Seattle ’s school superintendent is due for her annual review in early June.
Here is an attempt to outline her accomplishments and leadership while in Seattle so far, drawn from input from various parents, teachers and bloggers in the community. I invite readers to add or amend this list.
First, a bit of history:
Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson came to us from the school district of Charleston , South Carolina, in 2007, where she had been superintendent. Before that, she spent time in various education administration positions in Colorado and Texas , and her home state of Nebraska , where she also once taught.
After just one year in Seattle (2007-08), the Seattle School Board awarded the superintendent a 10 percent pay raise. This brought her $248,000 salary up to $264,000. The superintendent makes more than the mayor of Seattle ($150,000), the state superintendent of public instruction, or even the governor of Washington ($163,618). (See: “School chief gets big 10% raise – Her $264,000 salary is more than even the governor’s” and “Seattle schools chief awarded 10% pay raise”)
The district also gives her a $20,000 annual retirement contribution and a $700/month car allowance. Some of us wondered if it was prudent to increase an already generous salary before any measurable work had actually been done. She had presented her “Strategic Plan for Excellence,” but nothing had been implemented yet. Apparently the board also failed to follow its own rules that allow public input into such decisions, as longtime public school activists and watchdogs Chris Jackins and Charlie Mas have pointed out. So there were no voices of the public or dissent permitted at this meeting where the school board voted 7-0 to raise the superintendent’s salary and extend her contract a year (to 2011). This seemed a premature and expensive vote of blind confidence to many of us.
The superintendent’s second year in Seattle was marked by the contentious turmoil of her “Capacity Management Plan,” which resulted in controversial school closures, co-housing of potentially incompatible schools, the splitting apart of the district’s highly gifted program, questionable cost savings, the laying off of 172 teachers and educators, a protest rally of parents, teachers and students, a petition opposing the closures that garnered over 1,700 signatures across the district, and growing dissent against the superintendent’s plans and methods.
Her evaluation was overseen by Tom Payzant, who is affiliated with the Broad Foundation, the venture philanthropy enterprise of L.A. billionaire Eli Broad which strongly supports the privatization of public schools via charters and has been quietly involving itself in the operation of Seattle Public School District, unbenownst to most parents. As has been mentioned many times here and elsewhere, Supt. Goodloe- Johnson is a graduate of the Broad Foundation’s “Superintendent’s Academy” and currently remains on Broad’s board of directors, which many of us still consider a conflict of interest.
For the Seattle School District to allow someone not from our district and who is also affiliated with the Broad Foundation to be involved in this Broad-graduate superintendent’s evaluation struck many of us as highly questionable and not likely to be objective. Many also felt it would be inappropriate for the board to award the superintendent yet another pay raise in less than two years when the district claimed to be in severe budget crisis and had laid off teachers, closed schools and asked our children to make do with less. The superintendent was not awarded a raise, and her review criticized her lack of communication and interpersonal skills and failure to engage with the parents and community of SPS. (See: “School Board to Give Mixed Review to Supe”) However, later in the year, she was awarded a controversial “merit” based bonus of $5,280 for meeting only 4 out of 20 performance goals (see below).
A major focus of this year has been the results of the closures and splits, and the development of the new student assignment plan (SAP). There is also a focus on the teachers’ contract which is being renegotiated. Some time in the last year, the board extended Goodloe-Johnson’s contract again, to 2012. It is not clear that any community input was sought in this decision.
Here is an attempt at an overview of Supt. Goodloe-Johnson’s tenure in Seattle . Though I am trying to list positive accomplishments, I am coming up short.
On Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson’s watch, there have been the following positive or promising accomplishments & developments:
The new student assignment plan, which assigns students to their local schools, potentially encourages the valid concept of neighborhood schools. But this may be overshadowed by various negative impacts of the plan — such as overcrowding in some schools, under-enrollment in others, resegregation, and attrition from the district to private schools as a direct result of the SAP, and the fact that not all Seattle schools are equal, so the assignments will necessarily be unequal.
There have also been the following questionable or negative accomplishments & developments:
Overall, these past two years have been the most chaotic and disruptive in recent SPS memory. Many feel this chaos was unnecessary and destructive. There have also been a number of appeals and lawsuits filed in response to district actions, an entire new school building suddenly closed because it was emitting toxic fumes and making children and teachers sick, irrational layoffs and thenrehires of teachers, a constant churn of principal assignments, and a new student assignment plan that is overfilling some schools and leaving others half-empty, and sending some public school families to seek more a predictable and positive environment for their schoolchildren in private schools.
The superintendent has failed to create genuine community engagement with the parents.
She closed schools over community protest at a time when enrollment was increasing.
She closed, merged, split and moved schools without allowing all affected parties a public hearing. (This has resulted in legal appeals against the district that are still pending.)
