Reviewing the District VII Candidate Answers to Questionnaires

Update: the Board is having a Work Session on this process on Monday, August 5th from 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm at the JSCEE.  This falls in the category of "things that make you go...hmmm."  Perhaps they will discuss who is still eligible.  Perhaps they will discuss which community questions were answered.  I can't imagine they are going to suss out who their top picks are before having the community forum to meet the candidates on Wednesday, August 7th from 6-9 pm at RBHS.

Also to note, while I didn't take screenshots of all the answers, someone else did.  I will get that and post what Emijah Smith took out of her first posting of answers.  You'll see what she says about charter schools.  Again, her support of them should automatically disqualify her from sitting on the Board.

As well, it appears that the SESEC forum included voting at the end and, that several candidates had no idea that was happening.  Seems unfair.  I would guess the Board is not going to allow that vote total to be any part of their decision-making. 

end of update

Yes, I did slog through all those questions and answers.  It made for interesting and telling reading.

My initial impressions from this thread were solidified reading these questionnaires.  I initially had said that Dionne Foster, Chukundi Salisbury, Sofia Voz,  Julie Van Ardken and Jason Hahn seemed to be the strongest candidates.

After reading the answers, I continue to believe these are the best candidates although I would downgrade Voz and Hahn to a "maybe."

That would leave the three candidates who I think are the strongest to be Julie Van Arcken, Chukundi Salisbury and Dionne Foster.  All are people of color, all have lived in District VII for 6+ years, all have deep ties to the community.  Ms. Van Arcken is one of two candidates that retiring director Betty Patu has endorsed (the other is Brandon Hersey).

Sandra Bosley withdrew; Romanita Hairston has effectively taken herself out of the race by not submitting answers to the questions.  That leaves us with 10 candidates. 
Community Questions
Candidates were allowed to pick three community questions to answer.  The district lumped several questions into groups (not explaining how/why).  

The community questions that didn't get answered broadly were about:
- options for families and "whole child" learning
- boundaries and walkability
- volunteer work within the district; taskforces, committees, etc.
- Special Education (as a standalone question - it was included under a question about discipline)
- Advanced Learning (as a standalone question - it was included under another question)
- Principals
- Segregation
- 30/60/90 - What would you do in your first 30/60/90 days in office?  Only one candidate answered that one - Julie Van Arcken.
- Commitment to a full term - Only one candidate answered that one and it was Brian Hersey who not only said he would serve the entire rest of Patu's term but, that he would run for it after that.

Naturally, the candidates had many questions to answer so not answering a specific community question doesn't necessarily mean a lot.

The main theme was....equity and the Strategic Plan.  Many candidates chose to answer the Board questions thru that lens.   As well, many candidates referenced finding and retaining more teachers of color (most without any specifics so it's great to say that but what would you do that the district hasn't already done - Hahn had one idea).

Board Selected Questions

1. What is your connection to the Southeast Seattle District VII community, schools, families, and students? How do you foresee growing or expanding on those connections and relationships in your role as a school board director?
2. What is your understanding of the role of school board director? How do you foresee working with your fellow directors, the superintendent, staff, and the public?
 3. How do you think Seattle Public Schools is doing? Do you support the district’s recently adopted strategic plan — why or why not? What does focusing on students that are the furthest from educational justice mean to you?
4. How does racism affect education in Seattle? What are your ideas for implementing School Board Policy No. 0030, Ensuring Educational and Racial Equity? 
5. What do you want to focus on as a school board director and why? How do you foresee doing that work within the constraints of the role (law, existing policy, budget, staff, and public expectations)?

Candidate Responses to All Questions
I won't be going thru every single answer from every single candidate but will try to give impressions and notable quotes.

I also want to note that in my first impressions post, I thought I had made clear (but I'll say it again), I did not ID folks' race/ethnic background from a photo.  I ONLY stated it if the candidate did in their introduction.  Many people did.

Patricia Cheadle
Ms Cheadle's answers were a difficult read.  She is verbose and, at times, hard to understand.  She also seems to misread the role of a director, stating that it's the job of the Board "to keep local schools on track."  That's the superintendent's job.  She also talked about the Board being involved in collective bargaining.  Nope, that's largely the superintendent's job.

Notable quote:
Finally, another theme of concern that echoed throughout the community questions involves funding support for the school district’s PTA, and I aim to propose a practical strategy for sustaining them funding support. In a nutshell, I propose a quarterly plan of adoption by high-end Fortune 500 Corporations. The school board will identify and solicit them as a quarterly sponsor of the year! This strategy includes economic data impacts on the revenues the community expends annually to our targeted corporations, with potential for others to join our pool of Quarterly Corporate Sponsor of the Year.
 Dionne Foster
 In speaking about having regular community meetings, she referenced trying to find locations that are near transit.

