Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson with Fred Stephens (Potter's former boss who now works for the U.S. Dept. of Commerce) and Silas Potter, who is at the center of the fraud scandal and apparently on the lam

It’s hard to keep up with all the headlines that are flying fast and furious in the wake of the revelation earlier this week of a $1.8 million fraud scandal that has rocked the Seattle Public School District. But the latest news is that the Seattle Times and School Board President Steve Sundquist, historically two of the biggest apologists and fans of controversial School Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson, are both saying the superintendent needs to go — either fired by the school board, or  should resign.

(Sundquist also mentions the option of buying out the remainder of Goodloe-Johnson’s roughly $300,000/year contract. But a further expenditure of that kind would not go down well with the Seattle School community. After all, we are all still reeling from the news that, thanks to Potter’s scheme and those who turned a blind eye to it, the school district wasted at least $1.8 million already– money which could have gone into our kids’ classrooms.)

Seattle School Board considers firing superintendent

By Linda Shaw and Steve Miletich

Seattle Times staff reporters

Seattle School Board President Steve Sundquist said Friday the board is considering firing Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson or buying out her contract after a report found she didn’t do more to stop rampant misuse of public money in a district contracting program.

In an appearance before The Seattle Times editorial board, Sundquist said the findings in the newly released report “certainly undermine my confidence in the effectiveness of the management.” — The Seattle Times

(follow link to complete article.)

Seattle school Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson should resign

The Seattle Times Editorial Board says it is time for the superintendent of the Seattle Public Schools, Maria Goodloe-Johnson, to go.

THE emerging details of the financial scandal at the Seattle Public Schools suggest one conclusion: Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson should resign. If she doesn’t, the board should fire her.

She was brought here from South Carolina in 2007 to fix several problems, the first of which was the district’s lax control of its money. The latest mess shows the task has not been done.

The gist of the story is that several years ago the district was having trouble getting enough bids on its smaller construction jobs. It set up a program using capital funds to qualify minority- and women-owned contractors to bid. To run the program, the district hired Silas Potter Jr.

He was a poor choice. Potter was, according to the School Board’s investigator, a “marginal employee” who had left a string of unpaid bills, including his child support and federal taxes. Without permission, he changed the program from qualifying bidders to training people in small businesses, which is not the mission of a public school district.

When the state auditor ruled that capital funds could not be used for such a purpose, the district had to repay the capital fund with $2 million in money that should have gone to the classroom. — The Seattle Times

(follow link to complete article.)

A new “No Confidence” petition demanding Goodloe-Johnson’s removal is now circulating.

More background info here:

Documents detail financial abuse in Seattle schools program

A former Seattle Public Schools manager ran a rogue contracting operation within district offices, replete with overbilling, ethics violations and intimidation of critics, according to documents released by the state Thursday. — Seattle Times

Who is Silas Potter? Or Rather, Where is Silas Potter?

— The Stranger

UPDATE: KING 5 News reported Friday that a Jan. 15, 2009 e-mail by Fred Stephens indicates that Supt. Goodloe-Johnson directed that the school board be kept  in the dark about the damning Sutor Report, which highlighted problems with Potter’s fraudulent operation. [CORRECTION: This paragraph originally stated Dec. 2008 as the date of the e-mail.]

In the summer of 2008, problems persisted and the Sutor Group was hired to conduct an investigation. That December, it reported serious problems with oversight of Potter’s programs.

By then, Goodloe-Johnson was well aware of the report’s findings. She met with others in January to discuss the troubled program. Among them was Stephens.

Two days later, Stephens wrote an e-mail indicating Goodloe-Johnson didn’t want the Sutor report revealed to the school board.

“That’s what I found most concerning, because of the nature of the Sutor Group report, the fact that nobody could remember discussing it with the board, talking about the details of how severe those findings were, I thought was troubling,” said Eakes. The following month, Goodloe-Johnson glossed over the Sutor report at a board meeting.

“It obviously was a missed opportunity for the Superintendent to share with us the full gravity of the situation,” said Sundquist.

By the end of 2009, Potter’s program was actually growing with even more questionable spending than before. — (follow link to KING5 for full report)

SIDE NOTE: At that same time — December 2008-January 2009 — Goodloe-Johnson was in the middle of pushing her contentious “Capacity Management Plan” which consisted of multiple school closures, evictions, and splintering the district’s schools for gifted children. The School Board voted in favor of her plan at the end of January. Is is possible she didn’t want any kind of scandal to interfere with these plans? Why else would she cover for Potter?  Or is it possible that his operation, which funneled money to various local organizations, might have helped quash opposition to her controversial closures plan? That is one theory, CORRECTION: and was cited in the REPORT ON INVESTIGATION RELATED TO THE REGIONAL SMALL
by local attorney Patricia Eakes as the initial inquiry that prompted the school board to retain Eakes in December 2010 to investigate Potter’s program. Eakes did not find witnesses with firsthand knowledge to support this claim. But she did uncover other troubling aspects of Potter’s dealings and various cases of mismanagement within SPS all the way up to the superintendent. — sp. 2/26/11

Sadly, Pottergate is just the latest in a litany of questionable activities, mismanagement, and even ethics scandals that have happened on Goodloe-Johnson’s watch, including at least one that involved the superintendent directly (see: “Seattle School Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson’s ongoing conflicts of interest”), not to mention a damning state audit of the district last year.

The Seattle Public School District motto is: “Excellence for All. Everyone Achieving. Everyone accountable.” Who should be held accountable for this latest mess?  Clearly the buck needs to stop with Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson.

–Sue  & Dora


The Seattle School Board directors will meet next Tuesday <=[UPDATE: AS SOON AS THIS WEEKEND!, according to the Seattle Public Schools Community Blog, which is all over this story] to decide the fate of Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson and how to respond to the Silas Potter fraud scandal.

Parents, teachers and other members of the Seattle Schools community who want to voice their views on whether the Superintendent should be fired or bought out should contact the school board directors now. Here’s how:

District I – Peter Maier (206) 252-0040
District II – Sherry Carr (206) 252-0040
District III – Harium Martin-Morris (206) 252-0040
District IV – Michael DeBell (206) 252-0040
District V – Kay Smith-Blum (206) 252-0040
District VI – Steve Sundquist (board president) (206) 252-0040
District VII – Betty Patu (206) 252-0040