Friday, November 30, 2007

Paying hundreds of dollars for a $15 check.

[Sarah Mack]
Dear Mr. Zandberg:
I've had the pleasure of reading your recent blog entries pertaining to the use of the Beverly Elementary School Parking lot for your "employer's" holiday party overflow parking. To avoid any confusion in the future, please direct any facility use requests you may have, for yourself or any of your employers, with the exception of [your primary public sector employer], through our office. We will be happy to then forward any such requests to the appropriate person at the School District.

[Mark Zandberg]
So, you are retracting Duncan's earlier direction? It is a good thing I spoke up and asked [deleted] the meaningful question, otherwise one of my employers would have gotten a free ride.

So, if I seek to rent a parking lot in the District, I write an email to a law firm and inquire as to availability, they then forward the inquiry to the District, with their bill attached. The District receives the inquiry, checks the status of the lot and reports back to a law firm so I can eventually discover if the lot is available. If the lot I select is not available, the process repeats until a vacancy is identified.

Once a lot has been identified, I submit a check for $15 ($5.00/day and a $10 scheduling fee) and a certificate of insurance with endorsement to the law firm and they forward it to the District, with their bill attached.

If changes to the booking are needed, because in all fairness it has happened many times in the last seven years, I would report my change to the law firm and they would return to step one to broker the discovery of an available time slot. Fortunately, the certificate and check would already be with the District.

What happens if my check bounces? The District could potentially incur hours and hours of legal bills for a $15 revenue "drip" (as opposed to a stream). Where is the logic in that?

Critical Question: Where is Ross Perot when you need him? I hear a giant sucking sound and it needs a pie chart. Why not start up a business and have all of the public requests for parking processed through Of course, the gap between each step above will be the mandatory 30 days.

We're all about constructive criticism here.

A wise rabbit once said, "If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all." Well, I think that rabbit is dead. But in keeping to the spirit of constructive engagement, we cordially invite any offended party to contact our complaints department and formally request that any offensive entries be modified. We wouldn't want to upset or unnecessarily target anyone, purely because they happened to work for a terribly corrupt and misguided organization.

You may send your complaints to and she will promptly schedule your concern(s) for review at our next blog management meeting.

In the meantime, if you have to comment about an entry, please use the most delicate terminology you can muster. We are a force for change and do not want to stoop to the tactics of lesser entities.

Thank you.

Mark Zandberg
Chief Executive of Blog Content Development

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Drumming up business for the blog.

Let's think about things for a moment. Just a moment. I wouldn't want to create a lot of stress and cause anyone to miss a day of work for the District.

One of my current employers expressed a need for parking to accommodate a year-end party at our broker's residence on December 1st. Of course, I recommended Beverly Elementary as a place where guests could park and a limousine could ferry them to and from the party. I knew there would be a charge and wanted to test my replacement. Our office staff immediately contacted the school and they were promptly told that the school is a public facility and that our office was welcome to use it without charge. A notification was typed up and sent to all of our staff at our three offices. Everyone knew to park at Beverly Elementary.

Then a certain blog entry was posted that caused a rather simple set of minds to quickly revoke the access that was already granted. But it wasn't done with just a simple "no". Someone felt the need to report that public schools are not public property and then spewed forth a number of other inaccuracies in a very rude manner. Very humorous and clearly a severely uninformed public servant with no concept of public service.

Of course, an announcement had to be sent out to our more than 200 agents rescinding the information about Beverly Elementary. Think of what we now had the opportunity to tell everyone. Think of all that bad publicity for our local school district. Isn't it a shame?

Good thing we had already lined up more reliable parking. It's a spot we've been using for the last five years without charge.

Disclaimer: I am sure Ms. Hall is very qualified in a vast spectrum of things, just clearly out of her element in the public sector. But thank you for being so predictable.

Planning & Property Management 101

Why would anyone knowingly seek to have a lot of unnecessary calls redirected to everyone in Facilities? If you know there is a problem, be a part of the solution. Inform the people that are impacted and reduce telephone traffic. How many times does anyone need to hear that the water looks or tastes funny?

The incorrect way to address a facilities issue:

Our Maintenance Department has been receiving many, many calls regarding the water problems. They have requested that calls regarding the water be directed to myself as the Planning and Property Management Specialist. (If I am out of the office, you may direct your calls to Bob Hansen, Lisa Liebert, or Janice Heighway. This will free Maintenance to handle all of their other calls much more efficiently.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

The correct way to address a facilities issue:

It has recently been brought to our attention that the water color and/or quality at the ESC has changed. Maintenance has been advised and we are aggressively working on the matter and expect to have a solution in place shortly.

Thank you for your patience.

Class dismissed.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Edmonds School District HR Investigation Manual

Step One:
Call employee to a meeting late on a Friday and inform them they are being investigated. Give no specifics, especially if you have them. Use euphemistic terms such as “inappropriate conduct,” or “misuse of District property.”

This action results in worry-overload for the employees over the next 48-hours and in the best case will induce paranoia. Employee will wonder about that pen they have in their car and about their bathroom habits.

Step Two:
Treat employee like a pariah. Engage in secret meetings. Interview all colleagues and ensure they engage in shunning activities to test their loyalty to the District. Identify any dissenters for future targeting. This promotes further isolation of employee and can aid in triggering depression.

Step Three:
Bring employee back into meeting and verbally assault them with outrageous accusations. Make mountains out of molehills and humiliate and denigrate them as much as possible. Do not rely on any concrete evidence; just keep hammering away at conjecture, innuendo, and especially at “he said, she said, they said we said.” Remember the more insulting and improbable the accusation, the better. This will aid to break any confidence or backbone the employee may have to defend them self.

Remember the investigation is not an attempt to get at the truth, resolve any issues, or foster an environment for performance improvement. The game is to punish, punish, punish!

Step Four:
Cancel, postpone, reschedule and delay meetings as often as time allows. This will help wear down the employee as they are strung along. Stress induced migraines will cause decreased productivity and absenteeism, furthering your case against them!

Step Five:
Have employee enter into a Performance Improvement Plan with expectations meant to badger and demean. Maybe they’ll tire and quit.

If not, label employee as permanently “stained” and pass over for promotion or professional growth no matter if there is any improvement in performance.

Step Six:
Ignore all the above steps if employee has a relative in HR. If a Whistle Blower, refer to Constructive Termination Manual.

Editor's Note: My gratitude to the mystery contributor that sent along HR's playbook.

Why miss your weekly dose of intelligent humor?

I happened upon a rather amusing email recently. It was sent at 2:19 PM on Friday, March 24, 2006 and reads as follows:

Hi, Steve and Mark,

(I just composed a magnificent message that I'm not sure made it to you, so will try again -- if this duplicates, I apologize!!)

