Monday, December 29, 2008

Something worse than "pesky" I'm sure.

The District has been getting a lot of practice cutting millions and millions of dollars from their operating budget every year. Due to poor leadership and the inability to read board adopted documents like the Capital Facilities Plan, our district is looking at yet another year of deep cuts.

However, this latest budget disaster has more to do with the District's dependence on state funding and since enrollment has been declining for years, the net impact is slightly less disasterous than if it was left solely in the hands of district management. But then they always seem to find a way to cripple their own mission by making cuts in the classroom and never in the glass palace known as the ESC.

Of course, management is completely safe because Mr. Nick's grand plan appears to be the maximization of management and the minimization of actual teaching staff. Even his own Human Resources director, Cathy Birdsong, readily admits that district kids are "pesky". With this grave news out of Olympia, the Birdsong-Brossoit approach can be fully implemented. Like many of our readers, I find it odd that the kids that actually stay in our district and remain in our schools have been labeled "pesky". What does management call those students that have opted to leave the District entirely? Something worse than "pesky" I'm sure.

So, where will these new cuts be made? The blog has been recommending for years that Facilities Operations should be condensed considerably. Have Bob Hansen and George Marschall report directly to Marla Miller and eliminate the Planning and Property Management Specialist and the Director. The current occupants of these positions have proven that these functions are not essential to the mission and are ripe for a reduction. Safety can move to Human Resources, where similarly-qualified staff reside.

While the District launches their latest campaign to plead poverty and beg for more funding from voters, the rest of us, that actually care enough to track their countless devastating choices, will try not to pass out from witnessing all of the bloodshed. Darker days are coming.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Perkins Coie using Rippers 0 on Boxing Day.

26 Dec, 14:06:49, Rippers 0
Seattle,Washington, United States
Perkins Coie, Llp (

Because my server only archives the last 500 page views and dumps anything older, I periodically review traffic to determine the origin of users. Well, imagine my surprise when Perkins Coie was found cruising the blog on Boxing Day. While the rest of us might be at home, recovering from the chaos of Christmas Day, fighting with relatives or playing with our new toys, this law firm spends their afternoon reading tidbits from a website with a rapidly-growing fan base.

Even more surprising is their use of Rippers 0. This could only mean one thing. They must be interested in copying the blog for some other purpose. Gee, what could it be? Could it be they are planning to publish the site in an alternate format? Maybe they plan to incorporate the blog into some training opportunities for other school districts. Perhaps they plan to have such a seminar outside, at Safeco Field, in bone-chilling weather. Send me an invitation and I would be happy to help with the presentation. Just let me know how many hats, jackets and scarves to pack.

I recall attending a few of those seminars and fighting the urge to fall asleep when their keynote speaker had me convinced I was developing a case of narcolepsy. Whenever a Perkins attorney opened their mouth, my eyelids would slam shut.

My records indicate they are most interested in the month of January 2008. Perhaps our readers would like to review the month and help the rest of us see what has them so captivated.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays from the Blog.

It has been a productive year. While I know the blog has been running fewer articles these last few weeks, I can assure you that 2009 will be very illuminating. We have been working on a number of things that will be rolling out next year. Your patience is much appreciated.

Stay safe, keep warm and have a great and prosperous new year.

Mark Zandberg

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Reaching out to our community leaders.

I attended the last [Edmonds City] council meeting but didn't stay very long. I was under the impression that the presentation by the Edmonds School District might be a little more informative. Boy, was I mistaken.

As many of you may have already noticed, the District's 2008-2013 CFP does not include Student Generation Rates. Such information is vital in obtaining an objective assessment of enrollment trends. Without them, it is essentially a guess as to the direction enrollment is heading.

Student enrollment is important to evaluate because it determines the level of financial support from the State. The District's recent budget problems have much to do with the fact that their board adopts the Capital Facilities Plan without discussion, questions or even reading the document. Unfortunately, this recent CFP demonstrates a further weakening of planning priorities and it is unfortunate that elected officials do not place much value in what was once an important document.

Please take a few minutes and read about many of the other questionable decisions made by our school district.


Mark Zandberg

Your assessment of the ESD does not match mine; I am very well acquainted with their operations and I believe that they have a highly competent and diligent management team. I will not comment on the School Board Members, as I have no personal knowledge of any of the members.

I have previously not heard of the term "Student Generation Rates". If it refers to "Student Enrollment Projections", that data is in the CFP.

Thanks for bringing your concerns to us.

[Name Withheld, Edmonds City Council]

I totally understand your position regarding the management of the District. The Old Woodway Elementary transaction probably defined your impression. However, if you remove yourself from your elected perspective and look at the transaction objectively, you will see that every taxpayer in the District suffered, except the residents of the City of Edmonds.

