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.

#1

Scarlett: Oh hi, Director Hampson.

Hampson: Hello Keisha. Hey, I learned from Manuela that you gave her some info in an email. Could you please be sure to cc any email to her so I stay in the loop?

Scarlett: Absolutely. Going forward, you'll be cc'ed on all those emails.

 #2

Al-ansi:  Good morning, President DeWolf.

DeWolf:  Good morning. Hey, reading the Friday Memo, I was concerned that you overstated my role in working with you. I think it may give the wrong impression to staff. Do you think that can be more accurate in the future?

Al-Ansi: Of course. I regret that I phrased that wrong and I'll do better in the future.

And.....scene.

It's not that hard and yet you had Hampson and DeWolf just building up a head of steam that then became a fire for them.

That is what this all boils down to - ego, the inability to communicate and what the report calls "Inappropriate Use of Positional Authority."

Here's some backstory plus the burning issues.

1) Because former Director Jill Geary brought in then-SCPTSA president Chandra Hampson to work on Policy 0040 (Anti-Racism), Hampson seemed to have the impression that it was HER policy and the work should proceed the way SHE thought it should have. It appears Hampson pushed - almost beyond all reason - because she wanted this policy passed on her watch.

(Editor's note - I told Geary at the time that it was not proper for a Board member to be working with a candidate for the Board on policy. Doesn't matter if Hampson was SCPTSA president or not. Geary told me others would be involved and I never saw any evidence of this.)

At one point in the timeline when Hampson was frustrated by what she perceived was the slowness of the process, she said, "I will bring forward a BAR if staff is not ready." Just to say, part of that process is district legal counsel going thru the policy. So any Board member can write whatever they want but it does have to be legally sound. 

Another time, when both the other members of the Executive Committee, Zachary DeWolf and Leslie Harris, agreed to advance the timeline, Hampson says, "I do not agree." 

Hampson had brought the SCPTSA heavily into the community engagement process. Hampson is good friends with then-president, Manuela Slye. So here's a good example of how things went sideways (bold mine):

One witness had worked with and and observed Dir. Hampson work with Black women over time and was convinced the conflict between Hampson and Dr. Scarlett and Ms. Al-ansiwas not related to race. 

This same witness also made an observation reflecting a critical source of conflict that has not been directly called out. She pointed out that the original version of Policy 0040 was intended to address all types of racism, not just anti-Black racism. The EPE (Equity, Partnerships and Engagement) version entitled "Pro-Black, Pro-Indigenous" appears to have been offensive to some in that it leaves out other people of color. SCPTSA President Slye makes this point in the November 9, 2020 work session when she states the title of the new policy is "Anti-Racism Policy." 

How did anyone - Scarlett, Al-ansi, Hampson - leave out Asians and Latinx people from the policy? What if Slye had not spoken up - was anyone going to say anything? Hampson sure didn't.

2) You had three different groups on this work. The Board (which apparently consisted only of Hampson and perhaps DeWolf a bit), community groups but primarily the Seattle Council PTSA, and staff ( in the form of the head of Equity, Dr. Keisha Scarlett, and head of Racial Equity and Advancement, Manal Al-ansi.) 

3)What appears to have happened is two-fold. 

One, 

Hampson, Scarlett and Al-ansi did not sit down early on and work out how to proceed. The report vaguely talks about who would be doing what to shape the policy into a BAR for the entire Board to vote on. 

Technically, Hampson could be writing up the policy - policy being a Board job - while Scarlett and Al-ansi map out an engagement plan and timetable, the process, for the work. Scarlett would be "process owner." Then, Scarlett and Al-ansi could cross-reference that timetable with Board input via the Executive Committee and then would go to the entire Board. However, Scarlett did let Hampson know that she didn't have a full team in place at the time. As well, Hampson and Geary felt the draft they had created only needed "minor tweaks at best." Which is interesting given there had been almost no public engagement at that point and neither woman is Black. 

Let's be clear here - Scarlett and Al-ansi work for the superintendent who, at the time, was Denise Juneau. It is NOT Hampson's job to be directly Scarlett and Al-ansi's work. If Hampson (or any Board member) had an issue with the work, they should have gone to Juneau. 

