Thursday, July 15, 2021

Seattle School Board Races Updates

One final chance to see the candidates for Seattle School Board before the primary election appears to be a forum put on by the Seattle Council PTSA.

Wednesday, July 21st from 5 to 7 PM

Seattle Council PTSA is proud to host a virtual candidate forum for School Board positions in Districts 4, 5 and 7. This is a great opportunity for candidates to share their platforms and to answer questions from community members across the district. Members of our communities are encouraged to submit their questions prior to the forum by emailing president@scptsa.org

Our officers will compile a list and will give candidates an opportunity to answer the same questions. Depending on time, there might be one or two questions specific to each candidate. Zoom link below.

Time: Jul 21, 2021 05:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting


Meeting ID: 972 9085 3848

Passcode: 161132

 I’m sure all the candidates from D 4 will show as that is a tight race.

Each candidate - Erin Dury, Laura Marie Rivera and Vivian Song Martitz - has several good endorsements to her credit. Still to come - the SEA endorsement. I think it likely they will endorse Dury. 

If it’s anything like other forums, it’s hard to know who will show for D5; I haven’t read an account of any time where the three candidates - Dan Harder, Michelle Sarju and Crystal Liston - have all shown up. Below is an account of the forum where Harder and Sarju debated.

And, the SCPTSA is including Director Brandon Hersey (D7). Most forums have not because he doesn’t have any competition to get to the General Election. (His sole competition seems to have gone AWOL.) He will take this seat but it will be interesting to hear his answers to questions.

Other SB race Info:

FUSE gave their endorsements and got Dury’s very wrong in one way. 

The Seattle School Board has experienced high levels of turnover in recent years, with all but one member still serving their first term. Dury is a good choice if you believe the board would benefit from stability and greater institutional knowledge, especially as the district continues the transition back to in-person learning and begins the search for a new superintendent.

Well, first, 4 years is a long time for an intense volunteer gig (I personally have thought it should be three years). So of course there is turnover. Yes, Betty Patu AND Eden Mack leaving during their terms was not good for the Board but also very rare. And, Dury does NOT have institutional knowledge after a couple of months so frankly, any of the three could say they have that (given they are all active parents in the district).

The Urbanist made endorsements and picked Erin Dury for D4 and Michelle Sarju for D5. And again, like FUSE give Dury much more credit than they should have.

While the school board had a tumultuous year, Dury has a tactful and deliberate management style that will be a huge asset to the district as education returns to in-person learning. Dury’s deep understanding of the intricacies of Seattle Public Schools (SPS) were made apparent in our interview. For example, her thorough explanation of Policy 2190 as a means to move away from the historically racist and segregated Highly Capable Cohort program.

I have not seen tactful from Dury; I have seen timid. She does NOT have “a deep understanding of the intricacies of SPS”; she appears to know only one thing and that’s the section of the Strategic Plan about race and equity and the HCC policy. I urge - again - to consider that there are OTHER issues in the district and HCC is NOT the root of everything wrong in the district. 

They said about Sarju:

Sarju is here to push the district to adopt policies and programs that reach students on a broader spectrum, whether that is making a system not just about college and boosting partnerships with trades training or phasing out standardized testing.

She has mentioned “reimagining” assessments repeatedly and I agree. I think the SEA would love that but the buzzsaw that is the district and OSPI might give a lot of pushback. If she is elected, it will be worth watching to see what happens. 

Seattle Channel Voters Guide - two minutes with each candidate 

Harder/ Sarju debate with the League of Women Voters at Horizon House:

Dan Hardon is a straight-up Republican and I give him credit for really putting it out there (without saying Republican because the office is non-partisan.)

- Michelle highlighted SEL over and over.
- She also stated - twice - how white kids are all having their needs met but not black and brown kids and the district should work from there.
- Dan said the role of public ed is to reduce disparities and provide resources to those who need them. His tactic is to say that the district, by allotting resources by group, is “stereotyping” kids and that’s wrong.
They were asked about the superintendent and the role of the Board. Both said the revolving door of supers needs to stop. Michelle said that Brent couldn’t get the permanent job but that’s just not true. There is nothing in the contract that says that and I’m not sure he has said he wouldn’t take it if offered. She thinks they should look locally.
- They got asked about PTA funding. Michelle said when her kids were at TOPS, it raised $300K a year while her neighborhood school (which she apparently didn’t send her kids to), Bailey-Gatzert, had very little. She said she had talked to president of the Seattle Council PTSA and that it needed to be addressed but no specifics. Dan said local parents can set their own policy and that PTA is a private org. He said maybe it could be for each $1 raised, 75 cents stays at school and the other 25 cents goes into a pool. He seemed to not fault parents for trying to help their kid’s school.
- Neither thought the district should mandate vaccinations. Dan said teachers should be encouraged to get vaccinated.
- On Ethnic Studies, Michelle is 100% for it. She then said something dumb, “CRT IS American History.” No, it’s not. She said, “I had to learn your history and y’all have to learn mine.” 

