Learning from Past Mistakes: Seattle Public School’s Greatest Superintendent Misses, Part 1: Joseph Olchefske

Editor’s note: As Seattle Public Schools starts to narrow the field of potential superintendents it’s important to learn from past mistakes. Example one: Joseph Olchefske. -Carolyn Leith




What do you think should happen in this scenario?

The superintendent of the largest school district in the state, through mismanagement and carelessness, runs up a crippling 35 million dollar deficit?

If you believe in the efficiency of the market, the answer should be easy.

The superintendent would be immediately fired. Since his actions lost the school district money or in business terms – became extremely unprofitable,  he would never again have a job related to education.

Meet Joseph Olchefske, an expert in finance, and a rising star in Seattle Public Schools in the late ’90s. After the untimely death of his mentor, John Stanford, Olchefske officially became Superintendent of SPS in February of 1999.

Within four years of his tenure, the district would be facing a 35 million dollar deficit and Olchefske would be on the receiving end of two separate votes of no confidence.

Here’s a timeline from the Post-Intelligence which documents the unravelling.


Sept. 14, 1995: Seattle Schools Superintendent John Stanford appoints Olchefske to be chief financial officer for district. He had been a public-finance manager for brokerage firm Piper Jaffray in Seattle since 1986.

Nov. 28, 1998: Stanford dies of acute myelogenous leukemia.

Feb. 09, 1999: Olchefske, who had been interim superintendent after Stanford’s death, is named permanent superintendent.

Aug. 16, 2002: Olchefske’s chief financial officer, Geri Lim, resigns in exchange for $51,000, a letter of reference and $1,000 for job-hunting costs.

Oct. 4, 2002: Olchefske announces that accounting glitches and computer problems led to a $35 million budget shortfall.

Oct. 28, 2002: Principals Association of Seattle Schools votes against holding a no-confidence vote.

Nov. 1, 2002: Seattle School Board votes in support of Olchefske.

Nov. 05, 2002: Seattle Education Association, the teachers union, publicly calls for Olchefske to resign.

March 28, 2003: Principals Association executive board votes no confidence in Olchefske.

April 4, 2003: Teachers union votes no confidence in Olchefske. “I’m committed to being superintendent,” he responds.

April 14, 2003: Olchefske resigns.

You would think a 35 million dollar financial meltdown would be a big red flag on someone’s resume. Not so for Olchefske. He immediately landed a job with the American Institute for Research, also know as AIR.

AIR’s founder got his start pioneering psychological testing to screen for prospective combat pilots during World War II. Afterwards, AIR expanded into the area of education and workforce readiness.  As you can imagine, AIR is all in when it comes to the recently updated ESSA and the associated competency-based  and social emotional learning.

Middle College

How did Olchefske make the leap from a widely disliked superintendent to Managing Director at the American Institute for Research?

I’m guessing one of his pet projects in Seattle had a lot to do with it.

In January of 2001, Seattle Public Schools partnered with the Simon Youth Foundation to launch The Northgate Mall Education Resource Center, also know as the Mall Academy. This school was added to the Middle College concept within Seattle Public Schools (SPS).

High school students enrolled in the Education Resource Center would attend classes at the mall focusing on skills training such as applied health occupations and vocationally certified school-to-work programs. Students could even work at the mall for credit.

The idea of a vocational school at the mall was so innovative, in fact, the John Hopkins School of Education has an article about it on its website. Oh, did I mention Olchefske is an Adjunct Professor at John Hopkins?

Most of all, the Education Resource Center will serve as a catalyst for partnerships between educators and employers and will benefit the mall, its stores, and the students it serves. Junior Achievement of Seattle and Community in Schools are just two of the additional partners who have already committed to provide services and resources to support the students. Young people will receive instruction and on-the-job training for careers in retailing, and there will be management track employment opportunities at the mall for graduates of the retail-training program.

“This is a tremendous program, not only for our students, but for the City of Seattle,” said schools Superintendent Joseph Olchefske. “It represents the kind of innovative, out-of-the-box thinking that is so essential if we are to deliver on the dream of academic achievement for every student in every school.”

It’s worth noting the history surrounding Middle College. When first conceived, the Middle College concept was based on reaching high-risk kids through an association of a small school with a strong social justice focus. Adding a solely jobs training, commercially orientated school to the mix was bound to create friction – and it did.

In May of 2015, Superintended Nyland abruptly announced the closure of Middle College at High Point. This was one of the schools under the Middle College umbrella with a social justice core curriculum designed to connect with at-risk kids. There was a huge pubic uproar over the closure.

As the controversy grew, the ed-reform supporting The 74 published a “hero in education” puff piece in December praising the work of Middle College High School at Northgate, Simon Youth Foundation, and its work with at-risk youth.

Today, Middle College at Northgate has a blended instructional model meaning much of the class time is spent on a computer.

Middle College High School @ Northgate is a distinctive educational environment that offers direct and digital academic instruction. It is a student-centered, alternative option that encourages the development of community, personal responsibility, and active learning in the core disciplines of math, science, social studies, and language arts. It is a place to prepare for higher education or career readiness in a small, compassionate academic setting.

Ed-Reform Market Failure

After AIR, Olchefske has continued on his gold-plated career trajectory.

He’s worked for: Educate Online, Mosaica Education, Inc.Calvert EducationEducation Industry Association (EIA)Flex Academies, and Springboard Education in America, LLC.

What do all of these companies have in common?

The privatization of public education and the push to move school online, outside of school buildings, and toward the “anytime, anywhere, learning model”. Viewed through that lens, The Northgate Mall Education Resource Center was ahead of its time.

Way back in 2003, former SPS school board member Don Nielson seemed more worried about Olchefske than the district’s financial trouble.

Don Nielsen, a former school board member and a supporter of the superintendent, was disappointed to learn of Olchefske’s resignation. “I think it’s not in the best interests of the district, but it probably is in the best interests of Joseph and (wife) Judy and their family,” he said. “Anybody that has a complaint with the district is now focusing on him. He didn’t see that going away anytime soon, if at all. As long as he’s a lightning rod, it’s going to be tough for him to lead.”

Nielsen shouldn’t have worried. It seems Olchefske is doing just fine. With the passage of the dumpster fire that is the updated Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), I would expect him to do even better in the future.

-Carolyn Leith


The stealth campaign for charter schools found in emails of Seattle Public School employees and the candidacy of Omar Vasquez



We have published several articles on Summit charter schools and “personalized learning” which is a sugar coated description of placing students in front of a computer for all their lessons and tests. There is nothing personalized about the programs, simply that the student can do the lessons at their own speed and has nothing to do with their interests, strengths or academic weaknesses. The program is prepackaged and a robot could provide the same learning experience.

Speaking of robots, Summit charter school and other commercial enterprises are now developing “academies” where anyone who has a pulse can take a course, become a “trainer”/“facilitator” and be hired by Summit or another online school to respond to student’s questions and track their progress. This is not my idea of receiving a good education but is a cash cow for business enterprises.

Another aspect of the idea of “personalized learning’ is that it is unvetted. No one knows who developed the programs, their credentials, and unlike a text book, you can’t open it and get an idea of the subject matter, its accuracy or whether the information is objective and unbiased.

We have written about how the small Mary Walker School District in Eastern Washington chose to include online charter schools under their umbrella under the guise of ALEs – Alternative Learning Experiences — even though the State Supreme Court had determined that charter schools were unconstitutional in the state. A hefty investment in Mary Walker by the Gates Foundation helped the small, cash-strapped district carry out this charter-laundering deal.

