Want a Better School District? It Starts with the Superintendent Search

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It’s not easy being a public school advocate in Seattle — or anywhere else for that matter. Issues which seem so simple, take years resolve. Sometimes, they never do.

This is why the current search for the Seattle School District’s next superintendent is so important. The potential for enormous change – both good and bad – rests on this key figure in the chain of accountability that parents expect with an elected school board.

Who Has the Power to Make Change

Seattle Public Schools is overseen by seven elected school board members. This is a good thing. It’s in the best interest of an elected school board to pay attentions to parents and community members. Keep in mind  – at least at the local level – elected officials don’t stay in office long when they ignore their constituents.

The school board’s main duties are to create policy and a balanced budget. They are also tasked with hiring, if necessary firing, and evaluating the superintendent. The board also has the authority over approving instructional materials, the internal auditor, and how to spend the district’s money.

Here’s the tricky part: the superintendent is the person who is actually in charge of implementing the policies created by the school board. Problems arise when the superintendent is not familiar with, ignores, or otherwise circumvents board policy.

Problems also arise when the superintendent does not hold everyone in the system accountable, from senior management to staff in schools.

Incidentally, school board members are under tremendous pressure to go along with staff recommendations and to work in a collaborative and united fashion. A superintendent who disregards policy, or allows staff s/he oversees to do so, creates friction for the board and school communities, and casts into doubt her/his leadership.

Remember: the superintendent isn’t elected. Voters and parents hold little sway over this position. This is why picking the right Superintendent is so important. For the first time in six years, voters and parents will have the opportunity to weigh in on the traits and selection of the next superintendent. This is a great opportunity.

The Right Superintendent is Critical for Success

Without a strong superintendent who is willing to enforce board policy and hold staff accountable if they circumvent policy, nothing of substance will improve in Seattle Public Schools.

Worst still, the district has, in my opinion, earned a reputation of lawlessness. Again, institutional culture begins and ends at the top – with the leadership and actions of the superintendent.

What do I mean by lawlessness? 

Here’s a telling example of what I consider the type of lawless behavior tolerated and even exhibited by our current Superintendent, Dr. Larry Nyland.

Nyland was brought out of retirement and hired by the Board in the summer of 2014 as the interim superintendent because of his years of experience in other, albeit much smaller, districts, and the judgment and knowledge the board expected him to bring. Yet, only two months into the job, Superintendent Nyland signed a contract for a grant for $750,000 from The Gates Foundation – without Board approval.

This was a direct violation of board policy and showed a complete disregard for internal controls (or ignorance) and any sort of chain of accountability. Not a good way to start off.

Here’s another example of district lawlessness:

Principals control schools with little oversight due to “site-based management.” This allows principals to dismantle programs, provide unequal offerings without having to follow district rules or under direct supervision. Parents frequently cite examples of principals doing what they please at their kids’ schools. Entire programs, like Spectrum for advanced learners, are killed off at the discretion of individual principals. Graduation requirements, practices and protocols differ from school to school.

Sound Leadership and Good Judgement are Crucial

Other examples of lack of leadership or accountability include:

Early in 2015 Superintendent Nyland sent a threatening letter to district teachers warning them to administer the (new and controversial) Smarter Balanced (SBAC) test or risk losing their teaching credentials. That is not the best way to communicate with our educators.

Later that year, on his watch, the teachers union went on strike for the first time in 30 years.

He fired a popular and accomplished choir teacher at a high school for violating field trip rules, even though negligence by staff members in the central office contributed to the arguably more serious offense that was committed by a student. After a lengthy and costly public battle, the decision was overturned.

He essentially fired a popular and accomplished principal for a first-time offense of not completing teacher evaluations, but did not discipline the principal’s supervisors for not noticing the reports were missing and not following up or offering help.

Central office management has grown on his watch.

At a recent district data dashboard work session, it was shown that in the 2016-17 school year, only 7 out of 24 measures were “on track to meet goals”, and only 10 out of 24 measures made improvements.

What Would Accountability in Seattle Public Schools Look Like?

Unfortunately, accountability has become a buzz word that everyone uses and no one is quite sure what it really means.

Here’s a short list of ways the next superintendent can hold staff and district personnel accountable.

At the building level:

The next superintendent should require all principals to follow district policy, work closely with their communities, and establish predictability, stability and accountability in every school.

