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Sunday, October 31, 2021

Reviewing Interviews from HIB Investigation - Part 4, Chandra Hampson

The Hampson interview is probably the most problematic of the interviews. Like Director Zachary DeWolf, she feels it important to lay out a roadmap to her thinking leadership based on her childhood.  Her words do open up broader questions about what school board leaders believe about leadership, especially as the school board elections approach.

In fact, several things that Hampson says deserve further discussion and I'll be writing a wrap-up post bringing in those issues.

She talks quite a bit about her Native culture and being a Native woman. However, it is a bit of a surprise that she spent about half the interview talking about herself. Also, Hampson said she would supply MFR Law Group with evidence of her work to support the Black community. She did NOT do so even though the report says she was offered several chances to do so.

Clearly, she wanted to present a narrative that she couldn't possibly have committed racist acts. The report supports that she didn't. But boy, does she go out of her way to say that Scarlett and Al-ansi could have racist ideas and, in fact, are the ones who made for the uncomfortable situation.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

SPS To Special Education Students and Families: Sorry (again)

 Been hearing a lot about Special Education lately.

There was a rally yesterday at JSCEE with about 100 educators, students and parents gathered to protest upcoming staff cuts to Special Education staff at between 40-50 schools. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Seattle Schools Doing Great on Staff Vaccinations

From the Times News Express


According to Seattle Public Schools, 99% of its 7,283 regular, full-time employees are in compliance with Gov. Inslee’s vaccine mandate. The percentage includes more than 99% of all teachers, 100% of all principals, and 99% of management staff. 

The district says there are “a few employees” who are taking leave to complete the vaccination process and 206 employees who’ve been granted religious or medical exemption. 

On Monday, the district told KIRO Radio that 6% of the drivers are being “separated” from their jobs because of the vaccine mandate, which includes third-party vendors. First Student has reportedly experienced bus driver shortages across the country this fall.

Reviewing Interviews from HIB Investigation -Part 3, Zachary DeWolf

These interviews are quite fascinating because of what any given interviewee decided to tell about themselves.  Zachary DeWolf is a great example.

He tells the interviewer that he

...is energized by doing good things in the world...

In late 2020, he had been out of a job but had just gotten a job with Washington Environmental Council as a communications director.  He talks about his therapist, his dog, his husband and learning Cree, a Native language. What it all has to do with the issue at hand is unclear except that he believes he's a good person who works hard. 

But if you read the entire interview, there are several places where he contradicts himself. It's troubling.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Reviewing the Interviews from the HIB Investigation - Part 2, Keisha Scarlett

The MFR Law Group interviewed 20 people for their investigation report. I had requested only the principals' interviews - Keisha Scarlett, Manal Al-ansi, Chandra Hampson and Zachary DeWolf. Because of my reading of these interviews, I have now requested more of them.

At the time of this episode, Dr. Scarlett was the chief of Equity Partnerships and Engagement. 

One item I didn't mention previously is the issue of the redaction of names. Ninety percent of the time, I know who it is from the context. Other times, I may put in two names in this reporting if I am not sure. 

One new fact - according to the report:

Internally, SPS requires an investigation be conducted within 30 days but Juneau? signed an extension to allow the investigation to be concluded by January 31, 2021. 

- Right up front, the investigation states:

Scarlett is covered under SPS's (sic) anti-retaliation policy and is entitled to not be retaliated against. 

- Like Al-ansi, Scarlett said she wasn't filing "a formal complaint" but was offering a way forward via reconciliation. She believed her letter was "well within her role of chief of equity." She did not file a HIB complaint and believes HIB doesn't cover implicit bias but only "overt discrimination."

What I have trouble making sense of is that both Al-ansi and Scarlett say they believe there are systemic problems with how staff and the Board interact and want the problem addressed at that level. However, they are quite detailed in how they were personally wronged and personally affected. 

Monday, October 25, 2021

Brandon Hersey Seems Unclear on Being a Seattle School Board Director

 So I saw that the South Seattle Emerald had interviews with candidates for Seattle School Board from District 4 and I started reading.

