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Friday, December 03, 2021

Seattle Times Speaks Up About the Seattle School Board

 A rather interesting editorial appeared in the Times yesterday. 

Basically, they seem to know that things have not been going well on the Board and put forth the hope for better from new Board president Brandon Hersey.

Wednesday’s selection of Seattle Public Schools Board President Brandon Hersey should be a springboard to greater board transparency and meaningful engagement with parents and community.

They also note this which I would have to believe most parents don't even know about - a new kind of governance around student achievement. I will go into this in depth in a separate post but it feels that the district is listening quite a lot to a group, the Council of Great City Schools.

They note a quote from Hersey at their endorsement meeting:

I think that it’s critical to know, as a board director, what role that you play and how to do that effectively. Because when you don’t, you have instances where we might be getting more in the way than we need to be.”

And then they let Director Chandra Hampson have it about her ability "to get more in the way":
  • The most recent is the finding that Hampson, along with former Director Zachary DeWolf, violated board policy against harassing, intimidating and bullying district staff while working on an anti-racism policy last year.
  • Last year, Hampson exacerbated the board’s tense relationship with then-superintendent Denise Juneau by telling a newspaper reporter she was “pretty certain” board members would not vote to renew Juneau’s contract, which was set to expire six months later.
  • Less than two months later, Hampson orchestrated a rushed decision-making process to hire former SPS administrator Brent Jones as interim superintendent with minimal public input. The process, which took about a week, displayed an egregious lack of respect for her responsibility as an elected official to give the public notice of the pending decision or offer an opportunity for public comment on the plan.
  • When parents and staff raised concerns about the Bitter Lake encampment on school district property near Broadview-Thomson K-8, Hampson took to Facebook to “demand” Seattle mayor, City Council and U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency “IMMEDIATELY begin case management and outreach, with full collaboration from community and schools as a collective embrace of our neighbors.”
They end saying that the district needs to work with everyone "including business leaders." Hmmm.

Their last comment is on Hersey's leadership:

And he must model unwavering commitment to the letter and spirit of open government in the pursuit of systemic change.

To which I say, good luck with that Seattle Times. I have another post to write, this time about President Hersey and the manner in which he may operate as the Board leader. 

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

So this is weird. The same day this Seattle Times story took down Hampson for her terrible leadership, SPS sends us families a newsletter with a "Native American Heritage Month Spotlight on Board Vice President Chandra Hampson." !!! WTH? Why is the district highlighting a board director it has just found guilty of harassing its senior African American female staff? And it's not even Native American Heritage Month anymore. That was November. What a stretch. Is there ANYTHING else about Hampson worth mentioning besides her distant ancestry? Why is SPS defending this horrible person?

Somethings Fishy

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately Hersey is no better than Hampson. He's supported and voted with her virtually every step of the way since he was appointed to the board 2 years ago. In fact, just last week he nominated & voted for Hampson for Board Vice President (!) and boorishly challenged Directors Song Maritz and Harris for their dissenting principled votes when they said they couldn't support Hampson for board leadership because of the recent Harassment Intimidation and Bullying findings against her.

Look at Hersey’s record: Like Hampson he has shirked his oversight duties and violated process and best practices repeatedly. Like Hampson, he supported changing policy (6220) to limit board oversight of major contracts, raising the board approval threshold from $250,000 up to $1 million or $5 million(!) That means the board won't bother to scrutinize or vote on certain contracts worth less than $1 million. That's a fiscally irresponsible shirking of their sworn duty to protect public funds. It's only a matter of time before another Silas Potter or $34 million Olchefske scandal erupts on their watch.

Hersey went along with the rushed appointment of an interim superintendent with zero public input. He also approved putting the entire $1 billion annual budget on the consent agenda this past July--that's unheard of.

Instead of presenting the budget as its own item, for public and board discussion and vote, Hersey approved bundling the board's most important responsibility and largest expenditure--the budget--into one single package with 15 other items into an "all or nothing" vote. This would preclude any further chance for public input and allow directors to avoid voting individually and be accountable for their votes.

Every bad vote this board has made, Hersey's been a part of. Everything the Times decries about Hampson, Hersey has either supported or been silent on -- including the harassment of female senior staffers of color by Hampson and the recent former Director Zachary DeWolf.

Make no mistake, Hersey has political ambitions. He recently quit his job as a teacher, has no kids in SPS, and has quickly connected with local political players. His boorish behavior toward his female colleagues on the board indicates he'll likely be as much the bully as Hampson and DeWolf were found to be. Hersey is not the breath of fresh air the district desperately needs. At SPS there is a

Leadership vacuum

Anonymous said...

Leadership Vacuum

I hadn’t picked up on Song Maritz or Harris’ NO vote on Hampsons VP position - duly noted this vote of conscience, and so appreciated! What a breath of fresh air to see some independent thinking on the Board!! I also think Rivera Smith has made some thoughtful, necessary critical statements about Board goings on in the past but she ends up voting with the herd. I’m not hopeful about Rankin, and Sarju is still TBD IMO.

Lil Glimmer

Anonymous said...

Looks like some of the links from my previous comment have been changed by SPS in the last few months. Here are the corrected links:

Hersey also approved putting the entire $1 billion annual budget on the consent agenda this past July. Here's the agenda from that meeting.

Hersey approved bundling the board's most important responsibility and largest expenditure--the budget--into one single package with 15 other items into an "all or nothing" vote.Here's the budget resolution

@Lil Glimmer, I agree with your take on the new (and existing) board members. Maybe there's some hope with this slightly new board.

Leadership Vacuum