Seattle Education also noted later that in January of 2016, the Mary Walker School District (MWSD) rescinded their request for approval of charter schools in the City of Seattle after requests were made twice, first by The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and then by MWSD, for the school district to recognize the charter schools and thereby provide legitimacy to the schools.

During the legal limbo all Washington charter schools found themselves in after the state’s charter law was (rightly) found unconstitutional in the fall of 2015 and they were declared illegal, Summit Sierra Charter School in Seattle decided to recast itself as a ‘homeschooling center’ and avoid the Mary Walker scheme. But now it is back as a charter school, with no ties to the Seattle School District.

With all of this in mind, why are officials who represent the Seattle Public School district and various principals falling all over themselves to develop relationships with Summit charter schools, wasting valuable time and resources supporting a charter school when Seattle is still struggling with a limited budget and all the complexities of managing 104 actual public schools?

The Seattle Public School board passed a resolution on March 2, 2016 making clear its commitment to public education and its opposition to charter schools. Why are people within the administration ignoring that resolution?

Our next question is, why keep all this activity in the dark for three years, not providing the information to the Seattle Public Schools’ Board of Directors or the School Board’s Curriculum & Instruction Policy Committee? Is Seattle’s School Superintendent Larry Nyland aware of this activity? Michael Tolley, Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, who Michael Starosky reports to, the person who began the chain of events that we will describe, is to report directly to the superintendent. Is that happening? It seems as if there is a shadow district within the Stanford Center that neither the school board, parents nor teachers know anything about.

Per emails that we received through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), there have been numerous conversations between Seattle Public Schools’ key administrators and Summit representatives, meetings at Seattle Public Schools’ administrative offices, the Stanford Center, sharing of district information with Summit Sierra charter school and tours provided by both parties.

There has also been communication between Seattle Public School principals and Summit Sierra charter schools.

We will provide a timeline of the two batches of emails, Part One and Part Two, bringing to light what has been in the shadows for the last three years in a series of posts beginning today.

The focus of this first set of emails is a conversation between Eric Anderson, Director of Research, Evaluation & Assessment within Seattle Public Schools who shows on his LinkedIn page interests in the Broad Foundation (Center), Teach for America, The KIPP Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Malia Burns, Founding Executive Director of Summit Sierra charter schools who refers to herself as “Principal” as the occasion dictates, who is also on the Washington State Teach for America State Board.

Eric Anderson appears to have taken over from Broad Foundation “Resident” Brad Bernatek whom some of you might remember from his false17% stat about graduation rates.

To follow is the first timeline:

The specific emails referenced below can be viewed here. 


Michael Starosky, Chief of Schools with Seattle Public Schools, does a “virtual introduction” between Malia Burns, former “Principal” of Summit charter schools, and Eric Anderson, Director, Research & Evaluation at Seattle Public Schools.

Starosky suggests Anderson would be a great resource to Burns in “learning in all things SPS”, particularly around data systems and measuring student growth.


Anderson writes to Burns expressing his excitement in partnering with Summit Sierra charter schools.


The Seattle Times reports the Seattle School Board has no interest in becoming a charter school authorizer. Unbeknownst to the board and public, Eric Anderson continues to collaborate with Summit Sierra charter school and continues to do so after the board’s position on charters is made public.


Malia Burns with Summit charter schools contacts Eric Anderson to make arrangements to meet or talk on the phone about student assessments.


Eric Anderson immediately responds to set up an appointment the next day.


Malia Burns and Eric Anderson decide to meet at the Stanford Center where the Seattle Public School administration offices are located.


Malia Burns to Anderson, “It’s great to meet kindred spirits working in education to support the work we all are doing within schools.”

Ms. Burns shares with Eric Anderson the login to Summit’s Personalized Learning Plan and cognitive skills rubric.


Eric Anderson to Malia Burns, ”With all the Charter School news in recent months I thought I’d check in” and sharing his hope that everything “remains positive” for Summit Sierra charter school.

Anderson expresses interest in bringing a small team from Seattle Public Schools to visit Summit Sierra charter school.


Malia Burns responds to Eric Anderson that they would “love to have a group visit” from people representing Seattle Public Schools.


Jen Wickens, Chief Regional Officer for Summit charter schools who is also on the Strategic Advisory Council for Teach for America. Inc. and CEO of Impact Public Schools “providing leadership in the ed reform sector”, replies to Eric Anderson to arrange a visit to Summit suggesting sometime during the week March 14, 2016.


The same day Eric Anderson responds to Jen Wickens confirming a visit the week of March 14, 2016 and stating an interest in Personalized Learning.  Anderson states he would like to bring in a group of 4-5 people with “our new Senior Research Scientist from my team” and “a couple of others from Teaching & Learning”.


Jen Wickens and Eric Anderson arrange another onsite visit for Anderson to see a student demonstration of Summit’s Personalized Learning Plan

The next set of emails will focus on correspondence between Summit Sierra charter schools and principals within the Seattle Public School district.

Note: “Chief of Schools” is a new position created for Starosky. Starosky reports to Michael Tolley, Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning which is a relatively new position. Starosky oversees the activities of five Executive Directors which is another layer of Seattle Public Schools bureaucracy created by Broad trained Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson six years ago.

Michael Tolley is the last vestige of the Goodloe-Johnson era. The former superintendent brought Tolley with her from Charleston, SC.


How Omar Vasquez fits into the push for charter schools in Seattle

Omar Vasquez, who is running for a position on the Seattle School Board, is on the Washington Board of Directors for Summit charter schools but he won’t likely tell you that. Omar started in education as a Teach for America, Inc. recruit, is now on the Washington State Teach for America Board and has been active with charter schools ever since since first working for Teach for America, Inc. Recently all information about his involvement with charter schools has been scrubbed from his website and LinkedIn Page. As an attorney in Seattle, he has represented charter schools.

When Mr. Vasquez was asked about charter schools during his candidate interview with the King County Young Democrats, he lied and said he never had any involvement with charter schools. The Young Democrats decided to endorse him based on that interview.

As Michael Maddox wrote on his blog #hashtag:

Omar Vasquez – I mean, this guy told one group that he supported Charter Schools, and another that he didn’t. The guy lies, and when he’s called out or criticized, shows a temperament that does not lend itself as evidence that he could be a good school board member. Blatant lying, shitty temperament, and support for Charter Schools? HARD PASS.

The Washington State Democratic Party platform states in no uncertain terms that the party opposes charters yet the State Democratic Party gave Vasquez $2,000 worth of in-kind donations to his primary campaign, most likely to obtain access to the vital GOTV tool VoteBuilder, which helped him eke out a second place finish in the primary after Zachary DeWolf and just ahead of Andre Helmstetter. The thousands of dollars from corporate ed reformers like Lindsy Hill, founder of the Washington TFA, and the Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) helped as well. His dishonesty about his charter ties helped smooth the deal. Do the State Democrats know they have been underwriting someone whose positions and work history directly conflict with their platform?

The teacher’s union at least, was not fooled by Vasquez. His Teach for America history would likely have been a deal breaker for them. The short-term  flash-trained TFA recruits have been used as a union-breaking tool and cheap labor for charter schools. As we have pointed out on this blog numerous times, the founder of Teach for America, Inc., Wendy Kopp is married to the founder of one of the biggest charter school franchises, KIPP’s Richard Barth. It’s bitterly ironic that charter schools which claim to aim to serve underprivileged students of color, offer these students the least qualified, high turnover teachers available – in direct contradiction of all research that shows that experienced, stable teaching staff serve these students best.

Vasquez’s Twitter history also reveals his support of charter school’s legal victory in Washington State.

The Seattle Public School (SPS) board passed a resolution on March 2, 2016 reaffirming its commitment to public education and its opposition to charter schools.

