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Questions regarding Teach for America, Inc. that the Seattle School Board has yet to answer.

The Seattle School Board recently voted 5-1 to hire three more TFA, Inc. recruits. Four of these board members are incumbents in an upcoming school board race. These four board members also received funding from supporters of TFA, Inc. who poured money into the coffers of the Seattle Foundation to pay the additional expense of $4,000 per TFA, Inc. recruit per year to grace us with their presence in the Seattle Public School system. Conflict of interest? Borderline. Ethical? Probably not.

According to the Save Seattle Schools blog:

There were several donors to the Seattle Foundation TFA fund.  Three of them,  Matt Griffin, Evelyn Rozner and James Faulstich, have contributed heavily to all the incumbents’ campaigns.  (To point out, the average campaign contribution is usually between $25-100.)
Mr. Griffin gave Maier and Sundquist $1K each and Carr and Martin-Morris, $2k each.
Ms. Rozner gave Carr and Martin-Morris each $2k and Sundquist $1k.
Mr. Faulstich gave Carr, Martin-Morris and Sundquist each $250.
Peter Maier has the largest campaign fund at $37k, followed by Sundquist at $28k, Harium at $22k and Carr at $20k.
All of the challengers are well under $10K except for Michelle Buetow who is at $13k.
More than 50% of Sherry Carr’s campaign has come from 10 people/households including Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and his wife.

That’s enough to give one pause.

One of the people who gave testimony the night of the school board’s vote asked the following questions which were never answered by the school board members who voted to allow TFA, Inc. recruits to teach our children even though these recruits had maybe five weeks of training and are not yet certified. (Was this the Theater of the Absurd? Absolutely!)

Dr. Carol Simmons sent each board member after the school board meeting the following questions which she had raised during her testimony. She has yet to receive a reply from Peter Maier, Steve Sundquist, Kay Smith-Blum, Harium Martin-Morris, Michael DeBell or Sherry Carr.

To follow are the five questions that Dr. Simmons posed to the directors in an e-mail dated 9/21/2011.

Seattle School Board Directors.

Would you please tell me why you have not responded to the questions I asked in my testimony of September 21, 2011

The questions are:

1.  Please clarify to the residents of Seattle why you think hiring TFA recruits to work with our low income and lower achieving student population will in any way result in closing the achievement/opportunity gap?

2.  What is your stated rationale for hiring TFA recruits?

3.  What research supports that hiring TFA recruits will achieve your stated goal of closing the achievement gap?

4.  How have you met the WAC criteria of carefully reviewing other options for closing the achievement gap before hiring these conditionally certificated recruits?

5. If you have reviewed other options for closing the achievement gap such as the Disproportionality Task Forces recommendations, why have you disregarded these options?

I would appreciate an immediate response.

Maybe someone can pose these questions to the incumbents in a candidate’s forum in the next few weeks.

By the way, the PTA, in Seattle and statewide, have remained strangely silent on the issue of Teach for America, Inc. Ramona Hattendorf, Government Relations Coordinator for the Washington State PTA, had stated that the PTA had decided not to take sides on this issue and yet they are proposing a plank to support charter schools in our state? Hmmm.


Post Script: While preparing another post I came across a list of Sherry Carr’s endorsements. The list includes Stand for Children and the League of Education Voters.

And many thanks to Jana Brubaker for providing the graphic for this post. She’s a terrific graphic artist and can be reached at:



10 comments on “Questions regarding Teach for America, Inc. that the Seattle School Board has yet to answer.

  1. Anonymous
    October 17, 2011

    If you’re enjoying the parody logo, you might like it even better in motion. Can you spot all three parody logos in this video:

  2. Danaher M Dempsey Jr
    October 4, 2011


    You wrote:
    ” I am really depressed about the ability of the School District and the State Office of Sup. of Ed. to override anything they choose to irregardless of ethics, morality, laws, or the will of the vox populi. ”

    You can see a good bit of the PESB executive director’s thinking on the granting of conditional certification for TfA in my posts here=>

    — Dan

    hey David send me your email:

  3. David Fisher
    October 4, 2011

    Thank you both Dora and and Dan
    This is really disheartening and perhaps criminal. I am really depressed about the ability of the School District and the State Office of Sup. of Ed. to override anything they choose to irregardless of ethics, morality, laws, or the will of the vox populi. We get stonewalled, Gates gets a foothold on privatization of public education in Seattle, and our student population gets shafted. This is a good reason to take all money out of elections and provide really free elections with no financial influences. It would be much less expensive both economically and socially.