She closed, merged and moved schools before the new student assignment plan was established, which was widely considered an ill-logical and potentially wasteful sequence of events. The district’s recently released enrollment numbers for the 2010 school year are bearing this out.
She announced her “Capacity Management (school closures) Plan” during the busy and narrow window between the Thanksgiving holiday and Christmas/winter break, thus preventing full community response and participation in the deliberation process. (This was widely viewed among parents as a dishonest effort at “community engagement.”)
The school closures disproportionately uprooted, evicted or affected underprivileged children, kids of color or kids with special needs. The closures of the African American Academy, T.T. Minor and Cooper Elementary, in particular disenfranchised the district’s African American school community. This resulted in a discrimination legal action against the district supported by the NAACP.
She failed to heed demographic trends that showed a need for more schools. Thus, she closed schools to allegedly save $3.5 million a year, only to announce eight months later that the district needed to reopen five schools at a cost of $48 million.
Closures have resulted in severe capacity problems in parts of town like West Seattle where schools are overcrowded, while the reopening schools in the north end of town are failing to attract many families, making these costly to run.
In the closures, some schools (like Nova High School and Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center) were evicted from their buildings (Horace Mann and Old Hay) supposedly in part for safety reasons, only to be moved to a building which is fact less safe (Meany Middle School) and inappropriate for high schoolers.
The superintendent promised “equity” between the split Accelerated Progress Program schools, but that has not happened. Enrollment numbers, resources and cohesion are not equal between the four elementary and middle school locations.
She gave layoff notices to 172 teachers and educators on Teacher Appreciation Week (May 2009), despite growing enrollment. (All but 30 or so were eventually hired back, leaving many to wonder why the RIFs were imposed in the first place.) (See: “Rotten Apples: Some Seattle teachers who maybe expected a nice gift during Teacher Appreciation Week got something else instead: pink slips.”)
She sent an illegal letter to the district’s 3,000 teachers unilaterally canceling their contract, bypassing regular negotiation rules and practices. This was sent via Certified Mail at an estimated cost of $15,000 to the district.
She laid off 25 more teachers in 2010, thus failing to insulate teachers and classrooms from deleterious budget cuts.
She proposed lowering the high school graduation grade average from a C average to a D average, over wide community opposition.
She commissioned audits of various programs and elements of the district, only to disregard the recommendations of the audits.
Ignored the recommendations of the APP review that she commissioned, and split the program twice in ill-advised ways.
She punished two SPS teachers for following the wishes of their Special Ed students’ parents. Once publicized, she and the district rescinded the punishment.
She imposed a new student assignment plan that appears to be resulting in overcrowding in some parts of the district (West Seattle), severe under-enrollment in other parts (McDonald, Sand Point, Queen Anne Elementary), and without ensuring that all schools are equally “quality” schools, as promised, and appears to be resegregating the schools.
Recommended a flawed and controversial math textbook (Discovering series), ignoring hundreds of community letters and testimony opposing it.
This decision was appealed by a group of parents, teachers and UW Professor Cliff Mass. The school district lost in Supreme Court and was directed by the judge to reconsider the decision after finding the district had excluded evidence submitted by the public and deemed its selection of the math textbook “arbitrary and capricious.”
The superintendent refused to comply with the judge and instead appealed the judge’s order, which will incur more costs for the district.
She offered a language arts curriculum alignment survey that was poorly advertised and was accessible for only a short period. Again, this was viewed by the community as a disingenuous effort at “engagement.”
She joined the board of the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) a vendor that sells its trademarked MAP assessment tests to the district, thus compromising her own ability to objectively analyze the educational and fiscal value of the MAP product.
She oversaw the purchase of a costly $4.3 million subscription for the MAP tests, which are being administered to children as young as five years old three times a year, and proving to be time- and resource-consuming, and whose value is still not certain. The MAP test is in addition to the MSP (WASL replacement) test for older students, directing even more time and resources to testing than has been deemed necessary in the past.
She promoted the creation of STEM at Cleveland High School with little community buy-in and at a cost of $800,000 for a program from an outside vendor (New Tech Network) which has a mixed record of success. This may be challenged in court.
She raised the threshold for Title I funding eligibility, causing some schools (such as Thurgood Marshall Elementary) to lose vital funding for underprivileged students.
“She oversaw the botched rollout of special education overhaul (Integrated Comprehensive Services delivery model) that: 1) ignores the recommendations in the external peer review audit; 2) fails to provide training and resources to buildings to support special needs children in the general education setting; 3) has demoralized highly qualified special educators who work with children in inclusive settings and 4) fails to provide a true continuum of placements as required by federal law. The district’s actions have created an environment where children that need extra support are now destined to fail, experience misdirected discipline, and potentially regress or suffer emotional damage.” – SPS Special Ed parent
Canceled transportation for some schools (like TOPS) which parents are concerned will negatively affect the demographics and diversity of the student population.