The final paragraph of the resolution states:

RESOLVED, that the Seattle School Board of Directors (1) requests that the Legislature focus on its paramount duty to amply fund K-12 educational needs first as mandated by the McCleary decision; (2) opposes charter schools and charter school legislation; and (3) disapproves of the establishment of Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) status for former charter schools when operated by non-resident school districts.

No wonder Vasquez is trying to hide his charter connections.


Dora Taylor


Related articles:

Seattle Public School Board candidates

The scoop on Seattle School Board Candidates Chelsea Byers and Omar Vasquez: Buyer Beware

Summit Sierra charter schools

The inherent racism of Summit “public” (charter) school

A checklist for parents considering Summit Sierra charter school in Seattle

Serious student privacy concerns with new Summit/Facebook platform

Summit (Sierra) charter school: The skinny on the Gates-backed school set for Seattle, Brad Bernatek (remember him?) and a host of others

Personalized Learning

Personalized Learning Pathways & the Gig Economy

Teach for America

Colonizing the Black Natives: Charter Schools and Teach for America

Teach for America

A professor’s encounter with Teach for America

The grifters of corporate ed reform: KIPP charter schools with the aid of the DOE

The Broad Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Got Dough? How Billionaires Rule Our Schools

The Broad Foundation: A Parent Guide to the Broad Foundation’s training programs and education policies

The Battle for Seattle, Part 2: Hijacked!

Bill Gates has spent $440M to push charter schools: Here is the list of recipients

Bill Gates funds the media, including the Seattle Times’ Education Lab, then secretly meets with them

The scoop on Seattle School Board Candidates Chelsea Byers and Omar Vasquez: Buyer Beware


Beginning in 2008, many of us saw the tsunami of charter schools and the complete privatization of school districts coming our way in Seattle with the appearance of former Broad-trained school superintendent Goodloe-Johnson.

Many of us had questions about this superintendent because her actions did not make sense in terms of the best interest of students and the communities they lived in.

After much research, we discovered a link between former school board president Don Neilson, Stand for Children, Teach for America, Inc., which staffs charter schools with uncertified college grads, League of Education Voters, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER)the Broad Foundation, Bill Gates and the push to privatize our schools. People in Seattle and Washington State had made it very clear that we did not want charter schools in our state by voting three times against it up to that point but there were outside forces who either thought charter schools would benefit students or had dollar signs in their eyes. Most saw the money.

There is a second lawsuit in the courts now in Washington State challenging the constitutionality of charter schools so if you are a parent considering enrolling your student in a charter school in the state, take heed, the school may be closed unexpectedly due to a court decision.

Because of the experiences we have had with the organizations listed above, we are wary of people connected to any of these groups which are funded by wealthy donors and corporate money. Their agendas have been made very clear, the privatization of everything connected with public schools.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at two of the following Seattle school board candidates:

Chelsea Byers supports charter schools.  She checked the “NO” box on the King County Democrats’ questionnaire, but later explained that she does not support for-profit charters. Thing is, all charter schools are for-profit and making them “non-profit” makes it easier for people to accept. The CEO’s are well paid while siphoning off tax dollars earmarked for public schools.

Ms. Byers is a former Teach for America recruit and there is no indication she has children in Seattle Public Schools.

Omar Vasquez used the same strategy with the King County Democrats. This Teach for America alum told the group that he opposes charter schools…the for-profit ones. After Mr. Vasquez filed to run for Seattle School Board, he deleted all references from charter schools on his bio. Mr Vasquez also sits on Washington State’s Summit charter school board. Summit is a charter school making a profit by having students on computers at home, therefore only a small amount of space is needed to lease, and hiring “teaching” staff who are not certified and therefore inexpensive to pay.

Summit charter school is also racially biased.

From Mr. Vasquez’s profile:

Omar has experience advising education-related nonprofits, ed tech startups, and charter schools. Prior to law school, Omar taught AP Calculus for six years in Arizona through Teach for America.  

To top things off, Candidate Omar Vasquez is now on the Teach for America Board in Washington State.

Teach for America is very clear that they groom their un-certified recruits to be in positions of determining education policy. What better way to keep Teach for America in business populating charter schools?

There is no indication Mr. Vasquez has children in the Seattle Public School system.

Both candidates will push the agenda of charter schools as well as technology being the central aspect of our students’ lives. This is in concert with IT Lead John Krull’s vision of brick and mortar buildings and libraries, along with social interaction with students and teachers, being replaced by computers.

Buyer beware. These two candidates and their backers have more than just the best interests of your children in mind. Our students are only seen as a rung on the ladder.

Dora Taylor

Recommended reading:

Colonizing the Black Natives: Charter Schools and Teach for America

A professor’s encounter with Teach for America

A checklist for parents considering Summit Sierra charter school in Seattle

Serious student privacy concerns with new Summit/Facebook platform

The endgame of corporate reform in public school education: Part 1, What do Betsy DeVos and Seattle Public School’s IT Lead John Krull have in common?

McD Happy Meal online schools for all in Seattle with SPS IT Officer John Krull

Stand for Children Stands for the Rich and the Powerful…

The deets on DFER, Democrats for Education Reform

The NAACP calls for a moratorium on charter schools

Video: John Oliver on Charter Schools

Green Dot charter schools: A cautionary tale

Charter schools and corruption

Students’ rights in charter schools: There aren’t many

A Sea of Charter Schools in Detroit Leaves Students Adrift

Two Former New Orleans Charter Principals Exploited SPED Students for Money, Among Other Issues

Ten reasons not to hire Goodloe-Johnson as Florida Education Commissioner






We stand with Andre Helmstetter for Seattle School Board Director


I met Andre when former Broad trained Seattle Public School Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson began her short-lived tenure in Seattle. One of her first edicts was to close schools, disrupt successful programs and rif teachers.

Along with many other parents, teachers and students, Andre advocated to keep schools open and then continued his advocacy, remaining active in public education in Seattle.

Because of his ongoing involvement with public school education and knowing the kind of person he is, we fully support Andre Helmstetter’s candidacy for School Board Director.

-Dora Taylor

To follow is his op-ed written for Seattle Education.

 Andre Helmstetter-2-medium.jpg

A voice for all in a changing city: Why I’m running for School Board

Why would someone run for school board?

It’s a question I hear fairly often, especially now that I am running.   The short answer is:  I’m committed to public service, have 10 years of experience with Seattle Public Schools, a personal story of success supported by great educators, and a professional background and skill set that will bring value to the School Board, families and the broader community.

Here’s the longer answer:

I grew up in a very diverse set of circumstances. I was born right after the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, in Watts to a white mother and a black father. I dropped out of high school in my sophomore year to work to help support my family. Luckily, teachers were looking out for me. Teachers helped me graduate with my class by staying in touch with me and making sure I had the extra courses I needed when I returned. I owe a great deal to them.  I personally understand the challenges that our less advantaged students face. I understand the power of education to help a person rise through those challenges. I was fortunate enough to stay on track, get a good education, graduate from college and develop a professional career. I would like to ensure that all students in Seattle’s public schools also have such positive opportunities.

I’m a firm believer in public service. I joined the U.S. Navy right out of high school.  I served as a mentor at the King County Youth Detention Center, where I spent time with really great kids — and learned some very sad stories. I believe mentors are especially important for youth of color who may feel they have fewer positive options.  I volunteered on my local community council (Squire Park) and as a precinct committee officer (PCO) for my legislative district (37th). I have coached chess for kindergartners at Leschi Elementary in South Seattle. I would like to extend my service to the families of Seattle Public Schools.  As a biracial parent of three multiracial children, I understand the importance of racial equity and of providing an engaging education for all students. I also know firsthand the manner in which School District policy impacts schools and families, for better — or for worse.