I am going to remove myself from the weekly meeting schedule with Mark, and assume that you two will meet without me but let me know if there are issues we need to discuss. I will miss my weekly dose of intelligent humor, Mark, and want you to know I do appreciate all the work you are juggling for us.

Please don't hesitate to let me know if there are topics we need to discuss, and don't feel as though a list needs to develop before we touch bases on any one topic.

Thanks so much, and have a wonderful weekend!


There is no longer a need to wait a whole week for an intelligent dose of humor. You can read the blog every day and get hopped up on the giggles in a matter of moments.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The high price of dumbing down.

[Mark Zandberg]
Just to be absolutely clear, communication with my former employer on behalf of my current employer does not need to pass through your office, correct?

[Duncan Fobes]
You are correct - communications in the course of your duties with your new employer do not go through me

Thanks - duncan

[Mark Zandberg]
I am writing to inquire as to the status of Beverly Elementary's parking lot on December 1, 2007. We would like to rent it for the day. Are the following conditions still correct?

1. Certificate of Insurance with an endorsement,
2. $5 a day with a $10 scheduling fee.

Please advise.
Thank you.

[Stephanie Hall]
Mr. Zandberg,

Per board procedure 9200 R-1, schools schedule their facilities. Please contact Beverly Elementary at (425) 431-7732 as to the availability of their parking lot on December 1st. In addition, in order to know what fees apply, you will need to identify the group requesting the use of the facility, as well as the amount of time being requested. The following link will take you directly to the District’s website:

Please let me know if you have additional questions. I can be reached at (425) 431-7332.

Thank you,

Stephanie Hall

[Mark Zandberg]
Your website is beautiful and informative. It also says that parking is handled through Property Management. Is this a change in District practices? The school is reporting that there are no charges for parking because they are a public facility. Would this also apply to the building then?

Just curious.

Please advise.

Stephanie Hall apparently has no idea who I am
. First, there are no parking rates on the website she provided. Secondly, the category of user does not apply to parking lots. Thirdly, she tells me that I need to provide the "amount of time" I require and parking lots are rented per day. Fourth, she tells me to contact the school and they tell me there isn't a charge. Finally, I made the web page to which she referred me. I know what it says and I know what it doesn't say. It doesn't say that parking is free.

This is part of the high price being paid for selecting an unqualified candidate. I am sure Ms. Hall is qualified to do something, but certainly not the job she is currently being paid public funds to perform.

If a person can be so bewildered by renting out parking lots, how comprehensive an evaluation is she conducting in response to development in the District? Is she able to visit each and every development and evaluate the future needs of students walking to school or a bus stop? If these requests are stacking up, this translates to a direct cost to developers for project delays. Perhaps I should ask for the last twenty evaluations? Is there even one?

The inability to manipulate development data in FileMaker Pro will also cost the District dearly. Without the skills to search past Requests for Review, the District's ability to evaluate the pace and location of new construction is stunted considerably. I am imagining a reversion to the pre-historic days of typing everything out by hand. It is time consuming and utterly useless when evaluating growth in the District. But then, since the Board doesn't understand an enrollment forecast, why bother developing one?

Of greatest concern... What are the chances Ms. Hall would detect a property scam like paying $6 million for contaminated property? I'd say slim to none. If the scam was detected, what are the chances she would report it to the auditor and cause a problem for her friend, Marla? Lesser still.

Fun link:

Monday, November 26, 2007

When HR investigates... Your days are numbered.

I was the subject of an HR investigation at the District some years ago. It involved out-of-state plates, a disability permit, an irate visitor to the ESC and an employee poised to cash-in with a legal case. I will type it up tomorrow after work. Prepare to laugh at the manner in which the investigation unfolded.

11/27 Sorry, still looking through files. For some reason, I have been accumulating them recently.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

And yet, he never applied for the job he wanted.

Shortly after my initial Letter to the Editor of the Edmonds Beacon, a resident from the City of Edmonds called my work number and asked me a few questions, like "Are you the Mark Zandberg that wrote the Letter to the Editor in the Edmonds Beacon?" and "Do you stand behind what you wrote in the paper?"

Of course, I told the caller that I was the author of the letter and that I don't stand behind what I wrote - I stand in front of it. I don't hide behind my opinions. I also informed him that it was my personal view and that he was interrupting by calling me at work.

He then recited my home address and told me that he knew where I lived. Of course, by this stage in the call, I had already Googled his telephone number from the Caller ID to confirm my suspicions. The caller was Roger Hertrich.

Before the call ended, Roger wanted to make sure that I heard him say that he was "going to have my job". In retrospect, I am a little bewildered. There were only two applicants for Planning and Property Management Specialist and Roger's name was not among them. If he wanted my job, he really should have applied for it. With the connections he obviously has with District Management, he would have been a shoo-in.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

City of Edmonds, Economic Development Director

Mayor Gary Haakenson
City of Edmonds

Dear Gary,

I am writing to endorse Marla Miller for the position of Economic Development Director for the City of Edmonds. In the short time that I have known Marla (we met more than 18 months after I started working for the Edmonds School District), I have yet to encounter a greater advocate for economic development in the City of Edmonds. Her priorities while working for the District were clearly aligned with city governments, particularly the City of Edmonds. Marla never missed an opportunity to funnel District resources toward her favorite city and her many accomplishments will be uncovered shortly.

You may recall the recent transaction involving the Old Woodway Elementary property. Marla managed to offer up the entire 11 acre site to a short list of her favorite developers - while few among them could demolish a school full of hazardous elements. Once the top offer was identified, she removed the building from the equation and sold the vacant portion without putting the property on the market. You see, more developers would have been interested in vacant land and would have driven the price way up. She then allowed the City of Edmonds to pay a similar price for the half with the building and allegedly discounted the price of the City's share by the cost of demolition.

Clearly, she has already proven her talent at helping the City of Edmonds. Just imagine how effective she would be if she was working directly for the City. I strongly support her candidacy and appeal to your senses to immediately hire her. The District would save a tremendous amount of money and the City would greatly profit with her on staff. For the sake of our region's children and their educational needs, please contact her for an interview.


Mark Zandberg
Resident, City of Edmonds

Disclaimer: This letter of reference was not requested by Marla Miller. My endorsement is offered in an attempt to encourage Marla to pursue other professional opportunities and leave the Edmonds School District as soon as possible. The position of Economic Development Director is currently being occupied by Stephan Clifton, on an interim basis, until a qualified individual can be found.

Inquiring minds would like to know.


I hope this email finds you happy, healthy and well-rested.

Please review Edmonds School Board Policy 3300 R-1 and help me understand how the purchase/lease of pianos from the Seattle Piano Gallery complied with this policy.

Please also review RCW 28A.335.190 and help me understand how the same transaction complied with state law.

Also, we seek to distribute information about the blog via a brochure and/or web-based announcement through the Edmonds School District per Board Policy 9060 and will be submitting a draft for the superintendent's review. Would this announcement be sent through your office or directly to the superintendent?

