Weirdness in Seattle Public Schools Abounds and Astounds

Update on this story:
As mentioned previously, the Reddit post got taken down but still a living thing via several saves. I went back and looked at it and it has over 300 comments. Gotta say, most view it as Board PR and saw it what the word salad that it is.  I don't think Hampson did herself any favors with it.

end of update

Well, I certainly got a lot of people's attention which is a good thing. 

Updates:

- The Seattle Student Union put out this press release in support of SEA.

- The Reddit post has been deleted but as others have said, screenshots are forever (and I have them).

- A story in the South Seattle Emerald pits Special Education PTSA president, Janis White, and SEA president, Jennifer Matters, against Director Rankin and former PTSA president, Sebrena Burr. 

Janis White, the SEPTSA president, specified why she felt the need to pressure the district with a rally at this particular moment. White wants to see parents on the Special Education Task Force “[s]o that voice is at the table.” While she acknowledged that there weren’t any parents on the task force during the prior superintendent Denise Juneau’s administration — as the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between SEA and SPS states there should be — White feels it’s past time for it to happen under current Superintendent Brent Jones’ tenure. “I’m trying to take a very reasonable position on behalf of the PTSA, which is: Get it going!”

There were some schools that did not have sufficient staffing despite the district-wide enrollment decline. Because of this, says Rankin, special education, enrollment, and HR departments identify staffing changes to respond to that need. She said, “That is the equitable way to approach this, not by who can make the biggest case for their hardship. It’s all hard! When we pit schools against each other, or adult needs against kids, the same communities lose.”

At the rally, White credited parent and teacher pressure. “We went from staff displacements at 50 schools, to a total of 15 staff members being displaced. That’s a big difference. And why did that happen in the last week? Because of educator voices and family voices rising up and talking about it.” 

Rankin bristled at the suggestion, calling it “an unfortunate misrepresentation.” She said that the number 50 used to spur the rally actually referred to overall adjustments — including special education and English language support — between HR and buildings all over the district to meet student needs in accordance with the CBA. The number 15 refers, specifically, to the subset of special education teachers who needed to be moved from one building to another.

Burr questioned whether those with access to information about staffing adjustments are sharing it with teachers and parents, and went on to question the motives of rally organizers. “It’s a lot of hoopla. … This has nothing to do with kids. This has nothing to do with families. Shame on them [Janis White and Jennifer Matter] … They’re not inclusive. This is some white supremacy stuff. This is other people talking for our kids, and we need them to stop. We know our stories and we can speak for our kids. Get out of the way.” 

- Over on Twitter, public education activist Robert Cruickshank really lays into Hampson and Rankin and it's a great thread:

What we see from Chandra Hampson and Liza Rankin are an anti-democracy, anti-parent, anti-teacher, anti-union attitude in which they are sure that they're right and don't need to collaborate or compromise with anyone. No wonder SPS hasn't settled with SEA yet.

Do other board members agree with Hampson and Rankin? That is a crucial question. And the future of the district is at stake. The public supports the teachers. Two of their school board members do not. We shall see how this plays out.

- I hope to be speaking with a rep from the SEA so stay tuned. 

end of updates

Overarching story:

I came across a Reddit post from a person who says they had an hour-long conversation with Director Chandra Hampson. Hampson says many things that I'll go over but key (to me, anyway) is that apparently teachers don't care about students, at least not when the teachers are on strike.

What is even MORE stunning is that - for whatever reason - the SEA doesn't care. I tweeted it to them and put it on their Facebook page and...nothing. (The Facebook page comment I made seems to have been muted.)

In the middle of a strike, a school board director defames teachers and their union protects her? I should never underestimate the power of the Seattle School District and all those concerned to make my jaw drop.

Teachers, you are SEA but do understand that your union doesn't want you to know this is happening. Food for thought.

The comments make it all worth it and some have the same feeling I do - that this is all a stunt on the part of Hampson.

Also odd? The person who posted it didn't mean for it to post at the account that it did end up at and said so in a follow-up.

How It Starts

It starts with the poster saying he/she/they had written an email to Hampson at her "seattleschools.com" address. Except that address doesn't exist. It's seattleschools.org. The person says they were writing to her about the strike and asked that "that the board won't file an injunction against the striking teachers." (This may come up at next week's Board meeting where the Superintendent may ask them to do so.)