The site was declared surplus and made available for purchase. Developers were encouraged to make an offer for the site - all 11.2 acres. I personally met with many developers, in my private capacity, to drum up interest in the site. Those developers indicated that they could not make an offer on the site because they did not have the expertise or staff to demolish an old school filled with hazardous substances.

Burnstead was deemed to be the highest bidder for the entire site. Then, after Burnstead was selected, the site was divided and Burnstead was offered the vacant half. I know for a fact that many developers would have jumped at the chance to buy a vacant piece of land near Woodway, but they never had the chance. In the real estate market of 2006, the District could have gotten a lot more for that vacant half. Of course, the unsuccessful bidders are probably rejoicing now.

I remain convinced that this tactic was employed to artificially deflate the value of the site - especially the half eventually purchased by the City. As a resident of Edmonds, I am happy for the City in getting such a great deal. As a former employee of the District, having worked there for six years, I am terribly saddened by the obvious fleecing of district taxpayers.

Thank you for your response and thank you for your service to our community.

Mark Zandberg

Sorry for my belated response, Mark. But, I thought I’d let you know I appreciate that there is a ‘watchdog’ for the district. Every government needs one. I came across your blog some time back so I knew generally about some of what you’ve been up to. Keep at it.

[Name Withheld, Edmonds City Council]

I don't agree with many aspects of your information but I sure enjoy reading them and look forward to additional information. I have [found] the information to be helpful and informative.

[Name Withheld, Edmonds City Council]

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Evergreen gets a temporary stay of execution.

On the Board's agenda this evening was a second action involving the closure of Evergreen Elementary. Unfortunately, the item was dropped from the agenda because, according to Nick, adequate public notice had not been provided through the Everett Herald. It was felt that the District met the notification requirements with all of the discussion provided in the paper, but they had not provided adequate formal notice.

The matter will be taken up in March of 2009.

I find it odd that Nick Brossoit is concerned about the provision of adequate notice when closing an elementary school but not when declaring district property surplus. Old Woodway Elementary was supposed to be declared surplus through a formal notification that was to appear in the Everett Herald. Unfortunately, the formal, District process for notifying the public of the action to declare the site surplus was not followed. Count how many times the notification appeared and compare that number with the actual total required.

Now that Nick has demonstrated that he knows what proper notification entails, perhaps he would be kind enough to inquire as to the process involving Old Woodway Elementary. I would love to be proven wrong.

While I am pleased that Nick is honoring the process regarding the closure of an elementary school, I am saddened that less of a concern was shown to the residents around Old Woodway Elementary.

Blog: Woodway Elementary was closed since adequate notice was provided regarding the closure of that school.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Is cybersquatting against the law?

[Perkins Coie and Mark Zandberg discuss "cybersquatting" in PC-1, MZ-1, PC-2, MZ-2, PC-3.]

When is it OK to buy up an expired domain name?
By Christopher Beam

The George W. Bush Library Foundation has
retrieved its domain name. A small Internet company had bought for less than $10 after it expired and then sold it back it to the library for $35,000. Is that legal?

Probably not. Cybersquatting, the practice of buying up a domain in order to profit from a trademarked name, is prohibited under the 1999
Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act as well as a set of international guidelines called the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy. (Disputes are usually mediated by the National Arbitration Forum or the U.N.'s World Intellectual Property Organization.) Both systems were created to protect companies, celebrities, and even Joe Schmoes from having their names exploited online for commercial purposes. To sue someone for cybersquatting, you have to show that they acted in "bad faith," meaning they deliberately registered a certain domain in order to profit off your name. For example, if someone buys and puts ads up to generate income from random visitors, that's considered bad faith. Same with trying to sell the site back to its rightful owner for a hefty profit, as in the case of the presidential library. (An example of "good faith," meanwhile, might be registering as a nonprofit repository for articles about the president.)

There may be added protection for domains that are named after celebrities. In most states, famous people have a
right of publicity that prohibits anyone else from profiting off their names or personas. Celebrities can also argue that they have common law rights to the trademark of their own names. In 2000, Madonna won a lawsuit against a cybersquatter who had bought and set up a porn site. (The same guy registered, among other names, Likewise, Hillary Clinton won a case in 2005 against an Italian woman who had bought the domain name (See a list of domain name disputes here.)

The First Amendment makes it legal to grab even a famous person's domain name in some situations: You might not get, but you could register if you're planning to use it for nonprofit political speech. You may also be able to use an established name if you're setting up your own, unrelated company. If the domain name for Delta Airlines expired and you bought it up for your competing airline, that would be against the law. But if you were promoting a very different kind of company—Delta Plumbing, for example—then you'd be within your rights to use As long as you're not profiting off a person or company by misrepresenting them, you're probably OK.