Imagine my surprise when I see Director Brandon Hersey asking a question. What?! 

A sitting director, who is also a candidate, is asking other candidates questions about being on the Board?

Totally inappropriate.

But we have directors who can intimidate and create upsetting work environments for JSCEE staff so sure, why not a director who is directly trying to influence an election?

This here is SPS Today.

Reviewing the Interviews from the HIB Investigation Report - Part 1, Manal Al-ansi

 The MFR Law Group interviewed 20 people for their investigation report.  I had requested only the principals' interviews - Keisha Scarlett, Manal Al-ansi, Chandra Hampson and Zachary DeWolf. Because of my reading of these interviews, I now have requested more of them. The only two directors not interviewed were Erin Dury and Leslie Harris. That seems odd to me especially for Harris who has been in her position a long time.

I am pondering how to provide this information, some of which is stunning, some of which is disturbing and some of which borders on a naïveté that I would not expect from adults who have been in the workplace for a long time. I will try not to repeat information from the report itself but I may need to in order to provide context.

What I also find fascinating is that MFR must have asked each person (at least the principal players) for some background on themselves. That some of them were so liberal with their backgrounds seems odd to me but it certainly provides a larger picture of each person. 

I also want to note - again - that this documentation from MFR is somewhat sloppy. They get the names of employment positions wrong, dates of service wrong and they use no quote marks so it's hard to know if what is printed is exactly what was stated. 

Also, the power struggle over ownership of the creation of Policy 0040, an anti-racism policy, seems to be core to the problems that followed. As well, this Board created a situation over the creation of a policy -which is Board work - that left staff in a bad place when Hampson and DeWolf thought it was being done poorly. The weaponizing of SCPTSA that comes out in these interviews - and that's the right word - is deeply troubling. 

We'll start with Manal Al-ansi, the head of DREA, the Department of Race Equity Advancement in Part 1.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

WA State Professional Educator Standards Board Seeks Input

Via Facebook:

Through this survey, the Washington State Professional Educator Standards Board is currently seeking feedback on the first draft of the revised cultural competency, diversity, equity and inclusion educator standards. 

The PESB will share the input they collect with their technical advisory workgroup. It will be used as a resource for how the standards can continue to be strengthened to better support student and community needs. 
 
Community engagement is vitally important to inform the future of equity in educator standards. To ensure that every voice is heard, we are prioritizing opportunities for the public to engage throughout all phases of the initiative. 
 
Through this survey, we are currently seeking feedback on the first draft of the revised CCDEI educator standards. The input we collect will be shared with our technical advisory workgroup and used as a resource for how the standards can continue to be strengthened to better support student and community needs.

Memorial Stadium Revamp; Here We Go Again

There is a story at KING 5 News announcing that Mayor Jenny Durkan and Superintendent Brent Jones have signed an letter of intent to move ahead on revamping Memorial Stadium. And, this would be tied to the passage of BTA V next February 2022. It would also be tied to a possible school on top of where the Battery Street tunnel was (and that's whole other post). KING 5 gets the amount on BTA V wrong - the $66.55M is just for renovating Memorial Stadium; the overall ask for the entire levy is $765M.

Yet another issue is the revamping of Seattle Center and the future of The Center School. The City has said the planning would include The Center School but with a renovation may come more leasing costs to the district.

So we have two lame duck leaders making a huge decision that affects a key area of the city. 

I'll pause here to say this one thing in four words - Queen Anne High School. The high school was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985 and was an official Seattle landmark.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Seattle Schools' Special Education on the Rocks

 October 22, 2021


The Seattle Education Association is the voice for educators and our students, standing united to address the needs of our community and to transform our district into an anti-racist school system where every student thrives.