While she supports the Strategic Plan, she notes:

However, the strategic plan doesn’t outline strategies the District will deploy in order to meet the identified work.  

She also said this:

I will also support recruitment and retention of bilingual educators to allow for the expansion of dual language programs and increased representation for English language learning students.  

She was also one of the few candidates to reference LGBTQ students:

I believe SPS also needs to understand how LGBTQ students are experiencing their school environments and will support efforts to create healthy environments for queer and questioning youth as well as improving representation for queer and trans students in curriculum. 

One community question that several candidates answered, including Foster, was this one:

By what means and with what expediency will you work to dramatically reduce the number of instances and number of days of punitive school exclusions in District VII schools, especially for African-American students, other students of color, and students with disabilities?

Foster, like nearly every other candidate, ignored the part about "students with disabilities".

Notable quote:
If appointed, I will support efforts to ensure students have access to high quality, free, culturally relevant foods in school. 

Interestingly, both Foster and Salisbury have a "green" background, working in communities for climate and environmental justice.

Jason Hahn
I'm a little less high on his candidacy due to seeing him suddenly pop up on a couple of public ed Facebook pages where I have never heard from him before.  Apparently, I haven't been keeping up; he has been interacting with many parents at a couple of Facebook pages for several months.

On the Strategic Plan, Hahn had several notable statements.  He was the only candidate who mentioned standardized testing.

The strategic plan also depends on standardized testing to show if we are meeting our goals. Standardized testing is hopelessly flawed with racial and gender bias.  

He also mentioned Sped students in discussing the Strategic Plan.

I agree with the strategic plan that students furthest from education justice are “students from certain ethnicities [that] have not historically experienced equitable opportunities for all or part of their educational journey (including African and African American, Asian Pacific Islander and Pacific Islander, LatinX, and Native American students)”. I would add that our students in special education are also very far from educational justice. 

Like Foster: I am concerned the strategic plan lacks essential components - time-bound goals with strategies to meet them.  

He has a fairly radical idea about how to get to having a teaching corps that reflects the student population:
One option would be to follow the path taken by Tangipahoa Parish schools in Louisiana. That school district was ordered by federal courts to only hire black teachers until the percentage of black teachers was the same as black students. And it worked. With the passage of I-1000, we have the opportunity to do this in Seattle as well. And, we can make policy to require SPS to hire Black teachers, Latinx teachers, Asian teachers, Native teachers, Pacific Islander teachers, and Multi-Racial teachers until our teaching staff resembles the magnificent diversity of the communities we serve.

Like Foster, he addresses food in schools:
Our SPS cafeterias, including the central kitchen, are regularly cited for food safety violations. The majority of these violations occur in cafeterias in schools with many low-income students. This is not a problem in neighboring school districts. As a director I will regularly push on this issue until these violations cease. And, insist that the “smiley-face” posters that rate food-safety are also posted at the front door of every school. 
Second, we need to ensure our food choices are responsive to the cuisines of the people who live here in District 7. We are home to the Plate of Nations - our school cafeterias should reflect that. We need to include parent and student voices in choosing the menu. 

Third, we need to give our students plenty of time to calmly eat in a relaxing environment. Twenty minutes isn't enough - there should be at least 30 minutes devoted to lunch.

Notable quote
I will work with my constituents, district staff, fellow Directors, and our students by listening first and speaking last. While I will be civil, I will never back down in advocating for what the children in District 7 need.  

Brandon Hersey
For someone who hasn't lived in Seattle long, he has really worked hard to establish connections and ties with Fathers and Sons Together (FAST), the Lions club and Boy Scouts.

I have earned the dual endorsement of former Board Director Betty Patu and Rainier Beach High School PTSA President Gloria Biggs.

What he wants to do:

We also need to revamp the Highly Capable Core, reduce counselor caseload, hire more librarians, and financially support our most outdated and overcrowded schools, many of which are located in District VII. I believe we must also improve school nutrition and create a student-to-teacher pipeline program. 

Clearly, he got that HCC acronym wrong but these are good ideas.  I believe he is also wrong on the overcrowding; I'm not sure the SE has that many overcrowded schools as compared to other regions.  He also said:

We can ensure our schools are adequately funded by lobbying the legislature and properly allocating the revenue generated by the Building Excellence V (BEX V) levy. 