Indeed, there's a whole industry of so-called domain "tasting," whereby companies buy up recently expired domain names, test their traffic ratings, and estimate their profitability. (Sites like and will tell you when certain domain names are about to expire.) If a site is deemed a moneymaker, the company will hold on to it. If it's not, the company will give it back within the five-day grace period. The practice is legally restricted to domain names that use words you can find in the dictionary. But some companies will buy up variations or misspellings of other well-known sites—like, say, Those sites aren't legal, but they can still turn a profit before the trademarked party notices.

Got a question about today's news?
Ask the Explainer.

Explainer thanks Enrico Schaefer of Traverse Legal and Hank Burgoyne of Kronenberger Burgoyne.

Christopher Beam is a Slate political reporter.
Article URL:

Friday, December 12, 2008

Crowded classrooms coming to a school near you.

The Edmonds School District, like most, will have to cut to operate next year, even without new state cuts this session, officials said.

Officials declined to be interviewed, saying it was "too early" to talk about the subject, but responded to some questions via e-mail.

"If the state cuts us even more, it will result in us having to make further reductions," Debbie Jakala, district spokesperson, wrote in an e-mail. "While we would do our best to work with our staff and community as to how best do these, the magnitude of the reductions based on further state funding shortfalls could be extreme."

Last year, the district cut about $3 million, with cuts to special education and more. The year before, it cut $4.5 million and closed teaching positions.

Losing I-728 money would be devastating, as it would for all districts, Jakala wrote.

The district received almost $9 million in I-728 money last year, which funded about 78 full-time teachers. Mostly it goes to reducing class size, and the rest goes to teacher professional development and extended learning.

I wonder what sort of losses would be taken if Marla's Marsh was sold on today's market. I suspect the District's appraisal of $3,300,000 would be way too much. And that valuation assumed the absence of contamination - which was a theoretical assumption taken as fact by the Superintendent and the School Board.

I predict an increase in sales of frozen cheese sandwiches.

Blog: Read the rest of the article in Lynnwood's best newspaper, The Enterprise, by clicking here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What happens when a dummy dumbs it down?

There was a seminar on Friday, December 5th where custodians were gathered together and provided with handouts. They are accessible here by clicking handout 1 and handout 2.

I find it rather humorous that the Director of Facilties Operations does not believe staff beneath his level are qualified to call the police and yet the Lynnwood Police spoke at this seminar and directed staff to call the police at any time - even if it is just a suspicious vehicle. If the Director had his way, all such calls should be channeled through him so that he can make contact with the police. Like he isn't paid a lot of money to do anything better.

The handouts that were presented smack of condescension. The author is either a kindergartner, lobotomized chimp, brain dead zombie or believes that custodians are illiterate morons, unable to construct or understand simple sentences. Look at the title of her presentation. Even the word "efficiently" is spelled incorrectly. In this day and age, we have spell check and access to co-workers that can proofread the work of imbeciles.

The blog has also received numerous complaints about the waste of paper. There was no reason to use such a large font size. People were not interested in your message because Human Resources doesn't follow their own direction. Printing it in a larger font doesn't make it any less hypocritical. Ms. Birdsong would be better off to share her presentation with her own department and let custodians get back to the reasons why they work for the District - and it isn't the charm and magnetism of its administration.

I nearly fell out of my chair at Ms. Birdsong's suggestion that custodians "use "I" sentences, I feel…" and of course, like "I hope this Carmel@ is different than our existing one."

I also find it mildly amusing that someone decided to deface the banner of appreciation with a rather unsavory expletive. Perhaps next time, people in management will double check the names they use and refrain from showering appreciation on people that have died years before. It would have been much better to express your appreciation while they were still alive. Shame on you for waiting so long.

Word on the blog is that the banner of appreciation has been hidden in shame. I am not surprised. Now, if they will just start getting rid of those shameful employees.

Recent film has much in common with our district.

We went to the movie Changling last night. We were expecting a mystery, but got something much larger. We saw our lives at Edmonds School District from 2003-2006 when we “left.”

The lead character, a single mother, returns home from work to find her son has disappeared. We assumed that we would see the unfolding of the police search for this child. Instead, we saw a corrupt organization, the L.A. Police Department, applying psychological pressure to the lead character in order to cover-up the fact that they had “found” the wrong child. The lead character claims that the replacement child is not hers, but the police pressure her by telling her that she is mistaken, she is wrong, she doesn’t see that her son has changed during his ordeal. They begin to call her an unfit mother, because, now that the child has returned, they claim she wants to get rid of him because she wants to be free of the “responsibility” of motherhood. When she refuses to go along with the police, they bring even more psychological pressure to bear, essentially declaring that she is mentally unbalanced and is therefore not a credible person, not a good mother. She is whisked off to an asylum without cause and without proper judicial procedures; she is essentially “disappeared” from the community. Her supporters had warned her that because she was potentially an embarrassment to the police, they were likely to move against her; she believes that the police are good and would not do such a despicable thing. The actions of the police prove her wrong.

