Tuesday, May 04, 2021

The New Way in Seattle Schools

 What the “New Way?” Encompassing the entire district, we see changes aplenty with near zero explanation. I’ll start but do chime in with yours.

- Minutes of committee meetings. Man, these are starting to look like charter school board meeting minutes. Which is to say, sparse and just the facts (and maybe not even all the facts). 

Example: the scribe appears to have been told to not flesh out any discussion with back-and-forth. So you see this: “Questions were asked and answers were given.” Seriously, that’s what is written. Clearly, of little use to any parent, teacher, administrator, student or taxpayer. 

I do have my suspicions that there are TWO sets of minutes. I say that because if someone internal to JSCEE needed info on what happened at a particular meeting and all they see is, “People were here and talked,” it just might make their job harder.

Another example of this is when Keisha Scarlett leveled her accusations about racism at Chandra Hampson and Zachary DeWolf, her complaint named a specific committee meeting. Let’s go to the minutes and....nothing. I wouldn’t expect the scribe to make judgements about what was said but there is nothing wrong with “a lively discussion ensued.” I did find someone who was at the meeting who confirmed Scarlett’s account and said it was very uncomfortable. 

- Work Session documentation. To review, a citizen has to make a request to the Board office for documentation attached to a committee meeting. The reasoning here is that staff may change something at the last minute.  So for every single committee meeting, every single time, the request has to be made. (To note, the Board office is nothing but kind and helpful.) 

However, the informal rule had been for Work Sessions that all documentation would be attached to the agenda. And it had been until about a month or so ago. Now, all you can see is a stripped-down agenda. I asked about the documentation for a recent Work Session and I was told there is none. 

Really? The Board has Work Sessions to discuss specific issues with staff and there is no documentation whatsoever? I suspect if you put forth a public disclosure request, voila! Documentation. 

- The silencing of Board members. Chandra Hampson, as Board president, seems to have gone out of her way to limit how much time Board members can speak on their own region and its happenings AND to try to shut down Board discussion by cutting off some members. Zachary DeWolf cut Board members off as well. I will say that in the past, some directors - looking at Jill Geary - seemed to be blissfully unaware of how long their regional comments went on. Nonetheless, two minutes or else seems harsh for an elected official to speak to constituents. 

Anyone seeing this at the school level?


Curious George said...

Having been around for almost two decades, those complaining now have no idea how awful things are. Glad you are back. Maybe they will learn.

Welcome Home said...

Thanks for letting us know about agendas failing to attach documents. It gets worse! I checked the document for today's work session on Student Outcome Focused Governance and Planning. The document simply has the Title of the meeting! The document fails to contain a simple word regarding covered topics. The public has no way of figuring out what is being discussed. Shocking and unacceptable!


The Seattle Times Editorial Board is correct to call out this board for lack of transparency.

We have two appointed individuals sitting on the board that will seek election in the fall (Drury and Hersey) They need to be held accountable for district operations.

Anonymous said...

Board members are also less accessible than they used to be. Chandra Hampson deleted her FB account after her homeless sweeps stance met the Fox News/KIRO/Safe Seattle, to the detriment of her actual constituents. Liza Rankin, Zachary DeWolf are also disengaged. Lisa Rivera-Smith and Leslie Harris will attend forums and respond to emails, but the others have definitely put up a wall between them and the community.

-Go Away

old salt said...

During the last election, I understood this to be the board that staff wanted. My impression was that staff thought this board would better insulate them from the community and parents. Maybe that cuts both ways.