It does not appear that happened either. 

Two, 

What did happen was an escalation of emails that either did or did not get cc'ed to the right people, forwarding emails without comment, having Hampson and DeWolf find fault in emails and getting upset over them. That led to several meetings where there was passive aggressiveness on the part of Hampson and DeWolf and a couple of meetings where there was overt hostility from them towards Scarlett and Al-ansi.

I think Manal Al-ansi seemed to be a lesser player because she had not been at SPS as long and, in different parts of the investigation report, seems bewildered at what was happening. In fact, she finally says as much at the key Executive Committee meeting on September 16, 2020:

Al-ansi said she was new to the process but she didn't see the intersection between the community and staff. She said she heard DeWolf on wanting to center this on students but "they don't benefit if the adults cannot cohesively work together. It sounds like there may be something going on that I am not privy to and we get hung up on ownership too much."

DeWolf then said some about reconciliation. Al-ansi then said she did agree that this work should be driven by students with a student voice. And DeWolf said "This is not your meeting."

4) It is unclear to me why no one acted sooner to head off what was clearly a growing conflict. It's murky but I'm not sure Juneau even knew until the near end of all the back and forth.

5) Scarlett and Al-asni seemed to take every possible slight as a microaggression against them as Black women. I would suggest that was not the case. However, I could see, given the growing tension, how they might have perceived it that way. 

What is interesting is how DeWolf and especially Hampson bend over backwards to say they could not possibly be racist towards any Black staff, citing years and years of work in the black community.  And yet, in the Board Work Session on the policy, he seemed to be deliberately not calling an Al-ansi. Others at the work session - later witnesses for the investigation - agreed. But was it racism that stopped him? Nope, I think it was just petty flexing of his muscle as school board president. 

However, during the course of a terrible phone meeting with DeWolf (who was only there for part of the time), the Board administrator, Scarlett and Al-ansi ,there was this back-and-forth (this is my summary of that part of the investigation report):

Al-ansi said that she told those left on call that she didn't understand the hostility or why Board members would be questioning the two women's qualifications. She decided to formally introduce herself to Hampson, how she go into the work and sharing the logic and strategy they had for community engagement. So she shared her background, including ties to the Black community in Seattle. 

Apparently Hampson interrupted and asked why she was telling her this information, saying, "Do I need to pull out my resume?" Al-ansi said she was just trying to explain why she was qualified and thought it might build trust with Hampson.

Hampson replied, "I have been doing this for 30+ years and I don't need to hear your qualifications. I don't know what you are getting at by sharing yours." Al-ansi told the investigator that Hampson was continually criticizing the process that Al-ansi was implementing. At one point in the conversation, Scarlett had to tell Hampson, "I'm the chief of equity and you can contact me directly."

Hampson said she took Al-ansi's decision to reintroduce herself and share her credentials was really Scarlett and Al-ansi's way of saying, "We get paid to do this and you don't." Hampson said she respects both women but "she is an elected official with black and brown constituents who want this policy moved forward." 

She denied violating HIB policy. Hampson does not believe Scarlett has respected her position as Board director or appropriately include her in the work of Policy 0040. 

What Were They Accused of Doing 

Dr. Keisha Scarlett and Ms. Manal Al-ansi alleged that over a period of months, Director Hampson and Director DeWolf "modeled overt silencing and chastisement of black women in leadership, both in private and public areas." Scarlett and Al-ansi say that they were targeted for intersectional attacks because both are black and both are women. 

Additionally, there was bullying and/or intimidation and/or harassment.  This was during the course of both complainants working on Board Policy 0040, sometimes called the "Anti-Racism" policy. Because of the churn of this investigation plus COVID slowdowns, this policy has not yet been before the full Board at a Board meeting. 

What the Final Investigation Report Found

DeWolf

- The report said that he did not discriminate on intersectionality or race.

- The report said that the evidence of gender discrimination is "mixed and inconclusive."