Hope your Thanksgiving was a pleasant one.

Mark Zandberg

Friday, November 23, 2007

Legal rendering of English language needed...again.

A. Purchase of Furniture, Equipment or Supplies, except Books
When the estimated cost of furniture, equipment or supplies, except books, is from forty thousand dollars ($40,000) up to seventy five thousand dollars ($75,000), quotations from at least three different sources shall be obtained in writing or by telephone, and recorded for public perusal.

When the estimated cost is in excess of seventy five thousand dollars ($75,000), a formal public bid procedure shall be followed. Complete plans and specifications shall be prepared and notice by publication given in at least one newspaper of general circulation within the district, once each week for two consecutive weeks, of the intention to receive bids and that specifications and other information may be examined at the office of the board or any other officially designated location. The bids shall be in writing and shall be opened and read in public on the date and in the place named in the notice and after being opened shall be filed for public inspection. Items that are included in a bid must be purchased from the vendor awarded the bid, unless the district can document that the item was not available from the bid vendor at the time of purchase.

Fun Factoid: Board Policy 3300 R-1 appears to be consistent with RCWs. Dare I ask the District's legal team for their interpretation?

Wishing it to be true does not make it so.

Numbers down for 10 districts
Eric Stevick Herald Writer

An enrollment drop in 10 of 14 Snohomish County districts has school leaders wondering where the students have gone.

Enrollment declined across the county by more than 300 students, slipping to 107,445, according to head counts taken by the districts last month. What's most perplexing is the dip is occurring while hundreds of new homes across the county are being built and moved into.

"We are all sort of in the same arena of scratching our heads," said Arlene Hulten, a Lake Stevens School District spokeswoman.

The districts expect enrollment will rebound as families with school-age children move into the new homes. For now, it may be that some families are passing up Snohomish County on their way to cheaper housing in surrounding areas. "The general trend is that there is small growth in Whatcom and parts of Skagit counties and there is a reduction in San Juan and Snohomish counties," said Jerry Jenkins, director of the Northwest Educational Service District. "I would suppose that the likely cause would be housing costs and that young people with families can stretch their dollars further."

Other factors are also suspected, including a slower birth rate in the county five years ago. Ten of 14 districts had a smaller kindergarten classes than a year ago. Statistics kept by the U.S. Census Bureau showed a drop of more than 1,500 school-aged children between the ages of 5 and 9 in Snohomish County between the years 2000 and 2006.

More students also are choosing online schools instead of the traditional classroom. The Edmonds School District surveyed families earlier this year and found more than 40 students who said they were planning to enroll in an online school this fall. Edmonds is now considering starting its own online program.

"That has happened a little bit," said Nathan Olson, a spokesman for the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. "In terms of a percentage, it's probably not much, but it is happening." The state does not have statewide enrollment numbers for fall. Projecting enrollment accurately is key for each district as more than 70 percent of its budget is based on the number of students in classrooms. Districts receive more than $5,000 from the state for each full-time student. Housing, birth rates, population trends and job losses all figure into projections.

In most districts, enrollment was flat with slight losses. The Edmonds School District experienced the most dramatic loss, dipping from 20,725 to 20,352. The loss of students can be costly. Edmonds estimates it lost about $1 million in state revenues because of declining enrollment. It won't fill some vacant positions but won't have to make layoffs either, according to a district memo.

Fun Factoid: The 2004-2009 Capital Facilities Plan predicted the dramatic decrease in enrollment, but alas, the conclusions were tossed aside by District management because their heads were buried in the sand.

Rules of Procurement no further than one's nose.

The district has developed a variety of ways for you to make purchases. Regardless of the method used, all purchases must meet certain requirements.

State Purchasing Law (Summarized)
When the total purchases of like items exceed $50,000 per fiscal year districtwide, the item must be bid. Items that are included in a bid must be purchased from the vendor awarded the bid, unless the district can document that the item was not available from the bid vendor at the time of purchase.
Three Quotes: When the total purchases of like items exceed $15,000 per fiscal year districtwide, the purchaser or with the help of the buyer must document that price quotes were obtained from three different vendors before the purchase was made.
Public Works Project: When the total cost of a building, improvement, repair, or other public works project exceeds $15,000 the work shall be awarded on a competitive bid process. If a small works roster (legally defined list of approved contractors) is maintained, projects up to $50,000 may be awarded to a contractor on the roster without a competitive bid on the basis of competitive verbal or written quotes.
Sole Source: Only the Board of Directors can declare a vendor to be the "sole source" of an item or service regardless of cost. However, this option requires extensive documentation that the vendor is in fact the only supplier of the item or service, and is not easily nor frequently applied.
To assist you in knowing what items have been bid and must be purchased from a particular vendor, the Purchasing Department has created a Bid List, available in paper form from the Business Services Department.

Fun Factoid: The source for this material came directly from the District's website. You can visit the website by clicking here.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Awaiting the return of the State Auditor.

There will be another audit starting up in January. For those of you in a position to pass along comments, but prefer to protect your employment status, feel free to pass them along to the blog.

You may email your comments to

We will do everything we can to get your issues in the hands of the State Auditor and will actively advocate for meaningful evaluations.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

You have to love those RCWs.

RCW 39.30.020
Contracts requiring competitive bidding — Violations by municipal officer — Penalties.

In addition to any other remedies or penalties contained in any law, municipal charter, ordinance, resolution or other enactment, any municipal officer by or through whom or under whose supervision, in whole or in part, any contract is made in wilful and intentional violation of any law, municipal charter, ordinance, resolution or other enactment requiring competitive bidding upon such contract shall be held liable to a civil penalty of not less than three hundred dollars and may be held liable, jointly and severally with any other such municipal officer, for all consequential damages to the municipal corporation. If, as a result of a criminal action, the violation is found to have been intentional, the municipal officer shall immediately forfeit his office. For purposes of this section, "municipal officer" shall mean an "officer" or "municipal officer" as those terms are defined in RCW

Friday, November 16, 2007

Have I been fired yet?

Let's explore the logic together for a moment.

The District claims that they were not trying to force me away from my job. The Letter of Direction I received was intended to offer constructive guidance and was not disciplinary in nature. It was not intended to remove nearly every professional function assigned to me - and yet that is precisely what it accomplished.

Why would the District now pay an outside agency to filter through a hard drive in a desperate search for the reason to terminate my employment? It is faulty logic. The District claims - without evidence - that I was conducting personal business with a district computer and therefore worthy of termination. Can they not see the fatal flaw in their analysis?

The District was saying: We were not looking for a reason to fire you, so it isn't possible that we were actively seeking to constructively terminate you.

The District is now saying: We are currently looking for a reason to fire you, even though you haven't worked for the District in nearly six months.