As all good movies do, this one circles back to the lead characters’ central philosophy: never start a fight, but if you get into one, make sure you finish it. As the police continue to pressure her (and some of the tactics brought groans of disbelief from audience members, even though it is clearly noted at the beginning of the film that this is a true story), she doesn’t bend or give in. She has self-doubts but she continues her fight with the assistance of others who are interested in eliminating the corruption in the L.A. Police Department. And she continues the search for her son.

The parallel to the District is clear. If you disagree with management, you are labeled a “disgruntled employee,” even to outside agencies that might be drawn into an investigation of the actions of the District, potentially tainting any investigation they might conduct. It is made very clear to all other employees that if they stand up against District actions (or inactions, as the case may be), they will suffer the same treatment as the “disgruntled employee.” If you object to the way you are being treated, there are a variety of ploys the District has to minimize your ability to bring those concerns to light. When you take your complaints public because the administration has failed to deal with them through proper channels, the District suggests that you are mentally unbalanced. If you try to explain to a colleague that their concern for the safety of the bullies is misplaced because victims of bullying are 5 times more likely to harm themselves than the bullies, the District reacts by issuing a no trespass order against you, and they assemble your former colleagues and they lie, calling you a threat to the safety of the students and faculty. And there is no one brave enough to speak up in your defense because it is clear that they will be treated the same as you if they speak up. Oh, and remember, you are still under a no contact order with any past or present employee, so you are not legally able to tell your side of the story to any of your former colleagues.

This is the Kobayashi Maru scenario; the no-win situation. No matter which course of action you choose, you will fail. This is what the District has done to us. Stay in the situation where students and older faculty are being bullied by the principal, office manager and their allies or try to get the District to stop the bullying; but they, unknown to you, are openly or tacitly approve the behavior. Either choice will end with bad results. I was encouraged that among the several e-mails excoriating me for my actions (these writers were never disciplined for electronic bullying which is banned by Board policy) there was one faculty member who gave me the benefit of the doubt and suggested that my actions were uncharacteristic and there must be something else going on that others were not aware of. Chris was not in a position to tell others what had happened; she would have been open to greater bullying (which ultimately did come her way even after [or perhaps because of] asking Osborne to make sure that the next principal be made aware of the truth of the situation) and, theoretically, I could have been additionally charged with violating the terms of the administrative leave that I was placed on in that I was not to talk to any present or former district employees. (I asked Tam how that was supposed to work since I was married to a staff member who was perfectly aware of everything that had gone on; he had no suggestion.) So, just as the lead character in the movie, I was “whisked away” from sight, unable to talk to any potential allies; unable to say “good-bye” to my students; unable to clear my name; unable to tell the truth to colleagues or the public. I was branded a “disgruntled employee,” as if that were MY fault. Actually, I was perfectly happy until I was set up for failure by Houser and watched as he went about harassing other staff as well.

To state this again, I was not the one bullying staff members of a certain advanced age; I was not the one bullying students; I was not the one who would do nothing to stop the bullying or make excuses for it or to warn the bullies that I was on to them so that they could bully me more. No. That was Houser, Bradshaw, Limon, Wilson, Woods, and Osborne.

How much higher in the system does this behavior go? Read the blog; it will soon be clear to you that it is a behavior pattern that is endemic to a significant segment of the administration. It is not a valid argument to call my sanity, or anyone else’s, into question just because I am opposed to this behavior from my superiors. Issuing a “no trespass order” against BOTH of us without going through the court system is neither fair nor appropriate nor in the spirit of the Constitution. Name-calling of employees (disgruntled, crazy, lazy, old, traitor, worn out, old-fashioned) who oppose the administration is not appropriate. Placing targeted employees on administrative leave with a gag order is not democratic behavior; what about freedom of speech rights? Administrators often bully employees that they cannot control in order to get rid of them so that they can hire others who are then beholden to the administrator for their job and who will therefore do as they are told (especially if they are related or socially connected to the person hiring them). Every time someone leaves the employ of the District, willingly or unwillingly, administration has the opportunity to hire people who will bow to their every desire.

That is the object; to hire sycophants who will never question the authority figure so that the authority figure doesn’t have to explain or defend any of their stupid moves.

This is a bankrupt management style. This is management by intimidation and coercion. It is wrong. It is not the model that should be presented to our children. Somebody needs to stand up to it.

Look guys, I didn’t start this fight. But I intend to be around to end it.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Property Management website needs to be updated.

First of all, I thought it was Facilities Operations. Not Facilities AND Operations. Not Property Management. If the District wants people to find the appropriate website, they really should use the proper names for their departments.

