Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Thanks for the early input.

Just a quick thanks to each of you who posted a response to my welcome message. There were some great comments and we appreciate all of them -- particularly about the blog format. We’re new at this and we’ll likely get some things wrong along the way. It’s clear that you’ll let us know and keep us on our toes – that’s a good thing!

It is absolutely our intention to create a space that allows dissent and supports a full public dialogue both in our public engagement events and online. Join us tomorrow evening for a great example of how we want to put this commitment into practice. The Alliance is hosting a community forum to discuss a report by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), titled Human Capital in Seattle Public Schools. Check out the details here. As part of this event, we’ll post participants’ reactions and feedback here on the blog in the coming days.

This blog is a work in progress and, as noted in one of the early posts, there are many other fine blogs that follow issues related to public education. It’s our intention to add to the rich mix and to better inform our own efforts as we continue our work to help every child in Seattle Public Schools achieve academic success.

Patrick D’Amelio, CEO


  1. Dear Patrick,
    As you'll note from some of the comments below (including mine), people are wary. Why? Because there are lots of people who have no connection to Seattle Schools who want to change them, and we worry about how and why. For instance, there are many fine alternative programs in the district, but these are being closed while people like CRPE recommend "choice" schools (charters). Why, we ask?

    So here you come, wanting to dialogue, yet know one knows what you represent. Your literature says you are a partner of SPS. Well, why doesn't SPS have a blogsite, then? You say you have no agenda, yet you partner with those that do. It's very confusing.

    I'm not sure what you can do to gain the trust of the community, but being upfront about what it is y'all do, and what agendas, if any you might have, would be a fine start.

    MY agenda is to keep schools local, to keep them accountable fully to board policy (i.e. none of this "charter" away accountability stuff: I pay taxes for PUBLIC schools, not for contracted-out schools. The US did that with Blackwater and it was a huge mistake.

    I am for choice, and would like to see the alternative and option choices grow and be fully supported. If the Alliance was to get behind that I'd be very happy. We have a form of "charter" here, they were started, for the most part, thirty years ago and are quite popular. Let's get behind THEM.

    Anyway, good luck in this venture. I'd love to debate, but first I need to know who with and what they want.

  2. Mr D'Amelio - I think you and Marie Goodloe Johnson attended the same media training course... skirt around the issues and ignore the questions raised, divert us by pointing us in the direction of the very dubious NCTQ presentation (love how public education now is so riddled with business/economics speak - human capital), and then come back to the marketing tagline: helping every child in Seattle Public Schools achieve academic success, otherwise known as Excellence for All, which is also the tagline for many other Districts around the country that have been infiltrated by Broadies (rhymes with Toadies)...

    I am a marketing/PR specialist (I nearly applied for the communications vacancy you advertised recently, but didnt think I stood much of a chance with my record of very public criticism of the Superintendent and Board!) and I used to carry out media training for some of New Zealand's senior government officials... you really need to do better at finding the right tone for engaging with your prospective audience...

    And it would be helpful if you didnt under-estimate how well educated they are about the links NCTQ has with the 'reform' movement spreading like a plague around the country... its kinda insulting... we'd rather have real dialogue with you with all the cards out on the table, talking in plain, unvarnished English... would be nice if, just for once in this District, we could be dealing with the unvarnished truth...

  3. Will one, or all, of the authors of this blog be addressing, directly, some of the questions and concerns raised by posters in the welcome thread?

    If this is to truly be a community blog then you will have to be authentically responsive to the community.

    Several posters on the welcome thread said they would like the Alliance to take a look at Meg Diaz report. Are you willing to do this? And are you willing to share your position on the report publicly on this blog?

    That would be a GREAT start!

  4. In the interest of accurate blogging- can you let us know how it is that NCTQ came to write a "human capitol" report on our district? It seems the Alliance is not hosting a forum so much as releasing work it commissioned.