Dan said Ethnic Studies was okay but not CRT. He said it was a false history and saying our nation was founded on racism is wrong. He said it is a divisive concept and said equality is more important then equity. He said history should be taught in a “positive” manner.
- Both thought the district coming back from the pandemic is the biggest challenge facing SPS. Michelle said the district needs updating and assessments “reimagined.”
- Michelle’s closing statement kind of pandered to Horizon House. Dan said mentioned the encampment issue, data collection and said equality leads to equity.
- In Dan’s opening statement, he referenced the CHOP and said that some of the youth there referenced what they learned in school and Dan thinks that ideology is wrong. He said stereotyping labels like the nation is racist is political indoctrination.i

Did someone push Harder to run to dip a GOP toe in the water? Maybe. Given how low-key the third candidate, Crystal Liston, has been, it is hard to know who will clear the primary with Sarju. I think Sarju is the best choice but I also think she does not have complete info and/or context to back up some of her statements.


Welcome Home said...

Dury doesn't have the time to sit on the Seattle School Board. Brandon Hersey doesn't deserve to be elected. Both get a failing grade for transparency and oversight.

Welcome Home said...

The Executive Committee consists of Hersey, Hampson and Rivera Smith. Here is the information related to moving 16 items, including the annual budget to the Consent Agenda:

"Directors discussed criteria for including items as Action Items versus placing them on the
Consent Agenda. Directors discussed moving to a practice of using a presumption that items will be on
the Consent Agenda.
Director Hersey moved to approve the June 2, 2021 agenda as amended with Action Items 1-9 moved to
the Consent Agenda. Director Rivera-Smith seconded. This motion passed unanimously. (Directors
Rivera-Smith, Hersey, and Hampson voted yes).
Director Hampson requested support from staff in communicating to Directors the shift to including
items on the Consent Agenda as a general practice and requesting that Directors communicate to staff
when they intend to remove an item from the Consent Agenda."


WallyMom said...

@Welcome home

It is sad that the minimum we expect is for School Board Directors to attend the meerings. If they don't have time or seem like too many for them they shouldn't run

Policy 1250 said...

Keep an eye on board policy 1250 which was sponsored by Brandon Hersey and Zachary DeWolf:


The board is moving in a direction to place- what appears nearly all- voting items on the consent agenda. During the last meeting, the board was poised to pass an anual budget of over $1B and greater than $90M in expenditures with a single up or down vote. No public discussion.

We have always had student representatives on the board. Board Policy 1250 will place up to 7 (!) students on the board. Is the intention to put hundreds of millions of dollars in expenditures on the Consent Agenda and have students speak at board meetings?

Placing 3,5 or 7(!) students on the board undermines our representative democracy.

Students have the opportunity to work on campaigns, form advocacy groups etc. There is no reason for the board to pass a policy that allows 7 students on the board.

Anonymous said...

@Welcome Home
Could you remind us of the impact of moving items to the Consent Agenda? I think it means that the Board has the ability to make decisions without any public review?

And yes, if Directors cant be bothered to participate, they should remove themselves or be removed.


Welcome Home said...

Thanks for your interest - uber.

The Consent Agenda is used for non-controversial items such as meeting minutes, staff appointments, volunteer appointments, perfunctory items- for approval of items that had much past discussion.

Note: The board passed over $90M worth of transactions during the last board meeting AND they tried to pass an annual budget over $1B, as well. Board comments made clear that multiple board members had serious questions regarding the budget. These questions would not have gone unanswered via the Consent agenda. Also, the district made changes to items - from the time that they were introduced- that did not receive public discussion.

"Problems in using a consent agenda occur when members approve consent agendas without first reviewing documents. The result is that consent items can be hastily approved and result in a cover-up. For example, if members are not reviewing financial items, overspending or wrong spending can occur without appropriate oversight."

It takes months for Committee Minutes to be made public. There are 3 directors in each committee and the full board won't receive public discussion via consent agenda.

Essentially, we have a lazy board that isn't interested in transparency, public input etc. and wants to limit school board meetings. Plus, the board appears poised to put up to 7 unelected students on the board- while dismissing financial obligations to public. Hersey was quite verbal about this issue. He does not deserve to be elected to the school board.

Google "Consent Agenda" for more information.

Anonymous said...

Dury IS timid, hasn’t contributed much to the Board in her short time there. Here’s hoping the main media endorsements - Vivian and Laura - make it through the primary. Dury is acting like an interim, not a long term director. Make room for contributors with ideas!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Song-Maritz was never interviewed by The Urbanist, btw.