Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Oregon Senate Education committee approves bill to make Oregon governor the state education superintendent

Portland Oregonian - Gov. John Kitzhaber moved one step closer this afternoon to becoming Oregon's top education chief. The Oregon Senate Education Committee, with little discussion, unanimously approved Senate Bill 552, which would make Oregon's governor the state superintendent of schools.

The bill would require the Governor to name a deputy superintendent, who would run the education department and oversee the public school system.

But if approved, Senate Bill 552 would not unseat current superintendent Susan Castillo, who was re-elected to a third term less than year ago. 

Elwha ecosystem classroom project gets state grant

Peninsula Daily News - A class of young scientists who will gather data while two dams on the Elwha River are removed has received a $10,000 state grant.

The state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction announced the winners of this year’s Qwest Teachers & Technology grants Tuesday. Nine received grants statewide.

Brenda Manson’s class at Stevens Middle School in the Port Angeles School District was the only North Olympic Peninsula class to receive money.

Her 31 eighth-grade students will take field trips to the Elwha River this fall, taking new probeware devices to collect ecosystem data as the 108-foot Elwha Dam and the 210-foot Glines Canyon Dam are torn down beginning in September.

The dams are coming down to restore salmon habitat in the largest project of its kind in the nation’s history.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

In Fight for Space, Educator Takes On Charter Chain

New York Times - Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Joel I. Klein, the former schools chancellor, are strong supporters of charter schools. Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Klein have repeatedly told principals at New York City’s traditional public schools that a new age of reform has dawned, that charter schools are the cutting edge and that if these principals want traditional public schools to survive, they must learn to compete in the educational marketplace.

And so, last summer, Julie Zuckerman, the principal of a highly regarded public elementary school — Central Park East 1 in East Harlem — applied to open a new elementary school on the other side of Manhattan, in Washington Heights. Her plan was to create something truly rare: an urban school not focused on standardized testing.


President focuses on needs of Latino students in town hall meeting

CNN - President Barack Obama took to the Spanish-language network airwaves Monday to discuss challenges in educating Hispanics students.

In a Univision-sponsored town hall meeting with Hispanic students and educators at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, the president said to out-educate and out-innovate the global competition, the Latino community must play a key role in the future.

"Our workforce is going to be more diverse; it is going to be, to a large percentage, Latino. And if our young people are not getting the kind of education they need, we won't succeed as a nation," Obama said.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Interim Seattle schools superintendent sets priorities

Seattle Times - Susan Enfield, interim superintendent of Seattle Public Schools, announced her top priorities for the rest of the school year Friday, along with a list of opportunities for parents, teachers, principals, students and others in the community to share their views and concerns with her.

Enfield, now in her fourth week in the school district's top job, said she will report what she's learned from all those groups by early May, and how their perspectives might be incorporated into the district's plans.

At the same time, Enfield said, she intends to continue the five-year plan crafted under her predecessor and former boss, Maria Goodloe-Johnson, "although with an eye to making adjustments in light of budget constraints."

"Before taking on significant new initiatives," she said, "we want to closely examine the current work under way and make sure we're doing it well."


Monday, March 21, 2011

Middle-school principal honored

Seattle Times - Jeff Clark, principal at Denny International Middle School in Seattle, is the winner of this year’s Thomas B. Foster Award for outstanding leadership.

The award, which includes a $50,000 grant, is given each year to a Seattle secondary-school principal by the Alliance for Education, a nonprofit that supports Seattle Public Schools.

Clark, in his sixth year at Denny Middle, led the effort to bring an international program to his school, which includes classes in Mandarin Chinese, Arabic and Spanish. Under his leadership, Denny’s test scores are going up.

Last year, Clark said, Denny improved more than any other middle school or K-8 in the district.

Clark said he plans to use the $50,000 prize to buy one book for every student to recognize their hard work, to purchase musical instruments, and to start an endowment fund that can be used to help pay field-trip or other fees.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Recent state action on teacher seniority and tenure

Teacher pay-tenure bill passed in Florida Senate,
TALLAHASSEE –– Split nearly along party lines, the Florida Senate voted to abolish teacher tenure and link pay raises to student advancement today.

Sen. Steve Wise, R-Jacksonville, a retired teacher who heads the Senate public education committee, said the schools need serious reform if Florida is to compete. He likened the provisions of his "pay for performance" bill to management of a baseball team, with .205 hitters making less than .300 batters.