I find it amusing. Please let me know when you finally fire me. I would like a letter. I wonder what the District would call the time between my departure and the date of effective termination? A vacation or paid administrative leave?

District manager teaching courses in management.

There are a great many stories coming into the blog and sadly, not all of them can be pursued with vigor and vim. The latest curiosity involves a member of district management that always perplexed me. I was never quite sure what this manager did and whenever he did interact with others, he would trigger a rolling of eyes once his back was turned. His questions always seemed like he started work the day before and was always on a fact-finding mission, laying a foundation upon which his work might take root and blossom.

I have heard stories about how this particular manager arrived in his position and that it had everything to do with his relationship with a certain assistant superintendent - and nothing to do with his qualifications. In fact, I have recently come to discover that the nature of his arrival did not follow anything remotely comparable to a hiring process, but then that is standard practice in the Edmonds School District.

Now what I am reading is that this same manager has been teaching on-line classes for an academic institution in Missouri called Columbia College.

"Many students who participate in learning experiences outside the classroom wish to earn college credit for their work. Columbia College offers a number of ways students may earn such credit. CLEP tests, ACE credit and course test-outs are the preferred means because they require a theory-base for awarding credit, have national norms/criteria or both. If none of the above credit-awarding methods are an option, Columbia College awards credit for prior learning."

If I had the time and inclination, I would request his internet traffic - for no doubt such an arduous schedule of teaching three or more classes each term might cause an interruption in his busy District day. But alas, I have other priorities at the moment. I just find it mildly entertaining that such a prestigious institute for learning would seek to promulgate the District's management philosophy.

I honestly hope, for the sake of our public funds, that this particular manager isn't spending his work day responding to students or developing a curriculum. That would be the other side of the building, for a different set of assistant superintendents, and would require a teaching certificate and actual classroom in the District.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A terribly unfortunate state of existence.

Some weeks ago, an anonymous letter was mailed to my supervisor, reporting that I was engaged in blogging activities while at work. It was terribly amusing that someone would go out of their way to send such a thoughtful letter to a public agency - clearly motivated by an interest in saving scarce public resources.

My supervisor is a great and intelligent leader, held in high regard across our many divisions and a firm believer in the power of a single voice. My immediate response to this anonymous letter was
happiness for the opportunity it presented to share a little bit more about my life outside of work. My supervisor reviewed the blog, was convinced that no such violations had occurred and has likely been reading it every day.

Other fellow employees have also become aware of the blog and have started reading it as well. In fact, a number of Edmonds School District residents have approached me at work to get more information about the extent of problems at home.

My current employer is not the Edmonds School District. People here value the contributions made by individuals at all levels in the organization. Gossip mongers cannot be found among our ranks. Administrators know their role in the agency and they have great respect for the many health care providers working at our many facilities. There isn't a plague of back-biting. There isn't a scourge of bad choices being made by upper management. There isn't a wet blanket of disrespect cast upon clerical support. We work as a team. We enjoy the camaraderie. It is an atmosphere I have not experienced in a very long time.

Receiving an anonymous letter exposes far more about the plight of the sender. They fear retaliation. They fear being known. They fear that someone may cause them harm. It is a terribly unfortunate state of existence and I suspect the sender of this recent letter can better relate to my many anonymous contributors - most of whom work for an oppressive employer.

So, to the person that suspected public assets were being exploited for personal gain - I applaud your concern and encourage you to start a blog of your own.

More revelations from the Piano Man.

A number of you have been asking about the status of the Seattle Piano Gallery issue. Well, I have not received a copy of any checks from the District as of this morning (11/14/07) and something tells me they will never be arriving. It looks like the District may have paid more than $100,000.00 for just four pianos - from a friend of Marla's.

Do you know a woman named Marla in Edmonds? She mentioned your piano lease program as a viable way to secure good quality pianos.

I do know Marla. She's a wonderful person. We've done business before.

How did you meet Marla?

We met in the Edmonds Rotary Club. We co-chaired the Edmonds Jazz Conection concerts 3 or 4 years ago.

You will have to pardon me for not feeling the same way about Marla. Maybe if I received preferential treatment, didn't have to compete for public business and was a member of the Edmonds Rotary Club, I might feel differently about her.

Fun Factoid: As a Rotary exchange student to South Africa from 1986 to 1987, I was blessed to be placed in Johannesburg at the age of fifteen. While there, I directly witnessed the effect of a corrupt and misguided government imposing their will upon a grossly oppressed African majority. It was this experience that led me back to Africa for long periods of time over the following twelve years. Rotary International has my unwavering gratitude for changing my life so dramatically. A summary may be found at

The curse of incompetent leadership.

Not long ago, there was a certain bookkeeper that sat just 10 feet from Marla's door. This bookkeeper was involved in what a few people described as an elaborate scheme to siphon money away from district accounts and into her own pocket. I have always been troubled by the characterization of this activity as "elaborate". There was nothing elaborate about it. In fact, it wasn't even moderately complicated. The most complicated part was getting the cash out of the building.

In a nutshell, at least with the skimming that involved funds from Property Management, large checks would arrive from Edmonds Community College for their use of space at Melody Hill. Along with these checks would be bucket loads of cash from Food Service for all of the day's lunch sales. This bookkeeper simply deposited the checks from Property Management into the Food Service account and took the cash home. When I initially confronted this bookkeeper, I was told that I was new and that the funds would eventually find their way home. It never happened, they never did, the matter was reported and it languished in the hands of management.

At the same time, a highly-gifted budget analyst was already aware of the issue and forced others to act. This was apparently no small task. As I understood the matter, everyone quickly rallied to defend the suspect and they quickly dismissed the matter as improbable.

To be quite honest, I would prefer to have five of these bookkeepers working in the District than just a single executive director prone to crooked behavior. While a bookkeeper may take years to siphon away a couple hundred thousand dollars, a crooked director can gift ten times as much without anyone casting as much as an inquisitive glance.

When a bookkeeper skims money out of the public pocket, they leave a paper trail and knowingly commit a crime. The bookkeeper is taking a chance and being caught is only a matter of time. When a crooked director hands out huge checks to friends, they just have to fool the superintendent and they get a pat on the back for a job well done.

The bookkeeper case demonstrates a systemic problem where a string of incompetent people fail to, or refuse to do their jobs. The situation should have been prevented by utilizing checks and balances, but alas, people are just not interested in protecting public money.

The crooked director case demonstrates a lack of oversight by leadership. They are either dazzled by the hot air they blow at each other or just too busy "leading" the District to actually check the direction in which they are heading.

Fun Factoid: The state auditor never detected this skimming activity, because they don't actually dig around or investigate. They send an announcement - including the specific areas scheduled for a cursory glance - stay for a couple of weeks on the District's dime and then leave town after an exchange of pleasantries with upper management.

Monday, November 12, 2007

" the businessmen slowly get stoned."

