Dear Seattle School Board Directors,
At today’s (July 7) final school board meeting of the summer, you have the opportunity to represent your constituents and common sense by voting “No” to extending the superintendent’s contract yet another year to 2013.
The board has already extended Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson’s contract twice, to 2012. And she has already had three years to demonstrate her abilities. She has admitted herself that the results from her “reforms” are not yet in. According to the Seattle Times, the superintendent: “says the reforms she's pursuing should start to show results in the next year, and it will take eight to 10 years for them to fully show fruit.”
So why don’t you wait for these results before you dish out more rewards?
It would be irresponsible and premature on your part to add a third year at this point.
By bringing forth a motion to extend the superintendent's contract, the school board is flagrantly disregarding the legitimate concerns of an overwhelming and growing number of parents, students, teachers and other members of the SPS community.
We are saying: Hold this superintendent accountable just as you are claiming to hold our schools, our principals, teachers and students accountable.
Twelve schools have now voted "No Confidence" in the superintendent. Dissent and dissatisfaction with SPS leadership is real, widespread, legitimate and growing, despite the falsely rosy and defensive pictures depicted by the Seattle Times (as a journalist myself I am appalled by the Times’ utter lack of objectivity or genuine reporting).
The state has just released yet another damning audit of SPS and has found evidence of mismanagement and flouting of the law. This needs to be addressed – not rewarded. (See: Schedule of Audit Findings and Responses, Seattle School District No. 1, King County June 21, 2010 and this.)
The Seattle Educators Association (SEA) has recommended that the board not extend the superintendent’s contract. In the fall they may take a vote of No Confidence.
You also need to be consistent in the message you are sending to the SPS community. How can you talk about "performance pay," "accountability" and measurement of teachers when you propose to reward in advance the superintendent for a job she has yet to complete? You are sending a very mixed message.
How, for example, can you reward the superintendent for the new student assignment plan when it hasn't even been implemented yet? We won’t know until well into the fall whether the plan is an improvement or equitable or even working at all.
There are already serious indications that a number of schools throughout the district will be over-enrolled, while others will be seriously (and expensively) under-enrolled. Queen Anne Elementary, Sand Point Elementary and McDonald are seriously under-enrolled (with less than 100 kids in each). Yet the district is spending $48 million to open these and two other schools.
That in turn leads to the reasons to be concerned about the superintendent's "Capacity Management Plan." It is shaping up to be a failure. It has not saved money and it has not solved overcrowding and under-enrollment. As a result of the superintendent’s plan, five schools were closed to save $3 million and now the schools you are reopening at a cost of $48 million are half empty. In West Seattle, children from Cooper Elementary have been scattered in all directions, and kids are being crowded into portables.
The Capacity Management Plan problems need to be addressed and corrected. The new student assignment plan won’t take effect until the fall. Only when all of these changes are ironed out should the board consider an extension for the superintendent
You need to stop and question the fiscal sense of such decisions, the lack of foresight and hold the superintendent accountable for these decisions.
The district’s investment in the MAP test is also questionable. Is this the best way to spend limited district funds? How do you justify the $4.3 million price tag for it (which does not include the cost of purchasing computers to implement the test, or the cost in instruction time and lost classroom-time for children) when the district is laying off teachers and overcrowding classrooms and cutting back on counselors? Three times a year is excessive. Administering the test to five-year-olds is inappropriate. I have also heard that the test does not reflect state standards so children are being tested on material that is not in sync with what they are being taught in class.
By the way, the board needs to acknowledge that many of us in the community legitimately believe it is not ethical for the superintendent to be on the board of directors of a company (Northwest Evaluation Association) that does business with the district (NWEA sells SPS the MAP test). This looks bad. It compromises the superintendent's ability to be objective in her evaluation of the MAP product. The board needs to realize that even the appearance of impropriety of this nature must be avoided. Surely you agree that Seattle’s school superintendent should not be affiliated with any vendors that do business with the district. Your failure to address this issue does not reflect well on the school board.
In 2008, after only one year on the job, the superintendent was awarded a 10 percent pay raise by the school board, bringing her salary up from $248,000 to $264,000, and her contract extended. Why? Because she had presented her “Strategic Plan.” She had not implemented it yet, she had no community buy-in, yet the board rewarded the superintendent in advance for work not yet even done. (The plan consequently was mired in controversy, resulting in lawsuits, school closures followed by costly re-openings, unprecedented teacher layoffs at a time when enrollment was increasing, followed by rehires.)
It made no sense then to reward a performance before the work was done, and it makes no sense now.
It would be imprudent and unnecessary to extend the superintendent’s contract at this time. I urge you to reassess in one year's time, after the new student assignment plan has gone into effect, after capacity has been truly managed, after results are in – not before.
Hundreds of parents and community members have signed petitions, voiced their valid concerns about the direction of the school district and the superintendent's management skills and vision.
You need to respect and heed these concerns. That is your job. Your job title is school board “director” – not “follower.” As the directors of the school board, you need to direct the superintendent -- not the other way around.
SPS parent & voter
Co-editor, Seattle Education 2010