From the report:

Four of 13 witnesses expressing an opinion opined that he engaged more harshly, disrespectfully and/or rudely with women, regardless of race. Two witnesses noted occasions when Female colleagues had been disrespected or cut off by DeWolf but did not express an opinion about whether he was biased against women. Three of the 6 witnesses who thought DeWolf was generally rude and disrespectful to both men and women were particularly bothered by his recent rude and disrespectful conduct towards Juneau. She agreed that she had been cut off and silenced by DeWolf.

There were 16 non-party witnesses. Three interviewees did not express an opinion about DeWolf’s interactions with women. Six others used terms like “aggressive” , “impatient” and “frequently rude and disrespectful to describe his interactions but thought he was equally offensive to men and women.

It was pointed out by witnesses that the Chief of Schools and Continuous Improvement and COO presented to the Board frequently without encountering this openly negative treatment.

- He did violate Policy 5207 by repeatedly engaging in HIB conduct that, being persistent over time, had the effect of substantially interfering with the work environment. That policy is the Prohibition of Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying. 

To note, this policy only mentions employees and volunteers, not Board members. 

Hampson

- The report said there was not evidence that she discriminated on race, gender or intersectionality. 

- According to the report, she did engage in harassing, intimidating and/or bullying conduct.

From the report:

One witness who had worked with Hampson and the complaintants was convinced the conflict with them was not related to race. This same witness also made an observation reflecting a critical source of conflict that has not been directly called out. 

 

She pointed out that the original version of 0040 was intended to address all types of racism, not just anti-black racism. The EPE version entitled “Pro-Black, Pro-Indigenous” appears to have been offensive to some in that it leaves out other people of color. SCPTSA president (Latinx) makes this point in the November 9, 2020 work session when she states the title of the new policy is “Anti-Racism Policy.”


Moreover, there is evidence that Hampson’s ire was not reserved for just Scarlett and Al-ansi. Hampson has been highly critical of Super Juneau and Chief of Schools and continuous Improvement (white) who she perceives as “the most disrespectful staff member” to Board directors.  

When reading the report, what is interesting is Hampson trying to explain her leadership process by her Native American background. I am not sure if Hampson was talking about all Native American tribes or her own. 

From the report: 

Director Hampson acknowledged using her position and authority to accomplish the results she thinks are right for her constituents.  

She also told the investigator this:

Culturally, Hampson was raised to believe that people who have leadership positions have a role to play in the community. 

I'll just stop right that and ask, how is that different from any other culture. If you are a leader, elected or otherwise, people are expecting you to....lead.

Positional relationships are important and people must have respect for others who take on leadership positions. 

Respect my authoritay! (Bonus points if you know where that is from.)

Hampson has always been taught to respect and interact with leaders in a certain way. She remembers as a child sitting at the table for two hours without eating while waiting for elders to continue speaking but you must wait.

I'll just chime in that my upbringing there also was sitting around for hours at a table while adults talked but at least I did get to eat.  I was taught to respect my elders and be quiet unless asked to talk. Hampson's not the only one.

Hampson has been bothered by the lack of respect for the position she holds as a Board member. It would be a lie to say otherwise....As a Board member, Hampson is just getting used to staff not being respectful; they will refer to you as director but they scoff and laugh. Hampson knew how staff felt about Board members when she joined the Board. She hoped things would be different. She hoped they would collaborate as fellow members of a community dedicated to the work, but so far that is not a possibility. Hampson is responsible and accountable to the people who put her in her position.

Well, there's a lot to unpack here. Yes, staff probably does talk behind directors' backs. It's also likely that some staff are not as respectful as they could/should be. There has always been this tension with the staff (hopefully) being experienced professionals in their area of work in the district and the people elected to the Board. Hampson is right; Board directors are responsible to voters. (Of course, would that Hampson want to be responsible to ALL voters but that really isn't the case. I mean, she said after she was elected that she was more interested in listening to other constituents than the ones in her district because the ones in her district had been listened to enough.)

So let's see. Hampson has not been able to get along with Juneau, Juneau's Chief of Staff, Dr. Keisha Scarlett, Ms. Manal Al-ansi and some directors. So where is the real problem?