    Last year when word of NCTQ's study of SPS first came 'round, it was CPPS who were to be the sponsor. Lots of questions from the community re: the goals, metrics, funding, findings/fallout in other districts, conflicts of interest in Ms. Walsh heading a study of this sort... Then, we hear that NCTQ isn't coming. Until, surprise, the Alliance (not CPPS) will be bringing them to town after all.

    So, I guess I'd like to suggest that you post that you've commissioned a study and will publicly release the findings tomorrow.

    And- I'll add to the chorus suggesting you take a look/post a link to the work of MS. Diaz.

  5. Mr. D'Amelio,

    Is this really an open invitation to tomorrow night's gig? Everyone I have talked to who has tried to RSVP has been told there are no more seats. One in particular RSVPed weeks ago.

  6. Okay, so here's a little feature of blog technology for you as you: You can respond to people by posting a comment on the same thread rather than starting a new thread with a new posting. It's good to do that because it keeps all of the discussion together in one spot.

    I will tell you right now that if the NCTQ report on the human capital in our schools doesn't include some sort of accounting of the volunteer work done in them, we will know that it is a shoddy bit of work. One of the greatest problems in our district is the poor use made of the immense and expert human capital available in community volunteers. The District goes on about all of the work they cannot do because they lack the manpower while they shun offers of free, plentiful, and expert assistance. If this report doesn't make mention of that, then we can pretty safely conclude that it is a hatchet job of one form or another. I don't see how any legitimate assessment or evaluation of the work done in our schools can neglect the tens of thousands of hours of volunteer time.

  7. OMG! I just saw the story in the Seattle Times about the NCTQ report! Wow! What amazing news! They recommended exactly what they ALWAYS recommend! Isn't that shocking?!? Who would have guessed that?!?

    The Alliance wasted $14,000 to pay the NCTQ to say what they would have said for free. That money could have gone into classrooms to improve outcomes for students, but the Alliance made a gift of it to the NCTQ.

    Is there anything - ANYTHING - in this report that actually speaks to teacher quality? According to the Times: "The report focused solely on policies that affect teacher quality, such as how teachers are hired, paid, assigned, trained and evaluated." Of course, none of those things - except maybe training - actually affect teacher quality.

    The Times report says that the full report is on your web site, but, that's not the case. I presume it was the Alliance who told Linda Shaw that the report was up on your web site.

  8. I was told that the report was not available to the public until 12:00 noon today (Wednesday) and yet we see the Times has already seen it.

    Strange...NO maybe not, if you want to get ahead on the news, spin first and let people see it later...

    How long IS the report? Will we be able to digest it in a our busy six hours, or will we merely be given bullet points tonight? Why wasn't the report made available earlier, so deep and meaningful critique could be made BEFORE the meeting?

    Oh, and $14,000? That's all? Substract, say, 3,000 for flying people here to speak, 2,000 for admin costs, that's 9,000... divide by, say, 200 per hour (common consulting cost) and you have 45 hours of "work" on this.

    I can't wait to see what "research" was done on our fine city's educators in order to produce this. I'm also eager to see if it merely mimes the work done for the Hartford study...Hello, google doc, let's see what's the same...

  9. Dear seattle citizen,

    We recognize that people are wary and appreciate you pointing out some of the reasons you suspect that is so. I’ll respond to a couple points you make and look forward to continuing the dialogue on these topics.

    “there are lots of people who have no connection to Seattle Schools who want to change them, and we worry about how and why.”

    I would suggest that we all have a connection to Seattle Public Schools, whether a teacher, a parent, a student, or a community member. We all benefit from a strong school system that equitably serves students across cultures and economic levels. We, the community, clearly aren’t there yet. We collectively have not solved one of the most important challenges of our current time.

    At the Alliance we believe we are stronger collectively than as individuals. Bringing together diverse perspectives and interests is at the heart of what we do, and can lead to deeper understanding within and across communities.

