Seattle celebrates.

The press was there in force, setting up equipment and asking for interviews. I tried my best to stay out of their way but was approached by one reporter who asked me where I stood on the issue of firing the superintendent. When I told her that I was for it, she looked dismayed. She told me that she couldn’t find anyone who was against the firing to interview.

That was the general sentiment of the people who streamed into the board room last night. The vast majority of people in the room wanted the superintendent gone. It was a full house, standing room only and for me, was reminiscent of the meeting regarding the school closures that had occurred two years ago. The same anger and fervor over an injustice that had been done could be felt in that room last night.

There were signs, all in favor of her ouster, and the crowd was not shy in voicing their approval or dissent of what was being said as the meeting continued.

The first up to testify were two students from TOPS who shared their experiences of participating in the “Planting of the Seeds” program. They were articulate and prepared. I am always impressed when  a speaker, particularly when there are two speakers, can express their thoughts within the three-minute time period which they were able to do. They were a big hit with everyone in the room. Go TOPS!

The next speaker up was Noam Gundle who reminded the board about the “No Confidence” vote by the Seattle Teachers’ Association the year before and his last words were “We are organized!”. A reminder that since the superintendent had arrived, teachers and parents had begun to organize their efforts in response to directives that had been brought down by the superintendent including school closures, the MAP test, Teach for America and basing teacher evaluations on the MAP test, a test that was not designed to evaluate a teacher’s performance let alone that of a principal or a school.

Several people giving testimony mentioned school counselors and their importance relative to our students and asked the board to find the money to keep them. As was stated by those who testified, the counselors support students who suffer from an array of situations including depression, ADHD, hunger, health issues, sexual abuse, violence in the community, stress and the effects of divorce and families going through the downward spiral of our economy. It was noted that the counselors in their roles also assist teachers by taking the additional burden off of the teachers and making it less distracting to the other students.It was brought up that the superintendent and the school board were always able to find money for the superintendent’s pet programs such as instituting the MAP test or hiring Teach for America, Inc. recruits and yet would cry “poor” when it came to keeping teachers or our valued counselors.

A member of the Black Alliance got up in front of the school board and bemoaned the fact that the people who were in the middle of the Potter scandal were African-Americans and called them all “crooks and thieves!” with a tremendous amount of anger and vehemence.

Personally, I feel that there are crooks and thieves of all colors and nationalities just as there are people with good and kind hearts and souls also of all colors. It is my hope that all can see beyond skin color and consider more about what happened and how it happened and ensure that it will not occur again, ever, rather than what race the perpetrators were.

I also shared my thoughts on the superintendent’s performance.

Ricki Malone, a retired principal, got up and demanded a timeline from the school board directors that showed what the school board knew and when they knew it.

Jesse Hagopian, a teacher and founder of SEE, Seattle Educators Equity, followed her and was adamant that the board fire the superintendent. He said that to help her find her way out of town “we have a MAP and she can take it with her!”

One speaker reminded the board that according to the superintendent’s contract, because Goodloe-Johnson had hidden the findings from the school board directors of Potter’s activities, that was a dishonest act and was therefore a reason to fire the superintendent with cause.

Several speakers reminded the school board that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson was part of the Broad Foundation, always had been and continues to be. A reminder to the board that we should never go there again.

One speaker brought up the fact that there is a $4.6M (!) proposal to be considered by the board to pay for IT upgrades so that the MAP can be given to all students. Another cost that slipped the minds of Brad Bernatek and the superintendent when they were buying the MAP test at an initial cost of a little over $1M. Now, with buying the rights to the test for the next several years, the implementation of the test, the initial cost of the test and now paying to support the test by buying more computers and IT support, we will be well over $10M in cost…and for what? If we hired more teachers for the same amount of money, that would reduce class sizes and give more students an opportunity to work directly with their teachers. Will this happen instead of throwing good money after bad? The board members basically said that this was a new day. Will they finally vote in a way that makes sense? We’ll see.