Hilariously, here's what comes next:

I was surprised this morning when Chandra called me directly and offered to discuss all my concerns. What an amazing opportunity! Luckily I was at my desk and ready to take notes. She has time for calling one constituent each day, and I was fortunate enough to be free at the time when she did call, and had already written out a lot of questions and thoughts because of the ongoing strike.

Now, I know what Hampson has been saying about governance so this account of the phone call rings true to me. 

Except how weird it is that the person taking the call is to write down - near verbatim - what Hampson says.

 Except that there was a meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee of the board yesterday (naturally Hampson is the chair) and she was late and made sure to say, "I was talking with a constituent." I thought that odd at the time because who cares why? But now I see it as her laying the groundwork for this Reddit post. 

And she calls one constituent a day and gave ONE person ONE hour. Nothing weird there.

What Hampson says (and I'll paraphrase some of it)

Hampson wanted to clarify a couple things about roles and responsibilities of the different groups involved. As a parent I was also quite confused about what the focus and role are of the School Board and the district, compared to the teacher's union, and how each side is involved in the ongoing contract negotiations.

And out of nowhere comes this:

Before diving in - Hampson shared the Lighthouse study on school boards, results of which are driving how school boards are being structured around the country. It's the largest study on school board performance and is guiding our current board's methods for their own structures and policies: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED453172

Why, if the person was asking about the different groups and their role in the ongoing strike, would Hampson go off on a tangent about board governance?

It goes on and on from there. One key statement by Hampson:

The director position is not like other elected officials because the school board is elected to represent the students first and foremost, and the community in which they live.

Says who? Since when? Because there are a LOT of taxpayers/voters who think she represents them.

Because the directors are so focused on governance they do not have time for "customer support". They do often help connect parents with resources, or help solve problems at specific schools in their coverage. 
 
Their full-time focus, however, is governance and decision making. Some tactical changes are being made to address the problems around customer service. Right now the board has hired a consultancy to perform a full communications audit of the district to try and figure out where and how they can improve communications internal and external, and it's up to the superintendent to get the district staff to provide all the data and information. Additionally, the board is aware that they need to create a high-value customer service department to handle the myriad problems parents face when trying to navigate district policies and processes.

So three years in and NOW Hampson wants to do something about customer service? Sure. Know how many of these consultants have been brought in around customer service and communications? Many over many decades.

Then, apparently, Hampson veers back to the strike:

The community needs to understand that the only non-district entity involved is the SEA teachers union - by definition the union is created to advocate for teachers and teacher negotiation, but the district and board are created to support the students and drive student success. This may seem like semantics, but it's a very clear distinction that the SEA union is an external entity that is hired to do a job, much like an attorney is when representing clients. 
 
The union will use every tactic to get what they need for their members because that is their primary purpose for which they are hired, even if it isn't best for the students. They will use spin and stalling tactics, and others to get the agreed-upon list of demands. The union is looking at teacher advocacy, not student success. The difference can seem subtle at first glance.

Wow!

She goes on:

Now to a primary sticking point of the ongoing strike and negotiations: data and real-world experiences in other districts and states show that an inclusion model will get us out of being stuck with the problems the schools face when dumping money and resources into SEL/multilingual and special ed, but not getting results or pushing the needle. Last year, the existing model used in Seattle schools poured $120M in addition to all the state funding, but the results were abysmal. Everyone, across the board, including teachers, staff, admins all believe that the goals and results of a properly-executed inclusivity program at the district level is not only achievable, but is the right path to follow.

"Dumping money and resources into SEL/multilingual and Special Education..." So she's saying the money is for naught and further, that "everyone" says the inclusivity program is the "right path." How would Hampson know what 100% of those parents and teachers think?

Going on:

In response to the need for the inclusivity model the SEA teachers union created a task force to come up with a plan on how to rollout and execute in the schools, and to determine which resource would be needed. The board is 100% behind the task force's plan toward inclusion, and also getting the staff the resources they need to implement it. 
 
To support the plan the School Board determined that no changes to staffing ratios will happen in the 2022/23 school year, and instead the year should be used for onboarding teachers and admins, support training, and build out curricular resources for inclusion. For this first year the School Board is asking for a 1-year contract. The plan will take 5-10 years to unwind and rebuild for full implementation, and it's clear that things will be more expensive at first before efficiencies materialize to decrease cost over a few years, and to achieve all the expected student results.

That's good news but why isn't President Hersey saying this out loud? And Hampson is speaking for the entire Board here? I think not. She does NOT have that power and she knows it.