NYC Weighs Seniority vs. Merit as Layoffs Loom, Education Week
The jobs of up to 4,600 teachers—about 6 percent of the city’s teaching force—as well as others in districts across the state, hang on the answers.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has said those cuts are necessary to plug a spending gap exacerbated by a proposed reduction of $1.4 billion in state aid to the city in the governor’s budget proposal for the 2012 fiscal year. And the mayor has urged the state legislature to allow the city to let go of teachers with “unsatisfactory” evaluation ratings before other teachers. State law currently requires layoffs by reverse seniority.

“What we’re looking for is an opportunity to lay off teachers based on merit now,” said Jessica Scaperotti, a spokeswoman for the mayor.

State Senate Passes Bill to End Last in, First Out for Teachers, WNYC News
In a win for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Republican-led state senate narrowly approved a bill that would end seniority protections for teachers in New York City. But its fate in the Assembly is far less certain.

The bill would do away with the so-called "last in, first out" (LIFO) rule that requires new teachers to be the first to go during layoffs regardless of merit. Seniority could no longer be the sole criteria. Instead, the city could eliminate teachers with unsatisfactory ratings and other performance issues. Mayor Bloomberg plans to layoff more than 4,600 teachers to close a budget gap. Another 1,500 positions would be lost through attrition.

Pressure Mounts To Ax Teacher Seniority Rules, NPR
Last week, the New York state Senate passed a bill that would end the use of seniority as the sole factor for deciding which teachers get laid off. The bill faces long odds in the state Assembly. But the vote is a sign of growing frustration with what's known as "last in, first out" — a rule that says the last teachers hired get dismissed first when there is a layoff.

Like local leaders around the country, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he will soon have to lay off teachers because of shrinking state aid. He says he cannot have his hands tied by a system that judges teachers solely on their years of experience.
"We need a merit-based system for determining layoffs this spring," Bloomberg says. "And anything short of that is just not a solution to the problem we face."

States tangle with teacher tenure,
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been especially outspoken on the issue, leading a handful of states that are seeking to eliminate teacher tenure completely.

“Teaching can no longer be the only profession where you have no rewards for excellence, and no consequences for failure,” Gov. Christie told crowds earlier this year. “Let New Jersey lead the way. The time to eliminate teacher tenure is now.”

Appellate court allows teacher layoffs to go forward under new rules, Los Angeles Times
Though the settlement shields some schools -- and reduces layoffs at others -- it also means that some campuses with veteran staffs could have layoffs for the first time, or more layoffs than under the old rules. And it means that teachers with more seniority could potentially lose jobs before teachers at other campuses with less seniority.

“Kids win,” said Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, which sued the district along with Morrison & Foerster and the Public Counsel Law Center. With the backing of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, attorneys sued on behalf of students at three middle schools that were especially decimated by layoffs during a previous round of budget cuts.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Opinion on the superintendent role: is the job description at fault?

It's time to change Seattle schools superintendent's job, Seattle Times
Everyone knows the pattern, particularly in urban districts. Superintendents' average tenure is about 3 ½ years, and by that measure Goodloe-Johnson's departure is right on schedule.

To break that pattern we will have to change more than the person, we'll need to change the job.

Expecting too much of a superintendent is part of the problem, Crosscut
Problems arise […] when people start talking as though this were an opportunity for change, a chance to reverse all or some of the educational policies and programs put in place by departing Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson.

What’s wrong with that? Well, even though there are some things lots of us would like to change, it buys into the belief (and typical behavior) of school boards that the next superintendent will be a “white knight” or “superman” whose policies will fix everything, close the achievement gap, increase high school graduation — everything!

Supply vs. Demand: Rock Star Superintendents, Huffington Post
They command six-figure salaries, often with annual bonuses and car allowances. (Generous health care and pension plans are a given.) Sometimes their employers also foot the bill for their life insurance policies.

There are very few of them, for their skill set is rare. They must be savvy politicians and managers. They must be obsessed with constant improvement.

They'll be under the bright lights of the media, so the camera shy need not apply.

No, we're not talking rock stars, pro athletes or even pro coaches.

We're talking school superintendents. Especially those of large urban districts that have struggled from time immemorial. The original rock star superintendent was Rudy Crew, who asked for -- and got -- a contract from the Miami Dade school system in 2004 that paid him upwards of $500,000 a year. He defended his salary by saying, "I think people are really hungry for leadership. We shouldn't underestimate the value of this kind of leadership. This is public servancy with highly developed skills."