Second, the tax parcel number site hasn't been updated in two years. The Old ESC site is no longer pending. That deal fell apart when the City wanted to build their own hotel next to the convention center, instead of across 196th. Where is that hotel anyway?

Third, Old Woodway Elementary is described as Surplus and not as Sold. Gee, I thought the District "sold" that site?

Fourth, the North Road Property really should be called New Lynnwood High School.

Fifth, Scriber Lake High School is incorrect.

Sixth, Woodway and Evergreen will need to be updated shortly, as well.

Of course, updating a website cannot be a task that moves upstream like the rest of the responsible person's work. The talent isn't upstream. It will have to move downstream and downstairs to Community Relations.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Celebrating staff from a decade ago.

CELEBRATION (5 minutes)

The School Board will recognize individuals and groups that have contributed to the children and staff of the District. Nominees can be an employee, a parent, or a community member that have supported students and staff in exceptional ways.

The following will be recognized at this Board meeting: Maintenance, Custodial, and Capital Projects Departments related to the varied summer projects.

The tip line received a call regarding the December 2nd board meeting where these people were "honored". Apparently, a banner was produced and the names of exceptional staff were clearly written upon that banner. Unfortunately, it was a list of names from years ago. Wouldn't it be nice if the actual employees currently on the payroll were the ones being honored? Someone was assigned the task of compiling the list of names and no one bothered to double check.

Is it that management doesn't actually know the people with whom they work? Is management just sloppy? How does a school board honor staff but then not even take the time to confirm that the names cited are still employed - or even alive. Gee, that must have been more than a little embarrassing. Good thing only a handful showed up to be "honored".

Friday, November 28, 2008

Just a few of the many facts we have uncovered.

Fact: Gary Noble was ineligible to seek election to the Board and was still ineligible when he sought re-election in 2007.
This was confirmed by the State Auditor and the Attorney General. The District recently changed board policies to allow this conflict to occur for future candidates, however, Mr. Noble is to be held to the standard that was in place when he filed as a candidate.

Fact: Bruce Williams was not eligible to occupy his board position and resigned.
Despite the fact that the Superintendent lied numerous times to conceal this fact, readers of the blog did a little research and uncovered what was really happening. As unfortunate as his personal life may have been, there was no reason to spew forth so many lies about modernizing apartments and what WSSDA might feel about deceptive practices.

Fact: The Piano Scam was a scam.
The involvement of the District's legal counsel was to make it somehow meet a minimal threshold. The use of a lease came close but the State Auditor has confirmed that the intent was to purchase the pianos, not lease them.

Fact: Powerful Partners is stealing space from the District.
The District claimed that Powerful Partners disbanded in 2007, but somehow they are still using their same name and still occupy the same space in the ESC. If an organization "disbands" are they no longer responsible for the debts they have accumulated?

Fact: The New Administration Site is contaminated.
The problem with establishing this fact is the absence of legally-required documentation being filed with the appropriate agencies. Personally reading many of these documents was enough to convince staff and consultants of contamination. The District, however, wanted to funnel an additional $2,500,000.00 to a friend from Medina with wineries in Woodinville.

Fact: Capital Partnership funds have been misappropriated.
When the District decided to no longer be a partner and transfer these projects to another department that is capital funded, they swept more than $150,000.00 in matchable money under the rug. This single action removed $300,000.00 in projects away from district playgrounds.

Fact: Reconfigurations are now performed by outside vendors.
The District has no one on staff that has the ability to learn or understand how to maintain inventory of panels and parts. They have no one on staff that can manage a reconfiguration. They have no internal talent that can learn or become trained in reconfigurations.

Fact: The District hires friends and relatives.
If you have any doubts as to the validity of this statement, you aren't getting out much. People that have come in dead last in a list of applicants have magically been hired. People that didn't even bother to apply had their applications inserted in after the deadline. People without any qualifications or experience have been hired to manage staff having jobs they don't understand.

Fact: The District did not act in the public's best interest when they sold Old Woodway Elementary.
This topic will be covered in greater detail in the near future. Essentially, during the peak of our last real estate frenzy, the District advertised the entire site as being for sale. After filtering out all developers that could not perform a demolition, they then handed a vacant piece of dirt to Burnstead. The summary page of the Old Woodway appraisal says it all.

Fact: The Snohomish County Auditor does not actually audit anything.
We cannot achieve public accountability if the State Auditor refers critical issues to the County Auditor, only to have her readily confess that she doesn't audit anything. Her job is more appropriately described as that of County Recorder.

Fact: The District claims they do not keep copies of checks.
This statement was only made to avoid having to reveal that no rent was being collected from Powerful Partners, now Powerful Tutors. For more than six years, I personally copied every check that I received while working for the District and I never received a single check from Powerful Partners.