At the administrative level:

Growth of central office must be reined in and no more new layers of bureaucracy added.

The board has initiated an independent audit of central office administration. This will provide a great tool for the new superintendent to review efficiency and job roles in the central office, and redirect more resources to the schools – something parents have been demanding for years.

When staff works with the board, their work must be of high quality and provide all the information needed for the board to make informed decisions. Staff insubordination will not be tolerated.

At the community level:

The next Superintendent must elicit respect from staff and the city and show genuine respect for the many communities that make up the Seattle School District.

In sum, Seattle Public Schools needs a superintendent with vision and energy.

The next superintendent needs to have a long-term plan for the district, and not merely react to the latest state mandates or latest crisis.

We need a superintendent who has the courage to reassess central administration and make the hard cuts.

We need a superintendent who will unite communities and embrace the diversity of the district and all students, instead of allowing zero-sum initiatives or creating environments where one group is pitted against the other.

And we desperately need a superintendent who will demand more and has the integrity and leadership skills needed to deliver.

-Dora Taylor

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The scoop on Chelsea Byers, Seattle public school board candidate

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Chelsea Byers is running against School Board Director Betty Patu, a champion of public education advocating for equity in education for all.

Ms. Byers, on the other hand, is a former Teach for America (TFA) recruit who taught in a school without any formal training for two years in Oakland, California in what I imagine was a charter school. Most charter schools are staffed by poorly paid and under qualified Teach for America recruits and are rarely hired by a pubic school district when it is between a TFA recruit and a certified teacher with a background in education.

 

As I wrote in the article titled The scoop on Seattle School Board Candidates Chelsea Byers and Omar Vasquez: Buyer Beware :

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.

Chelsea Byers is also all about the “data”, meaning her focus with her work is teaching tech to adults interested in a job in technology. There is a push in Seattle to have more online learning and less teaching by qualified human beings who, unlike computer software, understand children and how students learn and interact with the world at different ages.

There are links at the end of this article to information about the push for computer based learning and evaluations in our schools sometimes referred to as “Personalized Learning”.

Ms. Byers largest contributors are a Teach for America PAC out of DC calling themselves Leaders in Education, The Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) which is all about privatizing public schools and Vulcan which never misses an opportunity to fund the corporate takeover of public schools in Seattle.

On the other hand, School Board Director Betty Patu is deeply connected and committed to the various diverse communities of her district. She has an institutional knowledge of the district, as well as longstanding relationships with district, city and state level officials and staff. She has the support of all of her current colleagues on the Board. On her watch, the district adopted a Race and Equity Policy, Rainier Beach High School graduation rates rose from 53 to 81 percent, she voted to bring International Baccalaureate to Rainier Beach and STEM to Cleveland High School. Ms. Patu supported both Board resolutions opposing charter schools, and voted in support of policies governing testing that established student and parent rights and granting more Board oversight to program placement decisions.

We endorse Betty Patu to continue the work she has been faithfully doing for our schools and suggest Ms. Byers first get some experience and understanding of public schools in general and specifically the Seattle public school district with its community of teachers, parents and students.

Dora Taylor

 

Recommended reading:

Colonizing the Black Natives: Charter Schools and Teach for America

A professor’s encounter with Teach for AmericaI Quit Teach for America

I Quit Teach for America

The deets on DFER, Democrats for Education Reform

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

Robots Replacing Teachers? Laugh at Your Own Risk.

The Charter School Bill 1240 and the 1%: An Analysis

The NAACP calls for a moratorium on charter schools

 

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

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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. 

10/3/2014

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.

10/6/2014

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

4/8/2015

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.

7/7/2015

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

7/7/2015

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

7/7/2015

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

7/9/2015

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.

2/9/2016

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.

2/9/2016

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

2/9/2016

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.

2/9/2016

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”.

11/10/2016

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.

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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.

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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 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?

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“It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself – anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide…There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime, it was called. The Party’s surveillance tactics and technology are so advanced that even the smallest twitch can betray a rebellious spirit.”

George Orwell, 1984

 

The endgame of corporate reform of public school classrooms creates a clearly defined two-tier system:

  • Students in public schools will be taught the basics by way of the Common Core Standards on a computer and assessed the same way with student performance and psychological attributes stored and tracked.
  • Students in private schools will have well qualified and highly educated teachers offering various subjects in depth along with classroom discussion and learning experiences outside the classroom. Privacy is insured.