I found your information online. Are you still running the piano program for schools?

No. Sorry.

I have been asked to help coordinate the purchase of six grand pianos for our college. Do you have any suggestions? We have just over $50,000 raised so far.

Yes, I can help you.

I still have a wholesale account that would allow you to buy 6 Yamaha rebuilt and refinished (like new) 6 foot grands for that price. They would all come with a warranty. They would all be in an ebony polish finish and come with new matching benches. Let me know if you are interested. They would be model C2 and C3 and model G2 and G3. Possibly a model G5 or C5 or maybe even a C7 or G7 if you would like some smaller ones as well, like the C1 or G1. Are you familiar with these models? Do you want more info?

Perhaps I CAN help.

Is it possible to set up a time to look at what you have? There will be four of us. Do you know of any leasing possibilities?

I didn't make myself clear. I have access to wholesale rebuilt pianos. 3 pages of Yamahas and Kawais. They have all been rebuilt and refinished. They all have warrantys. They are in warehouse storage in California and Kentucky. These are pianos from Japan, sold by most piano stores with about an 85% to 100% markup. I don't have a store anymore, so I don't need a mark up. My prices will have a 5% commission built in and you will get 6 nice, like new grands for under $50,000 with a one year warranty from the importer. If you're still interested, I'll send you a list and prices. These are all under 30 years old with new strings and hammers and refinished like new. Where do you live?

Leasing is a lot easier to accomplish than a purchase. We have to obtain quotes from other vendors for similar products. It becomes rather troublesome. Have you done lease options before?

I am in Ballard.

Yes, I have done lease purchase before. We just need to take and application and fax it in for approval. I'm going to be in Ballard tomorrow for an appointment, would you like to meet me and have me drop one off?

How would this work?

You decide on which models and prices from a list that I provide, give me a 10% deposit and a credit app and I reserve these pianos by serial number. Once credit is approved, we make arrangements to have the pianos shipped to your school or schools and set up. You look them over and approve or reject them. If they are rejected, they are returned and another piano is selected. The cash is not released to the importer until you are satisfied with the pianos received. The warranty is then provided by the vendor. The price would include shipping, delivery to the schools and one tuning. What sizes, makes and models do you have in mind? Or would you just like me to make you up a list of possibilities? I will be happy to do this if you're sure this arrangement will work for you. What school or schools are you buying for and how will these pianos be used?

Thanks again for your interest.

Leasing would be the cleanest option for us, because we are a public agency, but it would be good to retain the pianos after the term of the lease. Is this possible? Have you worked with public agencies before? An assortment of options with which you have familiarity would be helpful.

Thank you.

Yes, this is a lease purchase. After the lease is over, you own the piano. It's basically just a form of financing. I have worked with a number of schools and non-profits. What is the nature of your public agency and how are purchases financed currently? Cash, credit cards, leasing, bank and secondary financing, lay-away and private funding or donations from an "angel" supporter of your cause are some of the options I've used. Could you be more specific about what you have to work with, just what exactly are your needs, and which of these options might work the best for you? If you'd like to chat or meet with me in person, I'm open to that. My cell is 206-7X9-6XX5. I have a meeting today at 4:30, but before then or after 7 would probably work, or before my church at 9:30 AM tomorrow. Or this is working fine, too.

Thanks, Arnie

This sounds like exactly what we need. We can "lease" and then just keep the pianos at the end of the transaction. We won't have to go through a competitive bid process. What a relief.

Glad I can help. How can I get a lease application to you?

Disclaimer: There are currently no plans for the blog to buy any pianos. This is intended to illustrate how easy it is for public agencies to avoid state required competitive processes. The same process the Edmonds School District avoided when they bought their pianos through a friend of the administrator.

Would you like to buy a chocolate bar for $1.00?

While parents and students work night and day selling cupcakes, chocolate bars and whatever else might turn a buck for their latest fundraising event, the District is smiling.

The District uses the Capital Partnership program to appeal to voters and tug at the heart strings of parents imagining new playground equipment for their sons and daughters. But the project you want to install comes with strings of their own.

Once that bucket of tax money has been defined and a portion of the proceeds have been earmarked for Capital Partnerships, the school has to compete with dozens of other hungry schools just itching to improve their much neglected playground. In the earlier rounds, your odds might be better. But as time passes, the money starts drying up and your chances of success blow away like dust in the wind.

If you do manage to get matching funds for your project, watch the numbers. While the District used to manage the projects as a courtesy, in exchange for your willingness to endow district property with the fruits of your labor, that has all changed. With the shift of these partnerships to Capital Projects Office, a hefty management fee will be levied against your project.

So, to recap, you contribute a portion of your property tax to the District to cover the partnership fund. You then sell cupcakes and chocolate bars to raise money for a playground the District should have installed in the first place. You then compete for limited dollars and if you manage to get a few bucks, you'll be paying a District employee to manage the project for you.

"Partners" need to be aware that the District will either show you how they are taking money by deducting their standard rate from the project budget, or they will just wait until the overall balance falls under $150,000.00 or so and sweep it back into their capital fund to cover costs.

A request has been made to provide an accounting of the final $150,000.00 that should have gone to future partnership projects. We will see what happens and I will share the District's response, when, and if they actually provide one.

Newly Discovered Element, Gv 312

Recent hurricanes and gasoline issues are proof of the existence of a new chemical element. Research has led to the discovery of the heaviest element yet known to science. The new element, Governmentium (Gv), has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons and 198 assistant deputy neutrons giving it an atomic mass of 312.

These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons. Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert; however, it can be detected, because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact.

A minute amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction (that would normally take less than a second) any time from four days to four years to complete. Governmentium has a normal half-life of two to six years; it does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places.

In fact, Governmentium's mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes. This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration.

This hypothetical quantity is referred to as critical morass. When catalyzed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium, an element that radiates just as much energy as Governmentium, since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons.

Disclaimer: This is a joke. While educators will immediately see the humor in this well-traveled cyber-snipe at government administration, those same administrators might just Google the Periodic Table for insight.

Editor: Thanks to the contributor for sharing this dose of humor.

New hire may shorten the 30-day wait for records.

It’s a pleasure to announce that Sandy Troka has accepted the position of Business and Operations Administrative Specialist, filling a position vacated when Donna Reed retired at the end of August. Sandy will be joining us beginning December 1st.

Sandy has been with Edmonds Community College for the past 25 years, starting in the bookstore, moving to program support supervisor for the Arts/Music department, and currently serving as the executive assistant to the Vice President for Student Services. In addition to processing budget, FERPA/student records requests, due process hearings and contractual and legal issues, Sandy has been an integral part of the team currently analyzing requirements and preparing the college’s response to their 10-year accreditation review. Sandy is a parent in the district, and is an active contributor to many community organizations.