    We invite you in to see what we represent. Here’s the information about our investments and community engagement work on our web site and feel free to contact me if you have any questions at karen@alliance4ed.org.

    We are committed to being open about our role, so take me up on it. There are lots of conversations about what the Alliance does and doesn’t do… some accurate, some not. We don’t expect that we will be successful in getting everyone to agree on how we can better serve all students in Seattle, but we can certainly push for starting with a single place of priority: the student.

  10. For me, it's not that I believe the Alliance knows nothing about the District, but that they are "in bed" with the District. By doing some of the District's work on community engagement, there is no space for the Alliance to take a stand with the District. Instead, we see the Alliance being the fundraiser for the District, which is not community engagement.

    Authentic community engagement means really reaching out to people and then reporting those issues back to the District.

    My understanding, from your own staff, is that the Alliance will not take a strong stand against the District on any issue.

    As such, this blog needs to be used an announcement / bulletin board. I have no expectation that the Alliance cares about community input or that it intends to advocate on behalf of community members. And I believe that based on a one-on-one conversation with an Alliance employee.

  11. I also saw the Hartford report and was suprised by how closely it resembled the Seattle report.

    My question to the Alliance:

    Do you send money directly into the classroom or is the bulk of your funding directed to this kind of consulting work, annual reports etc?

  12. I work with words.... everything's revealed in the choice of the words being used...

    When The Alliance starts talking about "students" as "children", I shall start to think their hearts are in the right place...

  13. You're welcome for the early input. Are you going to answer any of the questions asked in that thread?

    What is the Alliance's decision-making authority? What is the nature and extent of the Alliance's influence with the District? If the Alliance doesn't have decision-making authority or extraordinary influence, then what is the benefit of having the Alliance listen to our concerns or understand and analyze our insight?

    Why haven't you participated on existing blogs?

    When has the Alliance ever told the District that they need to defer an action until they authentically engage the stakeholders?
    When has the Alliance ever taken the District to task for overriding stakeholder concerns?
    When has the Alliance ever opposed anything the District ever decided to do?

    While we're at it, what is the Alliance's position on the bloated budget for the District's headquarters? What is the Alliance's position on accountability and the fact that even after two and half years we have yet to see any from the superintendent? What is the Alliance's position on the Board's inability or unwillingness to demand accountability, to compel the superintendent to fulfill commitments to students and families, or to enforce Policy?

  14. just-a-mom:

    I just wanted to check in with you in regards to your comments about community engagement (sorry for the delay; it has been a hectic day around here).

    You wrote: “Authentic community engagement means really reaching out to people and then reporting those issues back to the District.”

    We bring people together to talk about the issues that affect students in public education. We partner with a Task Force of community members who are dedicated to addressing the achievement gap and other educational inequities of our communities.

    We are partnering with Neighborhood District coordinators, Seattle Council PTSA’s and neighborhood coalitions. We are engaging our parents, schools, community centers, faith based organizations, and minority business community. Most importantly, we are and will commit to engaging our youth about the issues that will undeniably affect their long term academic and social achievement. I believe we will increase our sense of belonging and ownership for the success of all students in Seattle Public Schools. I cannot guarantee you that we will create change with in the district immediately, but I will guarantee that the Alliance leadership will hear you. And we will actively commit to addressing these concerns with district leadership.

    We really want this blog to more than an “announcement /bulletin” board. In addition to commenting on the blog, if you have other concerns about the quality of our school district partnerships and community engagement efforts, I encourage you to contact me directly to express your thoughts 206.205.0329 or Solynn@alliance4ed.org. I would love to hear your suggestions.

  15. "We partner with a Task Force of community members who are dedicated to addressing the achievement gap and other educational inequities of our communities.