In 2009 the Seattle School Board voted to close my daughter’s neighborhood school, T.T. Minor Elementary. In the fall of 2008, I had helped organize a citywide effort to stop the misguided school closures that targeted not only my daughter’s school, but those of hundreds of other students districtwide. We rallied, we marched, we petitioned, we tried to reason with them.

Though our group was not successful, our predictions were proven correct when the District realized enrollment was in fact going up. It had to reopen the schools the following years, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars. There were other costs too: the closures caused huge disruptions to students and families who were moved to other buildings and saw their communities broken apart.’

I have witnessed poor decision making by the district, most negatively impacting our least advantaged students and students of color. I want to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

My family has also benefited from the strengths of the district, such as the Montessori program and great teachers. This fall, my wife and I are excited to enroll our youngest in Bailey Gatzert Elementary, where he will join one of the most diverse communities of learners in the district.  Though it has challenges, it is a school with great supports and a great learning environment. According to OSPI, 80 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch and about 96 percent are students of color.

The district report said Gatzert was a failing school, according to its test scores. But that is in contrast with the great educational environment I found when I visited. A lot of children who enroll at Bailey Gatzert are already 18-24 months behind academically. To try to evaluate these children based on test scores is really a misuse of data. Instead, we need to see where they are starting off, what their environments look like outside of school, and then tailor learning experiences to them – just as Bailey Gatzert looks to be doing.

I believe the best way we can help kids is to create great learning environments in school where they feel included, responsible for their learning, and engaged. I’ve seen over-discipline, especially applied to low-income and minority students, that makes children feel like they are not part of the school community.  Anything we can do to engage them and make them feel like they’re a part of, instead of a problem, in the community, will make a difference.

To that end, as a School Board Director, I will address disproportionate discipline of students of color and those with special needs. The moratorium on K-5 suspensions passed by the board in 2015 was a good start – but we need to do more. When I was in kindergarten I needed extra help with reading, but by fourth grade I was placed in the gifted program. Students of color are too often overrepresented in special education services and underrepresented in advanced learning.

I am interested in meaningful strategies for closing opportunity gaps. The district needs to attract and retain a more diverse teaching corps to reflect and understand our diverse students (127 nationalities are represented, 143 languages spoken, 34 percent of students face food and housing insecurity). We need robust cultural competency training so we can eliminate disproportionate representation of students of color and low income students in discipline, special education and advanced learning.

Capacity also continues to be a challenge. Just as we saw in 2008, the district is growing and needs more building capacity. The Seattle School District is expected to have 54,000 students enrolled in 2017-18. I have witnessed poor decision-making by the district, most negatively impacting our least advantaged students and students of color. I want to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

I would also like to ensure adequate lunch and recess times, adding more arts, music and civics to the school day, and reducing the time spent on testing. I’m particularly committed to ensuring all families have a voice in Seattle Public Schools.

As a lean consultant by profession, I understand the challenges large, public organizations face. I have worked with government officials and administrators to streamline organizations for greater efficiency using current resources.  This approach is crucial for Seattle Public schools at this time when state funding for public education is still insufficient (despite recent efforts by the state legislature to address McCleary) and when ours is one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation. We need to do more with less. We need to be smart about our resources. We owe it to our families, our teachers and taxpayers. And that is what I am trained to help organizations do.

I would apply my professional management and operations skills to help direct the $1 billion budget to greater efficiencies and accountability.  In 2018, the current Strategic Plan expires and the Board will have the opportunity to select a new superintendent. I would like to help shape the vision and direction of the district that will attract inspired new candidates.

We live in a beautiful city full of smart people and with a strong economy. I believe our school district can do a better for our students and their families by working to be a national example for the true promise and value of public education.

But our city is also changing have seen my own neighborhood transform dramatically in the 18 years I have lived here. As a former owner of a coffee shop and restaurant in the heart of the CD, I watched my neighborhood change both demographically and economically.   Disparities are becoming more pronounced. It is becoming more difficult for all families to thrive in an increasingly gentrified and costly city.  It’s more important than ever that all the voices of all our communities are represented and heard. Now more than ever, public education matters.

I wouldn’t be running if I didn’t believe that the School Board has an important role to play in shaping our school district to provide a better, more inclusive, learning environment to prepare our current students to be the future leaders, innovators and civically engaged citizens of our great city.  I would be honored to serve the communities of Seattle Public Schools and help other students like myself who struggled at times and faced challenges. I understand their story, and I have the skills and the will to support policy and practices that will better serve them. I am committed to making our district a place where every child is valued and supported on their own path to success.  Just as I was.

-Andre Helmstetter

The Struggle over Mayoral Control of Seattle’s School Board



This article was originally published in The Progressive.

Snuffing out Democracy-the Struggle over Mayoral Control of Seattle’s School Board

Seattle and the state of Washington have determinedly resisted the expanding privatization of our nation’s schools. Citizens protested standardized testing and voted three times to oppose charter schools in the state. The issue went to the state’s Supreme Court when a fourth charter school initiative passed with a push from big donors. The Washington State Supreme Court ruled that charter schools were unconstitutional. We watched as cities like Chicago and Detroit folded to privatization interests. We saw charter school operators take over entire districts as in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and the mostly minority communities of Michigan.

We wanted no part of it.

Seattle has taken back control of its local school board from individuals who supported a former Broad-trained Superintendent’s plans to close schools and convert public schools into charters, and who pushed discredited education reforms including an increase in high-stakes testing, use of under-qualified, short-term Teach for America, Inc. trainees, and tying teacher evaluations to student test scores.

From left to right, top to bottom: Stephan Blanford, Rick Burke, Jill Geary, Scott Pinkham, Betty Patu, Leslie Harris, Sue Peters

Some other examples of the Seattle School Board’s progressive actions include: initiating later school start times to better match students’ biological needs; passing a resolution to replace the Common Core SBAC test with more fair and valid assessments; establishing a $2 million “student stability” fund to mitigate upheaval at the start of the school year; demanding that special education students be served in the city’s preschool program; moving public testimony to a time when more working parents can participate; placing a moratorium on suspensions of elementary students for non-violent offenses; cutting ties with the Gates Foundation funded Alliance for Education; reaffirming board support of public schools and its opposition to charter schools and taking a stand with the superintendent opposing law-skirting efforts by the Office of the State Superintendent to channel public funding to illegal charter schools via the tiny Mary Walker School District In Eastern Washington.

At the same time, Seattle’s Mayor Ed Murray has been working behind the scenes to take mayoral control of Seattle’s School Board.

Back when he was a Washington state senator, Murray sponsored a failed bill proposing that any town or city in the state could hand over its school district to mayoral control. In the last few years Murray has assembled his own Department of Education and worked on privatizing preschool, using tax levy dollars to threaten established city- and county-subsidized preschools with a percentage of money taken away based on the number of children who do not perform well on tests.

Seattleites are aware of what has happened around the country with mayoral control and want no part of it. The NAACP opposed a recent bill on mayoral control along with the League of Women Voters of Washington State and various legislative districts.

The Mayor is now looking at other ways to gain control.

Ia letter sent to Mayor Murray from Regina Jones, who is now working for the Mayor’s office as an “executive on loan,” Jones spells out how to take over the school board by “cultivating candidates to serve on the board.” The plan is based on the success of two mayors in San Francisco who essentially embedded one of their own staffers on the school board because, “As in Seattle, [the San Francisco Unified School District] SFUSD was concerned about a takeover of the district by the mayor.” So the mayor needed to find a more subtle way to achieve that end—or something approximating it.