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

News & Opinion Roundup: New Leadership at Seattle Public Schools

Seattle School Board ousts Goodloe-Johnson, names Enfield interim superintendent, Seattle Times
The Seattle School Board unanimously voted to dismiss Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson on Wednesday night, amid a financial scandal that left the board scrambling to repair the damage.

The board appointed Susan Enfield, the district's chief academic officer, as interim superintendent. Betty Patu was the only "no" vote, saying she wanted a candidate that wasn't tainted by being part of Goodloe-Johnson's staff.

Goodloe-Johnson ousted as Seattle schools chief, Seattle PI
Also shown the door Wednesday was Don Kennedy, the district's Chief Financial and Operations Officer. Like Goodloe-Johnson, Kennedy, who came from South Carolina, was fired without cause, meaning he must be paid a severance of $87,000 -- half of his annual salary -- under the terms of his contract.

School board members described the decision as a difficult one, yet necessary to restore the public and the board's trust in the school system and to change a management culture that bred an "atmosphere of fear and intimidation." Board members said it was important to act decisively and to refocus on the mission of serving children.

Seattle Public Schools name interim financial officer, Seattle Times 
Robert Boesche, a school-finance consultant and former finance chief in the Northshore School District, will be the interim chief financial officer in Seattle Public Schools.

Seattle's ousted schools superintendent apologizes for financial scandalSeattle Times 
Maria Goodloe-Johnson has issued a public statement about the financial scandal that cost her her job as superintendent of Seattle Public Schools, saying she had no part in the misuse of taxpayer dollars but that the wrongdoing was on her watch "and for that, I am deeply sorry."

Rewind | Seattle Times Editorial Board interviews school officialsSeattle Times 
What comes next for a school district rocked by financial scandal? The Seattle Times Editorial Board met for an interview with Interim Superintendent Susan Enfield and Seattle School Board President Steve Sundquist. Watch the interview below.

Interim superintendent described as 'driven’, Seattle PI 
"I know the community's faith has been shaken by recent events," she said. "But its commitment to its students remains strong. I share and I will honor that commitment by serving this community, especially its students, to the very best of my ability."

She said her immediate priority is to restore trust in Seattle Public School and to address questions about fiscal stewardship. She pledged to keep an "open-door" policy and to be out in the community listening to questions and concerns. She pledged to provide strong leadership and to support teachers and principals.

Interim Seattle schools chief says she's here 'as long as I'm needed'Seattle Times 
Susan Enfield's contract as interim superintendent of Seattle Public Schools runs through June 2012, but it was clear from her first day on the job that she hopes to stay longer.

"I want to do the very, very best job I can for as long as I'm needed," she said, when asked if she wants the job permanently. "I'm committed to this community for as long as I can be there and help them."

New Seattle Schools Superintendent Susan Enfield must restore trust and order, Seattle Times 
IF Susan Enfield would like her job as interim superintendent of Seattle Public Schools to become permanent, the route is straightforward: restore public confidence and trust.

No major changes or new efforts come close to the need to end the chaos and distrust permeating the district.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Statement of the Alliance Board of Directors on the appointment of Dr. Susan Enfield as interim superintendent of Seattle Public Schools

Seattle – March 3, 2011 – The Board of Directors of the Alliance for Education has released the following statement concerning the appointment of Dr. Susan Enfield as Interim Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools.

We commend the Seattle School Boards’ choice of Dr. Susan Enfield to serve as Interim Superintendent. As Chief Academic Officer since 2009, Dr. Enfield has demonstrated a resolute commitment to the success of all students, high intellect, decisiveness and charisma. We have confidence she will lead the district ably.

Outgoing Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson deserves credit for many significant accomplishments during her four-year tenure: student gains in reading, math and graduation; a landmark teachers’ contract that links student achievement to teacher effectiveness for the first time; a return to neighborhood schools; and a robust new performance management system that holds schools and administrators accountable. We appreciate her service to Seattle Public Schools and her willingness to take on tough challenges.

Superintendent Enfield faces a significant task. Simultaneously she will need to rebuild trust, listen and lead. Provided her administration commits to a course of action that dramatically improves student outcomes and restores confidence in the District as a steward of public funds, we stand ready to partner with her in tackling the complex challenges ahead.