However, the biggest takeaway for me is Hampson's take on leadership via her culture. I would submit that many Blacks believe non-black people don't take into account THEIR culture when it comes to leadership. So who is to know what type of leadership anyone is talking about? 

Maybe that should be a question for future Board directors- tell us what leadership from you would look like and where do you derive that opinion?

Both Directors' Actions

Hampson and DeWolf "used their positions and authority to the detriment of complainants in violation of Policy 5207."

To note, the report states that both directors "categorically deny engaging in any conduct that could be considered harassing, intimidating or bullying." DeWolf told the investigator,  "(He) does not believe he is using his power to push Scarlett and Al-ansi down or change the narrative. He is trying to be the medium that turns what the community is asking for into action."

Outcomes

When Scarlett and Al-ansi filed their letter of complaint, I think both sides really had no idea what would happen. I think the complainants wanted a formal apology (even though that was not a direct ask) AND that there would be a guarantee from the Board that the Board would be more respectful of staff. I think Hampson and DeWolf were deeply hurt by another having the idea that they were racist and that they abused their power as directors, that they overreacted. It was going to be a mess no matter what.

Question is: what now? The Board seems paralyzed with what? Inertia? Fear of either DeWolf or Hampson or both suing if any other director says anything publicly? Will the Board demote Hampson? Will the Board make any kind of public announcement? What justice - beyond the public humiliation for DeWolf and Hampson - with the Board bring to Scarlett and Al-ansi? 

But for the Board to stay silent - and I mean the five other members - is to be complicit with this behavior. 

Timetable with Events (this is not the timetable of the entire policy)

 June 2020, Board Work Session on Policy 0040.

Complainants allege that DeWolf deliberately did not call on Al-ansi and yet called on community partners.

Al-ansi apparently called out that there was "support for the SCPTSA leader's request for an extension of their work" and yet Scarlett and Al-ansi were treated badly when they asked for the same thing. He apparently then "transitioned to speaking of the need to create safe spaces for black and brown women working on 0040."

July

There is quite a lot of back and forth of emails about the work on Policy 0040. You can see that there was a push to get it out there but differing ideas on when. For example DeWolf wanted the Executive Committee to have it as a discussion item, rather than a BAR for the meeting on August 19th. 

By the end of July, Ms. Al-ansi proposed a draft schedule by email that the next draft of the policy would be circulating by early October with an Ex Committee discussion on October 14th with the hope it would come to the Committee as a BAR in November and then to the full Board by late November and a final vote in early December.

August 18th

SCPTSA president Manuela Slye asked Ms. Al-ansi when the SCPTSA could see the latest draft to present to communities. 

That same day Hampson wrote to DeWolf with a copy to Al-ansi complaining about Ex Committee minutes were inaccurate and that she had not yet received an update from the staff on Policy 0040.

Dr. Scarlett responded to Ms. Slye and said 0040 was on pause until September "because of competing priorities" and said they hoped the SCPTSA would help kick off the next round of engagement. 

August 19th

The president then forwarded the email to Director Hampson "without comment." So clearly, Dr. Scarlett did not cc Hampson.

Hampson responded to Slye saying, "Thoughts? You should respond frankly. She didn't include me on that update and it's an update that I personally had not received." Hampson then forwarded the email to DeWolf without her comments to Slye and told him she had not been copied by Dr. Scarlett. Hampson said that the information in the email to Slye was more information than she had personally received from staff. 

The Executive Committee met the morning of August 19th. Hampson moved for Policy 0040 to come before the Ex Committee in September. Juneau and Al-ansi were there but not Dr. Scarlett. Hampson said she could see no reason not to move forward with the policy and that it was holding up other places. She said:

"I will bring forward a BAR if staff is not ready." 

Notes from the meeting reflect Director Leslie Harris asking for input from Juneau. DeWolf wanted to slow it down but Hampson said, "I am not moveable on this." Harris said she understood Hampson's frustration but that this huge document deserved thoughtfulness. Both DeWolf and Harris agreed to the draft being a special attention item in September and then a BAR in October. Hampson did not agree to this. 