    We are partnering with Neighborhood District coordinators, Seattle Council PTSA’s and neighborhood coalitions. We are engaging our parents, schools, community centers, faith based organizations, and minority business community. Most importantly, we are and will commit to engaging our youth"

    Please can you be specific about who/what/where/when exactly this engagement is taking place... can you give the names of people with whom you are communicating... I would like to know because for many of us who are also linked into PTAs, community and neighbourhood groups, faith based organisations, minority groups and young people, we have not seen your presence...

    Please be specific...

  16. Great questions, Sahila! I can be specific about some of the organizations that I have engaged. Please keep in mind that I have only been with the Alliance for about six months and it will take some time to foster meaningful relationship. This is just a glimpse; not the comprehensive list.

    Parents and Families:
    African American Parent Action Team, Southwest District Council, Delridge District Council, Seattle, Council PTSA, Madison PTSA, Hamilton PTSA, Rainier Beach PTSA, Aki KurosePTSA, Cleveland PTSA, Washington Middle School PTSA, Special Education PTSA, Van Asselt, Readiness to Learn

    Community Leaders /Advocates/Initiatives:
    Community Leaders of Color, Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, Rainier Beach Community Empowerment Coalition, League of Education Voters, Coalition for Equal Rights Education

    Community Based Organizations:
    Urban Impact, 4 C Coalition, Atlantic Street Center, The Breakfast Group, Powerful Schools, Seattle Alliance of Black School Educators, Casey Family Programs, Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, City of Seattle Human Rights Commission, East African Community Services, El Centro de la Raza, Neighborhood House, Mockingbird Society, Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, Meredith Mathews East Madison YMCA , Refugee School Impact Grant, Community in Schools, NELA Center for Student Success, Stand for Children, Successful Schools in Action, Youth Ambassadors.

    Urban Enterprise Center (Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce)

    So when say, “we have not seen your presence...”can you please be more specific about we? We live in a diverse and vast community with many different needs. I would love to get your insight on who I am missing, so that I can be effective in future outreach.

    Also, our community engagement task force meets again on November 9th from 4:00pm – 5:30pm at the John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence. I encourage you to attend if you would like to observe our work and get a clear sense of our outreach plan.

  17. Karen, do you really believe that regressive reform is Best Practice in Education--not just for closing the achievement gap on narrow measures of academic achievement, but also for increasing the on-time high school graduation rate of minorities, increasing the percentage of minority high school graduates who go on to earn bacchelor's and advanced degrees from acredited institutions of higher education.

    If you have not done so already, please read the book "High stakes education: inequality, globalization, and urban school reform" By Pauline Lipman (2004).

    Then explain to us why Ms. Lipman's analysis is wrongheaded?

    Can you recommend a book that presents solid scholarship (doesn't ignore research that doesn't support the premise) showing that regressive reform is best practice in education?


  18. Thanks for your response Solynn...

    I'd be happier if you would answer my other questions...

    I'm wondering if you tell all of these communities about the Alliance's links with the reformist Broad Foundation which is focused on corporatising/privatising public education via the Trojan Horse institution of charter schools, and if you are open about your anti-teacher, union busting agenda?

    And your association with and encouragement of people last night to think about supporting Stand for Children is also a little disappointing, given that's another organisation that's all about teacher bashing and union-busting...

    Perhaps these communities think that's a good thing... perhaps they havent made the leap yet in realising what's really on offer through the philosophy/agenda of reformists to ensure that education serves only to churn out sufficiently-skilled submissive workers and an expanded consumer base - as per (convicted jail-bird and junk-bond king)Mike Milken's often expressed views... see his Milken Institute and his Knowledge Universe empire...and Milken is tied to Gates and Broad and all the others attempting to herd us down this path...

    You'll have to excuse my self-indulgence, but I like to play with words, and its too hard to resist the obvious punnery on offer with Mike Milken's name and his history of scamming people - "I'm Milken, I'm Milken, I'm Milken and I milked them all dry"!!!