I did not know that the Board thought that this school year was a planning year for the rollout of these changes.

I asked Hampson what the role of a director is in the current strike. She believes that the board and district didn't do enough to inform teachers and parents during the pandemic that this large uplift is coming. For that reason, and others, there is a real trust gap, and also a belief gap - people don't believe that the school board is reformed in their direction and their commitment to the schools and teachers. The school board is primarily responsible for the belief gap. The last superintendent put out communications that weren't true, but the new board and district staff are committed to being extremely fact-based. The superintendent has been directed to focus solely on student issues.

Well, I have certainly been trying to clang the bell that the governance model is changing. And if she thinks that the board and district haven't done enough, why didn't they?

And what does "people don't believe that the school board is reformed in their direction..." mean?

Why, oh why, is the Superintendent "directed to focus solely on student issues?" He's the top of the management food chain and yes, the strike should be of interest to him. And when did this direction happen and was it in public?

As a director, Hampson is staying focused on the specific goals set for the district - things that must be done or are not allowed.

Yet another weird statement phrasing.

Hey SEA:

Right now the SEA union is asking for $500M, but the planned investment in school resources is already greater than what we currently spend. No one is saying "screw the inclusion thing" and everyone agrees with the goals, however there is disagreement on how to get there. The current board cannot agree to things that will result in a deficit for the next board.

Hey SEA, the board isn't about to listen to you. That seems clear.

The first year of implementation is meant to be an onboarding time to work on aligning everyone on the process and goals, hence the board asking for a 1-year contract. The district will add additional staff, and provide training opportunities for teachers, admins, and staff, on how to handle the transition to the inclusivity model. Not every classroom will become an inclusion classroom. The board is also reminding everyone that change is hard, especially transitioning from Seattle "talking progressively" about education and inclusivity to switching into execution mode and making actual changes that implement the goals.

Well, this is news. First year is "onboarding time" and the board only wants a 1-year SEA contract because of it? I must have missed a step somewhere.

Not every classroom will be inclusion? Hmmm.

"Change is hard?" Eye roll from me on that.

Then this:

Many other tactical changes are happening. We have a brand new superintendent that is an expert in governance. The superintendent job is not like school-administration, but rather has to be someone who is an expert in governance; this encompasses an entirely different skill set than a former principle or school administrator. This is the first time that a superintendent is hired for that particular skill set, and we haven't yet had the time to see what exactly that means at the scale of SPS because of his short tenure thus far.

The board is also asking the state and colleges to mandate teacher and administrator inclusivity and special ed training for all teachers graduating to work in our districts. It's not currently required and has created a huge deficit in teacher abilities in working with inclusion classrooms.

The district is also buying curriculum for the first time. What that means is teachers will have curriculum that is uniform across the district, pre-made for them to use, and they will be able to train on the curriculum to avoid surprises or having to fall back to previous year's plans. The curricular support is aimed to reduce teacher burden so they can focus on classroom time more, and student interaction and not the overhead of building out curriculum. Individual plans do not scale to a system as large as SPS, and having uniformity makes for easier teacher onboarding and long-term success.

I have never heard a board member say something about "a tactical change." That's all Hampson.

And Jones is an "expert on governance?" Since when? If Jones was hired for "this skillset" I missed it.

The district is buying "curriculum for the first time?" What?! The district buys curriculum a lot. And uniform curriculum? Okay then, no more waivers. That should be an interesting new directive out of JSCEE.

Rankin's quote:

But she now has deleted it. 

Comments

Anonymous said…
This is all straight out of the corporate education reform playbook, dressed up in equity language. Neutralize the elected board, shut parents out, ignore the public, treat teachers like menial laborers, one single curriculum that is designed to treat students like widgets with no individuality, no flexibility in the curriculum. And surely everyone evaluated by test score. Parents are going to flee the district in huge numbers if Chandra gets her way. SPS will collapse.

Fix SPS
seattle citizen said…
No one tells us anything.
Apparently Director Hampson (and others?) have a plan. A Five-Year Plan. Oh, goodie.
I love Five-Year Plans. There have been many.
All while working loads increase.
Oy said…
I always believed that the board and district didn't focus on Covid. It seemed to me that the board majority was more concerned with The Strategic Plan and Covid was a footnote. Hampson's comment confirms my thoughts:

"She believes that the board and district didn't do enough to inform teachers and parents during the pandemic that this large uplift is coming. "

So, there the district and board were working to transform the entire special education delivery system during Covid. There was a task force that put together a plan. Where was SEA?