Before filling this position, we took the opportunity to review our staffing needs, especially in the growing area of public records, mandatory state and federal reporting, and other regulatory types of processes. The administrative specialist position was slightly revamped to place more emphasis on responsibilities in the preparation of District responses in these areas, and Sandy’s background is an excellent fit for this role.

Again, welcome to Sandy – we’ve very glad she will be a new member of our team!

Marla Miller
Assistant Superintendent

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Tyranny needs...people of good conscience to remain silent.

We have talked to many employment lawyers. At the risk of tipping off the District as to our activities (they are reading this, too, you know), here is a summary. When we get to the part about "and the union did nothing," most fold up their legal pads and say they have done work for WEA, what we are talking about is a "failure to represent" case and they would have a conflict of interest. End of $100-$200 initial consult session. Interesting that so many of the Puget Sound lawyers have the same conflict and that it blocks us from finding someone to take on our main case which is against the District. Other lawyers have listened with compassion and said they were sorry for our ordeal, but no laws were broken (thus the comment about the low threshold of the State's bullying law: "model appropriate behaviors" without punishment for not doing so. West Virginia law, by contrast, has clear penalties for adult-on-student and adult-on-adult bullying up to and including pulling the offender's certification.). Other lawyers are of the opinion that since the District has more resources (read: money), it would go to a stall tactic or react with even heavier-handed legal actions, either of which would be intended to run up our legal bills beyond the point that we actually get anything out of it (We figure our economic loss alone at around $1 million). It would not be pretty. The settlement agreement which was signed under the duress of the bullying (only one lawyer thought that it could be challenged) absolves the District of any past or future wrongdoing and forbids my husband from even talking about this case. EVER. Yes, there are short periods to rescind the agreement, but after you have been subjected to a three-year long period of bullying, you just want the pain to stop. Your sense of self-preservation kicks in and you will go hide in a hole in self-defense. We are not the only ones who were treated in this manner; this isn't something we are being thin-skinned about. We can provide the names of other victims if they give approval. Most, however, are just trying to repair the damage to themselves and their careers.

Age discrimination is not as easy to prove as you think, either. Federal statutes have a time window in which the discriminatory act must occur and be reported. This window moves forward in time so any discriminatory actions older than that number of days don't count in the proof. Therefore, the three years of documentation we have is just so much paper to the Feds. State law is a bit different with a longer statute of limitation, but is still hard to prove; it becomes a she said/he said thing. A no trespass order can be written out against ANYONE with no proof of actual physical or intended trespass; the fact that we now live 230 miles from Edmonds made no difference to the District official who signed the order. There is no judicial review of a no trespass order; once you are under one you will remain there for a year with NO legal recourse. Nice. The District is using it as a threat to us and a warning to any other staff who may want to contact us. Our "sin" was that we attempted to remain engaged with District officials to see that the right thing was done-that the adult bullies be identified and retrained, that the safe schools we are supposed to be maintaining existed, and that known bullies not be hired or promoted. Folks, this isn't Perry Mason or even Law and Order. Once you get into this kind of legal quicksand with a much more powerful (and seemingly vindictive) opponent, it's very difficult to find someone to help while still trying to go on with your life.

This is not a problem that is limited to Edmonds; it is an education industry issue. There is a self published book by a teacher in San Diego who describes how her school, a Blue Ribbon School under California standards, was destroyed by a principal who spent more time bullying teachers than administering her school. She is suing for workman's comp benefits she claims as a result of her treatment. This sad story includes a school volunteer who was so upset by the way the teachers were being treated that he committed suicide.

Bullying and suicide. Columbine, Virginia Tech. Just last week in Finland a bullied student killed eight and then himself. When my husband approached District officials after Virginia Tech to again warn that if bullying weren't addressed, it could be Edmonds at the top of the news, they took it as a personal threat and used that as part of the excuse to issue the no trespass order against BOTH of us. As one of our former colleagues said to us when they called to tell us of the special MMS faculty meeting June 1, 2007 at which we were labeled a "threat" to the faculty and students of MMS, "They're really afraid of you guys. We're not even supposed to talk to you." Indeed. That's the goal. If they can keep us isolated, they can maintain their power.

Is this the type of administration you want running your school district?

Chris Reuther

Inappropriate conduct requires corrective force.

When a public agency seeks to harass, intimidate or hinder an employee to the point where the only release of tension is to abandon their job, a corrective force must be inserted into the equation. This corrective force can take many different shapes.

1. There can be "hush money" - which to accept would be a criminal act and expose the recipient to the same criticism that triggered their initial expression of opposition. Accepting payment and agreeing to keep quiet may make one person content, but it does nothing for the public and is therefore not an acceptable course of action. As the amount increases, the power of the corrective force would normally increase as well, but this is not always the case in the public sector.
2. There can be a legal remedy - which would require the frequent interaction with lawyers, most of whom see solutions in a quantifiable, dollar figure. Hiring a lawyer to help articulate the manner in which abuse has been doled out by an employer does nothing more than trigger more legal costs for the offending party. It does nothing for the public because the behavior of current management will never change. The legal costs may continue to grow, but the inclination toward correcting management style is negligible at best.
3. The spotlight approach seems to be the best path toward meaningful change. While it may involve a lawyer here or there, the fundamental objective is to fully focus time and attention toward matters that are normally left in the dark. This blog is an ideal forum to illuminate issues, disseminate information and unify similarly-offended parties. As the District continues to abuse, harass and intimidate their employees, more contributors will continue to join this forum. With the current District management model, rampant and continual growth is inevitable.

I would love nothing more than to see district management treat staff with greater respect and actively engage mission critical imperatives, but this will never happen without a mechanism for positive change. The District can choose to continually pour money into the bank accounts of law firms in Seattle, or they could take a few steps back, evaluate their current management strategies and make actual changes in how they utilize public resources.

1. They should cast away their elitist mentality, because everyone at the District is a public servant and made a choice to work for their community. There are plenty of other jobs out there and most of them pay a lot more.
2. They should embrace diversity and see it for what it truly is - an opportunity to learn from others and see things in a different manner. Everyone followed a different path to the District, why not draw upon their experiences in developing the best path forward.
3. They should refrain from abusing the public trust and get back to doing the District's work. Handing out money to friends and allies through questionable transactions is not a responsible way to spend public dollars. If you believe in God, pretend He is watching.

A school board of incognizant simpletons.

Many of you have asked about the status of Noble and Shields and why they continue to occupy seats on the Board. Well, to be quite blunt, the rules do not apply to them because in advance of applying a rule, the board has the authority to direct staff to hire attorneys to fabricate a reason for their continued presence. We have seen how a lawyer can redefine words and reinvent concepts that once meant something to previous board members of greater moral ilk. There was a day when our school board demanded a higher threshold and expected more from governance, but alas that ship has sailed, hit a coral reef and sunk.

