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Friday, September 17, 2021

Seattle School Board Trashes the Idea of "Accountability and Transparency" in their Work

 Folks, most of you know I have been a public education advocate in Seattle for decades. And just when I think Seattle Schools/Seattle School Board cannot get worse, they always surprise me. Below is a quick summary but I will flesh out the details below that and, when I finally get information that IS public information that WAS paid for by Seattle taxpayers and WAS already voted on by the Board, I will write more detail.

My perception of the bottom line is that the Board is trying to protect its members, the district is trying to not get sued and the people of Seattle are being gaslighted and deceived by the people employed and elected to run Seattle Schools. 

Summary

In September of 2020, two senior staffers at SPS filed a formal letter of complaint to the Board. Those two women were Dr. Keisha Scarlett and Manal Al-ansi, both black women. In their complaint, they state that for months, both then President Zachary DeWolf and then VP Chandra Hampson had "intimidated, harassed, bullied, gaslighted, retaliated and silenced" them in their work environment. The two women also charged that there was racism involved in this behavior by Hampson and DeWolf. The two women do not detail when/how on the counts but it apparently culminated at a Board committee meeting in September 2020.

We now know that the Board's reply to this was to launch an external investigation by a law firm into the charges.

Last Wednesday, at a regularly scheduled Board meeting, the final investigation report results were announced. According to the report, Hampson and DeWolf were found to have bullied, harassed and intimated both Scarlett and Al-ansi but not racially or by gender. 

The Board voted to accept the final investigation report, give a copy of the named Board policy to Hampson and DeWolf and advise them to comply with the superintendent's procedure that flows from it and that future directors receive training on the policy. 

The policy is 5207 and deals with how SPS staffers and district volunteers behave and act towards each other.  Sadly, we come to find that the policy does NOT include Board members and that actually, there is NO policy around how Board directors treat staff or each other. 

The Board also folded into the motion that they waive another policy 1420 that requires that all documentation for each item on the Board agenda be attached no later than three days before. Because the Board had chosen - for no stated reason - to NOT attach the final investigation report to the agenda for the public to see. 

I have sent in a public disclosure request - because CLEARLY the report is done and voted on - for the report and am told I can get it October 1st. 

Details

  • First, to be clear, only the final investigation report says what happened, when and by whom. No one has access to that report except the Board, SPS Legal and probably the Superintendent. I have no idea if it was delivered to Dr. Scarlett or Ms. Al-ansi.  
  • Both women who signed the letter of complaint are black; Hampson and DeWolf are both Native American.
  • The names of the two women are redacted in the report which I find odd but was told "it's something legal." Well, they are not underage nor were they sexually assaulted. Someone would have to explain that to me.
  • These behaviors apparently happened in both private and public meetings. Scarlett and Al-ansi say:

Colleagues that have witnessed these occurrences have reached out to Chief Scarlett and Director Al-ansi expressing shame, confusion and a sense of extreme distress and helplessness.

  • I looked up that committee meeting's minutes and there is nothing there. (To note, the minutes of official meetings are getting more and more scarce but if something happened at that meeting, then you might see "a lively discussion ensued." But there is nothing in the minutes.)

  • I have to wonder if Scarlett and Al-ansi might not be considering suing Hampson and DeWolf for damages. I don’t see what was stated at the Board meeting as truly fitting what the two women asked for. Scarlett and Al-Ansi had “recommendations for Remediation, Reconciliation and Reparation” in their letter of complaint.
- ensuring equitable and respectful board director interactions
- reaffirm Board commitment to anti-racist principles and practices
- if you see something, say something - meaning, “call-in colleagues if you see/hear/read something that seems wrong, speak up
- trust black people in positions of leadership
- disrupt white, racist institutional norms and practices
- racism by proxy is still racism