It seems to me that taking down a complex delivery system should have had an enormous amount of teacher input. I'm shocked - and so are the teachers- that an entire special education delivery model would be a huge focus for the 2022 CBA.

I think it is safe to say that Hampson et. al have done significant amounts of damage to the district.

I found myself feeling confused. Teachers were complaining about caps being removed. It wasn't until Rankin posted on her facebook page that caps are racist...that I understood why the district and board are focused on killing caps. Rankin's facebook post has since been taken down. The facebook post is part of public record and should not have been taken down.

Hampson and the board majority has killed HC and are working to change the entire special education delivery model during a pandemic. It seems to me that the pandemic exhausted teachers and they don't have the bandwidth and/ or resources to take-on sweeping changes because there are thousands of teachers in the streets trying to deliver the message to the board and district!
Anonymous said…
Just because she can use a lot of jargon doesn't make her smarter than us.

Just because she refuses to listen to anyone else's ideas doesn't make her right.

How do we recall her from office?

-So Angry
Anonymous said…
Oy,

I would just like to point out that the district doesn't just want to change radically the special education delivery model. They also want to do the same to ELL. I've heard this repeatedly from teachers at my former school.

Indeed, they effectively began to implement radical inclusion last spring when they began to turn away from the World School ELL students new to country. The World School was where ELL students had received basic instruction in English. My former high school received students who spoke almost no English and was expected to teach them without sufficient resources. This year they are strong-arming ELL students into mainstream classes by simply eliminating the course numbers for ELL support classes. At the same time, there are not sufficient translators and ELL IAs to support these students in the mainstream classes they are expected to take. The school scrambled this summer to find workarounds for these students.

The teachers I talked to care what is happening to these students. There is no sign the district, much less school board directors, care about them. One ELL teacher I talked to said she thought the district would not budge on its delivery model.

How can the district get away with this? The parents of these ELL students are recent immigrants. Who will advocate for them if not the teachers?

DE
lake_city_mom said…
Don't have time to go through the whole budget this morning, but I thought there was some telling information about this whole "reform" process on the very first page. Check out the list of board members. Leslie Harris, the only one with significant experience, is listed LAST. No justification for it as far as I can see -- certainly are not listed in alphabetical order...

Gotta admit I'm selfishly glad my daughter is a senior this year. She has had a decent high school experience with sufficient AP/Running Start classes to challenge her, but I shudder to think what is coming.

Pops said…
If you ever had the privilege of speaking with Chandra, you know this sounds exactly like her.

Chandra is either the most brilliant corporate education shill, cosplaying a woke antiracist or the tritest, blindest, holier than thou extremist, preaching your have to burn the village to save the village.

The thing that scared me about qanon was the unholy alliance between the alt right and yoga hippies. This is the qanon of public education.
Oy said…
So Angry,

Watch the Chandra Hampson investigation, lawsuit and subsequent appeal and you will realize that Hampson believes that she is ALWAYS right and she will fight to the bitter end. An investigative report found Hampson to be a bully, a court found Hampson to be a bully and, now, she filed an appeal. The entire process has cost taxpayers in excess of $120K and she still keeps fighting. The CBA will be no different. Thousands of teachers are telling Hampson and the board majority that they are wrong and I don't think it will make a difference to Hampson. I don't see an end in sight.

Hampson had a personal relationship with Brent Jones. She garnered herself a lot of power when she was board president and hired Jones without a public process and a contract that claimed Jones wouldn't be offered a permanent position.

Thanks for letting us know about The World School. Awful!
So Angry, not sure if you are aware but a group of people DID try to recall the Board (I think all of them).

However, getting rid of one member - particularly one who has upset people in all directions - might not be as hard. Look up how to do it.

DE, I am deeply troubled to hear this about World School, thanks for letting us know.

Oy, I have to think that Hampson will finally give it up on overturning the finding against her if the Appeals Court says no. Seriously? Go to the WA State Supreme Court for this? Please.
Anonymous said…
For crying out loud. I do not understand the world that Liza Rankin lives in.

FWIW, I wrote a story on the strike at Daily Kos:

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2022/9/10/2122013/-Seattle-Education-Association-on-strike
Anonymous said…
Cruickshank’s thread is fantastic.

