Seattle Needs a Better School Board

To see a massive spike of COVID cases in SPS and yet the Board has nothing on their meeting agenda tonight about COVID is shocking. And certainly not reassuring. I will have a separate post on what their main focus is.

So to the title of this post, I want to publicly say - we need people to run in November 2023 when the majority of the Board seats will be up for (re) election. It will be especially important to run candidates against Liza Rankin and Chandra Hampson.

I believe that if there are two good candidates in Hampson's district - district 3 - she could be primaried out. I have a feeling that folks in her district have been less-than-satisfied with her distain for parents in her own district and not having community meetings to speak with them. Rankin's public stance on the Broadview-Thomson encampment should be a major strike against her for voters in district 1.

The other two seats are Lisa Rivera Smith in District 2 and Leslie Harris in District 6. I know both of them have felt marginalized during the last two years. But Rivera Smith has gotten stronger in her role as Board director and I hope she stays. On the other hand, Harris will have put in 8 long years (2 terms) and the last two years have been tough. I think she may not run so that would be a wide-open seat. 

So my ask is to please let me know about good people who would be good candidates. 

I offer knowledge about running for school board and hopefully former directors who could offer advice. 

Lastly, I offer financial help. I will be putting my money where my mouth is to help good candidates in a large and sustained way. 


Comments

Anonymous said…
The Seattle school board is an utterly irrelevant organization. There is no such thing as them doing a good job, or not. A cadre of bureaucrats is actually both running the show and enriching themselves on public preK-12 education. The school board has exactly 1 job, manage a single temporary employee, the superintendent, and periodically find a new one. The superintendent is a similarly irrelevant position which mirrors the school board. He/she/they/it will have the superintendent job for 18 months or so, hire a bunch of cronies who may or may not survive his/her/their tenure. The board simply shields the bureaucracy who calls every shot from any semblance of accountability. The board system should be replaced by city, state, or federal oversight. It really doesn’t matter one tiny bit who “wins” the Seattle school board election. This has been repeatedly demonstrated.

Common Sense
Transparency Needed said…
Thanks, Melissa.

Hampson's leadership has been abysmal during a once in a hundred year pandemic. She is focused on filing Investigative Reports for herself that cost the district at least $120K, filed a lawsuit against the district when she could simply work with the superintendent and is the subject of a lawsuit related to the mess she created at Broadview Thompson.

Hersey's role should not be minimized. He is president of the Seattle School Board. He walks in lockstep with Hampson. We're in the midst of a pandemic and there isn't a single item on the agenda related to Covid Response.

Rankin walks in lock stepwith Hampson, as well.

Here are the numbers of students that met math standards:

White - 30%
Asian- 35%
Hispanic- 15%
Black-13%

We have a board majority narrowly focused. I fear tens of thousands of student lives are in trouble- including those that have been historically impacted.

Seattle Education Association has called for transparency. Yet, there is NOTHING on the board agenda related to Covid Response.

Inslee plans on putting $900M into public education. We deserve a board that will at least discuss these issues during board meetings.

We deserve a board that will address these issues during board meetings.
Common Sense, you are right about it all for Seattle. I'm not sure that's true elsewhere.

My feeling is that you need to have people who will limit the damage done, not add to it.

I am sad that the Board feels the need to "shield the bureaucracy" but it sure looks that way.
suep. said…
@Common Sense, I admit I'm biased but I disagree. You can have solid board members who help steer the district in the right direction. I have seen this happen with past board directors and was fortunate enough myself to serve on a board with colleagues who brought decency, integrity, intelligence and a clear focus on the needs of all students and fiscal responsibility to the position. Good things were accomplished, and without the corrosiveness and drama of the current board majority.

Good people on the board can make a difference. So the next election is indeed an opportunity for voters to have a positive impact on the school district.

Also, the board is not only responsible for the superintendent but oversees the internal auditor, works closely with legal counsel, and arguably oversees the entire district. 'Course that doesn't mean the board runs the district, and that is a distinction that appears to be unclear to some on the current board.

