Monday, February 23, 2015

An Inconvenient Truth.....

I'd like to thank Carl Shipley for putting this timeline together. While we have many great teachers and administrators in the district, many of us believe we have the wrong leadership at the top. Secrecy coupled with a punitive attitude has caused many to become fearful of speaking up for the needs of the students. Add to that the historic DOUBLE FAILURE of the bond last year and we have a problem... 

The School Board is RIGHT NOW working through the Superintendent's performance evaluation. In June, they will announce that they are extending his contract another year or not extending it. Currently, I believe his contract goes through 2017 when they added a year last year. Last year he got a 5.5% raise AND was praised for getting 58% on the bond vote (which failed both times because 60% is required - how a loss became a success is beyond me). 

And, a bit of information that might be of interest is that the Superintendent wrote his OWN performance evaluation grid and then asked the board to use it. Who gets to write their own performance evaluation??? Gosh, let's write all my goals to my own strengths..... 

If you have concerns about what's been going on the last 6 years, please let the school board know your concerns ASAP by clicking on their names and sending each an email with your thoughts. 

In the meantime, click on the little grey book with the S (or HERE) to view the timeline of the last 6 years.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

HELP WANTED! Two Everett School Board Seats Up for Grabs in November!

It is concerning how many school board races take place across the country in which incumbents run unopposed.  Carol Andrews, who won re-election in 2012 made a comment during our interview with the local paper for their endorsement (which I won), that she would like to be running unopposed.  I nearly snorted when she said that - of course she would.  However, that's not how our system is supposed to work.  We should always have a choice.  

In November of this year, there are two board seats up for election.  Both are filled by district appointees who posses the right "rah-rah" district pedigree and support.  Despite an impressive list of applicants when both Jeff Russell and Jessica Olson resigned from the board within a couple of months of each other, the district went ahead and ignored those who hadn't come up through the sacred ranks of appointees to district committees and the Everett Public Schools Foundation.  They even ignored a former candidate who had just narrowly lost to Ted Wenta less than 6 months before.  He was booted out in the first round of cuts (so there, Everett voters!).

So, I am hanging out a HELP WANTED sign.  We need a few good people who have the best interests of our students and teachers at heart.  We need people who are not willing to be a rubber stamp for the Superintendent's desires - but, instead, are willing to ask hard and uncomfortable questions and demand answers to them.  We need people willing to evaluate the Superintendent based on a set of parameters not constructed by the Superintendent himself (no joke - he sets his own goals and parameters).  We need people willing to listen to the public - and not just the "public" the Superintendent tells you to listen to.  

So, how does this all work and what does it entail?  Here's the job description in a nutshell:
  • Able to attend at least two meetings a month on Tuesdays at 4:30
  • Able to stay late when needed
  • Able to visit schools during the day
  • Willing to attend a couple of school board conferences annually
  • Willing to meet with the public and listen more than you talk
  • Willing to serve a 6 year term (or work to roll it back to 4 years like 98% of the other districts in the state serve)

You need a flexible schedule, but, many companies are willing to let you have the time off to serve in a public capacity like this.  

Does the position pay?  

Very little.  You get a maximum of like $4,000 a year based on a per-meeting payment. So, if you're looking at this to increase your income, you'll be disappointed.  You will be a public servant in nearly the most literal sense of the word.  Mysteriously, though, the school board has an annual budget of over $600,000, but that's for the Superintendent to spend, not the school board.  

How do you state your intent to run?

The filing period opens up in early May and runs through about the middle of the month.  It's quite easy to fill out the form online.  They often have a meeting before that for prospective candidates to help you understand the process and the state laws for candidates better.  I HIGHLY recommend attending that meeting.  You can find info in the coming months at the County Candidate page:  You will select one seat or the other to file for.  Since all Everett School Board members are "at large", you don't need to worry about where you live in the district other than the fact that you MUST live within the boundaries of the Everett School District to run.  

What happens after that?

If more than two people file for one seat, there will be a primary in August to narrow it down to two candidates.  These are "non-partisan" seats - at least they are supposed to be.  But, expect the district's "pick"- whether that's the current incumbents or another candidate should the appointees decide not to run - to accept endorsements from several political groups on one side of the aisle.  Personally, I rejected such offers - good educational opportunities is not a partisan issue and the variety of members at the Everett School Board Project proves my point.  

Then what?