    The state legislators give Gates and other billionaires big tax write-offs depriving the public education system of much needed funding, then these revenues are placed in tax-sheltered investment portfolios, like the Gates Foundation, collecting even more tax free money and finally the profits are used to privatize the very education system that has been denied essential funding in the first place thanks to Gates and his cronies. What a racket!

    Without campaign funding Gates wouldn’t get the tax write-off’s in the first place, not to mention the conflict of interest involved with using so-called non-profit foundations for political purposes such as influencing state legislatures on policy decisions like public education. This is not a democracy.


  4. Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.
    October 4, 2011

    The hiring decisions are made by the Schools at each job site. TfA Corp members are included in the hiring pool. Corp Members can only receive conditional certification if the Board requests conditional certification for a particular corp member.

    A crime is committed when a law is violated. My point is that the board is violating WAC 181-79A-231.


  5. David Fisher
    October 4, 2011

    Dora, once again thanks for the update.
    What position were the 3 TFA recruits placed in. I don’t understand the situation clearly. I thought that HR hired employees. Is the board voting to consider them in the pool or hire them directly? If its a direct hire, how come the school board is voting to hire employees? Are these teachers being place in schools whose hiring committee chose them or are they being forced on the schools?


    • seattleducation2011
      October 4, 2011

      The TFA, Inc. recruits were placed as full time teachers which is a crime in itself considering that there were a few thousand applicants last year for teaching jobs in Seattle, all of whom were qualified and certified to teach in our fair city.

      Good question about who is hiring these teachers. My assumption is because there is additional cost involved in hiring TFA, Inc. recruits that cannot be covered by the district, then the resources have to be in place and approved by the school board.

      I don’t know if the principal requested these untrained, uncertified teachers but if they did I am expecting a backlash from parents in the near future.


  6. Danaher M Dempsey Jr
    October 4, 2011

    Published Online: October 4, 2011

    TFA Teachers: How Long Do They Teach? Why Do They Leave?
    By Morgaen L. Donaldson and Susan Moore Johnson, Phi Delta Kappan

  7. Danaher M Dempsey Jr
    October 4, 2011

    Here is my testimony , which I will deliver on 10-5-2011 to the Seattle School Board. This is the testimony attached to the letter above to the PESB:
    Directors, I am Dan Dempsey. 10-5-2011

    I object to the proposed TfA conditional certification. It’s my third appearance on this matter. I am back as you offered no explanation for your previous likely illegal approvals.

    {{{Director Maier, was running for School Board in the summer of 2007, when we met on a Seattle sidewalk. He expressed some frustration with people that keep testifying week after week.}}}

    You Directors are NOT living up to your legal obligations or claims of being transparent communicators, so I am here.
    {{See State Auditor’s reports}}

    Once again I ask: When has the District conducted a careful review of all options for closing the achievement gaps?

    Do any of you believe that requesting conditional certification for TfA Corp members legally complies with the LAW? {{{WAC 181-79A-231? If so why?}}}

    Complying with laws and explaining compliance when questioned would reduce spending on outside legal service. You chose not respond to my testimonies or letters. It seems that to get an answer requires $240 and a court appearance.

    Improving a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data, but this District chooses to ignore a great deal of really important data.

    Achievement gaps in Math will never close as long as directors choose to ignore common sense.

    The lowest math class offered to entering 9th graders is Algebra. You failed to adopt a book below “Discovering Algebra”. Unprepared students get Algebra. This practice is a gigantic failure.

    Of Seattle’s low income 9th graders that took algebra last year… only 38% could pass the State’s End of Course Algebra assessment, 62% failed: and 36% scored far below basic. More than 1 in 3 students were essentially algebra clueless.

