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.
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.
- 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?