA, said that they had not violated any Board policy and that the information that the district said it had not received from UNEA, under the policy, was not due until the end of the school year.  Her daughter, Julia, also spoke and offered that if the district was ending its relationship with UNEA and moving Licton Springs K-8, then they might as well take the name of Robert Eagle Staff off the building.  She also noted that the district using the word "termination" is deeply hurtful to Native peoples.

I left after Ms. Wilson's testimony but I learned from Twitter that annoying guy, Alex Tsimerman, who normally likes to harass the City Council but has taken up coming to Board meetings, was shouted down when he tried to testified by Native folks.  This despite President Harris saying, "Let him speak."

I was not able to stay for the vote on Time Immemorial nor have I reviewed the videotape but tweets from the Seattle Times reporter, Dahlia Bazzaz:

- On UNEA partnership: Scott Pinkham and Leslie Harris said they were blindsided by the decision to cut the partnership with UNEA. It would've been good to loop me in to see how I could help, said Pinkham. "I feel hurt."

- Eden Mack says that it's not in the school board's purview to oversee the partnerships the district makes with the community. It's a district staff decision, but board members can appeal to the supe to repair the relationship

-Pinkham offers his next community meeting as a space for UNEA and the district to mediate their concerns.

- Something weird just happened after the amendment to acknowledge the Duwamish tribe in the Since Time Immemorial curriculum was just intro'd. Chief legal counsel called the Board into executive session bc the amendment might create a legal liability for the district?

- They just came back. Pinkham withdrew the amendment. The Board approved the Since Time Immemorial curriculum to a standing ovation. To be clear, this is a state-mandated curriculum. But the district hadn't committed sufficient funds to implement it.

In other news, again via Dahlia Bazzaz's Twitter feed for the Seattle Times:

- Other notable item approved: the collective bargaining agreement for principals. It will cost about $5.5 million and last through 2024. Includes a 5% raise. 
- Scott Pinkham proposed an amendment to the 2019-20 budget to earmark funds for the resurrection of the African American Academy and the Indian Heritage school. The latter has been on UNEA's wishlist for a while.
- Budget calls for spending a little over $1 billion. Enrollment expected to dip to 51,000 students.
- Board pres Harris to Pinkham: The amendments did not go through the committee process, were not vetted, & that's frankly a breach of trust. And that polarizes everything. Then you're against the Duwamish or against AA academy. That's how it works in this passive aggressive city.  


Anonymous said…
Natives are not owed a school of their own. Times change , leaders change and promises get broken across the district. It's reckless for Pinkham to put forth some sort of reparations BAR like he did. This Guy has been sleeping at wheel for 3.75 years and now when he's leaving he attempts a class-less act of basically performing a scorched earth tactic that sets-up the optics that anyone who dosn't support his BAR is a racist.

Scott you have to do more than just show-up now and then, I know that's how it been for you in the past, but you should know better by now. I don't know if you are trying to save face with your community or what, but you need to apologize for going rogue.

I don't know what is worst, Pinkham linking natives and blacks or HCC linking themselves to SPED. Both horrific self centered acts!

It's not too late to save the little dignity you have left Scott.

Native Supporter
Tired Mom said…
Thanks for the write up. I want to know what's going on, but I just don't have time to watch the school board meetings.
Carol Simmons said…
Dear Native Supporter,

As perhaps you know, the African American Academy and the Indian Heritage High School should not have been closed in the first place. Director Pinkham recognized this and had the courage to say it in the form of a motion.

We would all profit from our School Board supporting this motion.

Anonymous said…
These are the test scores for the African American Academy’s final year:

Grade Level Reading Math Writing Science
3rd Grade 46.1% 21.0%
4th Grade 66.6% 16.6% 70.8%
5th Grade 45.7% 28.5% 8.5%
6th Grade 57.1% 20.0%
7th Grade 34.3% 16.1% 64.5%
8th Grade 47.0% 20.5% 14.7%

What is the argument for keeping it open?

Fairmount Parent
Native Supporter, you are supposing that Pinkham actually reads this blog. I don't think he does. Did you go to his community meeting yesterday and tell him that?

Fairmount Parent, it's a long story. Suffice to say that too many cooks in the kitchen ruined it. I see no reason to try it again.
Anonymous said…

There is a long history of tribes preventing other tribes from receiving federal recognition. Inviting a Muckleshoot to the school board meeting was probably the wrong tribe to choose. They have actively worked to keep the Duwamish from being recognized. It's all about money.

Duwamish say tribal rivalry hinders bid for recognition

The possibility of earning big money through tribal gambling has complicated the effort of some tribes to win federal recognition. Meanwhile, two existing Washington tribes want to open casinos off their reservations.

Anonymous said…
Tribes are allowed to run casinos as a way to fund their nation, separate from non-natives. If the tribe as a collective wants a school then they should use some of the billions they have made off the casinos to fund an endowment.

Problem solved.
Jim Simmons said…
Jim Simmons said:

Dear Fairmount Parent:

Your information regarding African American Academy test scores is accurate in one sense, and very inaccurate in another sense. When one considers that the African American Academy test scores, for a Seattle public school working with a very high percentage of students in poverty one sees that the African American Academy was doing better with this high concentration of free and reduced lunch students than any other school in the Seattle school district. The SPS administration closed the school that was showing the best test scores with this high concentration of African American students in poverty.

suep. said…
@Native Supporter, I disagree with your characterization of Scott Pinkham. During my time on the Board working with Scott (and since), I found him to be a thoughtful, intelligent person of integrity who genuinely cares about students and families and tried to make informed decisions in their best interest. I also had the pleasure of serving with him on the Executive Committee when I was Board President. I saw him consistently vote his conscience, even if that didn't always lead to a majority vote (his recent votes against AmplifyScience despite all the political pressure from District staff and some teachers, are a good example of this). My impression has been that he genuinely cares about Native American students and issues, and is not merely trying to win points for political advancement (unlike a current colleague of his who is now running for City Council). Scott has regularly attended District meetings and held community meetings -- he has not been 'asleep at the wheel.' Again, it sounds like you are confusing him with DeWolf.

-- Sue P.
Priceless! said…
Seattle Public Schools voted to support a Native American curriculum while tossing out free space to UNEA!

A document indicates that Juneau thought the space was more important to the CITY!
Priceless, what document? Send it to me if you have it.
Priceless! said…
Here it is:

"Juneau said Thursday that the group can still pay to rent the space like other organizations — but that the type of partnership the Alliance had was better suited for larger partners such as the city."

The district already provides free space to the city's prek program. I guess Native populations do not deserve the same level of support.
Thanks for circling back; if the district only wants to partner with larger entities what does that say for CBOs?

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