What I found interesting is that neither woman asks for a public apology which I might have thought they would want.
  • I have no idea if either Hampson or DeWolf reached out personally to either woman. What was done over the year since the complaint was filed to calm the waters? The only hint I got was a mention of "intent" in the Board comments.
  • Only Directors Harris and Rivera-Smith had comments at the Board meeting. Harris, who is a paralegal, spoke in the most torturous terms. She apparently wanted to say more but district legal counsel - who represent the district, not the Board - said she shouldn’t. She cited “personal liability." She abstained from the vote. That Harris - a legal eagle - was worried about saying something wrong because she might get sued is telling.
  • Director Rivera-Smith went on at length. It seemed like she felt someone should have done something sooner to help these “brilliant black women.” She used the phrase “intimidated, harassed and bullied” three times in speaking of the issue and I suspect that is the language used in the report. 
  • To note, throughout the meeting, various directors appeared on the screen as they spoke or as they listened. But when this motion came up, Hampson put up a photo of herself and I believe DeWolf did as well (it was hard to tell but he wasn’t on screen). If it had been an in-person meeting, there would have been no place for them to hide. 
  • I would posit that maybe the phrasing in the letter of complaint - about Hampson and DeWolf not allowing Scarlett and Al-ansi to do their jobs as members of the black community - perhaps that is what the women were speaking of as racism. 
  • Because the Strategic Plan has as one pillar to raise up black boys, the district has created offices towards that work with more staff. And that includes the work of both Ethnic Studies and Black Studies and a number of new hires who are black. How can they feel good about the situation?
  • I would bet for many people at JSCEE, these findings come as no surprise. From my own opinion and experience, I know Hampson to be both a bully and a control freak. Her non-relationship with Mayor Durkan and the "demand" that both she and DeWolf made to the Mayor in a newspaper story about a homeless encampment on district property is another good example of their decidedly poor leadership.
  • So until December, Hampson will continue to be president? How can that be? What does that say to POC at JSCEE? 

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for highlighting this report. It is very interesting that there are no expectations for board members' behaviors. I will be interested to read the report whenyou get a copy of it. I, for one, am not surprised. I have witnessed both of them bully other school board directors during public meetings. They are sarcastic, talk down to people, are self-righteous and close-minded. I do not know how or why other directors tolerate the treatment. Like you, I am also concerned about the lack of attachments or detailed notes for school board meetings. I fear the direction the school board is headed.

GL

Sigh said...

Thanks for the information.

It is unsurprising to learn that Chandra Hampson was investigated for harassment, intimidation and bullying.

Both DeWolf and Hampson have caused the district to spend dollars on an investigative report and potential settlement.

Given DeWolf and Hampson's public fight with the mayor and results of the recent investigative report, it is clear that the board has a responsibility to disallow both of these individuals from holding leadership positions.

The board has consistently used the Consent Agenda to pass tens of millions of dollar expenditures. They argue that the public hears district comments via the Introduction portion of the board meeting. There were NO Introduction items on the September 9th Board Agenda. The Consent Agenda for the next board meeting will be interesting.


https://www.seattleschools.org/board-meetings/

Anonymous said...

The redaction of names is to protect harassment survivors and is required under RCW 42.56. It is a little silly because we all know who it was, but it is the law. https://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=42.56.250 (sub 6)

And your read of Hampson is correct. She’s removed who public officials Facebook accounts (I think she may have crossed a legal line there but so far hasn’t been sued). Told members of community to take down summaries of their phone conversations that were written on social media. Etc.

My question is WHY the board continues to keep her as President with this much legal liability and trashing of any good will (if there is any left) with that institution. It wouldn’t be a leap to guess that they don’t all get along so well and she wields the same dynamics amongst her peers, but who really knows.

What Happened

District Parent said...

We’ve had the superintendent accused of racism and forced out, the ethnic studies leader accused of harassment and forced out, and now the school board president and vice president accused of racism and bullying.

For many years, the program for Native Americans was moved from place to place and was finally promised a permanent home at Licton Springs, a site sacred to them. But two years ago, the Native Americans were forced to leave. The community meeting where the move was announced and where the Native American community pleaded to remain was led by senior district leaders Michael Tolley and Ashley Davies, both African Americans. While the district has specifically called out African American males to receive extra focus in the district’s strategic plan, the Native Americans, who would appear to be equally deserving, were kicked out of their school located on sacred land.