Ms. Jones recommends that the San Francisco superintendent become an “intermediary” engaging Seattle Public Schools at meetings such as the Council for Great City Schools. The San Francisco Superintendent recently quashed the San Francisco school board’s efforts to cut ties with the controversial five-week teacher training enterprise Teach for America.

Another recommendation is to cultivate and support “candidates to run for the board of [Seattle Public Schools] SPS.” This is the same approach the League of Education Voters, Stand for Children and the Democrats for Education Reform have used  to influence  school board meetings in Washington State. Ms. Jones wrote:

“As part of the suggested SF approach of working from “inside out”, have ongoing engagement of key SPS principals, particularly principals in Levy-supported schools, to further focus Levy funding on effective strategies, including full-year, experiential learning supported by business and philanthropic partners.”

An example of this is a partnership with the gaming tech company Zynega.

Mayor Lee, in his strategic plan for SFUSD titled Vision 2025, includes “blended learning” also referred to as “personalized learning.” What that means is each student has her own computer and uses it for lessons and tests, instead of shared class time with other students and interaction with a teacher. Summit charter school and Rocketship Charters are based on this approach. It’s less expensive in terms of operating costs and staff hours.

Vision 2025 also promotes interaction with the private sector, particularly the computer gaming sector. Per the letter:

“After implementing this new vision, the gaming academies are now thriving. More than half of the students are now women of color. The gaming academy at Balboa High School is exactly what tech company Zynega wanted—the academy allows Zynga to steep students in the culture of their industry, while developing a talent pipeline.”

The agreement with Zynega provides students with an opportunity to work with companies while in high school but this also appears to be a business opportunity for Zynega to develop “talent” for their own use.

Regina Jones’ letter is a game plan for gaining control of Seattle’s school board and the district. As Chris Hedges would say, it is “a coup d‘etat in slow motion”.

The Center for Public Education has written:

“Most researchers agree on one negative consequence — when mayors take charge of public schools, the role of parents and the community, especially among minority groups, can be marginalized and can further compromise democratic control of schools.”

In cities that have mayoral control of schools, and in Michigan where the entire state public school system is under the governor’s control, there is little to no opportunity for a democratic process.

In Chicago, under mayoral control, schools have been closed and many converted into charter schools, disrupting neighborhoods and scattering students to schools throughout the city.

Gloria Warner, president of Action Now and a retired teacher, said about the appointed school board in Chicago:

“The injustice being done to our kids through the closing of 50 schools, opening more corrupt charter schools, diverting our neighborhood schools and keeping democracy from the school board affects all of us.”

The statement was made at an event where community members were calling for an elected school board in 2015.

Former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made an important piece of his agenda mayoral control of urban school districts and once said he would consider his time as education secretary a “failure” if more mayors didn’t take over city school systems by the end of his tenure.

In 2013 twenty-four public schools in the city were closed and five other schools were relocated or merged with other schools. An article published in Philadelphia’s Notebook stated:

“Neighborhoods, many anchored by the schools that were closed in June, were altered forever, leaving many families uncertain about what the future of public education in the city would look like.”

These school communities were made up of minority families whose neighborhoods were targeted for gentrification. Two years later a restaurant opened in a former school building. An article in AlterNet titled The Devastating Impact of School Closures on Students and Communities laid it out:

“a pop-up restaurant on the building’s eighth floor (opened), which served French food, craft beers, and fine wines. The rooftop terrace was decorated with student chairs and other school-related items found inside the building. Young millennials dubbed the restaurant “Philly’s hottest new rooftop bar,” while longtime residents and educators called it “a sick joke.” Situated in a quickly gentrifying community where nearly 40 percent of families still have incomes of less than $35,000, there was little question about who would be sipping champagne and munching on steak tartare on Bok’s top floor.”

Again in 2015, 5,000 Philadelphia students, mostly minority students, were affected by school closures. Many schools were converted into charter schools ignoring the pleas of parents and students who did not want to see their schools closed and/or converted into charter schools. As Diane Ravitch put it:

“Those of us who live in cities under mayoral control know that the primary result is not to improve education or to help struggling children, but to stifle the voices of parents, students, teachers, and community members. Under mayoral control, governance is transferred to the mayor and the power elite, few of whom have children in public schools or even attended one. Mayoral control snuffs out democracy.”

The most egregious example of a politician’s undemocratic control of public schools can be seen in the state of Michigan with the decision by former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm to hire Emergency Financial Managers. The emergency managers have the power to take control of a city’s government, reduce pay, outsource work, reorganize departments and modify employee contracts. Emergency managers can also deem school districts “failing,” close public schools and convert them into charter schools.

Robert BobbThe first appointed emergency manager, Robert Bobb, took over the Detroit Public School system in 2009. The County Circuit Court in 2011 found this takeover illegal but soon after, emergency managers were appointed in mostly minority communities around the state, including the city of Flint. In several of these towns, such as Highland Park, Michigan the public schools were closed and taken over by charter operators.

darnell_early-1Darnell Earley, the unelected manager of Flint, presided over the devastating decision to switch the city’s water supply to the Detroit River resulting in lead poisoning of residents throughout the city. After the water disaster, Mr. Earley was appointed by Governor Rick Snyder to become the CEO of Detroit Public Schools.

Now the Emergency Managers are being named CEOs, as in Chicago, and given more power.

These CEOs can:

  • Assume the financial and academic authority over multiple schools;
  • Assume the role of the locally elected school board for those schools they have been assigned;
  • Control school funds without the consent of the locally elected board;
  • Permanently close a school without the consent of the locally elected board;
  • Sell closed school buildings without the consent of the locally elected board; and
  • Convert schools into charter schools without the consent of the locally elected board.

The people have no voice or control over how their children are educated or by whom. The same holds true for mayoral control. That’s why, in Seattle, people are fighting back.

Dora Taylor

Post Script:

For a good history of Emergency Managers in Detroit, see:

Let’s not celebrate Darnell Earley’s departure from DPS just yet  

Seattle School Board Candidates’ Forum


The League of Women Voters and the Seattle Council PTSA 
invite you to a
Seattle School Board Candidate’s Forum
Thursday, October 8, 2015 from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM
Seattle First Baptist Church
1111 Harvard Avenue
Seattle, 98122

Seattle is the largest school district in the state, serving over 53,000 students and growing. The School Board makes vital decisions about how the Seattle Public Schools operate and oversees many aspects of district funding.  Four of the seven Seattle School Board positions will be elected citywide this November.  Come and learn more about the candidate’s positions and skills.

This forum is co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Seattle-King County and the Seattle Council of Parent, Teacher and Student Associations.

There is no cost for admission and RSVP’s are not required.

Tests and testing in Seattle: Do you know how many tests your student takes in one year?

testing on computer

The answer is “probably not”. No one within the Seattle Public School District, besides School Board Director Sue Peters, seems to be concerned or be able to accurately report to the board the number of tests that our students take let alone the time it takes away from a regular school day to administer the standardized tests.

Below are the tests that your students take. We have not even gotten to the cost of preparing for, setting up computers and IT for, teachers time for, librarians time for and library and computer time for providing these tests.

Here’s the skinny.

Micheal Tolley, who was asked by School Board Director Peters to provide the information on how  many  standardized testes were given to our students and the hours needed to complete the tests, was not completely forthcoming in the number of standardized tests administered or the time it takes for students to complete the tests. Another aspect of this testing is how many hours the library and/or computer lab is closed during the testing, this can be up to two months as teachers, parents and students can attest, or how many hours of class time is lost to shortened class schedules and late start times.

