This year, four of Seattle’s seven-member school board are up for reelection: Sherry Carr, Peter Maier, Harium Martin-Morris, and Steve Sundquist.

School Board President Steve Sundquist

Though they cast a unanimous vote in March to terminate Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson, this was one of the only times these four voted against the controversial and divisive superintendent. In fact, all four have a dismal record of voting or thinking independently, or representing the will of their constituents.

School Board Member Harium Martin-Morris

And there’s word that Wednesday night, all the directors except Betty Patu voted in favor of laying off more teachers. Again. It’s shameful that the school board should be so willing to make cuts that will directly hurt our kids, while the central office remains heavily overstaffed and the district continues to pour millions of dollars into wasteful and unnecessary standardized testing.

UPDATE: Linda Shaw at the Seattle Times confirms this morning that the school board did indeed vote to RIF teachers. Seattle schools to send out 70 pink slips. Happy Teacher Appreciation Week from the School Board.– sp. 5/5/11

School Board Member Peter Maier

These past four years, Sundquist, Maier, Carr and Martin-Morris all voted for pay raises for Goodloe-Johnson (bringing her already generous salary up to $264,000 plus benefits) and repeated extensions of  her contract, despite the absence of actual positive results from her “Strategic Plan for Excellence,” and despite a damning state audit (see: Schedule of Audit Findings and Responses, Seattle School District No. 1, King County June 21, 2010) and other signs that she was doing a less than stellar job.

At the same time the board heaped repeated financial rewards on Goodloe-Johnson, they voted to close and split schools, RIFed teachers and  made various other cutbacks that directly and negatively impacted Seattle school children, all in the name of budget crisis. This apparent hypocrisy has not been lost on parents, kids and teachers who have been at the receiving end of these painful cuts. (This paragraph has been added to the original version. — sp. 5/5/11)

All four also voted for a “performance-based” bonus for Goodloe-Johnson after she met only 4 out for 17 performance goals, and for allowing short-term, crash-course Teach for America, Inc. novices to be hired in Seattle (see: Seattle School Board rubber-stamps yet another item on its Broad Superintendent’s ed reform agenda: Teach for America, Inc.), and for the pricey New Technology Network STEM contract, just to name a few baffling or simply bad votes.

School board members -- or bobbleheads?

Carr, Sundquist and Maier also voted for the costly and poorly planned school closures of Goodloe-Johnson’s 2008-09 “Capacity Management Plan,” and the unjustified splintering of the gifted education program, as well as the weak Discovering math high school text book — ignoring the concerns and opposition of  thousands of parents and teachers.

Their voting pattern has been so predictable that district observers in the parent advocate community have referred to them as rubber-stampers, or bobbleheads, nodding yes, yes, yes to everything Goodloe-Johnson proposed, never seriously questioning the data or plans the superintendent or central office administrators fed to them.

The Pottergate scandal, which led to Goodloe-Johnson’s ouster, was a wake-up call for them, for they apparently finally realized that information was regularly being kept from them, or they were lied to. Although the 17 Percentgate scandal of a few months earlier should have woken them up too.

School Board Member Sherry Carr

Have they changed? With all the recent post-scandal talk about the school district needing to regain the “public trust,” will these four board members  finally start to represent their constituents who voted for them — and not a superintendent with an imported corporate ed reform agenda? Or is it too late — have parents and voters soured on them entirely?

Michelle Buetow is challenging Harium Martin-Morris for the District III school board position

So far, only one challenger has announced: Michelle Buetow, will take on Harium Martin-Morris in District III. Judging by the deep disappointment expressed in the blogosphere over Harium Martin-Morris’ votes and comments (he once reportedly said that it isn’t the school board’s job to question the superintendent), Buetow has a decent chance of unseating him.

Other groups in the community are actively courting candidates to challenge the four.  So more names should emerge as we head into summer.

Another detail: These four board members got elected with unprecedented amounts of campaign money, much of it from the same backers, most with business ties, who support corporate ed reform. Clearly it’s also time to establish campaign finance limits for school board races.

Right now in Seattle, the school board is one of the only public offices where the sky’s the limit, so the most moneyed or connected candidates have a huge advantage, and a few  moneyed  contributors can in turn potentially heavily influence the election outcome.  Consequently, in the 2007 school board election, candidates  Carr, Sundquist, Maier and Martin-Morris were able to raise over $400,000 between them, grossly outspending their opponents.

Parent and public ed advocate and blogger (and former school board candidate himself), Charlie Mas, has just launched a new blog, Change the Board. with the purpose of reforming the school board — in all senses of the word.

Indeed, it’s fair to ask: What have Sundquist, Maier, Carr and Martin-Morris done to earn four more years on the board? After all, to a large degree, they were the chief enablers and supporters of the superintendent they just fired. They approved most if not all of her costly, divisive, autocratic — and failed — policies. The entire school board was cited in the state audit last year for failing to oversee the superintendent, and mismanaging district resources. The board members apparently turned a blind eye to Goodloe-Johnson’s ethical breaches as well.

It doesn’t add up to a winning picture that inspires much confidence in these candidates.

–Sue p.

Seattle's School Board -- time for new vision & voices?