Under Superintendent Juneau who was Native American, Dr. Brent Jones, Tim Collins, Dr. Lester Herndon, Michael Tolley, Steve Jones, and Eric McCurdy, all African Americans, all left Seattle Public Schools. And under Superintendent Juneau, Tracy Castro Gill, who was program manager for Ethnic Studies and had the strong support of the NAACP Education Chair Rita Green, an African American, was forced out after a lengthy investigation.

Were the staff changes by Superintendent Juneau justified? Who knows, but the investigation into the Ethnic Studies lead was very damaging and provided clear justification for her removal. Regardless, Rita Green and the NAACP demanded Juneau’s termination, and days later Juneau was effectively forced out and eventually replaced by Dr. Brent Jones, an African American that had left her staff.

Now two senior African American district leaders, including the district’s Chief Academic Officer Dr. Keisha Scarlett, have complained that the two Native American leaders on the school board, Chandra Hampson and Zachary DeWolf, of harassment and more significantly, racism.

While it's certainly ugly to have the School Board President found guilty of bullying against the Chief Academic Officer, I find it very serious that the Chief Academic Officer accused the Native American School Board President of racism, and the claim was found to be unsubstantiated. Given the treatment of Native Americans by the district’s senior leadership, some might find the charges ironic.

Sigh said...

I have seen Hampson bully directors from the dias. Both DeWolf and Hampson have a habit of cutting off directors when their positions don't align.

It is incumbent upon existing directors to remove Hampson and DeWolf from leadership roles.

All board members are complicit in passing tens and tens of millions of dollars via Consent Agenda. Board members are simply not removing items from Consent Agenda.

Sad state.

Anonymous said...

Kind of a distinction without a difference if what happened is the white passing board president bullied and harassed the Black woman in charge of equity in the district, but technically did not commit "racism." A racist thing happened anyway.

Blue dog

Melissa Westbrook said...

Part 1

Grandma Luvs Genealogy, you sent in a very specific comment about Hampson. You would need to write to me (sss.westbrook@gmail.com) with how you know what you state. I note that Blue Dog also has some doubts about Hampson’s background.

I’m going to first say that I do not think - unless you are directly related to someone - any one should be challenging anyone’s racial background and/or their lived experience around POC. I would also gently point out that families can be complicated and we, when we were children, had no control over how we were raised, what we were told about our racial backgrounds or the location where we were raised. (I believe that if you grew up in a largely POC neighborhood/city/town/region, you have a different lived experience than people who did.)

Let explain what Hampson and former head of Ethnic Studies Tracy Castro Gill said about me.

In the past, I have mentioned several times that I am one-quarter Mexican via a grandmother. I was raised in a small, isolated border town (the border being Mexico). The majority of the town was Mexican-American as were all the schools. But my parents were divorced and I was raised with my mother who was white.

Castro Gill asked if I even interacted with the Mexican-American kids. Clearly she doesn’t understand the math of being in a majority minority town/schools. My friends were both white and Mexican-American. My boyrfriends in high school were both white and Mexican-American. And know what? My mother knew and approved. At our high school dances,corridas and cumbias were always included. I, along with the other white people in town, interacted with Mexican Americans in our town because they were our friends, classmates and fellow citizens.

And we didn’t give it a second thought.

I do recall elementary teachers telling classmates to never speak Spanish at school. I never understood it but I remember that. My father never spoke Spanish to me nor did my grandmother. The message I took from both those things was that you needed to speak English or you might get into trouble.

Hampson and Castro Gill have both publicly sneered at/doubted my claims about who I am. This is incredibly offensive as I would never do that to anyone else. But they opened the door. And now we find that Hampson appears to be an equal opportunity offender with her bullying, intimidation and silencing.