    When the District fails to provide appropriate class placements and instruction for students, this is abusive treatment. A large number of students struggle, fail, give up, and see themselves as incapable, and likely responsible for their poor performance.

    Please do something constructive by ending this child abuse.
    {{{No more stories about teachers needing training on differentiated instruction this is NOT a teacher problem.}}

    Tonight the Board will NOT end this child abuse, and you will approve another TfA corp member, pretending you have done something to narrow the achievement gaps.

    Then onto the MAP introductory item to spend almost $500,000 on Measures of Academic Progress testing…..

    MAP testing does nothing for district students. It sucks up valuable instructional time and annually wastes Half-a-Million Dollars.

    Please STOP the TfA and MAP deceptions. Do your job.

    Perform a careful review of all options for closing achievement gaps.

    Stop fooling the public about unproven expensive Education Reform.

    ============== (3 minutes)

  8. Danaher M Dempsey Jr
    October 4, 2011

    Going beyond ethical or not, let me extend the discussion to Legal or NOT. Strangely both the Directors and Officials at OSPI have been silent when asked about Seattle’s request for conditional certificates for TfA Corp Members and WAC 181-79A-231.

    Just as the directors failed to respond to Dr. Simmons requests for answers to questions, the same is true of my questions that focused on the legality of requesting conditional certification. Hey folks, if its all good and legal, why am I unable to get a response.

    Here is the gist of my problem as communicated to the Professional Educator Standards Board yesterday:
    To the PESB:
    Dear Erin Smessaert, 10-3-2011

    The Seattle Public Schools was and is making applications for conditional certification for Teach for America Corp Members, while not satisfying the conditions of the law WAC 181-79A-231.

    The School Board has completely ignored two testimonies from me on this matter and has not responded to emails.

    I am attaching my School Board testimony for Wednesday 10-5-2011. I could include a significant number of communications on this matter that have been ignored by the school board, if needed.

    On 9-21-2011, in my second testimony on this matter before the Seattle School Board I stated the following:

    {{For years }} the District failed to provide adequate services to many low income and minority students. Required interventions for struggling students were not provided and that policy requirement was eventually changed.

    Tonight’s TfA action report adds insult to injury.

    It refers to a TfA agreement approved Nov. 17, 2010.

    “Bringing forward a request for conditional certificates is specifically contemplated in the Teach for America agreement,{{ Section I (C), which states }} “Seattle Public Schools agrees to request conditional certificates for all Teach for America corps members on the grounds that circumstances warrant the issuance of such certificates, as permitted by WAC 181-79A-231.

    That law states:

    The professional educator standards board encourages in all cases the hiring of fully certificated individuals and understands that districts will employ individuals with conditional certificates only after careful review of all other options. ….

    …….The circumstances that supposedly warrant the issuance of conditional certificates are the achievement gaps in the Seattle Public Schools.

    A careful review of all other options to close the achievement gaps has NOT been performed.

    The District on numerous occasions continued with materials and practices that have been particularly harmful to educationally disadvantaged learners. The district has made a regular practice of this in mathematics.

    The District continually ignored the practices that proved so successful in Project Follow Through and practices proven to work as reported in Visible Learning by John Hattie. The district takes direction from the UW’s Math Education Project {{M.E.P.}}despite worsening results.

    The Superintendent stated that the situation in regard to mathematics is improving as the teachers have become more agile in using the materials. Test scores show otherwise.

    The District has not conducted a careful review of other options for closing the achievement gaps. The Superintendent and the Board are apparently in complete denial of reality. …..

    To approve tonight’s TfA action report will require the Board claim a careful review has been performed, when nothing could be further from the truth.

    Vote “NO”. Low Income students deserve teachers with full certification. The Superintendent has failed to tell the truth … the Board should not join her in this TfA deception.
    ================ (end of testimony)

    My questions for the PESB and OSPI are:
    Who is granting the requested “conditional certifications” and why is the law not being applied in this situation?

    Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.

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