  19. Hypothesis: The Alliance is giving lip service to community engagement.


    1. Saying it again: staff members at the Alliance have told me directly that they will not push the District in any way. In fact, the District basically hired you to do community engagement. That effectively makes you an extension of the District, and as such you cannot be anything but tied to their agenda.

    2. True community engagement can't be done by one person alone. How can you cover an entire District with one staff member? Quite simply, you end up skimming the surface.

    Met with community stakeholders: Check
    Met with community leaders: Check
    Met with city people: Check
    Written reports and told the District: Check

    But now you're "partners" with them? What does that mean? Having a meeting with someone doesn't mean you're engaged in the community or partners with them.

    3. Where is Solynn in the pressing issue of the day, student assignment? Has he been to the community engagement meetings? He wasn't at either of the two I attended, one of them at Aki Kurose, where you're "partners".

    4. The community task force you mention was created before you started the community engagement work.

    Again, lip service. Solynn, I believe you think the work you're doing is valuable. In two years time, the money (and the position) will be gone, and someone will say, "didn't the Alliance try that one thing that one time?".

  20. Just-a-mom:

    I appreciate your frank comments. You are absolutely right in expressing that “true community engagement cannot be done by one person alone”. This is the reason for our task force. True public engagement can only be achieved through collaboration and partnership. This group has representatives of Seattle Public Schools, and also PTSA, public safety, child welfare, the City of Seattle, King County, minority chambers of commerce, and ethnically diverse communities. Many of them have provided incredible service to this community for years. As a result, I am confidant that they understand the needs of their communities.

    And I want to be perfectly, transparent. We may not get this initiative right in the first year. However, our effort will be authentic, well strategized, and over time we commit to thorough evaluation to ensure we are making a meaningful impact.

    A sustainable community engagement effort takes time, and takes long term partnership. It is not enough to meet with community stakeholders and leaders. It is the ongoing relationships that come from these initial meetings that result in partnership and real change. We are developing a strategy that we believe will result in long-term relationships; working to support all students in our schools.

    The Alliance’s community engagement effort is purposefully separate and independent from Seattle Public Schools efforts. We attend some of their meetings, but our work is driven by the goals set forth in our own organization: to authentically engage the students, families and others who have not been well served by the school district and their community.

    I’m sure you could add value to this effort, so I encourage you to help us. Come to the community engagement task force meetings; the next one is on November 9th. Have a one-one meeting with me. Let’s talk “strategy”. The more that we as a community can work together for solutions, the more likely we can focus on what really matters: our kids. I am a parent of two children. My son is a 5th grader in this district. My two-year old daughter will eventually attend this district. I have spent many years serving young people and their families in this community; and always attempt to do this at a high standard.

    Let’s discuss the possibility of what we can create together, as a community striving for excellent education for all of our children.


  21. We could talk strategy WHEN you are honest about where you are coming from... and so far, as of 5.59pm on Thursday 15 October 2009, despite repeated requests for you to reveal the Alliance's allegiances, relationships and real agenda, you have failed to provide any transparency... not one single specific answer to any of the dozens of 'awkward' questions asked...

    Lots of side-stepping and sucking up to those people who have not been as blunt as myself and some others who have been challenging you on the Alliance's real raison d'etre...

    I thought about your invitation to attend your Task Force... then I checked the timing of your meeting... late afternoon on a weekday... when most parents (especially in this day of forced two-working adults, or single-parent households) are either still at work or on their way home to pick up their kids from after school care and to make dinner/do homework/bath and bedtime routines...

    Are you providing dinner and childcare to your Task Force attendees, so they dont have the extra cost of hiring a babysitter? I thought not... so that means a huge proportion of SPS stakeholders - mostly poor, working class, minorities (are you providing information in languages other than English and providing interpreters at the meeting?) cant involve themselves in your community engagement effort, even if they wanted to...

    Lots of lovely talk, but no intention to really engage the people who have the most to lose in this reformist softening up process...