Why would they do this? The District makes foolish decisions every day. In order to continue making foolish decisions - many of which result in profit for their friends (Seattle Piano Gallery, MJR Development, City of Lynnwood, etc.) - the District wants a board that doesn't engage the issues. The District seeks to maintain a board that lacks insight or applicable intelligence. The District seeks to maintain their hold on the purse strings and the greatest reason to prevent intelligence from sitting on the board is management's inability to survive a flurry of tough questions. No one on the current board has the stones to take a stand and demand rational answers.

The board is currently comprised of four rather ineffective, impotent and incognizant simpletons - with one more of the same on the way. There doesn't appear to be a single educator among them and I am confident not one of them has any real world experience working in school district administration. If I am wrong, I would love to know - as it may provide a sliver of comfort that, one day, a shred of meaningful experience may eventually surface and contribute in a positive way.

Disclaimer: I am sure that each member of the current board is gifted in some sort of way and that they possess talent and qualifications outside of school district governance. I am not suggesting that these board members are absolutely devoid of intellect, just not effective at governing a meandering and morally-corrupt band of district administrators.

Was I supposed to start breaking kneecaps?

I just have to laugh at the recent response penned by the District's legal team. I can laugh because it comes with encouraging news. Apparently, in response to my request for any proof whatsoever, demonstrating that anyone is paying for space, the District claims it was my responsibility to ensure that organizations paid their pre-negotiated share.

This is funny because the District seems to think that I write checks on behalf of freeloading cities and pay bills on behalf of deadbeat Partners. I complained numerous times that Powerful Partners was not paying their bill and was assured, by Marla, that she would take care of it, that she was working with them on a related issue, and that arrangements are being made. I can only imagine as to the nature of the "arrangements".

Maybe the City of Lynnwood, City of Mountlake Terrace and Powerful Partners were paying their bills. Maybe there isn't any proof because, per District policy, no copies of checks were ever made. Additionally, maybe someone in Accounts Payable has been skimming these payments prior to their deposit into the General Fund. Oh, that was another colorful chapter under management's watchful eye.

I am instantly reminded of negotiations between my supervisor and the City of Lynnwood. I had the pleasure of witnessing my supervisor fight for every dollar the District was entitled to, only to have the City appeal the matter to the head of Business and Operations and have all of his great work dissolved in an instant. How about that Cedar Valley parking issue? The sale of Site 6 to Lynnwood?

Secondly, I am relieved that the District believes they are entitled to this money. When the Cities received their bills, Mountlake Terrace sent an identical bill back to the District for use of their swimming pool at the Pavilion. The City of Lynnwood kept making changes in the formatting of the bill - so as to "expedite" payment. There were so many formatting changes that the following year's charges then had to be incorporated - thus triggering a new wave of format change requests because now it involved multiple years. I hope management eventually collects their money and, of course, I will still be waiting for copies of those checks.

For future reference, sending an invoice does not mean you possess any authority to ensure that the invoice is paid. All you can do is complain to your supervisor, who then complains to his, who then promptly dismisses the matter because asking for money from friends is inconsistent with one's quest for greater influence.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Administration governs through harassment and intimidation

It is tempting to just complain about the way our schools are run. Everybody has gone through the school system and is therefore an "expert" on what's wrong with our schools. Thoughtless carping does no good. However, there are policies, agreements, and state statutes that are supposed to guide how the system works. Mine is a story of the violation of those guidelines and laws by officials of the District and the use of their powers to hide their actions and the actions of their peers. What follows is perhaps an unbelievable story; I understand if you think, "This just can't be possible." But it is.

How about an age discrimination story of district administrators bullying senior staff members to get them to quit or retire? How about a stated management style of "If you don't like it here, you can go some place else"? How about a standard administrative response of "That's just your perspective" (with a heavy pejorative tone) when any administrative decision is questioned? Or administrators professionally threatening teachers, "Remember, I am your evaluator" when merely asked a clarifying question about a new software program? Perhaps you know that bullies tend to find and recruit other bullies who automatically join in the treatment of the targeted victim(s). How about the lack of upper administration and union response to the allegations of bullying and age discrimination? How about the witnessing of the bullies (they run in packs) bullying two students, threatening to take them to the administrator's house to rototil his yard while wearing matching coveralls as a punishment for their past misbehaviors and when the students laughed, they were told, "Don't laugh; this is serious"? How about the potential of a promotion (reward?) of the chief bully into upper administration? Or the final act of a no trespass order against my husband and I because our communication with the District "has become increasingly aggressive" (meaning that we haven't just gone away, so they will make us go away)?

I have some 250 documents that chronicle and validate this story. Officials of the District have only chosen to look at 25-30% of them. Once they realized the extent of the documentation, they have refused to look at the full evidence against their own administrative team. Rather than investigate their own, they chose to discredit us. Discredit the whistleblowers. District administrators do not want you to know how bad things were; they were more interested in keeping us from talking about these allegations. Union officials were less than responsive to requests for assistance. We are a political threat to administrators and yet they twisted that and claimed that we posed a physical threat to the students and faculty (slandering us in front of our former colleagues), threatening them with disciplinary action if they contact us using District equipment (a clearly chilling threat to the rest of the faculty) and swore out the no trespass order.

So what's wrong with bullying staff in order to get them to leave? After all there is no other way to get rid of the "deadwood." Think about it. Who defines "deadwood?" Is running a successful National History Day program, including qualifying students for the National exhibit in Washington, D.C., a sign of "deadwood"? What if it becomes obvious that all of the "deadwood" are over the age of 50? What if one of those designated as "deadwood" is a KCTS 9 Golden Apple Award winner? Or the winner of a grant that allows students to link up with NASA computers? Or a teacher whose students consistently scored higher on the WASL than the other teachers in the building? Google "prolonged duress stress disorder" and you will see why bullying staff (or anybody in the school house) is the wrong thing to do for your students. State law requires staff and administration to model appropriate behavior in regards to bullying. This is a very low standard with no consequences for failure to do so other than public disapproval if it gets out.

This story includes the general practice of extinction applied on a regular basis by office staff as well as administrators. People would simply not talk to you and would just walk by as if you did not exist. Many teachers closed their doors and hid in their rooms in hopes that they would not be the next target. As the adult bullying increased, the student bullying also increased. That is the reason the law states that adults are to model appropriate behavior; if they do not, students will not either. Students said they were afraid to be in the halls; we opened our doors to them before school. Administration used physical size on two occasions that we observed to intimidate students, standing directly in front of students within arms length. Another student begged to not to be sent to the office because he was physically afraid. When I left the school, the halls were beyond control. All of the hall management work instituted before '92 had disappeared. Only a handful of teachers made a regular attempt to be present before and after school in the halls to maintain order and build relationships with students.