One tier is for future workers producing when and where the market demands. The second tier will be the professionals and leaders such as diagnosticians, diplomats, attorneys, scientists, writers, architects and doctors.

Wealthy individuals like Betsy DeVos and Bill Gates are creating a future for students in public schools that has little in common with how their own children were educated.

Their motives aren’t entirely clear but there are individuals and corporations surrounding them who are profiting mightily from their vision for the rest of us.

Dick and Betsy DeVos

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Let’s start with Dick and Betsy DeVos which is where I began this journey planning to write a simple piece on the selection of Betsy DeVos for the position of Secretary of Education in the Trump administration.

As I began to look into Betsy Devos’ activities related to public schools in Michigan and her relationship with Rick Snyder, I found myself diving into a rabbit hole that lead me from Betsy DeVos and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to Bill Gates and ended ultimately with school districts such as the Oakland Public School district and the Seattle Public School district with a connection to the Department of Defense.

Betsy DeVos, although not an educator and her children only attending private schools, has taken upon herself to ensure that children attending public school have an opportunity to go to a private school or more preferably, a religious (read: Christian) school, by use of vouchers.

All school districts have an allocation of funds for every student in the district. It can be on average $5,000 to $7,500. The idea of a voucher is to give the allocated public funds to a student so they can attend the private school of their choice. This is also how charter schools are funded, the public money goes with the student.

The first charter schools in Michigan were operated by the DeVos’ close friend, J.C. Huizenga, who founded the National Heritage Academies, Inc., a for-profit charter school management company and one of the largest school charter school operators in the country. Huizenga is also a major contributor to the DeVos’ 501c4 organization, the American Federation of Children.

The first charter school in Michigan, Excel Charter Academy in Grand Rapids, Michigan, founded by Huizenga’s company, Educational Development Corporation (EDC), was essentially a Christian school, with mandatory prayer meetings.

The first enrollees were students who transferred from private Christian schools preferring a free Christian education. The school was closed after threats of lawsuits from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The DeVos and their friends now use code words such as “moral focus” and “classical education” when referring to the idea of public religious schools.

Huizenga’s National Heritage Academy is also affiliated with the rightwing lobby group the American Legislative Exchange Council  (ALEC ) and is a member of its Education Task Force. For a recommended report on ALEC and education, see ALEC versus Kids: ALEC’s assault on public education.

ALEC is known for providing templates for state bill proposals for legislators. These proposed bills provide profitable returns to various industries. One of those industries now is in the realm of public education. For example, there is the “Statewide Online Education Act” which according to the website “creates a statewide program that provides high school students with access to online learning options regardless of where the student lives.” There is the “Next Generation Charter School Act” which “eliminates special distinctions between virtual and non-virtual charter schools” and the “Resolution of Student Centered Accountability Systems” which includes a “timely provision of student-level data, measure student-specific progress and restore the focus of high-stakes testing to be on advancing individual student instruction and growth.”

These bills ensure that online, computer centered learning is integrated into statewide public school systems and mostly in the form of virtual charter schools. These virtual schools have a large profit margin because they do not require brick and mortar buildings and little in the way of staff and yet they receive the same amount of tax dollars per student as a public school made up of buildings, teachers, administrators and support staff.

One of the members of ALEC is K12, an online learning enterprise which has virtual schools in Washington State. K12 is under investigation now in California and previously made a settlement with the state of $168M regarding its financial practices.

Betsy DeVos also likes online learning, sometimes referred to as “blended” or “personalized” learning, where the student is in front of a computer most of the school day, doing lessons and being assessed virtually. Teachers are seen as “guides”, no longer educators, and the student is isolated with their head phones on sitting in cubicles or at home. This is, as DeVos says, learning “anytime, anywhere”  and a term you will hear repeated by others in this article.

Then there is Dick DeVos who is a proponent of Intelligent Design, the belief that life is so complex that it must have been designed by an “intelligent being”, referring, of course, to a Christian god. Dick DeVos pushed to get his idea introduced into science classes in Michigan. .