I'm not sure he realizes that BEX is for buildings and that the list is already made.  It's not revenue for the General Fund.

Other ideas:

If appointed, I will champion an ethnic studies curriculum that begins earlier than high school. By this point, students have already lost many opportunities to celebrate their history and culture in an academic setting. 

Notable quote:
One of many solutions to this issue is refining our student-to-teacher preparatory pipeline programs. The diversity of our student body is our greatest strength. Who better to provide an equitable education to our future students, than those who matriculated the same system? However, in order to do this, we must make a career in education a sustainable option. 

Barbara Rockey 
She tends to speak in generalities but had good thoughts on what might be helpful in school settings around racism and inclusion.
  • Inclusive language for students, other staff and educators, and for parents and caregivers when talking about families.
  • Student forms, handbooks and school/home communications to ensure inclusivity.
  • Representation of diverse family structures, people of different races, gender expressions, ethnicities and abilities.
  • Displays that encourage respect for all people and their humanity.
  • Staff and educators treat all families with respect and avoid stereotyping or judgment when communicating with two-mom and two-dad, single-parent, racially diverse and/or multi-linguistic families.
  • Provide interrupters for diverse languages spoken in schools that supports students, parents and guardians. 
I think instead of "interrupters" she meant "interpreters."

Notable quote:
The education goal and path of no two students is every the same and with Seattle Public Schools being the largest and most diverse in the state racially, culturally, ethnically and in languages, it’s important to provide multiple pathways for student success, and now with the Washington legislature passing house bill 1599 in recognizing and supporting multiple pathways for graduation students that’s equitable in meeting their educational needs.

Chukundi Salisbury
I look forward to hearing Salisbury speak as I like much of what he talks about doing for SPS.

My top 5 focus areas would be:

  1. Raising the percent of students who meet standards among those who are being left behind.
  2. Reducing the percent of students who are excluded due to behavioral violations.
  3. Working on Career-Connected Learning
  4. Increasing Community Based Partnerships with quantifiable results.
  5. Increasing parent/community engagement and participation that will lead to overall accountability.
Salisbury is one of the few candidates who can make a direct link between his work and the ability to oversee the massive SPS budget.
I currently manage a $1.5 Million budget as the Environmental Sustainability, Education, and Engagement Unit Manager at Seattle Parks and Recreation. Over the past 22 years, I have always been in a position that manages and monitors a budget. Additionally, as a current Board Member at the YMCA of Greater Seattle’s Camping and Outdoor Leadership Branch, Real Change Homeless Empowerment Project (Real Change Newspaper), and former Board Chair at Southeast Youth and Family Services, I am very familiar with the fiduciary responsibility of being a director.
Notable quote:
What I have found in working for Government and other large organizations is that often we do not follow our own plan. I would like to see the formation of a group perform a “Cultural & Racial” audit 4 times a year or more. We need to have a nearly real-time dashboard for African American Students and others who are not meeting standard. We cannot wait until, yet another failing report card comes home on our district with respect to African American Students. If African American Achievement was a student, we would be asking for a weekly progress report. We need the same for our district. 
Emijah Smith

I have to categorically reject her candidacy.  I read her answers yesterday and today? She changed what questions she answered (wish I had done a screenshot of every page but I didn't think I needed to).  I believe she should have acknowledged this but did not. 

What she took out was that she supports charter schools.  In fact, she doubled down by trying to fend off criticism by saying it's a parent's right to look for the best education for their child, especially if they cannot afford private school.  I have often said parents have to make their own best reasoned choices but charters hurt public schools and they especially are going to hurt schools in District VII.

Also to note, not one but two Boards have passed resolutions rejecting charters.  Why would the Board put someone on the board who doesn't support those resolutions?


Julie Van Arcken
Van Arcken took a fairly conversational tone in her answers.  This is both engaging and confusing as she references some events without explanation.  She's pretty honest about the job as Board director:
I understand the role of the School Board director, and its constraints, well enough to not make grandiose promises about what I can do as one director on a board with six others, in a district that has no dedicated Board staff, in a state that underfunds its schools.
She talks about her work at Amazon which kept her quite busy especially when she had to travel internationally.  She notes that working at a tech firm has given her an appreciation for data privacy. She resigned that job just days ago  and that will afford her the time to devote to the Board should she be selected.  What has she done since then:
In the last three days, I have attended two task force subcommittee meetings; corresponded with the district's Chief Operations Officer about security policy; met with the Special Education PTSA; met with school community leaders at an event sponsored by the Center for Ethical Leadership at the Somali Community Services Center, and discussed the history of racism in Washington state, restorative practices, the school-to-prison pipeline, and other topics; talked to a Cleveland High School senior about his role as a City Council campaign organizer; talked to a new Garfield High School graduate about her work with the Rainier Beach Farm Stand, which sources food from POC farmers; and talked to new Rainier Beach High School graduates about their work with the Corner Greeters group that goes to "crime hotspots" to deter crime using a non-police presence. 
On teachers of color:
Despite this disproportionality between students and teachers of color, we do not require training in implicit bias, restorative practices, de-escalation, and culturally responsive pedagogy.