If you go through a primary and come out as a candidate for the General Election in November of this year, you can do as little or as much as you want. You will watch a LOT of money flow to the district's pick. Fundraising is difficult but you don't need a lot of money.  Basically, you'll have to fight "the machine". The teacher's union will most likely endorse the district's pick (they always do) and set up phone banks with their own money to call voters.  There's not much you can do about that.  But, a clear message, signs and a good website is really all you need.  

There may be a couple of candidate forums sponsored by the Everett PTSA who pretends to be neutral and, frankly, aside from one sponsored by The Port Gardner Neighborhood Association, I wish I hadn't bothered.  The far majority of attendees were not the general public, but district administrators there to support the district's picks.  It was a pointless distraction, in my opinion.  

If you want more information. don't hesitate to contact me at KimGuymon at gmail dot com.  If you are wanting to be part of the change in this district, I will be happy to talk to you about running.  This is a rare opportunity to secure TWO seats.  We won't have another opportunity for 2 seats to change hands for 4 more years.  The madness of the 6 year terms in this district is that it creates a very comfortable spot for the Superintendent if he gets friendly faces in those seats and it creates a situation where our school board really doesn't have to be accountable to the public very often. Serving just 2 terms on the school board covers nearly the entire length of an Everett Public Schools education and means having to face voters just twice in 12 years.  

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Everett School District Employees SPEAK UP!

I can't tell you how many teachers and other district staff have told me privately that they wholeheartedly support he work of the Everett School Board Project. My kids even come home from school telling me that teachers will take them aside and ask them if they are related to me and then say, "Tell your mom she's doing good work."

I'm sure there are plenty who would like to poke my eyes out or flunk my kids in their classes, too.  But, I'm encouraged by the private "thanks you's" I get. Many teachers get it - the administration of this school district doesn't focus enough on the classroom - they spend a lot of time focusing on things that make good resume' bullet points for themselves while creating, at times, a hostile workplace with low morale for those "in the trenches" at our schools.  

For instance, since our current Superintendent arrived about 6 years ago, the graduation rates in this district have sort of mysteriously and dramatically INCREASED.  Can't quite figure out why other than we are counting "Super Seniors" (5th year high school students) in the mix as well as some others who were dragged back to finish.  Essentially, if they graduate before they're 21, they're counted as a graduate.  The other troublesome bit of trickery is that we also lower the bar for students who really can't graduate under the regular standards.  A mom told me the other day that her child graduated ONLY because they scrapped the High School math requirement for him and lowered the bar to the 8th grade math test - the last one he passed.  Another mom told me that her special needs son was told he could graduate if he made a rap video about what he'd learned in high school.  *BOOM* two more for the statistics....

But, I digress.  

While I know that far more people are reading the Everett School Board Project Facebook page than have actually joined (we are approaching 400 members now), I know that a lot of them are district staff members who dare not join and/or participate.  The recent kerfluffle with Coach Bertrand at Cascade High School has been a bit of a cautionary tale for anyone thinking of "crossing" the Superintendent and making him look bad.  Suddenly, he took an interest in reorganizing the X Country program at Cascade (things must be going so well down there at the new $28 million administration building that he has time to run all the sports teams in the district now) and declared that he wants to see the Cascade X Country program go "in a new direction" and then fired the respected and inspirational coach who had held the position for over 30 years.

Insert public outcry here and here and here.... (with much more not linked here).

So, how DOES an ESD employee speak up without incurring the vindictive wrath of an administration unafraid of punitive punishment?  Well, a recent ESD graduate figured that out.

Behold a completely anonymous way to tell your story:

And, I am NOT kidding when I say this is anonymous.  There is no way to connect you back to any school or position unless you reveal too much about yourself.  Even if the district DEMANDED we reveal who said what, we can't because we simply won't know.  It's a chance to finally have your say about whatever you want to have your say about without fear of reprisal.  

Comments will be posted at Everett School District Anonymous Facebook page so that others will see they aren't alone in their frustrations.  It sort of is for Everett School District employees what the Everett School Board Project is for frustrated parents and taxpayers.  We get to speak publicly because there's no danger of losing our job.  You don't, sadly.  

The bottom line is that we think the Everett School Board needs to take district leadership in a new direction. We need to find a leader who is engaged and participating in our schools.  This year a new contract will be negotiated for teachers - and I know based on comments I got three years ago, that this secretive process is as frustrating for teachers as it is for taxpayers.  

Have your say about:
  • Learning Improvement Fridays
  • Workdays
  • Assignments
  • Leadership
  • Paperwork
  • Funding
  • Transparency
  • contract negotiations
  • Union leadership
  • Morale
  • Maintenance
  • Curriculum
  • ?

It's your turn to speak up and we hope you will!