Ms. Hollingsworth, the first African-American school board member who also started Head Start in Seattle, got up and shared that she had “confidence in you (the board members) that you will do the right thing”. She went on to say “This is your responsibility.”

After the public testimony had concluded, Sherry Carr read a statement saying that she was “outraged and deeply disappointed” in what had occurred and that she supported firing the superintendent and wanted to regain public confidence in the board and the school system.

Carr went on to say that there would be regular oversight briefings and that an internal audit team would be established that would be directed by the school board.

Harium said that he was “deeply saddened” about what had happened. He ended by saying that for now “it’s about the system” and having one voice.

Peter Maier also stated that he was “outraged” and he said that the real victims were the students. He apologized and said that they would try to recover the money that had been lost. He said that he had not been told the truth, by I assume the superintendent and Don Kennedy, and that he had been “personally deceived”. Maier said that Potter’s actions had remained “unfettered”  and that Stephens and Kennedy both knew what was going on. I personally appreciated what I sensed was an honest admission by Maier. unfortunately, many people have been hurt and careers damaged by the actions of Dr. Goodloe-Johnson and her cohort Don Kennedy.

Betty Patu took the night with her heart-felt anger, hurt and frustration in response to what had occurred. She said that funds had been taken away from our students. Patu went on to say “I want to make a difference” and that the Southeast had been underserved for the last 30 years.

Blum said that she was “deeply disheartened” and said that there needed to be “more rigorous control” and “more transparency”.

Michael DeBell said that neither Dr. Goodloe-Johnson nor Don Kennedy ever apologized or showed contrition for what had happened. He also said that the board would be re-examining the strategic plan and recommended that parts of it be “shelved.”

Sundquist also said that he was “angry and disappointed” and there had been a “breach of public trust”.

Noel Treat, the school district’s attorney, was asked to describe what the term “cause” meant in terms of the superintendent’s contract. He said that there needed to be “sufficient evidence of wrongdoing”. He went on to say that if the superintendent was fired with cause there might be an appeal made by Goodloe-Johnson and that it was “unlikely we would prevail on appeal”. Treat said that an appeal could be even more costly for the district and would take a long time to battle in the courts not allowing for closure and a sense of finality.

The board had requested a second legal opinion and had received the same response. An appeal is difficult and costly. When fired “without cause” the board would not have to prove cause and the employee could not appeal. This is the part about cutting our losses and moving on.

After Treat’s presentation, Carr said that the position of CFO/COO contained too much control and needed to be reconsidered.

Afer a few more comments from the board, it was time for the vote and it was unanimous. The superintendent was to be fired without cause and was to receive one year’s salary.

Next vote, Don Kennedy was voted out with six months salary.

And the final vote, Dr. Enfield would be our interim superintendent until June 2012. The board will not start a search for a permanent superintendent until January 2012. The crowd did not seem pleased with this.

Dr. Enfield got up and made her acceptance speech and then left the room. Hopefully she was not on her way to greet Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach for America, who was speaking at a League of Education Voters’ soiree on the other side of town, an organization that Enfield had championed just a few months ago to come to Seattle.

We’ll see.

Dora

To view the meeting in it’s entirety, check out the Seattle Channel.

A FEW MORE NOTES (from Sue)

I’d like to add a couple observations from last night. I agree that School Board Director Betty Patu was a powerful speaker last night and clearly her genuine concerns resonated with the audience who applauded her heartily. She seems like she always has her eye on what really matters: the kids. She was the only one to vote against appointing Susan Enfield as interim superintendent, by the way, citing some troubling matters of Enfield cutting programs that helped kids in the southeast part of town, which is Patu’s district.

Whether Dr. Enfield is her own person and not merely Goodloe-Johnson Lite is what many of us will be watching for this next year. In a way we’re fortunate to have this probationary period for Interim Superintendent Enfield. She can prove herself to all of us, and/or we can all come up with a better permanent choice to replace her in June 2012.