Sue Peters
Anonymous said…
Clearly, the board has no idea that they are simply a bureaucracy shield. Who would sign up for a tedious job as an unpaid cipher? And, who would also suffer through the pain and expense of the elections process, if they didn’t have sincere intentions? The board members all are do-gooder social justice warriors who thought they would change the course of district happenings. The superintendent is, at least, a highly paid actor, usually with aspirations of fatter salaries at new locations every few years. I don’t think Seattle is unique though. The superintendent shuffle, with its high associated costs, is a nationwide problem. The high cost superintendent shuffle protects educational bureaucracies everywhere from public scrutiny or accountability. On a positive note, pendulum swings are well underway. A conservative backlash is inevitable. Parental rights and AntiCRT sentiments will find their way onto school boards. But, the bureaucracy will be shielded from that too. The only thing likely to upset the apple cart would be a return to at-home “learning” that lasts any significant amount of time. The economy and parents(rich and poor) need a place to send their kids, for better or worse. The inexcusable and prolonged intransigence from the teachers union on this issue over the last 2 years could well cause a conservative backlash that both the teachers and the bureaucrats are unprepared to accept. I believe districts will be forced to hire a permanent and adequate sub pool with full salary and benefits. Schools will either need to fund this by vastly increased class sizes or by trimming the ranks of the bureaucrats. Since the bureaucrats are doing the deciding, it seems unlikely that they would trim their own ranks

Common Sense
Anonymous said…
Hampson needs to go, and should be easily beatable. Her harassment/intimidation/bullying of Black staffers, her incompetent response to the Bitter Lake encampment that drove away City help, and her contemptuous attitude toward parents are all signs she is going to lose.

The trick is to run a *smart* campaign to defeat her. Candidates shouldn't run as a cranky privileged person. Don't whine about "woke" things or complain about "equity." Seattle voters want racial justice and if you are seen as being against that you are going to lose badly. But voters also don't want kids pitted against each other, they don't want to see option schools taken away, and they know that equity and justice require a school board that takes a proactive, collaborative role in ending the persistent mismanagement and ensuring SPS works with all its parents and teachers to build a good school district.

Liza Rankin is going to be slightly harder to beat given that she, inexplicably, has support even from people who are critics of the district. Liza presents herself as likable but in reality she votes solidly in line with Hampson, and also has a lot of contempt for parents. She also fully intends to end option schools.

Candidates who run as smart progressives, committed to public education, committed to an inclusive vision of racial justice that calls people in to work together in solidarity to ensure every child gets their needs met, and who have plans to end the persistent mismanagement and clean up the district (this means firing a lot of people, taking back powers that the board has ceded to the Superintendent, and being willing to closely manage the district even when a lot of people say you shouldn't) -- those are candidates who can beat Rankin and Hampson in 2023 and save this district.

Winning Strategy
Anonymous said…
SueP! Thank you for your service. You were a positive force, please run again. A thankless job for sure, but maybe the wisdom that sets in after a few years can make up for that lack. Managing an internal auditor might be another person (or service) the school board is responsible for. But those never turn up much. And really, it’s not much of a responsibility as a consequence. $X was given to persons A, B, and C, who are qualified to do Y and Z. Those type of reports never assess the quality of work, or even the adequate completion of any job. Sure, an auditor can look at the books and issue a finding, but we never really know if we got what we paid for, or if the tasks were necessary or worthwhile, or if the people were actually subverted to other efforts. We rely on principals and bureaucrats who have personal and organizational stakes to make those assessments. The cadre of bureaucrats are experts at getting their ducks in a row on paper. Perhaps you’re talking about the perpetual “audits” of various programs and services. Expensive, overly academic (in a bad way) and never used.

Common Sense
Patrick said…
Common Sense, if you have actual evidence that people in Seattle Schools are improperly enriching themselves, you should take it to a prosecutor. Vague anonymous innuendo is offensive to anyone with a concept of justice. If there is improper enrichment going on, tipping them off with a comment like that is their cue to cut their ties, launder their ill-gotten gains, and disappear.

And I'd be very interested in actual evidence that schools overseen by cities, counties, states, or the federal government do a better job. I would expect that they would be even more isolated than boards from the students and taxpayers they are supposed to serve.

I'm not in love with SPS, but I'm even less in love with unactionable grumblings.
Anonymous said…
I think Seattle parents want educational excellence. Enough with social justice themes going through every curricula. These themes have a place in history class but many parents just want their students well prepared for college or a vocational track.

