The Times recommends: Leslie Harris for Seattle School Board District 6
“Harris is a detail-oriented, analytical thinker who aims to create better transparency and communication between the school board and the children and families it serves. She will demand better accountability and educational outcomes from board policies.” The Seattle Times.
School Dist. Pos. 6: Leslie Harris, whose campaign has targeted both the district’s testing fetish and its appalling lack of transparency and contempt for the public – a contempt McLaren, sadly, seems to share. With Patu, Peters, and hopefully Geary and Harris, their dominance of the Seattle School Board has a real chance to end this fall. Leslie Harris.
“I’m excited that the Seattle Education Association worked big equity issues into their collective bargaining agreement — now, they shouldn’t have had to do that if we had a proactive board,” Harris said, saying parents should not have had to turn to the union to secure guaranteed recess time, for instance.
Then, as the counting for District 1 continued, they proceeded to nominate candidates for School Board Position 6. (West Seattle/South Park). Nominated were two of the three candidates who will appear on the ballot – Leslie Harris and incumbent Marty McLaren.
Councilmember McDermott spoke in favor of Harris, calling her a “tenacious advocate” who has been “watchdogging Seattle Public Schools.” He said he doesn’t always agree with her, but knows she’s “watching carefully, is passionate, and engaged,” and is ready to approach board election as a policy-maker rather than as a micro-manager.
Her seconder said the School Board election “has to be about change … unfortunately we have a school administration that thinks everything is just fine, thank you. Well, it’s not.” He said she will be “confrontational when necessary and appropriate.”
Harris promised to “work really hard for you” if elected.
Les Treall spoke for McLaren, who he said could not be here because she’s at the School Board meeting. He said he is McLaren’s next door neighbor and knows that she is a good listener, among other attributes. Jonathan Knapp, president of the Seattle Education Association, was allowed to speak in her favor though his membership had lapsed (he had to promise to re-up before the night was out). He said that McLaren is not flashy but is the one person on the school board who “will listen to educators,” noting that she was a teacher. He said she’s the one person on the board who can help get to consensus to fix problems, instead of “grandstanding.”
Chris Porter was the first person of the night to speak against any candidate. He said he had presented McLaren with information about a problem with the Genesee Hill school-construction project and said her reply was “we’ll do better next time”; he also said that he was concerned about her vote on the proposed downtown school project.
Cecilia Palao-Vargas spoke next, also in opposition to McLaren, who she said had told her she had listened to the loud voices but now is “listening to the quiet voices.” She said that all voices need to be heard, and said she’s supporting Harris.
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At that point, the results of the School Board endorsement vote were announced – Leslie Harris won overwhelmingly, 123 votes to 12 for Marty McLaren, 4 for “no endorsement.” Harris spoke again and said she was “speechless.”
CHARTER SCHOOLS RESOLUTIONS: Pro- and anti-charter schools resolutions were to be considered, but after the anti-charter-schools resolution passed with a strong majority, the pro-charter-schools resolution was withdrawn. The vote was foreshadowed when whoops and applause greeted the motion for the resolution opposing charter-school legislation that’s on the table in Olympia. Two members spoke in support, two against. Leslie Harris brought up the Supreme Court ruling that “we aren’t funding our schools adequately – and yet we’re talking about charter schools taking money away … without accountability?” Yes, public education needs improvement, but “taking the money away” isn’t the answer, contended Harris. She has a child at Pathfinder K-8 and said, “What if every school” could be like that one? Walter Sive, meantime, said he had changed his mind about charter schools, and talked of the 40-year slide in “public-school outcomes.” He said charter schools are “doing incredible things” for neighborhoods dominated by low-income families and families of color. “We need to provide every means we can to help them succeed.” Glen Bafia said, “We want to keep our schools public. Our union has just voted in favor of ‘creative schools’ to be implemented in Seattle Public Schools,” and hopes the School Board will follow suit. Chris Korsmo said she supports the charter-schools legislation because it’s “meant to help those kids who have been traditionally left behind.” The anti-charter-schools resolution passed 58-10, and then the pro-charter-schools resolution was withdrawn (its proposer made the offer, and no one disagreed).
Though it was not an agenda item, the just-announced co-locating of K-5 STEM and Middle College High School at Boren generated discussion, and a promise, at last night’s Seattle School Board meeting.
After half a dozen people voiced concern during the public-comment period, three board members did too, including West Seattle’s Marty McLaren, who promised a “public discussion” on the issue.
Ahead, more of the discussion, plus a budget item that might – or might not – relate to K-5 STEM’s eventual permanent home:
To recap, after we reported eight days ago that the south branch of Middle College HS – an alternative public-high-school program meant to help prepare its students for college, preferably by immersion in a college atmosphere – was definitely leaving South Seattle Community College, the district then announced Friday morning (WSB coverage here) that its new home would be portables on the Boren Building site in Delridge.
The announcement came in the form of a letter to Middle College HS families. The news was a surprise to families who had enrolled for the new K-5 STEM school opening on the same campus next fall, with no hint that another program would be there too. An explanatory letter was sent to them on Monday (as reported here). They had contacted school-board members over the weekend, including McLaren and the other first-year director, Sharon Peaslee, with some attending her community-conversation meeting. And some signed up on Monday for a chance at the pre-assigned public-comment spots last night.
First to address the situation was Kathleen Voss, parent of an incoming student at the new school, who said it was wrong for the students of both schools. For one, high school behavior, she said, has no place on an elementary campus; for two, the security measures promised by district officials in the letter to K-5 STEM families would be “demeaning” to the high-school students, she said. She also noted that the families’ request for a formal meeting with district officials had gone unanswered, and renewed that request.
West Seattleite Leslie Harris said that three students she knew closely had been Middle College students and that for some, it was a life-saving decision. She said that in spring 2011, a request was made for rent from SPS, and SSCC was simply told by the district, “We don’t have the money.” (This is consistent with what SSCC president Gary Oertli told us in a conversation on Monday.) She wondered if the school board had known about that, and called the move an eviction. “Our children are not throwaway kids – we ought not to disrespect them and their hard-working teachers that way.” She said she hopes that new Superintendent José Banda, who starts work in July, will do a “stand-down” on the issue as one of his first acts.