Castro Gill, before she shut down her personal blog, detailed her upbringing with a white mother and Latino father. (It was not clear to me what his background is.) She made it sound like it was confusing to her and also stated that she did not grow up learning Spanish at home.

Because I was raised with a white mother, I didn’t think I could claim my quarter Mexican heritage. (I had been encouraged by my high school counselor to use it to get into college and/or get scholarships. I did not do that.) As I work on my family genealogy, I now proudly claim it. I don’t call myself Mexican-American but I claim my racial background.

I recall Eva Longoria, the actress, at a Democratic convention, explain that her family lived in Texas before it was a state. And so did my grandmother’s. So yeah, our relatives didn’t cross any border, the border came to us.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Part 2

What is fascinating is that Castro Gill, at her new blog, had a post called, “Your Gaze Does Not Define Me.”

She explains her background and how she came to claim only she now definitely claims to be “ Xicanx.” Which is fine but again, she is half-white. That’s not going to change no matter what she says.

“Am I light-skinned? Sometimes. Am I white? No. I’m Xicanx – an American of Indigenous Mexican descent, with all of the racial, ethnic, and political connotations that come with that identity.”

In another article in The Medium, she titles one section”

“Not ¼ or ½: Rejecting Blood Quantum”

This is confusing because with me, by her math, if you are half of anything but white you are able to claim that heritage. However, my quarter does not count. And now she says she rejects numbers. Hmmm.

She says:

“In this specific case of using blood quantum, Native Americans pointed out that, as sovereign nations, only they have the authority to say who is a member of their respective tribes and who is not.”

And yet both she and Hampson think THEY can have the authority to define others.

“Once, a white person told me I needed to accept the fact that I have white privilege because she looked at my Facebook profile picture and determined I am white-looking.”

Which is what people have done with me. Assumptions are not a good thing.

“Am I light-skinned? Sometimes. Am I white? No. I’m Xicanx – an American of Indigenous Mexican descent, with all of the racial, ethnic, and political connotations that come with that identity.”

And that’s a choice SHE makes. And it is fine but rejecting one part of your heritage doesn’t strengthen your claim to another.

Then she comes to me:

“There is a woman in my district’s community who openly claims white identity and she’s a racist. When people call her a racist, though, she suddenly has an abuela, so that makes her “one-quarter Mexican,” and if anyone tries to point out the racism in her use of blood quantum, she cries reverse racism.”

I never said anything about “reverse racism” but I will call her and Hampson hypocrites of the highest order. Before they start throwing stones at others, maybe clean the windows in their own glass houses.

That or just be decent people and not judgmental ones.

https://waethnicstudies.com/2021/05/01/you-dont-define-me-identity-of-mixed-race-people/

https://medium.com/@heinemann/i-aint-white-confessions-of-a-mixed-race-xicana-4d956fac8a56

District Parent said...

Washington State law on anti-discrimination doesn't define race, but generally in education and the Census, race and ethnicity are self-reported.

Denial of someone’s racial, ethnic, or multiracial identity, has been found to result in negative physical health consequences, may be considered a microaggression, and may be considered a type of discrimination. Discrimination based on race is a violation of SPS Policy 0040 on Anti-Racism.

SPS Ethnic Studies Program Manager Castro Gill was investigated for Harassment, Intimation, and Bullying and was removed (aka “fired) by Superintendent Juneau. She was found to have lied to the investigator and to have refused to answer his questions. She was charged with making unsubstantiated accusations of racism against both the SPS IT and Communications staff. She was charged with multiple complaints of intimidation including by multiple people of color. And she was found to have used multiple district signatures without permission in pursuit of her actions.

Castro Gill posted the investigative report earlier to her blog.

https://www.mediafire.com/file/qybrvkj33h36of0/CastroGill%252CTracy_Attachments.pdf/file

Anonymous said...

