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Michael DeBell is lashing out after first losing his leader in all things ed reform, our previous Broad superintendent Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, and in response to other unexpected twists and turns. After expending time, energy and money to create a board that voted in lock step to all the superintendent brought to the school board for approval, the board that DeBell, et al had dreamed of and briefly enjoyed, it all fell apart and DeBell is beyond himself to the point of losing his usual composure.
Let’s look at a bit of history about School Board Director Michael DeBell.
Michael DeBell came into prominence with the aid of former School Board President Don Nielson. As I wrote in The Battle for Seattle, Part 1:
Don Nielson became President of the Seattle school board in 2001. He handled running the school board like running a business. As a previous board member said to me, “If you were chosen to be on the board by Don Nielsen, you would be sent back east for this corporate training.” That training was done by the Broad Foundation.
In Part 2:
In 2002, Don Nielson participated in the Broad Center for Superintendents Inaugural class training as a faculty member along with Randi Weingarten who was then President of the United Federation of Teachers and Don McAdams.
In 2005, according to a Seattle school district publication titled An Overview of Accomplishments, Seattle Public Schools received an $800,000 Gates Foundation Grant to fund the strategic implementation team, work on the first round of school closures, something that Manhas had not been “successful” at doing, and “implement additional recommendations from the Community Advisory Committee on Investing in Educational Excellence”.
It was also stated in the handout that “A grant-funded Broad Foundation resident is working on strengthening strategic planning capacity in the district”.
Gates was also busy in 2005 on another front, electing Michael DeBell…to his first term as school board director. Gates, along with nine board directors for the Alliance for Education, including Hanauer, Don Nielsen, Anne Farrell, Peter Maier, who himself is now a school board member, and John Warner, a retired Boeing executive, funded the campaign to elect DeBell and two other candidates through a PAC named Strong Seattle Schools. According to an article in the Seattle Times, a PAC had not been formed “in recent memory” to support the election of a school board director.
And in Part 3 I wrote:
Nielson then continues, “School board races attract candidates who are social activist or union sympathizers”, giving the sitting Seattle school board members as examples of being those kinds of individuals with the exception of Michael DeBell who was sitting in the audience. Nielson had backed DeBell in his race for school board but Nielson’s other two candidates had lost their run for school board seats so all of the other school board members were mere “activists” and “union sympathizers” in Nielson’s eyes.
During the Broad/Gates/DeBell heyday, our Broad superintendent Dr. Goodloe- Johnson was brought in to rule the roost and that she did.
She had a compliant school board made up of Michael DeBell, Sherry Carr, Steve Sundquist, Peter Maier and Harium Martin-Morris. One agenda item after another was presented to the school board and the gang of five would vote “yes” in lockstep.
To read more about this phenomenon, see Seattle School Board’s Voting Record: Yes, Yes, Yes and Yes.
Everything was going their way and DeBell was captain of the ship. Dysfunctional? Absolutely. It’s difficult watching a school board ignore the pleas of teachers, students and parents and even common sense at every public meeting as they voted in line with the ed reform agenda.
But now the table has turned.
The Broad superintendent was fired when the financial misconduct of one of her staff was discovered. Even though the board had plenty of reasons before to at least reprimand Dr. Goodloe-Johnson for various unethical actions such as being on the NWEA Board when the MAP test was being voted on by the school board and not disclosing that fact or when she spent money using a school issued credit card for a party that was not related to running the school district, the school board did nothing. The board was against the wall, though, on the Pottergate scandal. The public outcry had become too strong to ignore and even the corporate owned Seattle Times was reporting on the scandal.
For more on Dr. Goodloe-Johnson’s rule, see Ten + Reasons Why the Seattle Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Marie Goodloe-Johnson, Should Be Fired With Cause.
During the following election, Sundquist and Maier were replaced by two new board members who were not trained in the Broad way. This was the formation of a new majority made up of Kay Smith-Blum, Sharon Peaslee, Betty Patu and Marty McLauen, a sometimes weak fourth.
This new board voted not to be a charter school authorizer and questioned renewing the Teach for America, Inc. contract. Not a good time for DeBell and his backers.
DeBell also didn’t get the superintendent he wanted when his favorite, Interim Superintendent Susan Enfield, left after realizing that she would have to compete to be the superintendent of Seattle Public Schools. Instead, DeBell had to settle for Banda after his next favorite, Dr. Brenda Husk, chose not to continue the interview process. Banda doesn’t seem to be bending under pressure from Gates and Nielson and their backed faux roots organizations Stand for Children and the League of Education Voters as well as the Alliance for Education.
Sour grapes? Absolutely.
They say that in times of stress or difficulty, the true nature of a person shows through and I would say that we are now seeing DeBell for what he is. I saw this side of him as he and superintendent Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, coldly moved the Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center (SBOC) with its population of recent immigrants out of its well-loved and protected quarters in Queen Anne and into a seismically unsafe building, breaking the promise that was made to SBOC and its community to move into a building of its own, displacing an entire school and community of students, parents and teachers out of their beloved building, Meaney Middle School, and to make it all seem credible, move Nova High School into the building also, uprooting that community from it’s well-loved building and surrounding community. This was done to make DeBell’s constituents happy and keep his seat as a School Board Director. Everyone else was just a pawn on his chess board.
Now it’s time to replace DeBell with Sue Peters and move on with the business at hand.
Talk about cashing in on ed reform, from the Battle for Seattle, Part 1:
Mr. Nielson’s business, Teach First, recently merged with editure which focuses on online virtual schools and colleges with testing and assessment services and tutoring centers. They also provide educational software and e-learning tools and stand to make a lot of money with the standardization of curriculum and the testing that is based on that curriculum.