Laid off elementary counselors and cutback full-time librarians, over vocal opposition from parents and teachers who consider these two roles very important.
Presides over a central office that is significantly larger than any similar district in the state. A state audit and report by parent/analyst Meg Diaz found the central office to be significantly bloated. Yet, she has requested even more central staff, including more “Broad Residents” from the Broad Foundation, which cost $90,000 each.
On her watch, the new building for the New School at South Shore which opened last September and was constructed in only 17 months at a cost of $69 million, only to be closed mid-year as the result of mysterious noxious fumes that made children and teachers ill with respiratory and other illnesses. Apparently one teacher was hospitalized. As a preschool-8th grade school, very young children were exposed to these fumes, which is very troubling. While superintendent appropriately closed the building for the rest of the year in April, some have questioned why she didn’t order it closed sooner, considering that problems were reported as far back as January (and especially considering the superintendent’s own daughter attends the preschool). At the time of writing, it remains unknown what caused the fumes, but if it was a rushed project or if the closure was too slow, both are the responsibility of the superintendent and something obviously went terribly wrong.
She established and then canceled the Southeast Initiative, an attempt to strengthen schools in the south end of town which apparently was not successful.
She met only 4 out of 20 performance goals — and yet received a “merit”-based $5,280 bonus from the school board in 2009, over parent opposition and even that of the usually uncritical Seattle Times (“Seattle Schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson: Tis not the season for a bonus”) (Also see: “School Board Proposes Yet More Money for Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson”)
She failed to deliver the quarterly report on the Strategic Plan to the City Council’s education committee on time in the spring of 2009.
She bumbled the reopening of Jane Addams K-8, which failed to attract more families than the school she had closed that had been there before, Summit .
She fumbled the rearranging of bell-times and bus routes, leaving parents in confusion and prompting many to write letters of protest.
She made the unhealthy decision to save money by discontinuing on-site freshly made lunches for middle and high school kids.
She moved or replaced nearly a third of the district’s principals in less than year, in an unprecedented amount of upheaval, most often without allowing any community input. This has further disenfranchised parents and school communities.
Here’s the list:
Principal shuffles on Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson’s watch 2009-10:
May 2009: Roy Merca from Summit (closed) to AS1, Ernie Severs from AS1 to Sanislo, Debbie Nelson from Sanislo to Jane Addams, Chris Carter from African American Academy (closed) to Jane Addams to Hamilton Middle School, Dewanda Cook-Weaver from Lowell to McGilvra Elem. to ??, Jo Shapiro from McGilvra Elem. to assistant principal at Hamilton Middle School, Wayne Floyd from John Stanford Center central office to Loyal Heights, Cashel Toner from Loyal Heights to Leschi Elem., Jo Lute-Ervin from Leschi to TOPS, Linda Robinson from Bryant to Whittier, Cothron McMillian from Whittier to Brighton, Ed Noh from Lawton to Hawaii?; Beverly Raines from Brighton Elem. to Lawton Elem. to retirement?, Gregory King from TT Minor (closed) to Lowell, Julie Briedenbach from Lowell Elem. to Thurgood Marshall Elem., Winifred Todd from Thurgood Marshall to Dunlap, Greg Imel from Dunlap to Bailey Gatzert, Norma Zavala from Bailey Gatzert to Concord, Sandra Scott from Concord to Hawthorne, Stacey McCrath-Smith was moved from Meany.
July 2009: Jill Hudson to Nathan Hale High School , Henterson Carlisle assigned interim principal of Madison Middle School .
Jan 2010: Kaaren Andrews from Madrona K-8 to the Interagency School, Cheryl Grinager from Green Lake Elementary to McDonald Elem. (to be reopened), David Elliott from Coe Elem to Old Hay (to be reopened)
Dan Warren from John Hay to Sand Point (to be reopened).
Feb/March 2010: DeWanda Cook-Weaver from McGilvra, Beverly Raines from Lawton . May 2010: Oksana Britsova to the Center School, Karen Hanson to John Hay Elem., Farah Thaxton to Madrona K-8, Mary Lane to McGilvra Elem. Joanne Bowers from North Beach Elementary to Green Lake Elementary.
(Of these, I believe only one replaced a retiring principal, Clara Scott from TOPS, and one who went on leave on her own accord, Katie Cryan Learie from Hamilton, and then two who may have been forced out: D. Cook-Weaver and B. Raines. As of May 14, 2010, Coe Elementary and Lawton Elementary remain without principal assignments for the new school year.)
Sources: Seattle Times, Seattle Public Schools , and Seattle Public Schools Community Blog.
The district slogan under this superintendent has been “Excellence for All. Every student achieving, everyone accountable.”
Has this superintendent lived up to her own motto?
Above is a fairly significant list of grievances that the Seattle public schools community has with the superintendent, leaving some so ask: “Where’s the excellence?” And can we afford many more years of this?