That night Slye responded to Scarlett with disappointment that things were not moving more quickly. She asked if Hampson had been advised of the plans going forward. Dr. Scarlett quickly answered, saying that they use the Friday Memo for Board communication. 

(The Friday Memo was an update doc that the Superintendent and senior staff sent to the Board. It had a lot of info you didn't get otherwise but since Superintendent Jones has come in, there have been none.)

Scarlett said, "The presented policy was entrusted to my team to lead the engagement. We will continue to do this work in September and would like your support with gathering stakeholders to support engagement  thru a section by section review. I will be sure to send you the link to the Friday Memo so you can read the same information. Can we connect to discuss possible dates?"

According to the investigative report, DeWolf was not happy about this email from Scarlett, saying she misrepresented her interactions with him. The investigator did not agree and lays out why (page 20). 

August 21st

Slye forwarded that last email to Hampson without comment. Hampson responded later that day, "Wow, yah, she hasn't done any of that according to Zachary." Hampson then forwards her email onto DeWolf without comment. 

Al-ansi writes to Scarlett with a copy to Slye regarding the decisions made at the Ex Committee and if it were possible to move things ahead by a month to meet a new schedule.

August 25th

Slye responded to August 19th email to Scarlett. She asked about sharing a timeline and wrote, "It is discouraging that the development of this timeline has been worked on with President DeWolf (sic) is not being effective moving this work to the forefront, especially when the Board is actively working on it. I will write to President DeWolf to express my disappointment and will cc you."

Later that day, Al-ansi sent an email to Scarlett and her administrator to schedule a time to meet, saying DeWolf would like to meeting to share his thinking on 0040 and get an update on next steps. Al-ansi said she thought the meeting could be done in 30 minutes or less. 

August 26th

DeWolf sends email to Slye with the Friday Memo attached and the email said:

Contained in this Friday memo, which I'm curious if Dr. Scarlett sent to you, is information that says engagement will start back up in September and that the SCPTA is helping lead it? I'm trying to figure out where there is dishonesty and this feels like it. Because as I've stated: DREA/Dr. Scarlett and I haven't been working together as she described in her correspondence to you and my curiosity is if she's saying you're working together for the Friday Memo but it may not be true (or true yet).

The investigator says that the evidence on this particular issue indicates that it does not seem to be a misrepresentation on the part of Al-ansi. 

August 28th

Hampson and DeWolf were on a scheduled phone call with Scarlett and Al-ansi and that the two complainants thought was to be about next steps on Policy 0040. The meeting was scheduled for DeWolf by a redacted name and I would assume this woman works in the Board Office. 

Al-ansi thought it would be 30 minutes or less and had communicated that to Scarlett. The phone call lasted 68 minutes and was not about next steps. De Wolf had to leave after 30 minutes. DeWolf was in an airport because his grandmother had died suddenly and he was on his way to the funeral in Spokane. After he left, Hampson continued on the call.

The complainants said he used the call to berate both of them, yelling at both women while standing in a public area at an airport. He says he did not yell or raise his voice and that he is "gentle with language." The report says:

The evidence does not support his recollection.

Even Hampson said the call was “terrible.”

The admin on the phone with the four of them (to take notes? it's unclear)  told the investigator that this was "the worst professional meeting" she had attended in her career which included two years in the Board office. She said that, as a white woman, she felt "particularly emotional" because she felt she should have intervened but did not want to "disempower" Scarlett and Al-ansi by trying to end the meeting. After the meeting, this administrator called her supervisor who happened to be with Juneau. Her supervisor was Chief of Staff, Sheri Kolx, who told the investigator that the admin was in tears. 

Admin's Notes

- The admin's notes reflect one of the complainants spoke about her own experience with racism in the district, the need for the policy to speak about adults in the systems and developing that with the draft of the policy from Hampson and Geary. 

- Hampson suggested that engagement has already been completed b/c it came from SCPTSA which includes black families.