There’s a great article in the NYT about how we’re in a “post-material” phase of civilization in which we unduly focus on the identity of the players and not so much the game we’re playing or the actual problems we should be fixing. This discussion of identity reminds me of that. We’ll never agree on who sufficiently identifies someone who fits the right construct, which is a fabulous distraction from what is happening here. And what is happening is that two leaders were found to have violated a policy and did a bad thing, setting a terrible example for staff and students, and putting a broke district at legal and financial risk.

We should also be open to the possibility that the policy is overly broad, though, and employees invoked it as cover for their own performance deficiencies or in response to board members simply doing their jobs - being critical of programs or other district work. But there’s no way to know that without knowing what’s in the report. After watching the meeting though, those Directors were awfully quiet, hard to know what that means without seeing their faces, but they sure were stepping forward to defend themselves.

Two Cents

Outsider said...

To me, the school board and central office are like Dante's hell, and you abandon all hope if for some reason you decide to enter there. But still it's strange and puzzling: through all of this conflict and charges of bullying etc. etc. it's never stated what was the substance of their disagreement.

Is this all just egos out of control, or sociopaths who rise to the top because normal people are scared away? Or was their something of substance over which they disagreed, which led to the conflict? Strange that it's never mentioned, and no one seems to care, as if no one expects the dark doings in SPS to be about anything.

In a healthy organization, when things get heated, there is an impulse to cool it down by re-focusing on the issue rather than the personalities. Make the argument about the substance, rather than the tit-for-tat of angry people. But not in SPS. What's up with them?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Outsider, again, waiting for the release of the final investigation report. It exists, the Board voted on it and yet, the district will not release it. I was told I would get it Oct 1. I can't really think of what they might be trying to get done between now and then (and, it may be why no other media outlet is saying anything).

Scarlett and Al-ansi say this behavior went on for months. I would think the report would give a timeline, details of each incident, etc.

I am very disappointed in the ENTIRE Board for doing a CYA for Hampson and DeWolf. Rivera Smith tried to get there but didn't. Just saying Scarlett and Al-ansi are two brave women is not enough. Saying the Board needs some self-reflection isn't enough because that has been being said for years.

I think the current Board is just such a mish-mash of people with agendas and egos and fears that they are really not getting a lot done. But they sure like to talk like they are.

Melissa Westbrook said...

District Parent, thank you for this information. I had not seen this SPS investigation of Castro Gill. However, I did know about several of the incidents cited in the report.

It's fairly damning that people she worked with said she sent an email ending a program at a school without the permission of the other three staffers who were involved. (It appears they had some agreement with her thoughts but the minute she sent out an email with their names on it, that they were quite concerned and unhappy.)

I think Castro Gill's professional reputation is not great and that knowledge about her stretches throughout the state including OSPI. That she is publicly trashing a rep to the Legislature means she hasn't learned about how to communicate nor disagree without being disagreeable.

I've said it before - she's her own worst enemy.

District Parent said...

The investigation into Castro Gill, the investigation into Directors Hampson and DeWolf, the resignation of board member Mack and the termination of Superintendent Juneau and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Diane DeBacker, are all related.

On May 7, 2020, Superintendent Juneau terminated Castro-Gill as SPS Ethnic Studies Program Manager after she was investigated for Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying and found guilty of multiple offenses. Castro-Gill reported to Chief Academic Officer Dr. Diane DeBacker who reported to Juneau.

At the beginning of September 2020, Dr. Keisha Scarlett and Department or Racial Equity Advancement Director Manal Al-ansi, filed a complaint against School Board President Zachary DeWolf and then VP Chandra Hampson alleging intimidation, harassment, and racism. One area of friction appears to have been “Hampson’s push for serious performance audits of programs at the District, with the audit firm reporting directly to the board.” Another appears to have been, “a struggle over who gets to write the anti-racism policy.”

At the beginning of December 2020, NAACP Education Chief Rita Green published a letter calling for Superintendent Juneau to be terminated and specifically included eight separate bullets related to Castro Gill as reasons. The NAACP’s letter was released on Castro-Gill’s WAESN website. Rita Green and the NAACP were made aware of the investigation’s findings and refused to retract their support for Castro Gill.

