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

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