The School Board has faced several difficult decisions in recent weeks, all in the context of a painful budget cycle. Under the leadership of President Steve Sundquist, the board has acted with thoughtfulness, care and deliberation.

On Monday, 47,000 students returned to their classrooms from mid-winter break. Let us always remember that our obligation is to them. This is a difficult moment for Seattle Public Schools, but if handled well, the district and the city will be better for it. We remain more committed than ever to our mission to ensure every child in Seattle Public Schools is prepared for success in college, career and life.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The latest on the Seattle Public Schools financial scandal

Board likely to oust Seattle schools superintendent, Seattle Times
After 3 ½ years as Seattle Public Schools superintendent, Maria Goodloe-Johnson's tenure appears to be over.

The Seattle School Board clearly signaled Tuesday night that it intends to dismiss Goodloe-Johnson and immediately appoint Chief Academic Officer Susan Enfield as interim superintendent.

The board will vote Wednesday night on both actions, one week after two investigative reports revealed the misuse of public money and mismanagement at the top.

The seven-member board also is poised to oust Chief Financial and Operations Officer Don Kennedy.

Likely interim superintendent is experienced educator, Seattle Times
The woman likely to become interim superintendent of Seattle Public Schools is an experienced administrator who once taught high-school English and has degrees from Stanford University, Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley.

Susan Enfield, 42, joined Seattle Public Schools in 2009. She was hired by schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson, who is likely to be ousted by the School Board Wednesday night over a financial scandal.

Silas Potter: 'I've been thrown under the bus' in Seattle schools scandal, Seattle PI
"It's a lot bigger than Silas Potter," he said. "They're trying to minimize their exposure of what they've done and maximize what Silas has done."

Potter denied being the mastermind behind the misappropriation of district funds, which has triggered a criminal investigation, state audit and possible firing of the school superintendent, Maria Goodloe-Johnson.

Seattle's School Board forced to depend on superintendent's honesty, Seattle Times
School Board members work for per diem only — a max of $4,800 a year. The seven-member board has just two helpers, who mostly do scheduling and office support.

"The way it's set up, the board is almost totally dependent on the superintendent's staff to give them honest information," says Dick Lilly, who was on Seattle's board from 2001 to 2005. "Because of that, what's in that e-mail, alone, is cause for firing."

The mixed record of Seattle school Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson, Seattle Times
We like some of the results of her tenure, including more high school college-prep classes, more college-bound students and the transparency offered by new districtwide report cards.

But the good cannot outweigh the bad. In all honesty, the scales have been tipping in the wrong direction for some time.

A fear of retaliation and an official policy that keeps Seattle Public Schools employees from directly raising concerns with the school board are at least partly to blame for a scandal involving $1.8 million in misused public funds, auditors and investigators say.

In January, the city yanked a $500,000-a-year contract for the Urban League's youth-violence prevention work and awarded it to other organizations. The city criticized the Urban League for submitting vague, inaccurate invoices — accusations similar to those raised by auditors in the schools scandal.

The city also cut long-standing financial support of the Urban League's center to help minority small-business owners to get construction contracts, deciding to seek other bidders for the first time in years.

Urban League on school scandal: We 'did nothing wrong', Seattle PI
Responding to an audit report that the organization took $595,000 in questionable payments from Seattle Public Schools, leaders of the Urban League on Wednesday said the organization did nothing improper.

Interim CEO Tony Benjamin said the money in question was spent as specified by the district contract.

"The Urban League did nothing wrong," Benjamin at a news conference at the League's Seattle office. "The Auditor's report challenged us to get better. This is a real challenge and it's not just a challenge for the Urban League, but for all of us."

Just bringing in a new superintendent won't really solve things. A much deeper approach is needed, and I hope you will heed the Rahm Emanuel axiom that "you never want to let a serious crisis go to waste." You will be tempted, particularly with an election looming, to go for a quick fix, avoiding a damaging flood of further revelations and firings. That would be to waste the crisis.

Unlike several other local governments, King County declined to participate in a business development program run by the Seattle Public Schools that is now the subject of a criminal investigation.

"We couldn't understand what value the county would receive, and as a result, King County made no financial contribution to this program," Ray Moser, the county's Economic Policy Advisor & Business Relations Manager, said in an e-mail.