Per the New Yorker:

Along with her husband, [Dick]DeVos is an active member of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, a small Protestant denomination with the stated belief that “all scientific theories be subject to Scripture.” According to the church’s official statement on science, “Humanity is created in the image of God; all theorizing that minimizes this fact and all theories of evolution that deny the creative activity of God are rejected.” DeVos attended Calvin College, which is owned and operated by the Christian Reformed Church.

Betsy DeVos also attended Calvin College.

Dick DeVos strategy for the religious takeover of schools was spelled out in a speech he gave for the Heritage Foundation in 2002.

In an excerpt of that speech, he suggests that this campaign be stealth-like rather than open for public and civic debate.

Members of the DeVos family are big contributors to the state Republican party and candidate campaigns in Michigan including the financial support of Governor Rick Snyder which leads us to the Governor of Michigan.

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Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and “Skunk works”

In 2011, Governor Rick Snyder presented his “Anytime, Anyplace” school choice plan for Michigan.

In an EdWeek article titled ‘Any Time, Any Place’ School Choice Plan in Michigan,

Sean Cavanagh wrote:

Michigan Gov. Rick Synder proposed sweeping changes to education this week, but perhaps his most striking idea is to create an open-market for students to choose public schools—without regard to traditional district boundaries.

The Republican governor labels his choice plan “Any Time, Any Place, Any Way, Any Pace.” Students and families who live in a school district would be given the first option to enroll, but school systems would also be required to accept out-of-district students, space permitting. This plan relates to ALEC’s “Statewide Online Education Act”

In 2013, Governor Rick Snyder’s Chief Information Officer, David Behen, put together a team in secret to develop a system of virtual schools using a state voucher program. The group titled their project “Skunk works”.

“Skunk works” is a term referring to a clandestine World War II era collaboration between the U.S. military and the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. It is sometimes used by organizations as a name for projects with little official and no public oversight.

David Behen, who holds a seat on Governor Snyder’s Cabinet and is director of the Department of Technology for Michigan State, led the effort. The group included charter school owners and investors, personnel from information technology companies, several members of Snyder’s staff and Tim Cook of the Huizenga Group founded by Dick and Betsy Devos’ friend, JC Huizenga.

According to documents received in a FOIA, a plan was developed to convert public schools into cyber schools, allowing for seat time waivers and describing a funding model showing how virtual schools would be cheaper, no brick and mortar buildings and tutors rather than certified teachers, thereby saving money on educating children in public schools. These schools are referred to as “value schools” in the document. Vouchers would be used for students to attend a cyber school. Vouchers are not legal in Michigan at this time.

On page 97 of the FOIA is a document titled “Michigan Education Transformation” and describes a plan for a pilot “value school” where all students do their lessons on a computer and are tested using software to evaluate not only their academic growth but also their emotional state. The document refers to accumulating information on a student’s mental and emotional state as “brain science”. The term P-20 also begins to appear at this time.

P-20 describes tracking public school students from pre-school to the age of 20. This means not only keeping personal files on each student and their academic performance but also their social and emotional development. The term Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) describes how software is used to determine a child’s psychological development and abilities during the time they are on a computer doing the lessons and being assessed.

According to the Skunk works’ “Transformation” plan, these virtual schools will “require no seat time because advancement will be achieved by demonstrating competency”, using a computer. In doing this, they declare they will “produce ‘work ready’ graduates that match talent and skills with real business needs”, basically plugging students into jobs like cogs in the corporate wheel.

When word got out about this project, Governor Snyder initially denied knowing about the group or the plan that was developed in secret.

The plan was officially dropped after receiving much public backlash and threats of a lawsuit by the Michigan ACLU.

The Oakland Public School District

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John Krull

This takes us to Oakland, California where the idea of “anytime, anywhere” online learning has been developed to its fullest extent with the help of John Krull former Chief Information Officer for Oakland Public Schools from 2014 to 2016 and now the Chief Information Officer in Seattle. And yes, discovering Krull’s presence in Seattle is disconcerting. This is particularly concerning because in the Strategic Plan for Seattle Public Schools on page 18 under the heading “Strategy 3: Integrate and align operational, business, technology and academic systems to support the needs of students, teachers and schools” is the objective “Improve technology infrastructure at schools to support web-based blended learning and computer based assessment.”