Buried in a memo that was provided to the school board, Tolley inaccurately portrays, and I am saying this in a most polite manner, a minimum amount of time taken to compete the tests as well as the number of tests. He says there are only a few tests given to our students but alas, there are more. Did he not think someone might notice eventually? I suppose that’s why it was buried in a memo.

Mr. Tolley, by the way, is a remnant of the Broad Foundation/Goodloe-Johnson era when our Broad superintendent brought with her from Charleston the Chief Financial Officer, “I’ll get back to you on that”, Don Kennedy and Michael Tolley to do her bidding in Seattle after leaving her superintendent position in Charleston. Tolley has been faithfully kowtowing to the ed reformers since then and continues even after Goodloe-Johnson was fired by the school board. I suppose old habits die hard.

To set the record straight, let’s see how many standardized tests your students are given and the number of times they are administered in a school year.

Kindergarten (Yes people, kindergarten)                                                                                                              



Teaching Strategies GOLD- Fall

Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA)-Spring

Kindergarten Assessment- Winter and Spring


First Grade


DRAFall, Winter and Spring


Second Grade



DRA – Fall and Spring

Amplify in selected schools*


Third Grade

DRA- Fall, Winter and Spring

SBAC-Reading and Writing

Reading and Math MSP

Beacon/Amplify (The Amplify contract is being continued in fifty schools but is not being expanded to additional schools.)


Fourth Grade


MSP- Reading, writing and math

DRA- Fall, Winter and Spring


Fifth Grade

MSP- Reading, math and science

DRA- Fall, Winter and Spring

CBA- Health and Fitness (PE)

CBA- Social Studies

Music- CPBA

Visual Arts CBA




Sixth Grade



MSP- Reading and math

Common Reading Assessment- Baseline and Mid-year

Common Writing Assessment- Baseline and mid-year


Seventh Grade

Common Reading Assessment- Baseline and Mid year

MSP- Reading, writing and math




Eighth Grade



MSP- Reading, math and Science

EOC- Biology, Geometry and Algebra

CBA- Health and Fitness

CBA- Social Studies

CBA- Visual Arts

Common Reading Assessment- Baseline and mid-year

Common Writing Assessment – Mid-year

 *I added Amplify to the second grade list because I just received a report that at least one school had to give the test to their second graders.

High School

Common Reading Assessment- Baseline and mid-year

Common Writing Assessment – Mid-year

CBA- Health and Fitness- 9th grade

Beacon/Amplify- 9th grade

Common Reading Assessment- 10th grade- Baseline and mid-year

ELA Exit exam- 10th grade

PSAT- 10th grade

SBAC –  11th grade

SAT- 11th grade

CBA- Social Studies- 12th grade Government


All high school grades:

Reading HSPE

Writing HSPE

CPBA- Music

CBA- Visual Arts

End Of Course (EOC) exam- Math and Science

College Math Placement Test


ELL Students



Teachers have opened up to me and others and shared the experiences that happened during the the SBAC testing period this year.

These are some of the highlights.

  • Testing labs and libraries were closed from March until June in some schools because of the testing.
  • There were computer crashes for various reasons so many students had to take the test over again after waiting for the IT problem to be fixed. They had to sit in their seats quietly while this happened.
  • Some students didn’t know how to use a mouse because they don’t have a computer at home.
  • The test sometimes took up to three hours for nine year olds. They could go to the bathroom but that was it. (Is this at all starting to sound inhumane?)
  • Students would give nonsense answers just to get through the tests which invalidates the test.
  • According to one teacher, one of their ELL students took over an hour to answer one question because they didn’t understand the term “product” in a math question.
  • Some schools are using tablets to take the SBAC as opposed to a PC which means the interface with the test can be entirely different.
  • Students have to navigate between three different windows during the test which means only those with the most sophisticated experiences on a computer will be able to successfully at least understand the question and how to provide an answer.

These reasons and others are why there has been such a high failure rate around the country with the SBAC and concomitant PARC test. They are not ready for prime time.

The worst of it is that the results of the SBAC will not be available until August at the earliest so teachers will not be able to use the information for their students, if they can understand what the numbers mean. Another issue is the students, teachers and parents will not have access to the questions or answers so of what value in all of this testing?

The SBAC has not been deemed reliable or valid. The SBAC Consortium has stated that the validity of the tests will only happen after the test is given and the results are in. That’s why there was so much pressure placed on parents and teachers to make sure the students took the test. They needed the results to validate the test. If more than 5% of the students opt out of the test, the test can not be deemed reliable or valid. That is using our students as the testing consortium’s guinea pigs.

Basically it’s millions of dollars down the drain. The money would have been better spent on more teachers for smaller class sizes, nurses in every school and guidance counselors for high school students, librarians in every school, counselors for troubled children and their families, after school enrichment programs that up to now are only available in schools that have PTA’s that can raise the money, tutoring… the list goes on.

This fall, ask your principal for a complete list of all the standardized tests that your student will take, how many weeks your library or computer lab will be closed because of it and how many late start days there will be or shortened class periods. The answer, if it is forthright, just might surprise you.

If your school gave standardized tests that are not listed above to a respective grade, please let me know and I will add it to the list.

I will leave you with this video.

Dora Taylor

Seattle Public School Board President Sharon Peaslee pulling ed reform tactics?


Want to pull the rug out from everyone by limiting public input into what is suppose to be a democratic process? Submit a proposal to make an interim superintendent permanent the day before Thanksgiving and force a vote by board members the Wednesday after the Thanksgiving holiday.

To follow are events that led to this week’s questionable action by School Board President Sharon Peaslee.

Our former superintendent, Jose Banda, decided to return to Sacramento after a brief stint with our school district. Nyland was appointed interim superintendent until candidates for superintendent were to be interviewed by various groups and organizations and vetted by the district and school board.

No one has vetted Larry Nyland and I and others have not had an opportunity to research his background.

In terms of Nyland’s record so far as the Interim Superintendent, there has been a major data breach of private information of 7,500 special education students. That was followed by an apology made by the Nyland with no action items presented. Then there was the signing of an agreement with Bill Gates for a preK-3 experiment to the tune of $750,000 which will, of course, include assessments (testing) and the tracking of student information from preK through high school and beyond. The program is for 20 students in a three year period at $250,000 per year. Nyland signed the agreement three months before it was presented to the school board for approval. This was a clear end-run around the school board. Whether Nyland didn’t understand the ramifications of signing such a document or standard district/legal procedure, it reflects his lack of competence or understanding of the bigger picture when Bill Gates is involved in anything that is pertinent to public school education.

And yet Peaslee thinks Nyland is a good idea?

What’s the rush anyway? Why the big hurry to make Nyland the permanent superintendent?

There is a timetable in place to begin the superintendent search in January. Parents Across America Seattle was planning to reach out to parents and ask them what they wanted in a superintendent. We all felt this was an opportunity to work together on determining who would take on such an important position within our city.

School Board President Peaslee has determined that it would save time and money to not do a thorough search and vetting for the right superintendent.

Well, I and others think it’s worth it. It’s also worth public input. So far, if Peaslee has it her way, the public input will last about an hour on Wednesday between 4:00 PM and 5:00 PM, just as working parents are still…working.

Besides what I mentioned above, another red flag is the fact that the Alliance for Education likes Nyland. Nyland is their guy. For more on the Alliance for Education, see The Lines of Influence of Education Reform. Here is an excerpt about the Alliance:

In some places on the chart we note certain amounts of money. The reason for that is that some of the sums that we discovered were finite and some were not. For instance, the Gates Foundation is basically the Alliance for Education‘s bank. Whatever the Alliance needs, it seems that the Gates’ Foundation just cuts another check by providing a grant for a specific purpose. I suppose that it helps that the Gates’ Foundation’s headquarters are located in Seattle and not far from the Alliance for Education offices, just a stone’s throw away.