What’s it going to be, more puff pieces by the Seattle Times or will somebody with some power finally have a talk with leadership? This is such a black eye to the Seattle brand and to Washington State really. The teachers have all the moral high road and the public support too. But without the political will (like the Governor ordering schools to reopen in spring of 2021), this could go on awhile.

Emporer/unclothed
Transparency Please!! said…
Melissa,

Do you recall changes to special education EVER discussed at a school board meeting? I don't. Do you EVER recall public testimony related to special education delivery model? I don't

The lack of transparency is staggering!!!
SPS Parent/SpEd IA said…
She should be forced to work as a SpEd IA for a few months before she gets to comment anywhere again on this. How disgusting and outrageous.
Outsider said…
Interesting thing is -- Hampson clearly envisions a major change in what teachers do. The romantic old view of teachers is of professionals who put some of themselves into their teaching, and use available or self-created resources to design their own curriculum. Hampson would change them into social worker - child psychologist - intervention specialist, administering a fixed, one-size-fits-all curriculum, with both the content and timing dictated from above. Not surprising that the teachers are hesitant. It would take a whole generation to flush out the current teaching pool and replace them with newcomers who expect and are trained for the type of job Hampson has in mind.

Teachers have no sympathy for advanced learning students, so I have no sympathy for them, but I can understand. It's lifeboat time -- good luck finding a better shore.
Anonymous said…
All over the country people are worried about kids' mental health and learning loss following all the pandemic schooling. They're pouring money into tutoring and everything they can think of to improve things for kids.

Except for in Seattle, where we deny that learning loss even exists and instead of making it up to kids that we closed schools for over a year and Juneau ordered teachers not to teach anything, now we're making teachers pick up trash and locking kids out of schools while adults secretly bicker. Screw learning loss, SPS says, kids are learning something when they watch TikTok or play League of Legends at home all day. Who needs a city with functioning schools? Who even needs kids?

Cranky Pants
Anonymous said…
Looks like the angry social warriors have found the weakest link in SPS: special education. A location to exercise their flex in cahoots with administrators who want to save money.

Sped is getting BLM’ed. Defund the Police, has morphed into: Defund the SPED. Burn it to the ground! We don’t need it! (At least, I don’t need it.)

Awesome
Unknown said…
It is irresponsible to share screenshots, completely out of context. People wonder why SPS officials won't engage much on social media... maybe it's because when they do, people like you share screenshots out of context and make specific comments seem other than what they are. In the same line, I will be taking a screenshot of this comment and checking back to see if you "approve of it." How hypocritical to engage on Facebook the way that you do, and then have your own blog set so that all comments must be approved by the blog author.
-Kate
Anonymous said…
@awesome

You should be able to connect the dots between other kids failing to get supports they need with your own child’s academic success. Classes with unsupported students create disruptions and problems for others. Your hyper focus on the individual is emblematic of why all systems are breaking down right now.

Clue

Kate, know what would be helpful? Telling me exactly what screenshot(s) you mean.

You are welcome to take all the screenshots of this blog that you like; it would not be the first time that I was taken out of context.

I print 95% of comments even ones like yours that criticize me. I don't print ones with foul or abusive or threatening language. I invite you to blog for more than a decade and not do that.
Anonymous said…
@clue. Clue-less would be a better moniker.

My comment was paraphrasing the social justice warriors approach to special education reform. None them actually have students receiving special education, so they’re happy to kill it off and wave a big juicy flag of equity.

Awesome (NOT, which some people apparently need)
Anonymous said…
All of this is the "Seattle Process." After growing up there, leaving, coming back and leaving for good, I can truly sit back and laugh at this all.

I taught in the district and spent the better part of my life trying to fit into a city that defines diversity as having several non milk choices for coffee. The outlier, the non conformist, the person who has the temerity to disagree or not rollover and capitulate is ostracized and demeaned. Conformity is a must and with that you finally have nut jobs and the like who feel no compulsion to follow the "Seattle Process." It should be renamed the Seattle Scold.

I remind myself that the concept of White Fragility came from Seattle by an Author who went to an ultra white Jesuit school, Seattle University to devise a concept that is so patronizing and condescending that it could only come from the white liberal enclaves of Seattle.

It is only after working in schools across the country did I realize how bad, how poorly managed and operated ALL schools are and when they are not is a miracle of accident. So folks as they say at KEXP, you are not alone

- Former Resident

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