When discussing the why there's a critical lack of black educators in U.S. schools, Rodney Robinson, the National Education Association's 2019 Teacher of the Year, said: "It's no coincidence... No one wants to return to the scene of their trauma as a career field."  

In particular, I have stressed that we cannot rely on an 80% white educator workforce without mandatory implicit bias training to reliably identify children of color for Advanced Learning services.
As I mentioned she is the only candidate to answer the 30-60-90 question and provides a very detailed answer.

Notable quote
As a woman who worked at the world's second most valuable company for many years and had to make a solid business case for every significant resource expenditure, I will bring cost-benefit analysis and a spirit of frugality to budget decisions, understanding that a dollar spent in one area is a dollar that will ultimately be taken from another worthy area. 

Sofia Voz
I have pulled back a bit on my support for her candidacy only because she has chosen to focus solely on race and equity.  The district has made this issue the top priority (which is great) but there are many other issues that parents want/need to hear about.  That she referenced almost nothing else is troubling.

Voz pulls no punches on issues of racism:
This country was founded through the genocide and commodification of Native People, and built on the backs of black Africans, who were brought to this country against their will, in the name of capitalism. Embedded into the fabric of its founding, the United States has actively fed the construction and narrative of race as a means of creating systems and structures that benefit white Americans and create barriers of entry for people of color, especially black and Native Americans and those without citizenship rights. This history cannot be ignored when we look at current inequitable outcomes across every possible sector including health, education, transportation, and criminal justice. Each of these systems was designed to uplift white Americans- when we wonder why outcomes for people of color are lagging, it is simply the system doing what it was designed to do. Dismantling and disrupting systems and cycles of oppression require learning and unlearning, shifting power, and an ongoing consideration of who is at the table when decisions are made. 
While a few others mentioned PTSA funding, she is quite clear:
PTA’s are a value add to schools for everyone- teachers, administrators, families, and students. An active and engaged parent community can support transparency and accountability at a school and district level. At the same time, they can be vehicles for inequity, especially when schools with a large portion of affluent families utilize their PTA’s to hoard resources and privileges that are already disproportionate. This is about what it means to be a member of a community, where supporting students at a different school with fewer resources mere miles down the road is what is best for all of us. There are districts in our state that have policies that allow families to contribute to their student’s public education- and where that money is also pooled in a foundation or other entity that distributes funds to schools that need it most. We cannot talk about equity as a city or a district if affluent, mostly dominant culture families are not willing to take a little less so that those who need more, have more. That is the definition of equity and I would support enacting policy changes that limit supplementing staffing using PTA funds and broadens the impact those dollars can have across the district.
Notable quote:
Ultimately, as a member of the School Board, collaboration with all constituents is key. It means working with communities to prioritize and write policy, and with other Directors to get that policy passed. It requires listening to understand and simultaneously practicing patience while being persistent about what is just. Through my identity as an inquirer, I seek to enter spaces with others curious and holding space for multiple truths.  

Brittany Williams
Ms. Williams has compassion and caring but I do not believe she is ready for this position at this time.

Notable quote:
I believe the way to expand is to keep a healthy relationship with not just Kimball, but use my learn knowledge to build with the other schools. Remembering one important thing said to me by a vice principal, “don’t become untouchable.”  


Anonymous said…
Exactly what additional policies do these people think SPS needs?

These are ridiculous answers from people who think a SPS board position is a stepping stone. These community organizers will only stir up end-less trouble. Here comes Blanford 2.0.

Seattle Speaks said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason Hahn said…

What Facebook posts are you concerned about? I haven't posted anywhere recently that I haven't posted to in the past.
Also, I think you have it all wrong on Emijah. Not sure if you have ever spoken with her but if you did you would find a community education advocate that many of us here in District 7 respect greatly.