- One of the complainants talked about the need for more engagement with the black community and next steps.

- Hampson said that Al-ansi and Scarlett were the institution. The admin felt like Hampson was suggesting that the two complainants reflected institutional racism and could not be trusted to lead this work and that "the constituency that Hampson worked with should have been the stopping point for engagement/policy drafting." 

- Both complainants told Hampson they felt "tokenized" in the development of 0040. 

- The admin did get in to the conversation to explain the timeline of Policy 0040 with its incorporation into Board committee work, COVID, the work session on it, etc. DeWolf was briefed about the delay in engagement and the need to push the discussion to October. He agreed to it. Apparently Hampson disagreed with this perspective on the work. 

- The phone conversation ended when Hampson had to go; the admin said it was unproductive until the end of the call.

The admin told DeWolf a week later that it was her "worst meeting" she had experienced and she had "felt like she had to say something." DeWolf replied, "You really didn't" and expressed no regret.

Scarlett and Al-ansi had the same recollections as the admin. Juneau had reached out to both to see if they were okay. 

Scarlett described the phone meeting this way to the investigator (my paraphrase):

Shortly before the meeting, Scarlett and Al-ansi had been notified that Hampson would be on the call. As soon as the call started, DeWolf raised his voice and accused Al-ansi of being dishonest about their collaboration on the policy. Al-ansi did not understand what he meant or why he would have opened the meeting in this manner. They both knew that DeWolf was at the airport on the way to a funeral and were surprised at this start to the meeting. Scarlett felt he was trying to check them and put them in their place. 

Al-ansi tried to say there must be some kind of misunderstanding but DeWolf went on in a negative and loud manner. When he left the meeting, "he passed the baton to Hampson" who then continued berating both women. Al-ansi twice told Hampson and DeWolf that she was being disrespected and that they were trying to intimidate and marginalize she and Scarlett.

"The conversation became very heated and Al-ansi raised her voice. The conversation spiraled out of control and eventually Al-ansi said she had to hang up.

Al-ansi description of the meeting:

DeWolf told everyone that he didn't have much time and told them what was going to happen. He was upset and angry and began berating Al-ansi. He accused her of misstating that he was working directly with her on Policy 0040 and basically called her a liar. He said that at no time had he worked with her and you presented that to others as him having said that. 

Al-ansi was startled by all of this and tried to calm herself. She went into her email and pulled up a message and read one aloud that said she would follow up with DeWolf. She was confused as to what DeWolf was actually trying to say. He said for Scarlett to tell others that "I'm working with the board of directors" was not appropriate and he was not insinuating anything.

He would not stop and Al-ansi said that she believed he was calling her a liar. He said he would be supporting Hampson in taking over the process. He accused them of not showing accountability or responsibility and not demonstrating that they truly value race equity or community in the roles that they serve. He gave no reason or examples and told both women that they were not qualified to advance the work and he was going to move the process to Hampson. And then he hung up.

Al-ansi said that she told those left on call that she didn't understand the hostility or why Board members would be questioning the two women's qualifications. She decided to formally introduce herself to Hampson, how she go into the work and sharing the logic and strategy they had for community engagement. So she shared her background, including ties to the Black community in Seattle. 

Apparently Hampson interrupted and asked why she was telling her this information, saying, "Do I need to pull out my resume?" Al-ansi said she was just trying to explain why she was qualified and thought it might build trust with Hampson.

Hampson replied, "I have been doing this for 30+ years and I don't need to hear your qualifications. I don't know what you are getting at by sharing yours." Al-ansi told the investigator that Hampson was continually criticizing the process that Al-ansi was implementing. At one point in the conversation, Scarlett had to tell Hampson, "I'm the chief of equity and you can contact me directly."

 DeWolf

He told the investigator that he was not in any way disrespectful, rude, bullying, intimidating or angry. In fact DeWolf described himself as "conflict adverse" and was being careful in this situation to be gentle with his language. 

What seems to have set him off was that he received an email from Person X forwarding an email from Person Y. Person X asked DeWolf that if he was working on Policy 0040, to "please let us know? We want to work with you and receive an update and be involved." 