For more on Bill Gates see Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation.

What Peaslee is doing is reminiscent of what Dr. Goodloe-Johnson did in 2008 when proposing to close schools a few days before the holidays which allowed for little input by the public. Because of that, she was able to further her agenda of dismantling choice in Seattle by closing the gems of the Seattle School District at the time, the alternative/option schools and later cutting off transportation to those schools, laying the groundwork for “choice” in charter schools.

Are we back to that sort of leadership?

Money, and the carrot of power and promotion, talks.

If you want to ensure you have input into the conversation and decision-making process, you can either attend the school board meeting on Wednesday December 3rd at 4:00 PM at the Stanford Center to testify or send an email to all the board members. Their addresses are:


If how the district is run is important to you, please share your comments with the board members.

Here is a sample letter that can be used as a template and revised to fit your thoughts and opinions:

Dear Director (Board member’s name here),

I am concerned about the lack of due process in selecting a superintendent for Seattle Public Schools, a position that is of great importance in our city. All parents, teachers, students and citizens need to have a voice in what they want to see in a superintendent and a proper vetting process is is necessary. This process has been the way we have selected superintendents in the past and I see no reason to veer from that path now.

Another concern is the fact that Dr. Larry Nyland did not go through the proper channels and rather made an end-run around the board to approve the acceptance of $750,000 for a pre-K through 3  Gates grant with many strings attached. Those strings include assessments, testing, of preschool children and the sharing of personal student information.

Do we want a superintendent that does not respect the democratic process?

There is no need to circumvent the procedure for selecting a superintendent which includes community input and proper vetting. It does not require much in terms of budget, particularly if we look at educators who are local and can bring loyalty and stability to our school district. The cost could be much greater if the established process is not followed.

For these reasons, let’s continue with the selection process as originally agreed to by the board and carefully look at individuals who want to be responsible for our school district and the education of our children.




Testimony regarding Race to the Top funds for Seattle and student privacy


The following is testimony that I will be giving at the Seattle School Board meeting on Wednesday, December 4, 2013 regarding the approval of Race to the Top funding that is to be approved by the school board.

Good evening.

As many districts around the country have discovered, Race to the Top money comes with strings attached. Many districts have been loath to meet their part of the bargain after understanding what the price would be. States and districts have pulled out of the race after discovering that their part of the bargain could not be paid for, literally.

I understand the importance of funding education but this easy money has come with a price. For us, the payment for this funding is the loss of privacy for our students.

There are 38 items of information that we are to provide to the US Department of Education about our students. This list can be viewed on the home page of the Seattle Education blog. This information will in turn be uploaded into a data bank such as inBloom, a platform created with $100M of Gates money to store data ultimately on every student in every state. The protections of FERPA have been peeled away through amendments that were made to it in 2008 and 2011 by the Obama administration so that any interested third party can have access to this data.

Besides the loss of privacy, another promise that we have made is to have all students, starting in pre-Kindergarten, be assessed with no end date agreed to. Assessments means testing, possibly as much as three times each year as is done with the MAP test. This information will also be available to any third party with an interest in making a profit by selling everything from software to books and lesson plans to districts and marketed as customized to those students. This information will stay in place for an unlimited amount of time because without the previous FERPA protections, a parent now cannot request that this information be erased out of the data bank.

Assessment testing of this magnitude will cost millions of dollars and before the board approves this proposal, there should be an understanding of how much we will have to pay in terms of assessments and the gathering of information and for how long this is to continue.

Some of the highlights of the 38 “indicators” that are to be provided, besides test scores, is as follows:

% of children born weighing less than 5.5 pounds
% of eligible children enrolled in select formal early learning programs
% of families reading to their children daily
% of children meeting age-level expectations at the end of preschool
% of students absent 20 or more days per year
% of students who make a non-promotional school change
% of students motivated and engaged to succeed in school
% of females age 15-17 giving birth
% of students exhibiting 21st century skills
% of high school graduates completing a formal career and technical education program
% of students employed within 1 and 5 years of completing or leaving postsecondary education, including wage

By the time all of this information is mined and correlated, there will be no money left for the programs that the Road Map Project promised will diminish the self-professed achievement gap.

Please take a look at the promises that we have made to Education Secretary Arne Duncan in terms of the information we are to provide to ensure that we are not burdened with a bill we cannot pay.

Thank you

Post Script:

A must watch by all parents is this video of Parents Across America Co-Founder Leonie Haimson discussing inBloom and data security in Chicago on November 22, 2013, at a forum hosted by Parents United for Responsible Education and More Than A Score:

To follow are links regarding the issue of student privacy and the pushback by parents:

CCER, the Road Map Project and the loss of student privacy

Privacy concerns grow over Gates-funded student database

NYC Parents Raise Questions About InBloom

From Politico:

INBLOOM OFF THE ROSE? — Another state has pulled out of using the Gates Foundation’s $100 million technology service project, inBloom. The withdrawal further shrinks the project after other states pulled out in part because of concern about protecting students’ privacy. Guilford County, N.C. told POLITICO on Wednesday that the state decided to stop using the service, which is designed to hold information about students including names, socioeconomic status, test scores, disabilities, discipline records and more in one place, and ideally, help in customizing students’ education.

Guilford schools’ departure doesn’t put the project in any kind of jeopardy, inBloom said, although Louisiana withdrew in April and other states once affiliated with the project no longer are. That leaves New York, two Illinois districts and one Colorado district as firm participants for now; Massachusetts is on the fence. At first inBloom will be free, but by 2015 states and districts using it will be charged $2 to $5 per student for the service.

InBloom and the need to protect student privacy: Overview for parents, teachers and students

Chicago School System Decides Against Partnership With inBloom

Parents say no to sharing student data

Parent Opposition Slims Student Data Collection

Submitted by Dora Taylor

Meet newly elected School Board Director Sue Peters

Presenting our kick-off Seattle Education meetup:

sue-peters (2)

Meet newly elected School Board Director Sue Peters

You will have the opportunity to meet Sue, ask her questions and share your concerns regarding public education in Seattle and beyond.

Friday, December 6th at noon

Couth Buzzard Books
8310 Greenwood Ave N, 98103

Hosted by Seattle Education and Parents Across America, Seattle

These meetup’s will be held once a month. Stay tuned for the meetup in January.

Submitted by Dora Taylor

Sue Peters: Newly Elected Seattle School Board Member


This morning Suzanne Estey conceded the race and Sue Peters is now our newly elected School Board Director for District 4 in Seattle.

It really happened. David downed Goliath, the Goliath of $200,000 in PAC donations from a moneyed few as opposed to the $28,000 in donations from the rest of us who supported Sue’s campaign.

It was an exceptional job of campaigning by Sue, her campaign manager Kathy Smith, and everyone who made it to events handing out flyers, going door to door, talking to neighbors and friends, attending district meetings and supporting Sue in any way that was requested.

Now the real work begins.

Dora Taylor

Lisa Macfarlane of WA DFER, and now Suzanne Estey, with their conspiracy theories


Update, October 31, 2013: Suzanne Estey has sent out a new flyer stating that Sue Peters’ and I have created some sort of theory out of the blue on the connection between big money and public school policy.

I don’t know where Estey’s been besides on the CCER Board, an organization solely funded by Bill Gates, but maybe she can’t see the forest for all those trees, or is it for all those bucks?