Fact: The District refuses to read and understand the Capital Facilities Plan before adopting it.
Never fear. The document doesn't actually reveal anything anymore. There are no student generation rates nor does it provide any meaningful basis for the enrollment trends it might try to illustrate. If an agency refuses to follow their own adopted planning documents, why not just water them down so they become as meaningless as the Board?

Fact: The District hired someone to sit at home for 16 hours a week waiting for a pager to go off.
Staff used to carry the pager one weekend a month as Non-Exempt employees and never received compensation for all of the hours they sat around waiting for a crisis to occur. Personally, I carried the pager for no less than 30 days a year and never received a single dollar for the inconvenience.

There are many other rather shocking revelations to discover by reading this blog. If you have any doubt as to the credibility of any statement contained herein, please feel free to contact us. You can also contact the District, but then they won't tell you anything.

Perhaps NPI should audit that piano transaction.

Living in Edmonds, we have a great resource right at our fingertips. There is an organization called Northwest Procurement Institute that offers training in public agency procurement practices. Just take a look at the current list of course offerings. Wouldn't it be great to tap that exceptionally endowed organization to review the piano scam and truly put the issue to rest, once and for all?

We could also ask NPI to review the Powerful Partners (conveniently renamed Powerful Tutors) lease and see if it truly is a legally binding document. I don't run an "Institute" but I am fairly sure that I know a lease when I see one, or in this case, write one. If NPI can wield the weight of their considerable intellect and publicly declare whether the lease is valid, it could take a lot of pressure off of the Board and offer a respite from sniping by the blog.

But wait a minute. Isn't that the same organization that is owned and operated by a member of the school board? So, wouldn't it stand to reason that such a review has already taken place? If the Board accepted and endorsed the manner in which the pianos were acquired and declared the lease with Powerful Partners invalid, that would undermine the strength of management at NPI. This is a rather sad turn of events. The Board seemingly had an expert among them and still allowed district management to run amok. It wasn't as if there were five imbeciles on the Board. One of them actually passes himself off as an expert in the realm of procurement practices.

The same can be said of the contaminated site slated to accommodate the new administration building. Someone trained as an engineer should be able to understand the concept of contamination. So, if such an engineer were to be a member of the Board, and I am led to believe that there is such an engineer on the Board, wouldn't he be in a position to know what constitutes a significant threshold? Wouldn't he have an idea as to what constitutes a mathematical certainty and what can be relegated to a less significant margin of acceptability? Wouldn't this person's inability to grasp the concept of contamination cast a questionable shadow across his employer's ability to hire the best and brightest engineers? Of course, since he only recently asked if the site was contaminated, he clearly must have been sleeping since 2005.

We need better people on the Board. While the public may have tapped the current board members for the illusion of intelligence, it hasn't generated the sort of results we have been seeking. Having the credentials to serve the public and using them are two entirely different things. Saying you seek public accountability and actually promoting it are two different things. The Board is currently unable or unwilling to truly govern our district with the sort of leadership we desperately need.

I find it surprising that, as a nation we were able to take an awe-inspiring step forward by electing a relatively unknown senator to become our next president and yet locally, we collectively refuse to embrace the opportunity to change things for the better.

I wonder if the owner/operator of NPI truly believes that the piano scam wasn't a scam at all. I wonder if he truly believes that a signed lease with a public agency doesn't mean anything.

I wonder if an engineer in the aerospace industry truly believes that the new administration site isn't contaminated because Marla confirmed it. Perhaps if Marla taped cardboard wings on a bicycle and confirmed that it could fly, this board member would be packing his bags to fly it to his next vacation.

The foolish choices made by our elected board members, and Gary Noble, do very little to promote the intelligence and objective deliberation of district leadership, but they also weaken the strength of companies in our region.

Blog: Simplified Acquisition Procedures - Advanced - 5 Days - $830. If a public agency seeks to procure anything, just write a lease. Give Perkins a call and I am sure they can draft something hardly intelligible but that meets the minimum legal threshold.

Our Beliefs Impact Board Effort.

The Board interprets our belief about their ability and potential. Our thoughts matter and how we work with the Board brings about results consistent with these beliefs.

Uri Treisman, Professor from the Dana Center at the University of Texas, recently noted that if the public thinks a board's ability is “permanently fixed” and not capable of being improved; then, expectations and interventions are impacted and the Board doesn't improve. In now 25 years in public education, I have seen that this is particularly critical for board members with low self confidence. A rare board member is strong enough to overcome and learn in spite of their own limitations. Most are victims of it. However, if we think a board member's ability can improve from effort and we accept and start with them where their ability is now, combined with a belief that if they worked with us, that together we can reach a higher and better place for their learning and performance then that is exactly what happens. Board members come to us as they are; the first and most profound variable for all board member learning is our acceptance of them as people and our belief in them as elected officials.