Also, stop removing honors classes. Many parents also want those and smart school board candidates should run on giving families these choices. Running Start is not for everyone.
Transparency Needed said…
Thanks to Director Harris. Harris was smart to notice a blank line on the budget that could eliminate Option Schools with a stroke of the pen.

Harris pushed and staff agreed to public engagement before funds for Option Schools are removed.

Harris pushed for conversation to be included in minutes. Naturally, Hampson felt there wasn't a problem moving the minutes forward. She isn't a fan of Option Schools. Harris is smart to be skeptical. All directors voted yes. Hersey abstained from the vote for some reason.

Kudos to Harris for trying to save Option Schools.
Anonymous said…
Is the Center School considered an Option school? I would sure hope it does not disappear as a budget line item.
Queen Anne has limited options for high schools. Unless the district is planning a new building at its Memorial Stadium site, then this school serves a vital need. Not every student wants a large high school environment. Our older son had a good experience there some years ago.
Anonymous, next time, please give yourself a name or moniker.

Yes, The Center School IS indeed an Option School. I will have more to say about Option Schools which some of the Board seem hellbent on ending.

The district had a couple of chances for a downtown school and none worked out. While I understand the need, I'm not sure I believe the district is going at the problem the right way.
Anonymous said…
Honestly Patrick, you've been around a while but haven't learned much if you think the education bureaucracy has remained static in SPS. It absolutely has ballooned with each temporary superintendent as he/she/they surround themselves with loyalists, who fail to provide a shred of benefit to students. I'll connect a few dots for you. The onus is on these bureaucrats to prove that THEY are worthy the excess of their jobs. Their jobs are always new and invented, so yes, these positions need justification. These are highly paid jobs (hence the enrichment qualification). Let's start with the whole "director" level above principal. These are highly paid jobs. Sarah Pritchett, for example, makes $195,738 + $46,000 in other benefits. There is a whole bunch of these directors. Back in the day, she was a mediocre principal. Then, she and 5 of her closest friends got a whole new job that never existed before: "director". According to the website, the size of this group is now nearly doubled since it was first dreamed up by Jose Banda, a short-lived superintendent who jumps from district to district, doubling his salary quickly. The "director" level may not seem like much, but it is 2 million down the drain, year in and year out, just for the "vague and anonymous" (your words) job of "director". Not only do we have that level, but there are several above that. Another whole new title was also created: "chief". The first to reach that rarified level was Wyeth Jessee, chief of student services. Why? Because "directors" needed promotion while they wait in the wings to hatch into superintendents. His salary before he left? $226,695 plus $47k in benefits. That's more than a quarter million dollars, until he finally got his superintentship in another hapless district. By all accounts, services declined with his promotion through SPS. Now we even have a "Chief of Staff" in addition to Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources. Make no mistake, there are zillions of assistant superintendents of xyz. At one time, there was a manager of student services, Colleen Stump, who managed advanced learning, English language learning, and special education. With 1 single temporary superintendent, that single woman, was replaced by 9 others. Special education itself, in a single day, got 3 directors, including a "director of school based services". Aren't all special education services "school based"? What's up with having 3? That's a 10 fold increase with a single superintendent, and that's without counting salary increases for all of them. Underneath each of these new "directors" is a whole management infrastructure as well. Consulting teachers (who don't consult or teach) and "program managers". Families are told there are no programs - but somehow there are still all the program managers there ever were. The cadre of bureaucrats is so large at this point, that the district is ashamed to even publish it. But in earlier years, you could clearly see the direction it was going when these were published. As with most things, less is more.

Make no mistake. The Kimballs and Clevelands of the world are not closing their doors because of the challenges finding a new executive director of communications or chief of school and family partnerships. No. They are closing because they can't find IAs (mostly), teachers, or bus drivers. QED

Common Sense
Patrick said…
Okay, Common Sense, you used the phrase "enriching themselves" which I think to most people implies something illegal or improper, not just accepting a well-paid job. Though I agree the rate of growth of highly paid staff is alarming.

I'm also still waiting for evidence that school districts managed by cities, states, or whatever other entities that were not elected primarily to manage schools do a better job than school districts with elected boards.

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