Al-ansi had indicated she was working with DeWolf and would update others later on the process. DeWolf says he felt that he had no introduction to the policy and that's why he asked Al-ansi to speak over the phone. DeWolf felt that forwarded email of Al-ansi's was "untruthful." He says he opened the conversation about that email and that he was requesting that when she communicated with community members, especially if she used his name, to be honest.

He said he wasn't scolding because he doesn't like conflict and was trying to "super-intentional" about his language. He felt like at the end of the day it was "a minor issue" but he needed to name it and then get to the real work of the important policy. He said he invited Hampson on the call because he knew he had to catch his plane and because he didn't have much background on the policy.

He says he told Al-ansi to please not miscommunicate or misrepresent his work with her and pointed out that they had not spoken with each other, had not been working together and had not had a conversation about the timeline or next steps. He claims that he left the call about 2-5 minutes in.

Hampson

Hampson told the investigator that the call was "terrible" and she didn't know DeWolf would drop off the call. She took issue with what Al-ansi said about the call and "explained that since that call, all meetings and calls involving Board members are recorded." During the call, Al-ansi said the deadline had been set by the Executive Committee, but not communicated to staff; Hampson did not agree. 

Hampson said she took Al-ansi's decision to reintroduce herself and share her credentials was really Scarlett and Al-ansi's way of saying, "We get paid to do this and you don't." Hampson said she respects both women but "she is an elected official with black and brown constituents who want this policy moved forward." She denied violating HIB policy. Hampson does not believe Scarlett has respected her position as Board director or appropriately include her in the work of Policy 0040.


September 16, 2020 

This was the date of an Executive Committee meeting where work on Policy 0040 was to be discussed. 

At near midnight on September 15th, Hampson wrote to Al-ansi, DeWolf, Manuela Slye, and a couple of others with a draft BAR to introduce at the Executive Committee scheduled for 8 am September 16th. Slye had not planned to come and asked for a link to listen in. Al-ansi forwarded the draft BAR and materials to some admins including the Board admin and Juneau's admin and Scarlett at 7:13 am September 16th.

The agenda had allotted only 10 minutes for the discussion of 0040. Usually this type of thing is an update from staff. Scarlett's office had not been advised that they should plan to present at the meeting. There was no recording - video or audio - from the minutes but Director Lisa Rivera Smith was at the meeting and was recording it for Director Leslie Harris (who is part of the committee but could not attend). 

The investigator says an admin took notes but it is unclear to me who that was; I suspect it was the Board admin, Ms. Loeffelman, who left the job in October 2020:

Hampson said she turned this work back over to community to provide input on drafts. She said it was critical that "we respond to the work that community has done to this point." She said the committee must move forward on a draft policy with input from the community. She then gave the floor to Slye and someone else to give input on "where we are right now." 

Slye said the SCPTSA Board was committed to work, using connections to all communities represented in SPS. (Editor's note - there may be PTAs in about 80 schools with the remainder being independent PTOs.  But many schools do not have a fully-functioning PTA.) Slye said "we have been waiting too long and this cannot wait." 

Juneau said that she wanted to recognize the time and effort that Scarlett and Al-ansi had put into the work. She said she hoped they would get the opportunity to present their work as well. 

Hampson replied that she wasn't sure if Juneau had had the time to read the timeline and history and that "we have discussed with staff extensively." She said she was really grateful to the SCPTSA..."this isn't about individuals." She said she was accountable to constituents which are our school communities. She said we need to move the work forward so we are no longer forcing the community to wait. 

Juneau said she just wanted staff to have the opportunity for staff to present the work they have done. 

Hampson said they needed to move onto the next step and would love to hear from Scarlett on how that works out and then she turned the meeting over to Al-ansi.

Al-ansi gave a general timeline and how they had to develop a team (as they were a newish office) and then COVID hit in March and they resumed engagement in May. She said they were "navigating the dual pandemics of COVID 19 and racism." She said they had met "institutional hurdles" and there was distrust of black leaders.