The Oakland Public School superintendent at the time, Antwan Wilson, who was a graduate of the unaccredited Broad Academy for Superintendents in 2014, also spent two years in Oakland from 2014 to 2016 before moving to Washington DC to be the chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools.

Krull spent two years with Oakland Pubic Schools during that same period developing a Technology Plan, which reads like a strategic/curriculum plan rather than an IT plan, with a focus on the Common Core Standards. In addition, it describes the architecture of the necessary infrastructure to provide online learning and assessments for every student. The tech plan includes providing each student a Chromebook loaded with Common Core lessons and testing software for the related  Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test. The software is provided by Pearson. “And with Google Apps, students can easily access their work and files from anywhere, on any device, at any time.”  The startup cost to the district for the Chromebooks was $40M.

When you spend this kind of money for laptops and IT upgrades, there is nothing left for additional teachers, much needed school staff or additional classroom space, but that might be the point.

The distribution of laptops has not ended well in other districts and I project it will not have a happy ending in Oakland but instead become an expensive boondoggle.

There is also the issue of all the student information on a laptop being tracked and recorded.

That brings us to the next issue, Part 2 : Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and the Federal Government.

Dora Taylor

 

#BlackLivesMatterAtSchool: The Network of Public Education (NPE) supports educators in Washington State

 

 

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The Network of Public Education extends its support and solidarity to educators in Washington state who are taking a strong public stand in their action this week. By wearing Black Lives Matter t-shirts, they are affirming their opposition to the unequal and even deadly use of force against Black people. We recognize the need for educators to stand with their students and community members in demanding an end to this violence. We honor their stand.

Boards of Directors, Network for Public Education and Network for Public Education Action

The Seattle Education Association endorses the Black Lives Matter at School action

Re-posted from I Am an Educator:

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#BlackLivesMatterAtSchool: Hundreds of educators across Seattle to wear “Black Lives Matter” shirts to school on Oct. 19th

Educators in Seattle are starting off the school year dressed for success.

In the fist action of this scale, many hundreds of Seattle teachers, counselors, instructional assistants, paraprofessionals, custodians, nurses, and other educators, will wear shirts to school on Wednesday, October 19th, that read, “Black Lives Matter.” This action is part of a Seattle Education Association sponsored day to draw attention to the school-to-prison-pipeline and institutional racism our society. Already over 700 educators and supports have ordered their shirts!

Educators at Seattle’s John Muir Elementary first conceived of this action and announced they would wear shirts to school on September 16 that read, “Black Lives Matter. We Stand Together. John Muir Elementary.” This was to coincide with an event to celebrate Black students that was organized by Black Men United to Change the Narrative. As third grade teacher Marjorie Lamarre told King 5 News at the time, “To be silent would be almost unforgivable, and I think we have been silent for almost too long.” Yet the forces of hate tried their best to silence the John Muir community as a white supremacist issued a bomb threat on the school and the event was officially cancelled. However, in a truly stunning show of courage, dozens of Black community members heeded the call of Black Men United To Change the Narrative and showed up to high five the students that morning and the John Muir staff wore the shirts anyway!

This bold action prompted the Social Equality Educators (SEE) to introduce a resolution at the Seattle Education Association to support John Muir and make a call for educators across the city to also wear Black Lives Matter shirts. The resolution reads:

Whereas the SEA promotes equity and supports anti-racist work in our schools; and,

Whereas we want to act in solidarity with our members and the community at John Muir who received threats based on their decision to wear Black Lives Matter t-shirts as part of an event with “Black Men United to Change the Narrative”; and,

Whereas the SEA and SPS promote Race and Equity teams to address institutionalized racism in our schools and offer a space for dialogue among school staff; 

Therefore be it resolved that the SEA Representative Assembly endorse and participate in an action wearing Black Lives Matter t-shirts on Wednesday, October 19, 2016 with the intent of showing solidarity, promoting anti-racist practices in our schools, and creating dialogue in our schools and communities.

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Editor’s note:

We welcome comments but will not approve posts we deem racist and hateful. If you want to share your ignorance and vitriol, go to the other Seattle blog. They will gladly accept your comments there.

 

Teachers in Seattle affirm that Black Lives Matter in public schools

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Editor’s note: There has been a run on the Black Lives Matter t-shirts. Our suggestion is to either wear a plain black t-shirt showing your support or order one online.