Via an SPS parent,

Special Education Students Need Structure and Stability- Not Disruption

Last week, special education staff in about forty different schools were informed that special education positions would be cut due to lower-than-projected enrollment in special education programs. Many of these educators raised concerns about how the district determined these cuts and reached out to their supervisors and/or administrators to ask questions. Their supervisors and administrators did not respond or they directed educators to contact Dr. Torres. There appears to be significant confusion within SPS administration about what is going on with special education staffing.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Overreach by Seattle School Board President - Where Does It Stop?

 Folks, it would appear that either Director Chandra Hampson either learned nothing about being humble from the Scarlett/Al-ansi episode OR she is doubling down before her being president of the Board ends in December. (And if that doesn't happen via a 6-0 vote, then they are ALL insane.)

First, just to note, tomorrow night will be the first in-person Board meeting in a long, long time. I'm glad to see it as I think the Board should have to look the public in the eye. I'm hoping that we do not see an influx of board meeting instigators such as we have seen around the country, yelling about masking and CRT.  (To note, there is no actual announcement of this at the website; I just saw different wording on the agenda and asked.)

BUT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING FOR YOU TO DO IS WRITE OR CALL THE BOARD AND TELL THEM, "NO!" to the following agenda item.

It's - spsdirectors@seattleschools.org or 206-252-0040 for the Board office. 

But the most important issue is this intro item on the agenda, coming solely from Hampson.

  1. Amendment to Board Policy Nos. 1010, 1240, 1310, 2090, 2190, 2200, 2255, 3123, 3130, 3208, 4260, 5000, 6000, 6030, 6530, 6801, 6882, and 6900; repeal of Board Policies A02.00, F21.00, H13.00, and No. 6535; amendment to the Information Technology Advisory Committee Charge; and repeal of the Capacity, Enrollment, and Facilities Master Planning Advisory Committee Charter (Exec, Oct 13, for approval) Approval of this item would amend and rename Board Policy No. 1010, Oversight and Progress Monitoring; amend Board Policy Nos. 1240, Committees; 1310, Policy Adoption & Suspension, Creation Harassment; 4260, Use of School Facilities; 5000, Recruitment & Selection of Staff; 6000, 
Overview

Without even reading it, you can see this is a chock-a-block BAR; it's 160 pages for crying outloud. Hampson is trying to ramrod through too many issues into a single BAR under the guise of governance. 

I counted so you don't have to but that's about 18 policies amended plus the repeal of one advisory committee and an amendment to the tech advisory committee. And this amending is not some "oh we got this word wrong here" change - this is a fundamental change to Board oversight of staff work.

What this BAR does is reduce Board oversight of many crucial areas instead, trusting that the Superintendent and staff are always doing the right things at the right times at the right costs. Because that's how staff has always operated.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Seattle Schools Goes Political - Should They?

 In a fairly stunning press release, Seattle Schools appears to have a a group that appears to be using a department as their mouthpiece and urging the defunding of police.

From the press release:

October 14 is George Floyd’s birthday and Justice for George Day/#TeachTruth. Justice for George is a day to remember him and call for funds to be directed towards social programs and education.

Now, I know what you are thinking - Melissa, where does it say "defund the police?" True, just calling for funds to be directed towards social programs and education doesn't necessarily mean defund the police. But what funds are they talking about and where are they currently directed?

And, who wrote this press release?

Meanwhile, over on the district's Facebook page, the message there DID call for defunding the police. (This was up last night and has since been taken down but too late; got a screenshot, SPS.) It said (bold mine):

Oct. 14 is George Floyd's birthday, and in his honor, we recognize Justice for George Day and #TeachTruth. Justice for George is a day to remember him and all those impacted by police violence. It is a call for the defunding of the police and the redirecting of those funds towards social programs and education. We will teach the truth about structural racism and other forms of oppression, regardless of dubious bills that attack anti-racist education and the humanizing experience that is #TeachTruth and #BlackLivesMatter.

Learn more about our Department of Liberatory Education on our website.

The press release also speaks of this "department" which is really the Department of Racial Equity Advancement - DREA. It is headed by Manal Al-ansi who was one of two black women to be "harassed, intimidated and bullied" by President Chandra Hampson and Director Zachary DeWolf. Hmmm.