The Seattle Times then published an article on December 8th quoting from the NAACP letter stating that Juneau had “exacerbated racism”. The same article also stated that Director Hampson told Juneau her contract “likely” wouldn’t be renewed, and Juneau then announced she was stepping down.

On December 11, 2020, it was announced, Dr. Keisha Scarlett was made Chief Academic Officer replacing Dr. Diane DeBacker. In other words, Castro-Gill working together with the Rita Green of the NAACP got her prior boss Dr. DeBacker, and her boss’s boss Superintendent Juneau, both terminated in retaliation.

On January 7, 2021, Board Director Eden Mack resigned calling for state intervention.
On September 9, 2021, at the Regular School Board meeting, it was announced that Directors Hampson and DeWolf had committed harassment but were not guilty of racism.

Ethnic Studies program manager Castro-Gill made unfounded accusations of racism against community members, the district’s IT staff and communications staff, a teacher, and a principal. Chief Academic Officer Keisha Scarlett made apparently unfounded charges of racism against the School Board President and Vice President. Director of Racial Equity Advancement Manal Al-ansi made apparently unfounded charges of racism against the School Board President and Vice President. And the NAACP used the firing of Castro-Gill as justification in calling for Superintendent Juneau to be terminated, releasing their letter on Castro-Gill’s website, and refusing to withdraw their support knowing full well of the district’s finding of multiple offenses by Castro-Gill, also leading to the exiting of Dr. DeBacker.

Hampson and DeWolf are both part-time unpaid volunteers. Scarlett, Castro-Gill, and Manal Al-ansi are all (were) senior full-time paid employees. It’s much easier to manipulate the narrative when you are a cabinet-level officer in a $1.3 billion dollar organization, with direct reports and budget.

https://www.mediafire.com/file/qybrvkj33h36of0/CastroGill%252CTracy_Attachments.pdf/file
https://www.postalley.org/2020/11/17/dynamo-tries-to-shake-up-the-seattle-school-board/
https://www.kuow.org/stories/seattle-school-boardmember
https://seattlemedium.com/keisha-scarlett-and-james-bush-appointed-to-new-leadership-positions-at-sps/
https://waethnicstudies.com/2020/12/03/remove-denise-juneau-an-open-letter-to-the-seattle-public-schools-board-of-directors/
https://www.seattletimes.com/education-lab/reactions-to-seattle-schools-chief-denise-juneaus-resignation-are-mixed/



Melissa Westbrook said...

District Parent, a few comments.

One, Juneau left on her own accord but was pushed out (obviously and deliberately with Hampson doing the big push). Juneau was NOT terminated. Words have meaning.

Two, ditto on DeBacker. She left on her own and was not terminated. Frankly, I think she was not happy with the district plus having to deal with issues like Castro Gill.

Three, on the other hand, Tracy Castro Gill WAS terminated from her job. I have seen that she is bragging about some kind of lawsuit she has going against the district. Wrongful termination? I would say good luck with that but the district caves all the time on these lawsuits. It would be a pretty sad thing if they paid her off but it could be worth it so they can get an NDA so she can never speak about it again.

Four, also on the other hand, you are probably on to something with how the pressure was applied to Juneau and where it came from.

You note the letter from the NAACP about the need for Juneau to go. Embedded in that letter was a link to a letter published by the South Seattle Emerald from some public education heavy-hitters who wanted Juneau to STAY. I thought this a great letter and I say that with no disrespect to Rita Green who I think highly of.

The NAACP letter says of the people from the letter published in the South Seattle Emerald:
"They are not thinking about ALL SPS students, just their personal benefits."

I know some of those people who signed like Trish Dziko, Dwane Chappelle, and Erin Okuno who don't need anything from the district personally. These are dedicated supporters of public education.

"She (Juneau) claims to be a person of color, yet she has done more harm to students, staff, and families of color than previous SPS Superintendents. She does not even have strong ties to the Native community."

