Alyssa Royse, a parent, provided this testimony in the Seattle School Board meeting held on April 21, 2010.
Maria Goodloe-Johnson’s contract is up for renewal. It is time for us to ask what we are getting from her, and if it is worth renewing the contract of a woman who is done little to help a struggling system. As the parent of a student at South Shore – just now emerging from an air quality problem that quickly turned into a communications crisis – the problems we faced perfectly reflect the problems the district faces under the leadership of Maria Goodloe-Johnson. Namely, an absence of communication and leadership. She did not attend community meetings at our school. She did not speak to the press or the parents or the staff. It was not until a group of parents called the media that many in our school even knew there was a problem – much less a solution. The South Shore debacle received a lot of media attention because we had the twisted-luxury of sick students to tug at heartstrings. But there have been many more problems in the district that, when combined, paint a condemning picture of a leader who can’t lead. A quick survey of parents and teachers across the city reveals a shocking sense of disenfranchisement and distrust of Goodloe-Johnson. In Madrona, a principal whose leadership was measurably improving student test scores was reassigned, mid-year, without warning to the community. While resourcing decisions are part of the normal business of running a school system, the process and timeframe undermined the ability to maintain leadership and progress at the school. Furthermore, the lack of clear communication and abysmal lack of community engagement left the Madrona community with little say in the process.
In Queen Anne, three principals out of 5 in the cluster were reassigned, one mid-year and again, without warning. Both K-5’s in the cluster lost their principals. There is no clear policy for reassignment, which fosters fear and uncertainty and makes it impossible to have a stable school environment.
Math and science scores across the district are continuing to flounder, after three years with Goodloe-Johnson. Whether or not it is attributable to bad curriculum, it is clear that three years of her leadership has not helped in this core area. What’s worse, the quantifiable disparity between the “rich” schools and the “poor” schools is getting wider, while the autonomy for schools and teachers to innovate is being taken away. Schools like Garfield, Ballard and Roosevelt are struggling under the weight of students who are thrown into mainstream high schools as non-native speakers, without curriculum to address their language needs. Goodloe Johnson has been told about the problem, as well as solutions, and has ignored the recommendations of teachers and staff who know that the tools they currently have are NOT working. The Title 1 / LAP swap has continued to draw needed money away from schools that desperately need it, and she has refused to reevaluate the formula that she put in place. Her initial idea of using the swap keep private businesses at bay was a good one, but has become part of a pattern of making decisions without later following up to see if they work. The adoption of the MAP program as an electronic means to assess student learning will cost nearly $4.5 million to implement district-wide, and I found very few teachers who think that it is useful at all. That money could buy a lot of teachers, books, supplies and building improvements. (Of course, Goodloe-Johnson is on the board of the company who created the MAP program.) Her focus on top-down leadership to drive the same curriculum in all schools is taking away the ability for teachers to customize learning for their populations. This “everything the same for everyone” approach not only cripples real teaching, it puts innovative programs at risk. For example, the district may take away the marine biology program at Garfield, which is an amazing program. But, because the other schools don’t have it, it is at risk in the name of equality. That is like telling one child they can’t excel at soccer because all of their siblings play the piano. Unlike many, I supported the idea of redrawing the district lines – and applaud the strength that it took to make such an unpopular decision. However, her inability to rally support behind a future vision is a perfect example of her inability to be a true leader. She, once again, made decisions without engaging the community, assessing their needs and their hopes, inviting their energy in to drive the change. You cannot change a community without community involvement. Leaders inspire other people to follow them into a future. Puppet masters stay behind the scenes and pull strings, manipulating people who are not engaged. Now, more than ever, we need a leader. We are at a time of fiscal and social crisis in our school district. It is not clear that Goodloe Johnson is capable of being part of the solution. I urge the board to take a “wait and see” year before renewing the contract of a woman who has achieved little in terms of academic traction, almost nothing in terms of fiscal responsibility and who’s leadership has been marked more by alienation than inspiration. If anything was made clear through the South Shore crisis, it is that Goodloe-Johnson has hired a team of consummate professionals in everything from facilities to finance, transportation to enrollment. With these excellent people in place, she should be free to inspire and lead the community. If she can’t do that, then she needs to be replaced with someone who can. Her contract should not be renewed until she shows that she is able to truly lead us into the future.