It feels like there are very much competing interests (and egos) down at JSCEE. Who is really in charge? It's hard to know but throwing out that SPS agrees with defunding the police is pretty serious. If they don't agree with defunding the police, how did these two news items get put up on the district's own site and Facebook page?

Monday, October 11, 2021

Lincoln High School - How’s It Going?

 Lincoln High reopened with great hope and fanfare in September 2019. But then the disaster of COVID came in March 2020 and it, like all other SPS schools, closed. So it’s had probably one of the rougher experiences for a school. (Of course I know that there are many more schools with populations with many challenges but reopening a school after decades closed, trying to get parents and community onboard and then closing again is tough on kids, staff and parents.)

So Lincoln parents, how goes it?

Parents and/or staff and/or students, please note:

- You do NOT have to use your real name here but no “anonymous” - it makes comments hard to track and answer if many people use that. Call yourself Princess Leia or Ted Lasso or whatever; just put down a name.

- I screen all comments now but ONLY for attacks that are racist, sexist, etc. You can have a strong opinion and I still will put it up. 

Friday, October 08, 2021

"But What Did Seattle School Board Directors Chandra Hampson and Zachary DeWolf Do?

I have tried to compress the MFR Law Group investigation report because I think it is poorly formatted and hard to follow. 

After reading this investigation report three times, here's what I think.

FFS! 

Sure, you could blame racism but it probably wasn't that, not when you have egos, misperceptions, misunderstandings, lack of clarity and hubris. 

Let me just state the obvious - of course this is important work but it is important to get it right. And, this was all happening in the middle of a PANDEMIC. For the SCPTSA to say a policy of this type had been put off too long, sure, but this was a PANDEMIC.  I don't think anyone at SPS was shuffling their feet. 

Here's how to sum up this situation:

- Hampson felt she owned this policy (draft Policy 0040) and therefore, the entire process. In short, she was trying to micromanage staff which was not her job. 

- Emails play a large part in this story for both Hampson and DeWolf.

 Hampson was miffed that she wasn't cc'ed every time Scarlett or Al-ansi emailed the president of the SCPTSA, Manuela Slye.

 DeWolf, who wasn't working on the policy in a formal way, got very angry over a notation in the Friday Memo saying that Al-ansi was working with him. 

It then appears that Hampson and DeWolf were determined to express their anger by using their power against Scarlett and Hampson. (At one point in the report, DeWolf calls it "annoyances" but his behavior says more than that, at least to the investigator.)

- Dr. Scarlett may have been overburdened with work, both in and out of her department, and may have missed signals from Hampson and DeWolf of irritation.

Know what could have happened to ward this escalation off?  A couple of vignettes.

Monday, October 04, 2021

Final Investigation Report on the Behavior Of Chandra Hampson and Zachary DeWolf

The district did finally send me the final investigation report by an independent law firm over allegations of harassment and/or intimidation and/or bullying by Directors Hampson and DeWolf against two SPS senior staffers of color, Dr. Keisha Scarlett and Manal Al-ansi.  I will do a full post on what it said but, after reading it twice, I just shake my head at the whole situation. But if you would like to read it, here's a link.

This is the report that the Board itself voted to accept at their last Board meeting. Without having the report available to the public and voting to also excuse themselves from their own Board policy that says that any agenda item must have its documentation attached. 

Those two paragraphs alone, with a finding of HIB against two Board members AND the entire Board voting to pause their own policies AND withholding information that the public paid for and has a right to see, that should tell you ALL you need to know about the current state of the Seattle School Board. 

I had opined at my last post on this subject - the Board meeting where this was voted on - that I think the Board should vote to remove Hampson as Board president. She is clearly unworthy of the role and, after reading the report, I think it possible that she has abused that role

If you worked at JSCEE and had to work with Board members, what would you think if the Board does nothing about Hampson and/or DeWolf? Especially if you were a staffer of color?  Hampson and DeWolf were found not to have acted in a racist fashion.)