Two of the signatories to the letter in the South Seattle Emerald are black and one is Asian. So here again, we see people of color attacking other people of color. I'm not sure these high-minded cries about serving kids might not be about other issues. And, you get that unpleasant Hampson/Castro Gill whiff with "claims to be a person of color." Incredibly disrespectful to Juneau.

This continuing of upending superintendents clearly doesn't help SPS. It also doesn't help to have an activist Board president who seems to think her job IS to be the superintendent.

The NAACP letter continues:
"We want to see Black and Brown professionals represented on all levels of district staffing and regular and ongoing open meetings with Black and Brown CBO’s, families, youth and elders."

That is interesting because if you look at this spate of new job creation and hiring, there are very few brown people. In fact, Director Lisa Rivera Smith asked at a Board committee meeting about outreach to Latino families on an issue and staff said no, none was done and suggested Rivera Smith find some groups! Jaw-dropping.

That the NAACP letter seems to have a lot of defense for Castro Gill and her job would seem to tell you something. I can absolutely agree with some of the issues named in the NAACP letter but I think some of the language is hyperbolic.

It will be interesting when parents can go to district meetings in person to see what issues come to the fore.

https://waethnicstudies.com/2020/12/03/remove-denise-juneau-an-open-letter-to-the-seattle-public-schools-board-of-directors/

https://southseattleemerald.com/2020/10/27/opinion-in-support-of-sps-superintendent-denise-juneau/

Agree? Discuss? said...

I thought Traci Gill already settled with the district.

While I am sure they will try to hide behind Covid and claims of “white flight” I suspect we will start seeing declines, perhaps significant declines, in the proportion of Seattle school aged children attending SPS schools.

While there were many problems, the district had been on an upward trajectory from the early 2000s until the last couple of years.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Agree? Discuss? Well, Gill has alluded to two lawsuits. That they settled one is ridiculous. And I'd be willing to bet there are some trying to figure out a way to get her back in. That would be a HUGE mistake.

Yes, I think the numbers at SPS will continue to decline but I can't blame parents. The lack of real communication - during a pandemic, no less - is troubling. But, as I reported in another post, the district's own numbers had started to decline BEFORE the pandemic. Maybe COVID will just accelerate it. Look for a post on Advanced Learning soon which is another issue that will drive out some parents.

I agree with your last statement. Juneau WAS doing a lot of what was called for from the black community and it still wasn't enough.

District Parent said...

Melissa,

I understand from the public record that Juneau was told by the Board President that she didn’t have the votes for her contract to be renewed, was later asked to leave before her existing contract was completed, and was then paid out in full. I believe the record indicates that the district initiated the separation, and therefore she was effectively terminated without cause, in large part at the urging of the NAACP, regardless of how HR structured it or PR has spun it.

With regards to Chief Academic Officer Dr. DeBacker, it just so happened she suddenly announced she was leaving four months into the school year shortly after Juneau was effectively terminated without cause. While the public record is less clear, I believe it’s likely, based on what is known, that she was also effectively terminated without cause, but that it has likewise been structured by HR and spun by PR as a resignation.

I believe you are using what has been literally stated, and I am simply interpreting what I believe has effectively taken place. We both agree that Tracy Castro Gill was terminated for cause.

I believe Rita Green of the NAACP is a good person. But I believe the fact that Rita Green released the NAACP letter calling for Juneau's removal on Castro-Gill's website and the fact the letter specifically supports Castro-Gill, casts aspersions on Juneau and DeBacker, delegitimizes the district's investigation, and delegitimizes the district's antiracism work.

My experience is that the often spurious accusations of racism and discrimination, including against the school board President and Vice President who are Native Americans, Superintendent Juneau, as well as staff, programs, teachers, principals, parents, and students, are causing a toxic environment throughout the district. My family and community have been negatively impacted directly in multiple ways.

Stuart J said...

The challenge for enrollment will not just be percentage of students, it is the absolute number of kids.