Our beliefs directly influence board member motivation, effort, and ultimately performance over time. Given a healthy belief about the capacity for ALL board members to make an effort, and in doing so improve, here are some tips for building board member motivation:

1. Keep board members in psychologically and emotionally safe places when they are working so they are empowered to make the effort and not be driven by fear to avoid making an effort for risk of looking bad in their own eyes and in their peer culture

2. Help board members accept in a real and honest way, where they are. Reinforce them in a caring way that they are of value at that starting place. Express hope for them in how you communicate, such that they are willing to make the effort to improve.

3. Admit with the board member that it is hard work but they are worth making the investment in themselves, their education, and their future.

4. Start with what board members know and can do, and then build on these to gain momentum.

5. Have routines for recognizing improvement and effort, as well as recognition of performance; or else for the reluctant board member you will get neither.

6. Reinforce the tenacity of board members working through new learning in your community. When their effort is rewarded and recognized, it is like priming a pump of positive energy and they will want to work harder.

7. Know your struggling board members by name and face, and not just as statistics on a chart or graph. As you build relationships and trust with them, their efforts will increase for you and with you, even if the subject matter is a struggle.

When you get together with your friends and neighbors, use the time to share strategies, approaches, and successes with each other. Talk about your practice with each other and use board member comprehension as the center piece. What we focus on as adults is what gets done, and when board member learning is our collective target, everyone wins.

Blog: This entry is a slightly modified version of something posted on the District's website. The moderator of the blog is not the original author of this material.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Camp moves to Lake in the Woods.

Sometimes it becomes necessary to pack up Camp and move to a better place. Eventually, there just aren't enough places to bury excrement and you have to move to a new place, farther from Edmonds. Of course, it doesn't help matters when many of the people around your Camp are burying their waste under your tent.

There was a great opportunity, not long ago, to make the Camp a permanent base and build a house with all of the necessary amenities to support a robust and vibrant place. Unfortunately, this Camp was overlooked as the great and vital resource that it was. Now, the Camp is moving further north.

With the uprooting of this Camp, the organization of wolves will rejoice in that no future Camps will be established and money will be saved by allowing staff to wander around with no particular direction in mind. Some will sleep for hours at a time, locked in a latrine. Others will smuggle materials to distant locations for use at their private, personal place.

A Camp offers the opportunity for nomadic people to return to a common place where ideas and stories can be shared. Without a Camp, such nomadic people will just wander aimlessly without the benefit of a unified community. As wanderers, they will be more easily picked off by wolves and budgetary predators.

Without the hope of another Camp, the outcome is obvious; wandering nomads, without the benefit of a map, will quickly get lost. These wanderers may find themselves at the Shoreline, Cape Flattery, Northshore, Kettle Falls, Mount Vernon, Mercer Island or Lake Stevens. Can we really afford to have these people wander off to new territories?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

District needs to call in the Mythbusters.

Single reading, approve Acceptance of Public Works Contract, District Support Center - early site grading package, Resolution #08-47.
It was moved by Director Shields and seconded by Director Noble to approve the acceptance of public works contract – District Support Center early site grading package, Resolution #08-47. It was confirmed that there was no soil contamination on the site and that the early site grading was complete. All aye.

So, I have to ask, who "confirmed that there was no soil contamination"? Any reasonable person would have to ask such a question. Confirmation of such a condition would require the requisite qualifications to make such an assessment. Better still, the public should, at the very least, seek "certification" from the designated environmental engineering firm working for the District. The best path forward would be an independent assessment from a third party - which will never happen.

If AMEC is prepared to certify that the site is free from contamination, the public should be reasonably confident that future problems with abating or mitigating contamination would be minimal.

This particular board action item smacks of utter stupidity. Why not just "confirm" that Gary Noble is god, that Nick Brossoit is dependable or that Marla Miller is honest. Under what authority is such a confirmation offered? What good is such a confirmation if there is nothing of substance to back up the confirmation. The only confirmation offered by the board action item is the Board's absolute and irrefutable detachment from any sense of obligation to the community.

Is anyone fooled by this meaningless confirmation inserted into the board minutes? I would be willing to bet that if you can read words written in the English language then you likely share my view that our district is being driven into the ground by a tag team of bobbleheads.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

ESD15 spins off an office reconfiguration service.

In an effort to better support our financially-strapped public agencies, the blog has decided to offer reconfiguration services to help our community weather the storm of economic uncertainty. It is no longer necessary to contact those high-end cubicle companies to have your space reconfigured, nor is it necessary to interact with internal staff to try to ascertain just what exactly your new space might look like.

