The Seattle School Board voted 6-1 Weds. night to approve the contract between Teach for America, Inc. and Seattle Public Schools. This will allow TFA recruits with only five weeks of training to join the already crowded pool of fully qualified teachers to vie for jobs in Seattle’s school.

This is not a big surprise to district-watchers who have observed this current board essentially rubber-stamp whatever this superintendent demands. Apparently the recent state audit that dinged the board for failing to direct the superintendent has made no difference to them.

Credit goes to Director Betty Patu, the sole No vote, for speaking eloquently and voting intelligently in defense of our existing teachers, and for noting that the “best and brightest” are already among us. Patu represents the south end of town, the area most likely to be affected by the TFA vote, since the district plans to place these recruits in Title I schools.

The biggest surprise of the night was Director Kay Smith-Blum’s Yes vote. She claims it was based on an informal poll she took of some principals, half of which said they would like TFA recruits in the hiring pool, half of which said they did not.  Community members and parents who had been impressed with Smith-Blum’s intelligent questions of the district staff and independence on the board in her first year, feel greatly disappointed by this sudden change.

It is surprising that even the fiscal irrationality of hiring young grads with only five weeks’ training at a premium  didn’t give Smith-Blum, a small businesswoman, pause. (TFA, Inc. demands $4,000 per recruit per year from SPS as well as a regular teacher’s salary for its corps members.)

Many in the local parent activist community are already looking ahead to next year’s school board election when four members are up for reelection — Sundquist, Carr, Maier and Martin-Morris. Tonight’s vote is likely to only fuel the growing fervor to find replacements for this current board.

HOW THEY VOTED

Should SPS approve the contract with TFA, Inc?

Sherry Carr    YES

Michael DeBell    YES

Peter Maier    YES

Harium Martin-Morris    YES

Betty Patu    NO

Kay Smith-Blum    YES

Steve Sundquist    YES

–s.p.