There will be a Press Conference to announce the unprecedented action by teachers in Seattle to affirm that Black Lives Matter in the public schools.  Hundreds of teachers across the district will wear “Black Lives Matter” shirts to school next week.

When: Wednesday, October 19th, at 4:30 pm

Where: Garfield Community Center

2323 East Cherry St, Seattle, WA 98122

Speakers:

DeShawn Jackson: Instructional Assistant, John Muir Elementary

Sarah Arvey: Teacher Hamilton International Middle School, advisor for Hamilton Against Racism

Jesse Hagopian: Teacher, Black Student Union advisor, Garfield High School, editor for Rethinking School magazine

Rita Green: Seattle NAACP education chair

Donte Felder: Mentor teacher, Orca K-8

Kshama Sawant: Seattle City Council Member

Jon Greenberg: Teacher, Center School High, antiracist educator who was reprimanded for his courageous conversation curriculum.

Along with other community organizers and Black Lives Matter activists

In the first action of its kind in the country,  hundreds of teachers, counselor, instructional assistants, office staff, and other educators, will wear “Black Lives Matter” shirts to school on Wednesday, October 18th.  At the time of this release, already over 700 shirts have been ordered by educators in Seattle.

This unprecedented action by educators in Seattle has been organized to let the community know that Black Lives Matter in Seattle Public Schools. On October 19, 2016, educators have planned a major action in response to the racist threats that John Muir Elementary School received on September 16.  The staff of John Muir planned an event with Black Men United to Change the Narrative, teachers, administration, custodians and other faculty to wear Black Lives Matter shirts to schools that day.  The building and district received threats of violence in an attempt to intimidate the educators, parents and students into not wearing the Black Lives Matter shirts or supporting their Black youth.  Many of the staff and community members continued with the event anyway.

Seattle educators want to make it clear that these type of threats are not welcome or tolerated in our community.

Sarah Arvey, a teacher at Hamilton International Middle School, was inspired to begin organizing an action after students asked her if teachers at Hamilton would ever wear Black Lives Matter shirts. Arvey began to organize Hamilton’s staff and then went to present the idea to the Seattle Education Association (SEA) Representative Assembly.  SEA unanimously voted to endorse a district wide demonstration of solidarity and affirmation that Black Lives Matter in Seattle Public Schools to be held on October 19th.

It is urgent for educators to stand up against racism in our society, city and schools.  The Seattle school district has grappled with institutionalized racism and remains a district that is segregated, has disproportionate discipline rates for students of color, and struggles to close the opportunity gap. It is imperative to see that educators continue to fight for the rights of all students and communities, especially those that have a long history disenfranchisement. “For Black lives to matter, they also have to matter at school,” says Jesse Hagopian, Garfield High School teacher and community organizer.  “I’m proud of my educator colleagues across Seattle who voted unanimously at the union meeting to affirm our Black students who are confronted with a school-to-prison-pipeline, disproportionate discipline, a dearth of culturally relevant curriculum, and state violence.”

“We must be bold in addressing racism. If we meter our responses in catering to white fragility, we will always heel towards the status quo of white supremacy.” 

-Ian Golash, Chief Sealth High School teacher.

As Mark Lilly, Instructional Assistant and leader of Bembe Olele Afro-Cuban Dance Company, states, “This is our opportunity to leverage the power of public education showing the world community that when faced with oppression, social justice, right action and compassion are the chosen response.”

The message is more than words on a shirt.  In addition to wearing the Black Lives Matter t-shirts, educators are doing teach-ins, presenting Black Lives Matter Curriculum, supporting student activism and leadership, and organizing with community members.

The “Black Lives Matter to Educators” event will culminate with a rally on October 19th at Washington Hall (153 14th Avenue Seattle, Washington 98122) from 6-8pm.  This event will feature educators, parents, students, and activists discussing their vision for supporting Black lives at school.  The event will also feature, musicians, poets, and Grammy award winning artist, Kimya Dawson.

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For additional information on this action, go to I Am An Educator.

This movement has gained support from the Seattle Public School District, the Seattle Education Association, the Network for Public Education, Parents Across America, over 200 college educators around the country and the Seattle PTA.

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Editor’s note:

We welcome comments but will not approve posts we deem racist and hateful. If you want to share your ignorance and vitriol, go to the other Seattle blog.