She then mentioned a meeting (August 12th when it seems she meant the phone call meeting on August 26th). DeWolf then tried to shut her down telling her to "wrap up your remarks." Al-ansi continued saying that black staff needed protections. He again told her to conclude and that "This is my Executive Committee meeting."

He continued, saying they didn't need to "rehash" everything and that "we all have our perceptions of this process" and that he didn't want to get into this in this "open public meeting." 

Al-ansi said that "we were scheduled for 10 minutes" and didn't understand him cutting her off.

DeWolf said he didn't want to rehash private conversations. 

Al-ansi asked if she could give an update on next steps on engagement. "I don't want this to turn into an instance where we did not provide an update. Dr. Scarlett, thank you for your thoughtful background on naming why this is so important. Anti-Black racism is also an adult issue, a staff issue, a Board issue at the district."

Hampson wanted to clarify that "this" is a Board BAR.

Al-ansi pointed out that at the last Executive Committee meeting, she was asked to present a timeline for community engagement but that "there has been an over saturation of community for COVID-response and that they were being respectful of their capacity." She said she would be talking about what she hoped to be their last draft and final stages of community engagement. She then laid out that community engagement. 

Hampson came back in saying she wanted to "clarify" and that "there is a lot of innuendo that I don't want to play into. This came from Black, Indigenous and Latin communities" and the point is to move forward to a BAR. 

DeWolf then said, "At the end of the day, I didn't run to serve the adults, I ran to serve the students. Whatever feelings people have, the frustrations are not as important to me as the ultimate impact on students."

Al-ansi said she was new to the process but she didn't see the intersection between the community and staff. She said she heard DeWolf on wanting to center this on students but "they don't benefit if the adults cannot cohesively work together. It sounds like there may be something going on that I am not privy to and we get hung up on ownership too much."

DeWolf then said some about reconciliation. Al-ansi then said she did agree that this work should be driven by students with a student voice. And DeWolf said "This is not your meeting."

Scarlett and Al-Ansi's letter of complaint was filed two days later on September 18, 2020.

2 comments:

  1. Hampson and DeWolf are correct that the staff's role is to carry out board policy, and staff should defer to board directors as a general practice, especially when it comes to board-approved policy.

    Hampson and DeWolf, however, are power-mad bullies who do not believe they have to treat anyone else with respect. So they took the "staff work for the board" nugget of truth and used it to justify something that is unjustifiable: racist and abusive treatment of other people.

    Hampson picks and chooses her justifications. When dealing with staff she claims she's accountable to the voters. But when dealing with those same voters, she drips with contempt, and acts as if voters have no right to ever hold her accountable for anything, ever. Her disrespectful treatment of the two staffers in question also cannot be separated from the racial identity of those staffers. She is clearly guilty of anti-Black behavior.

    DeWolf is clearly guilty of anti-Black behavior, and also of sexism. It is not the first or last example of DeWolf's sexism. But that is also another part of the story here, his shock that women - two Black women - are not meekly subservient to his will.

    It was also totally inappropriate to involve Manuela Slye in this, and SCPTSA should not be a glide path into positions on the school board.

    DeWolf is right to not run for another term. Hampson should be removed as board president and ought to resign. She likely won't, and will discover in 2023 that yes, she is in fact accountable to the voters, and that those voters are appalled at how she has acted in office.

    Ultimately the entire board and district need a total reconstruction and we should begin sooner rather than later before it's even more too late.

    Extreme Makeover

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow, the details are soooo Seattle, dripping with passive aggressive innuendo in the most bureaucratic of salads, all around. I’m not even sure what “modeling overtly silencing…” means, but clearly the golden rule - don’t be a jerk, especially if you’re in charge - wasn’t followed here. “Respect my authoritay” sums it up nicely!

    CC Hampson

    ReplyDelete

It is the policy and practice of this blog to delete unsigned anonymous comments. If you do not wish to register with Google or Open ID, please select a Name for use with your comments. Your identity will be protected. Please sign your comment (with a pseudonym if you like) if you select the Anonymous function for leaving comments. We do not allow longer than a two-word pseudonym.