The sad part of the story is that many staff did leave rather than face continued bullying or the atmosphere created by the bullying. But perhaps even worse, there are several who are still there, still enduring the treatment. (In fairness to the District, several of the bullies were apparently sent to a workshop on bullying over the summer; was this to explore their bullying? This seems to be confirmation that the District may finally be admitting that they have to do something.)

A democratic workplace that valued input from all was turned into a dictatorship where the opinions of only one person mattered. It only took two years. How do you teach students democracy when they go to school in a dictatorship? Which model will the students see?

Teachers who left lost salaries, received reduced retirement benefits, lost interest on private retirement savings, and pay for health care that would have been paid by the district. The district lost over a hundred years teaching experience.

But the students lost the most in this story; the wisdom and passion of senior staff, a model of appropriate behavior. The mantra of doing "what's best for children" is hollow and false when the District engages, condones, or hides bullying behavior. I felt tremendous guilt when I left mid-year because I felt that I had failed in my goal to protect my students. When I told my students I was leaving, one of them who had had my husband the previous year was visibly upset. "It's not fair! First we lose Mr. Reuther and now you!"

The students are the biggest losers. It is worth repeating. The students are the biggest losers.

Chris Reuther
Richland, WA

Chris Reuther holds a BA in Education from Central Washington University and a Masters in Curriculum Development from City University. She was raised in the Tri-Cities, taught 4th grade in Cle Elum-Roslyn School District, and has held several jobs in the private sector including office manager for Washington School of Insurance and Real Estate pre-license instructor at Bellevue Community College. She has two adult sons. She began subbing in Edmonds in 1985. After numerous long term sub assignments, she was hired in 1991 to teach Language Arts/ Social Studies at Meadowdale Middle. She served over the years as English, Social Studies, and Drama department chair. Most recently she served for the District as a committee member on Classroom Based Assessments. She especially enjoyed creating integrated assignments and developed an Invention research project with her MMS teammates. In 2002 she and her husband began to use the National History Day curriculum to integrate LA/SS learning and teach research skills. They qualified students every year to exhibit at the State contest and in 2005, she mentored a student who qualified for the National exhibit in Washington, D.C. She and her husband had planned to continue teaching until "normal" retirement in 2012. He left the District in March of 2006 under a settlement agreement stating "the reasons for his decision will be described as personal/health related reasons." She left in December of 2006, after 20 years of service to Edmonds students and parents; she chose to retire rather than continue suffering the working conditions that existed at MMS from 2002 until 2007.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Hiring the professionally-impaired.

When a public agency posts a vacant position, they are making a commitment to the public. They are supposed to search for the most-qualified individual and offer a reasonable salary in exchange for their services. If the position is posted and only two, less-than-qualified people apply, it is the responsibility of the public agency to continue their search for competent staff - or at least make a second attempt.

Hiring incompetent people has a two-fold impact upon public resources. First is the waste of public funds on the salary and non-employee related costs. The salary is paid out on a regular basis and the work product regularly doesn't measure up to public expectations. Therefore, hiring unqualified staff is clearly a gift of public funds. Money is intentionally being diverted to support the professionally-impaired.

The second, and perhaps more dire consequence of hiring incompetent staff is the suffering of public agencies in having to deal with the results of poor choices. People with limited training or sheltered professional experience are not in a position to make sound choices because wisdom is a foreign concept to them. Wisdom comes through exposure to adverse conditions and the effective evaluation of those conditions to understand the consequence of choice. What plagues the District at the moment is a curse of glad-handing. People are hired because of who they know, not what they know. When a job requires intelligence, they throw a body at the position as if advocating for on-the-job training. Training that comes at substantial cost to the agency in poor decisions and lack of efficiency.

Making matters worse is the lack of concern for the collective - the public agency and the opinions of co-workers. When people are called upon to offer an opinion about filling a position within their department, little if any regard is given to the views offered. The outcome is always determined without meaningful discussion as to qualifications or impact a new hire could have on the department. It is either done intentionally through some misguided obsession with enriching friends and associates, or it is done in an effort to ensure that blatant misconduct goes undetected.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

One hundred and forty-four days of blogging.

Gary and Kay Noble
While Gary sits on the board, his wife works at Lynnwood High School. This is in clear violation of board policy, despite legal counsel's rendering of the English language.

Pat Shields
Using influence to secure free rent for one of his pet projects, Pat is in violation of board policies and has no apparent ethical issue with taking public resources. Maybe I should ask about the funding for Powerful Partners' employee.

Bruce Williams
Arguably committed election fraud by relocating prior to an election. His violation of board policies prompted his resignation on September 11, 2007.

New Administration Site
Despite claims to the contrary, the new site is contaminated. If it wasn't, the District should have purchased it in 1991 when it was shockingly more affordable.

Many are left to question why the District chose to ignore their own appraisal and pay every penny of the seller's appraisal for a site that will cost a significant amount of money to remediate. At the per square foot Raskin was citing, the District should have sold their site to him.

Capital Partnerships
These widely-popular projects have moved to the Capital Projects Office, where management fees will mean a reduction in scope for every future partnership project.

Seattle Piano Gallery
A questionable deal appears to have left the District paying a lot of money for just four pianos. A request has been made for a copy of the $76,121.10 check that may bring the deal back to reality. Seattle Piano Gallery's owner appears to be filing for bankruptcy.

Letters of Direction
When you get one, and its only a matter of time, they apparently don't mean anything and shouldn't be taken literally. If a few short email messages diffuse the intent of a Letter of Direction, why hand them out in the first place?

Post-Resignation Conduct
Apparently, employees can never get out from under the District's thumb. Once you accept a paycheck, the District views you as owned property and unable to have an independent thought upon departing.

Don't make copies of checks
The District claims they don't retain copies of checks. This would be directly contrary to past practices for more than a decade. The tax-paying public would appreciate the retention of copies, and at ten cents per copy, it makes financial sense.

Cities do not honor Inter-Local Agreements
I have yet to receive any proof that payment has been made to support Terrace Park or Cedar Valley gym expansions. I know the District has asked for payment, but no doubt it was over turned on appeal.

Capital Facilities Plan
The board apparently doesn't read everything it adopts. The 2004-2009 CFP clearly demonstrated that student enrollment was trending downward and yet no one bothered to use the CFP when planning on financial support from the state.

Attendance Incentive Program
This program doesn't mean anything. If you show up for work every day and accumulate vacation at a greater than average rate, expect to lose everything over 30 when you leave.

Superintendent does not accept anonymous comments
And yet endorses the Auditor's use of anonymous comments to help guide the District in becoming a more efficient agency.

There are no cubicle standards in the ESC
Once upon a time, cubicles were kept at a minimum standard for the comfort and operational requirements of their occupants. Now, anyone can move high walls next to windows and cast shadows over their co-workers. is not a district domain
The District thought if they camped in my yard for a few nights, they could lay claim to my house. I should have charged a tent fee.