Sunday, March 15, 2009

No questions. No debate. No opposing views.

Our community is comprised of essentially two groups of people. There is a group that believes the District is doing everything it can to make the right decisions and do the right thing. There is another group that believes the District constantly drifts away from their mission and consistently makes bad decisions that have short and long-term consequences. Regardless of the group that best captures your prevailing view, there is one fact that cannot be denied - the current composition of the Board is unhealthy and unproductive for legitimate debate and progress.

Our current board lacks the ability to engage in open and honest dialogue. No one is challenged when presenting information and no one's conclusions are questioned. The board has essentially been degraded to a point of ineffective governance. Whatever district management wants, they get. No questions. No debate. No opposing views.

Why wouldn't our community seek to change this condition by electing people to the Board that care about how public resources are being spent? Why wouldn't our community seek to elect individuals that offer a pattern of constructive engagement in every aspect of district management? Our current board seems to be meeting privately to make sure that everyone takes the same position on every issue. Once the board meeting starts, no one has anything to say about any topic other than "Aye". And we wonder why no one attends board meetings.

Board meetings are a real snoozefest where the outcome is determined by the agenda and the minutes offer no new information. All that is proposed is passed. Every word that is uttered goes unchallenged. Where is the constructive engagement? Where are the discussions? Sometimes it is helpful to initiate a counterpoint or even occasionally play the devil's advocate just so our community can take comfort in knowing that all points have been offered and all positions have been presented, discussed and subjected to meaningful deliberation. Our current board is spineless.

At present, district management governs the district. The Board is impotent. District management develops an agenda and then drives it down the throat of our community with the illusion of a real board's endorsement. The end result is that our unions get weaker, staff get trampled upon, and every district employee quickly discovers that they need to jump ship and swim to shore or join in the mutiny by swearing allegiance to the kingpin of management - and we all know who that is.

Personally, I am tired of watching what has happened to our district and to our schools. When we have an ineffective board, there is no way to control the manner in which management exerts their unique form of control. Without accountability to a board, management does what they want and pays little attention to a board that is incapable of asking a probing question.

In an ideal world, the Board (or at least one that follows board policies and understands the reason why they exist at all) would stand up to bullies of management and demand a greater degree of transparency. If this current board had any real, collective intelligence, they would look around and understand that the problems plaguing the District right now are a direct result of their inability to demand more from management.

Of course, it wouldn't hurt for this current board to follow their own policies. How Gary Noble thinks that he earned his seat in the last election is still a mystery. Sure, your friends may have changed the rules, but your "election" was to the height of an earlier standard. A standard that you did not meet. As for Pat Shields, it is still shocking how he could be so closely involved in the creation of "Powerful Partners" and then allow them to go so many years without paying a dollar toward the lease they signed. And will they keep changing their name every time a bill arrives in the mail? Of course, we shouldn't forget that Ann McMurray was the one that directed Marla Miller to start negotiating for a contaminated piece of property before they even had the results from an environmental assessment. Bruce Williams was part of that decision but then his policy violations and personal issues eventually bounced him from the Board.


Anonymous said...

You forgot the biggest group in our community - those that don't give a damn about anything the district does because it is far too depressing to pay attention.

Anonymous said...

The management at this School district is so poor. They can't even pay attention.

Rick Jorgensen said...

What we need are candidates that are willing to engage in an open dialog with the community. Directors McMurrary and Philips have failed in this capacity.

If anyone is interested in running, there is a workshop provided by the Country on April 29th. You can get more information on page 16 of

To see what Director District you live in, just call the school district - they will tell you.

Anonymous said...

The article is great; question is what do we do about it? In this hectic world we live in, parents are busy working, running their kids to sports events, piano, swimming, tennis lessons, then running home to fix dinner after putting in 8+ hours at work. Who has time to go to an Edmonds School District Board Meeting? Those "in-the know", have attended meetings and have not been "allowed" to speak or express their concerns. I see this as an up-hill battle; we have talked about the issue on the Blog for over a year now, and nothing has changed with the school board. I am thankful for Mark for bringing the issues to the Blog; he has spent endless hours working on Blog articles. How can we, as concerned citizens, come together as a group and bring the issues to the public with press and legislators, other public officals, to the table to confront the Superintendent (in name only), and the real leader of the District, Marla Miller. What can we do? Ideas are welcome on the Blog!

Anonymous said...

That was Chuck Penny that said that!

Anonymous said...

Has anyone noticed #6 on the updated budget reduction list? This update from Nick just came out today.

Anonymous said...

Line reference #6 does not have a BAC rank order. The est. savings is 160k but no ranking, does this mean it is there to look good?

Anonymous said...

Is $160,000 an Assist Supt. or is it 2 mid-managers or several low paying positions???

Anonymous said...

Take note of the proposed budget cuts. A recent note from the caring super said the cuts would need to happen but they would make cuts where it impacts the kids least. Really? Add up the admin. cuts and compare to the cuts that DIRECTLY affect kids such as adding kids to classrooms at highshool, where some classes last year had kids sitting with no desks because the room was full. Or how about cutting .5instructional support across the district? how are the IEP kids going to be serviced better by increasing the group size? Where's the warehouse, maintenence cuts? Do we need Hanson at 100 some thousand and two under him at 65 thousand each? And better yet, create inequity at 4 select schools who will have their library services cut in half. So one librarian now serving 400 kids gets to serve 800 kids at two buildings....BUT ONLY IN 4 schools whose numbers only differ by a few students. Yeah right we'll do what's best for the kids.....after we fill our own pockets and those closest to us first!!!! Just another example of "Great decision making".

Anonymous said...

Give the custodial supervision back to the High School Head Custodians where it belongs. The world knows that the custodial group was a much better place when that was the case. Dump the 200-250thousand dollars currently running the circus.

Anonymous said...

Through the eyes of Linda H

Yes I too think that that supervision of custodian should go back to the head custodians. That work should never have been given away. It was part of a bargaining contract. We need to stop giving away our work. Certain work is assigned to different bargaining groups so giving it away means bargaining that give-away and you never get it back. We must stand together as union brothers and sisters and keep our work.

Unions need to stand stronger than we ever have. Paying union dues is like paying for car or home insurance you hope you will not need it but you know it's there for you if you do need it.

Power to the employees! Stand strong together!

overtime abusers in 925 said...

We really do need to talk about the work that has been farmed out recently. Maybe Brandon Tippy would like to take a crack at that one? I doubt it. Maybe Brandon Tippy would like to addrees the waiting public in regard to chosen union local 925 brothers that are on a preferred overtime list. All you cheating, lying managers and union brothers need to get out of town or come face to face with the people you owe! I will get my day!