SEATTLE’S CEDAR PARK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: IS THERE RACIAL EQUITY?

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Editor’s note: Original post written by Kevin Hilman for the Olympic Hills PTA blog. Post re-published with permission.  -Carolyn Leith 

For the last year and a half, the Olympic Hills Elementary School community (in interim at Cedar Park) has pushed hard for Seattle Public Schools (SPS) to revisit the proposed Cedar Park boundary due to major concerns about equity and safety.

Last week, SPS pell_overlay_cpublished its recommendation to the school board’s operations committee, and unfortunately, the proposal addresses capacity, but not equity.  We are very frustrated, and disappointed with the SPS proposal.

The SPS recommendation is especially troubling because a taskforce (including teachers and parents, myself included) met with SPS staff to attempt to use the SPS racial equity “toolkit” to analyze the boundary, yet the final decision making (which did not include teachers or parents) was based on capacity, not equity.

Have a look at the numbers and compare for yourself.

First, the Cedar Park numbers from the current, board-approved boundaries for 2017-18.  Remember, these are the numbers that caused the initial equity concerns that led to community meetings and the taskforce:

  • 38.6% English language learners (ELL)
  • 65.3% free/reduced lunch (FRL)
  • 72.2% historically underserved

Then, the Cedar Park numbers for the proposed amendment.

  • 43.8% English language learners (ELL)
  • 69.0% free/reduced lunch (FRL)
  • 76.2% historically underserved

All along, our community’s desire has been to reduce the concentration of historically underserved students in Cedar Park.  However, because the proposed solution is based on capacity rather than equity, the percentages for all the categories actually increase.

If you have concerns or comments on this recommendation, let the SPS staff know by writing to growthboundaries@seattleschools.org and also write to the School Board atschoolboard@seattleschools.org.  The School Board will have the final decision on the boundaries.

There will also be upcoming community meetings where SPS will share these decisions:

  • Sept 28, 6:30pm, Olympic Hills  Meeting (at Cedar Park)
  • Oct 5, 6:30pm, John Rogers Meeting (at John Rogers)

Please come and share your thoughts.

-Kevin Hilman

The Struggle over Mayoral Control of Seattle’s School Board

 

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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.

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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  

Email shows how Seattle Mayor Ed Murray plans to take over the school board

 

Mayor Murray
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray

If Mayor Murray wants to address the “achievement/opportunity gap” in a way that is more appropriate to his office, he needs to focus on a living wage for all in Seattle and affordable housing. That will go a long way in helping children succeed in school and in life. Leave education to the educators not politicians, attorneys and business interests.

The school board in recent years has become troublesome to business interests and those wanting to privatize the Seattle public school system. The board members have accomplished much through hard work and collaboration with each other and the school community, winning successes for students, teachers and families.

Some examples of what has been done by the school board are; initiating a change in school start times to better match students’ biological needs, passing a resolution to initiate the process to replace the SBAC with more fair and valid assessments, started a $2M “student stability” fund to mitigate upheaval at the start of the school year when adjustments of teaching staff per enrollment are made, demanding that special ed students be served in the city’s preschool program, moving public testimony time so that more working parents can participate, passed a resolution to place a moratorium on suspensions of K-5 students for non-violent offenses, passed a resolution in 2016 reaffirming board support of public schools and opposition to charter schools and took a stand with the superintendent opposing participation of Seattle Public Schools (SPS) in efforts by the Office of the State Superintendent to channel public funding to illegal charter schools via the Mary Walker School District.

In the meantime, Seattle’s Mayor Murray has been busy in the last few years assembling his own Department of Education and working on privatizing preschool, using levy dollars to threaten established city and county subsidized preschools with a percentage of money taken away by the number of children who do not perform, per assessments, up to an established standard set by the city.

This is what Mayor Murray refers to as ensuring a quality education for all.

He also thinks it’s a good idea to use imaginary unused classroom space for the preschool program.

While a Washington State Senator, Mayor Murray had sponsored a failed bill proposing that any town and city in the state could convert to mayoral control of a school district. Now he is after the Seattle School Board.

Seattleites are aware of what has happened around the country with mayoral control and want no part of it so the Mayor has come up with another way to control the school board by using the example of San Francisco mayors. This is their work-around.