I thought Director DeBell also spoke from a place of genuine and built up dismay and anger with the state of SPS under Goodloe-Johnson. I think many in the audience were gratified to hear him cite as a serious matter the near-unanimous No Confidence vote that Seattle’s teachers gave Supt. Goodloe-Johnson last year. He seems to understand that if you don’t have the backing of the teachers, if they have no faith or trust in the superintendent, then you have a dysfunctional school district on your hands, and that hurts everyone.

I’m surprised more board members haven’t made more of the No Confidence vote.

I found it a bit ironic to hear Director Peter Maier tell us that in his day job he is a lawyer who protects consumers against corporations. My first thought was, “Well, then where were you these past three years protecting the parents and kids of SPS against all the bad or questionable contracts or products (NTN STEM at Cleveland, the TFA, Inc. contract with SPS, the no-bid NWEA contract for MAP, the Discovering math texts) that were imposed on the district under Goodloe-Johnson’s management?!” So while I was glad to hear Meier speak up last night, I couldn’t help but also feel dismayed that he didn’t apply his professional skills to defend his constituents sooner. I really felt last night as if Peter Maier has finally woken up. Better late than never, I guess.

The thrice-yearly, $10 million-MAP test was mentioned a number of times last night, and it’s apparently getting  a big thumbs down from an increasing number of members of the SPS community. It’s starting to look more and more like an unfunded mandate that our schools can’t afford. The ever-growing price tag (primarily for implementation — some of it being imposed on the cash-strapped schools themselves), and the time and resource drain that it represents will hopefully soon land it on that “Strategic Plan Suspension” shelf Director DeBell spoke of.

Another theme of the night was an open acknowledgment of the culture of fear and reprisal that has permeated SPS for a number of years now, but reached extremely toxic levels under Goodloe-Johnson. If the board is serious about fumigating the district of this toxicity, that will be one of the silver linings of this difficult moment in SPS history.

I would include in this the trend of  demoralizing or bullying our teachers in the name of “teacher effectiveness,” which Goodloe-Johnson did in various ways, like her “Teacher Appreciation Week” layoffs, illegal end-run around labor laws with a $15,000 letter to our 3,000 teachers unilaterally changing their contract, and by suddenly springing her unacceptable “SERVE” proposal onto the union in late summer 2010, nearly scuttling the contract negotiations, and now the MAP test, which she has been using–wrongly–to evaluate teachers. This treatment of teachers is from the Michelle Rhee playbook and it didn’t work in D.C. — indeed it cost Rhee and Mayor Fenty their jobs — and there is no place for it here.

Though we have much work ahead of us still to make Seattle Public Schools an open, honest, strong district that has the best interests of all our kids as its core mission, I am hopeful we are on the right track thanks to last night’s developments.

I am grateful to the board for voting the superintendent and CFO out.

But I would particularly like to give a shout out to all the parents, teachers, community members, bloggers and activists who have these past few years —  and longer in some cases — been tirelessly writing to the board, giving testimony at board meetings, often feeling as though they are being tuned out, meeting with board members, and basically trying to offer the board the voice and concerns of the SPS community, as well as a ton of data, research, and FACTS that often contradicted what Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson and other administrators in SPS were feeding them. So many of the issues these community members have brought before the board were repeated and relevant last night, including the whole Silas Potter affair. So many of the concerns, research and data we have all brought to the board’s attention have proven valid.

I hope the board has learned that we do indeed have legitimate contributions to make to the discussion and their knowledge. I look forward to more constructive and collaborative (to repeat another theme of last night) discussions with them on a vision for our school district as we move forward from here.

–Sue p.

HOW THEY VOTED

Terminate Supt. Goodloe Johnson without cause?

Unanimous. (Carr, DeBell, Maier, Martin-Morris, Patu, Smith-Blum, Sundquist)

Terminate CFO Don Kennedy without cause?

Unanimous. (Carr, DeBell, Maier, Martin-Morris, Patu, Smith-Blum, Sundquist)

Appoint Susan Enfield as Interim Superintendent?

All in favor except Director Patu.