I can't believe how expensive housing is, whether renting or buying. I looked up the house where my grandmother used to live in north Seattle. It had a so so foundation, no room for dishwasher because the kitchen was very small, 1400 square feet and the Redfin estimate is close to a million dollars. Very few families, even with two incomes, can afford that and the expenses of raising children.

Melissa Westbrook said...

District Parent, good points all. Yes, I would say there was a lot of head spinning movement around Juneau's exit.

Your last paragraph is something I have thought about a lot. I will probably write a separate post about it but, as we all know, you must tread lightly.

I do have to ask about this part of this sentence:

My experience is that the often spurious accusations of racism and discrimination, including against the school board President and Vice President who are Native Americans,..."

Are you saying that POC can't be racist? Because I have read that many people of color believe that only people in power can be racist (with white people being the only ones in power). I see that point in that privilege gives the ability to have the numbers to implement and continue systematic racism. But I have also seen that even among people of color, there can be racism.
,
And "toxic environment" is the exact right phrasing for the current state of SPS. I mean the outcome of the investigation of Hampson and DeWolf can't have come as a big shock to people who work at JSCEE. When the report is finally released, I'd be surprised if there aren't interviews taken as evidence where staff says, "Yes, I was in the room and heard this said to Scarlett and/or Manal-ansi and I felt they were bullied/harassed/silenced."

You'd think that the rest of the Board would have the common decency to consider what it must be like for those who work at JSCEE to see this investigation go against Hampson and DeWolf and yet Hampson is still the Board president.

District Parent said...

Mellissa,

What constitutes racism is hard to define, because the definition of race and racism seem to change based on context, seem to change over time, and seem to change based on who is making the claims. Native Americans kept slaves and the Japanese were historically racist against the Koreans. White Muslim Bosniaks were massacred at Srebrenica. African Americans certainly suffered terribly in the U.S., first through slavery, then through legal discrimination, and now through ongoing racism.

I believe there are many excellent administrators and teachers in SPS, but that overall, the central administration has at times been institutionally dysfunctional and incompetent. And when the result is inequality of outcomes and parent frustration, it's highly self-serving to blame both parental racism and institutional racism as I believe the district has done.

One example that sticks in my mind, is the claim that Superintendent Juneau ignored the African American student committee. This was raised both in a news conference and in the NAACP’s letter calling for Juneau to be replaced. I’ve sat through numerous committee and school board meetings, run by both people of color and white administrators, where staff ignored everyone. I even remember one time a superintendent being asked about the findings of a “superintendent appointed committee”, and the superintendent appeared to not even realize that the committee existed. So, when exactly does ignoring community meetings constitute racism?

Take as another example the historical qualification for advanced learning such as walk-to-math. The district has known for years that there was inequity in the selection process. One fervent belief was that white teachers were being racist against students of color and not referring them for testing. So, the district rolled out over multiple years and at great expense a universal cognitive screener to identify the missing students. But the reality was that the number of students of color in advanced learning generally reflected the scoring on the universal kindergarten readiness tests and the MAP and SBAC tests. To me, it always seemed obvious that adding yet one more test wouldn’t identify the missing students, and no surprise, the new universal screener never found them. So, was the hierarchy of administrators with their myriad of PhDs that came up with the plan racist or simply incompetent?

In 2006, the US Supreme Court found that Seattle Public Schools violated the Equal Protection Clause by using race in school assignment and that its actions were unconstitutional. Now, the SPS strategic plan specifically calls out special treatment for African American males, and district administrators seem to be acting accordingly. But let’s not forget what Chief Justice John Roberts wrote last time SPS went before the Supreme Court and lost, "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."

Anonymous said...

District parent: nailed it! Racism/equity is a convenient scapegoat for incompetence. Throw in finger pointing between “the district” (which *never* includes educators), unions, the board and the state (which never fills that bottomless trough of tax dollars), you have SPS!

Melissa Westbrook said...

Anonymous, next time give yourself a name or moniker. Makes it easier to track comments.