Jason Hahn

Sorry about my last post. Not sure what account my Gmail was associated with. That profile photo was really a trip down memory lane ...
Jason, I have almost never seen you post at the former Soup for Teachers site. Nor at the Seattle Special Ed Facebook page. If I'm wrong, please show me posts that you made previous to your bid for the seat.

Also, you seem to have missed what I wrote previously and today about Smith. I know she's a smart, caring person. But she's also a person who supports charters and said so before she changed her answers. No one who supports charters should be on the school board.

Do you support charters?
Jason Hahn said…
Hi Melissa,

Here are some links to posts I have made on the former Soup for Teachers site, except for one yesterday, that I made before my bid. If you type my name into the search bar on the left-hand side of the group, you can find them and the comments, likes, etc. that I have made. (Feb 6) (Feb 26) (Apr 16) (June 17) (yesterday)

As far as the Seattle Special Education group, I learned about it a couple of days before I decided I was going to apply for this position. So hopefully you will trust me on that one. For our family, it has been a lonely time trying to navigate the Special Education process at SPS. After reaching out to some of our colleagues, we learned about the group and joined it.

I'm grateful to have found them. And wish that I had found it faster. In general, I think we could do a much better job of supporting families during the Special Education process.

When my mom worked as a teacher in NY State in her school district, all IEP meetings had to have a family advocate present. I think that is something we should look into here in Seattle as well.

In a previous blog, I am pretty sure you noted that I was making outreach to the Special Education community through Facebook. At the time it appeared you viewed it positively.

I am going to comment separately on charter schools as these are two different topics.


Jason Hahn said…
As far as charter schools, I am not a supporter, in principle, of the concept. Our public schools should be so good that no one would want to send their child to a charter school.

Here in District 7, I think we should focus on ensuring that our public schools meet the needs of all of our children so that every family and child is welcome.

I know that isn't the case now. There are some parents who feel that their children are best served at a charter school. I'm certainly not going to question their choices.

What I am going to do is work to make our public schools in District 7 excellent.
Okay Jason, "in principle" is not good enough. Do you support charter schools in District 7? Would you advance the idea of SPS becoming a charter authorizer?

I'm not asking you to question anyone's personal choices. But if someone is sitting on a community advisory committee for a large charter school group and then wants to be on the Seattle School Board when that group has twice taken a stand against charters? That's a problem.
Jason Hahn said…
Hi Melissa, I would not support SPS becoming a charter authorizer. Also, did you see my response on the subject of my Facebook posts?
Anonymous said…
Jason you are a fool to engage MW here and use those closed group facebook pages.

There are many people like MW that will twist your words then re-publish them on other various media platforms. Not long ago this blog was the instrument of death threats against school board members and candidates. MW eventually deleted the threatening comments but not until the damage was done.

This blogs owner will delete you responses in order to skew the context.

Anonymous said…
Jason grow a pair,

District 7 should be cut lose so to be all it can be. This freedom means more funding and more control. It's just a matter of time before it happens.

SPS is content to burn through cash trying to pacify district 7's white fragility. The best solution is, if you love district 7 then set her free!

Free D7
Jason, okay, I stand corrected about the Facebook posts.

Beware, what are you babbling about? Who threatened what Board members/candidates with death? Nonsense. You'll have to explain that one.

Free D7, also largely incoherent. If you want to make a point, make it. What cash? Who in District 7?
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jason, Beware is the troll at this blog. You can always tell this person by their incoherent thoughts and an inability to read for content.

I didn't say Jason was a charter school supporter - I asked him and he said no. I didn't even say anything about that in his section of this post. Sigh.

Wink Wink, I didn't say they were all Sped advocates; in fact, I pointed out that many said nothing about it.

I'm deleting your post because we don't EVER talk about children like that.
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
15-year Member, repost under Friday Open Thread. This is not the post to make that comment.
Anonymous said…
Jason, thanks for your polite responses. However like Beware, I would advise against engaging on this blog as MW will twist your words to get a reaction. You just experienced it.
However, I want to publicly, in the comfort of anonymity, express how grateful I am for MW running this blog. It helps people like me to have a glimpse on white supremacy. Now I know how y'all think when smiling at my brown children on the playground while asking me if I made the tamales for the classroom party.

A great eye opener.

Miss Apatos
I don't twist people's words. In fact, I have asked Beware and I'll ask Miss Apatos, what did I twist? Nothing. I asked him a direct question and he gave me an answer. End of story.

Yes, it is great to be anonymous and say whatever you want. However, it takes a lot more courage to sign your name. Try it sometime.

But please, do it elsewhere.

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