In a letter sent to Mayor Murray from Regina Jones, who is now working for the Mayor’s office as an “executive on loan”, she spells out how to take over the school board by “cultivating candidates to serve on the board” based on the success of two mayors in San Francisco and with the work of Hydra Mendoza because “As in Seattle, SFUSD was concerned about a takeover of the district by the mayor”.

Ms. Mendoza, who works in Mayor Edwin Lee’s office in San Francisco and also served the previous Mayor, is the Senior Adviser of Family and Education Services. She is also on the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) school board. Conflict of interest? Many think so but Mendoza doesn’t, even though she is referred to as the “insider” who “serves as an enforcer” of the mayor’s policies and goals in the letter to Mayor Murray.

To follow are some of the excerpts from the letter:

  • It is recommended in the letter to spend tax dollars to continue “to engage with the Mayor of San Francisco’s key staff and with SFUSD to forge a strong, working relationship on education policy. This should include Seattle staff attendance to observe SFUSD board meetings and key education-related discussions/negotiations between the Mayor’s office and SFUSD….Although it will take an investment of time to bring SPS to the table.
  • Consideration should be given to identifying and pursuing long-term strategies for strengthening district governance, including…having an active role in the selection of the next superintendent…
  • Later in the letter it is suggested to take SFUSD up on its offer to facilitate a discussion with SPS (Seattle Public Schools) on SFUSD’s collective impact process to bring everyone “to the table” in selecting a new superintendent.

Ms. Jones continues with the additional recommendation that the San Francisco superintendent become an “intermediary” engaging SPS at meetings such as the Council for Great City Schools.The SFUSD Superintendent recently squashed the school boards efforts to cut ties with Teach for America. This is the kind of superintendent they like in San Francisco

  • As much as is practical while building collaboration with SPS, design and push forward Seattle versions of San Francisco’s initiatives, some of which are already launched in Seattle…

(Soon to be seen in the Seattle Times’ Education Lab section funded by Bill Gates.)

  • 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 would be Zynega.

Mayor Lee came up with a strategic plan for SFUSD titled Vision 2025 which includes “blended learning” also referred to as “personalized learning”. In other words, every student has their own computer and uses it, replacing shared class time and interaction with a teacher. Summit charter school is based on this. It’s less expensive in terms of operating costs and staff hours.

This vision also includes interaction with the private sector, particularly the gaming and other computer based businesses in San Francisco and surrounding communities. 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.

I think it’s great to provide students with an opportunity to work with these types of companies but it seems more like the business is developing “talent” for their own use.

In the 2013 “Spotlight” newsletter produced by SFUSD, earlier this fall, volunteers from the online social game maker Zynga brought in 20 staff volunteers to work with Balboa High’s Academy of Information Technology students who are learning game programming with tech employees who are a part of Microsoft’s TEALS program.

Interesting that Microsoft is involved with this at some level.

  • There is also an interesting parallel in the letter to Mayor Murray’s plan for preschool in Seattle. Per the letter “The private sector is now focused on early learning…”. Unfortunately the mayor’s program has been a big fail.

The Alliance of Education has been greatly influenced by Bill Gates for many years with millions being donated to the Alliance by way of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Now with ties cut between the Alliance and SPS, there is little power that business and private interests have over the board and SPS in general.

This letter describes an example of another way to gain control of the school board and the district.

If Mayor Murray wants to address the “achievement/opportunity gap” in a way that is more appropriate to his office, he needs to focus on a living wage for all in Seattle and affordable housing. That will go a long way in helping children succeed in school and in life. Leave education to the educators not politicians, attorneys and business interests.

Dora Taylor

For more on the content in this post, see:

 

Seattle Public School Board votes to pursue alternative to SBAC under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

Seattle Public Schools logo

 

In a five to one vote with Stephan Blanford giving the lone “No” vote, the Seattle School Board passed a resolution ,sponsored by Directors Sue Peters and Rick Burke, in favor of requesting the state to provide an alternative summative test to the SBAC based on the newly authorized ESSA. The request is to use a locally selected alternative summative assessment framework to measure achievement and student growth.

This is the wording of the request:

School Board Resolution

To follow is a video of the discussion regarding the resolution before the vote was taken:

Dora Taylor

Post Script:

In the background info about diversity of the school district, the total percentage of students of color should read 54.4% not 38.5%.