Estey is referring to our Lines of Influence post that went up three years ago and has been read and resonated with parents, teachers, students and concerned citizens around the country and put our blog on the map.

Read the post for yourself and make your own determination.

Dora Taylor

Lisa Macfarlane, Director of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) for Washington State, who received a $10,000 grant from the Walton’s as an “Education Reformer to Watch” for her work on pushing charter school initiative 1240 in the state of Washington and former Director of External Affairs with the League of Education Voters (LEV), just sent out an e-mail regarding the Seattle school board race.

In this e-mail, Ms. Macfarlane said that Sue Peters’ was a conspiracy theorist because of the connections that Sue and I made a few years back between Bill Gates and Eli Broad and their agenda regarding public education that was described in our post The Lines of Influence in Education Reform.

Funny thing is, Ms. Macfarlane is probably the only person in the US and beyond who thinks that the relationship between Gates, the Walton’s, members of ALEC and Eli Broad, et al, and the privatization push is some kind of theory and nothing more. It’s ironic that the same person who is living off of corporate money is the only individual so far that’s saying it’s all just some big story that the rest of us have made up.


First, let’s consider the source of this accusation.

From my post, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) candidates in Washington State

According to DFER Watch:

Democrats for Education Reform is a political action committee supported largely by hedge fund managers favoring charter schools, merit-pay tied to test scores, high-stakes testing, school choice (including vouchers and tuition tax credits in some cases), mayoral control, and alternative teacher preparation programs.

Diane Ravitch describes DFER in her post Follow the Money.

If you want to know why so many politicians think so highly of charters, there is a basic rule of  politics that explains it all: Follow the money.

The most visible organization promoting corporate reform is called Democrats for Education Reform, known as DFER (commonly pronounced “D-fer”). DFER is the Wall Street hedge fund managers’ group. It always has a few non-hedge funders on the board, especially one or two prominent African-Americans, to burnish its pretentious claim of leading the civil rights movement of our day. Kevin Chavous, a former council member from Washington, D.C., fills that role for now, along with the DFER stalwart, Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark. DFER has its own member of the U.S. Senate, Senator Michael Bennett of Colorado. It has also raised money generously for Congressman George Miller, the senior Democrat on the House Education and Labor Committee.

This group bankrolls politicians, woos them, raises campaign cash for them, and persuades them of the advantages of turning the children of their district over to privately managed schools. Watch their website to see which politician they favor this month and scan those they have recognized in the past.

In New York City, Hakeem Jeffries, DFERs’s candidate for U.S. Congress, announced his support for tax credits for religious schools on the day after he won the election. His support for charter schools was already well known.

And from The Daily Kos:

DFER and Education Policies

So, what happened and who were those “small but vocal younger, reform minded advocates that supported Obama” but hated Darling-Hammond? In August 2008 a pre-convention Democrats for Education Reform seminar, billed as “Ed Challenge for Change” previewed a coming attack from within the Democratic Party on teachers and especially their unions. David Goldstein of the American Prospect reported:

“It was sponsored by a coalition of foundations, nonprofits, and businesses supporting the charter-school movement, including Ed in ’08, the advocacy group founded by Bill Gates and real-estate mogul Eli Broad. The evening provided a truly unusual spectacle at a convention: A megawatt group of Democrats, including Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, Mayor Adrian Fenty of Washington, D.C., and former Gov. Ray Romer of Colorado, bashed teachers’ unions for an hour. Amid the approving audience were Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, an icon of the civil-rights movement; Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, (in)famous as a high-profile African American Hillary Clinton endorser; and Mayor David Cicilline of Providence, the reformer of that once-Mob-ridden New England city. Cicilline took avid notes.” It was from this crowd that Darling-Hammond was receiving her harshest criticism and where the non-traditional (meaning no education background) leader of the Chicago school system, Arne Duncan, was championed as the next Secretary of Education. The loudest voices were those of a new organization calling themselves Democrats for Education reform (DFER), led by young extremely wealthy hedge fund operators from New York City.

In the May 31, 2007 issue of New York Sun there was a report about one of the first victories of DFER: “A money manager recently sent an e-mail to some partners, congratulating them on an investment of $1 million that yielded an estimated $400 million. The reasoning was that $1 million spent on trying to lift a cap on the number of charter schools in New York State yielded a change in the law that will bring $400 million a year in funding to new charter schools. The money managers who were among the main investors in this law — three Harvard MBAs and a Wharton graduate named Whitney Tilson, Ravenel Boykin Curry IV, Charles Ledley, and John Petry — are moving education-oriented volunteerism beyond championing a single school.

Before joining DFER in our great state, Ms. Macfarlane represented the League of Education Voters (LEV) in Seattle, another favorite organization of mine that doesn’t have members, just one big sponsor, guess who.

Regarding LEV during Macfarlane’s tenure as Director of External Affairs, from A Look Back at the League of Education Voters:

In 2007, LEV started to receive serious money from Gates, $835K “to support capacity building for education advocacy programs”. In October of 2009 LEV received $1.5M “to support the research, public engagement, policy development and coalition work in early learning, college ready and postsecondary”.

In June of 2010, the Gates Foundation gave $40,000 to the League of Education Voters “to support a series of education-related speakers in Seattle” and the same year received another $105K “to support raising awareness of educational attainment issues in King County”. In 2011 LEV received a total of $215K from the Gates Foundation. All of this information can be found at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation website. (Note: The Gates Foundation has taken down this information on their website after this article was posted.)

In the fall of  2010 the League of Education Voters offered up a who’s who of charter school franchise CEO’s  to speak as part of LEV’s imaginary “revolution”, “Voices from the Education Revolution Speakers Series“ featuring:

Richard Barth, CEO of the KIPP Foundation which does not hire union teachers, Steve Barr, Founder & Emeritus Chair of Green Dot charter Schools another charter franchise that does not hire union teachers and moderated by Don Shalvey, former CEO and founder of Aspire Charter Schools and Board member of the Greendot charter franchise neither of which hires union teachers.

Also arriving in town that year complements of LEV was Kevin Johnson, Sacramento mayor and backer of a charter school in his state.

For more on LEV, see A Look Back at the League of Education Voters.

I'm not cynical

In Ms. Macfarlane’s e-mail, she also mentions school board candidate Stephan Blanford, another big business favorite. Blanford’s and Estey’s campaigns are being funded by the Great Seattle Schools PAC which has received money from the usual cast of characters including DFER, who has contributed $10,000 to the PAC. See A vote for Sue Peters is a vote for the rest of us for the details on who is funding DFER’s favorite candidates.

For more on Estey, see The Road Map Project, Race to the Top, Bill Gates, a national data bank, Wireless Gen…and FERPA?

The gloves are coming off with these corporate reformers and they’re showing their true colors.

Let’s not allow them to take over our schools in Seattle.

A vote for Sue Peters is a vote for the rest of us.

Diane Ravitch calls Sue “A champion for public education”.

For more on Sue Peters and her campaign, go to Sue Peters for Seattle School Board.

For further reading on Bill Gates, big money and how it’s influencing education policy, see Bill Gates tells us why *his* high school was a great learning environment, a compilation of all things ALEC in education, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a compilation of articles regarding Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation, the awesome website ALEC Exposed, from The Nation: Why Do Some of America’s Wealthiest Individuals Have Fingers in Louisiana’s Education System? and Diane Ravith’s latest book Reign of Error which describes Gates’ influence in detail.

For additional information on the Walton’s and their influence on education policy see:

Why are the Walton’s spending so much money on charter school Initiative 1240?
More information on the Walmart Walton’s and charter school initiative 1240
Walmart Walton’s: The movie

Submitted by Dora Taylor

corporate capitolism