Our experience is extensive. Our lead installer has experience building out AO2 cubicles and can reconfigure a space containing 20 to 30 employees over a single weekend. Collectively, we have designed more efficient work spaces, tracked existing inventory, tapped resources for obtaining additional Herman Miller AO2 panels and pieces, coordinated the delivery of portable crates, managed the networking requirements of the new space, enlisted the services of licensed electricians to ensure safe, code-compliant connections and cleaned the entire space so staff can get to work promptly once they return.

Why confine yourself to the limitations of a static work environment when your staffing needs change all of the time? The panels move, after all. They easily come apart and easily go back together. It isn't rocket science, so why would you pay rocket science rates?

Herman Miller AO2 panels and pieces are very common and additional pieces can be acquired on the secondary market for a fraction of the original price. Our staff is even skilled at reupholstering panels to make them work in a more aesthetically pleasing manner. No mish-mash of colors or a splash of contrast where such a splash really isn't wanted.

Why waste the time of valuable, internal staff with something so simple as a reconfiguration? Why would any public agency want their employees harboring grudges against co-workers for messing up what was only an inefficient space and now is an horrendous mess that accommodates no one? Let those valuable employees get back to filling out purchase orders or tracking keys.

Our reconfiguration service is founded on one basic premise. We serve as reconfiguration consultants. We assemble the best people and products and ensure the lowest possible price and shortest possible down time because of our vast experience in the industry.

If you are concerned about what your accounting department might say about that fat check made out to, don't worry, as consultants we won't charge you a thing. You just pay for the parts and the hourly rate of our highly-efficient installer.

If you need a first or second opinion about how to get your space modified to meet your programmatic needs for the lowest possible price, do yourself a favor and email us immediately.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Perkins Coie must be on speed dial.

On the 20th of November, at 8:21 AM, using Internet Explorer 7.0 and Windows 2003 with an unspecified monitor resolution and an IP address of, a user named Edmonds School District logged on to the blog.

Eight minutes and 30 seconds later, this user visited another page on the blog.

At 8:53 AM, using Internet Explorer 6.0 and Windows XP with a monitor resolution of 1024x768 and an IP address of, a user named Perkins Coie logged on to the blog. They visited the entry found by clicking here.

At 8:55 AM, this same user at Perkins Coie then visited another entry found by clicking here.

The total time spent on the blog by Perkins Coie was less than two minutes and involved visits to no more than two entries. At a rate of $360 an hour, the bill for this legal review will be - if they bill by the minute - no less than $12.00. That is 17 frozen cheese sandwiches.

Points to review by legal:

"seems to expose a rather disturbing trend"
The author's impression or opinion.

"seem[s] that no one at the District is capable of seeing a legal argument"
The author's impression or opinion.

"no one on staff...apparently knows when a legal threshold has been crossed"
The author's impression or opinion.

"the habit of channeling business to friends"
Demonstrated fact of past conduct. [See: Piano Scam]

"What are the rest of us supposed to believe about the intelligence of district management?"
Asking a question. The answer could be rather flattering to district management.

"The District has developed an itchy trigger finger because they never paid for the gun or ammo and have no stake in the bloodshed the bullets may cause."
If this statement suggests a veiled threat of some kind, keep in mind that the District is the one depicted as holding a gun.

"The Board continues to deny the fact that Gary Noble is a squatter and needs to be ejected from his illegitimately acquired seat."
Statement of fact. [See: Gary Noble]

"The issue will no doubt end up in a court room and will result in one simple conclusion."
If this is interpreted as a threat of some kind, that cannot be helped. The public has the choice to file for corrective action and will likely do so. I have faith in my community.

"Are members of the public so simple that lawyers can easily convince them to focus on a single dot rather than a line or a pattern?"
This seems to be either a criticism of unknown members of the public or a compliment to the legal profession.

"The District will continue to bleed cash on lawyers when people that lack legal training or legal sense engage the services of lawyers to defend incredibly stupid choices."
I am not aware of any member of district staff having passed the Washington State Bar or management actually using the opinions of such district exceptions during the course of discussions regarding facilities or operations.

"The lawyers defending the District are reminiscent of the worst sort of defense attorneys - those doing whatever is necessary to get their client off, even if their client committed the crime."
A direct comparison between the District's lawyers and criminal defense attorneys working hard to serve their client. Again, a compliment to lawyers or perhaps a direct comparison with the fashion sense they may have in common.

Note to Legal: I normally work from 6:45 AM until 3:45 PM. Today would be a normal day.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The public pays for the District's lack of legal sense.

A question has been posed by a contributor to this blog that seems to expose a rather disturbing trend in the manner in which our public servants at the Edmonds School District engage law firms. It would seem that no one at the District is capable of seeing a legal argument when one is blatantly obvious. There is no one on staff that apparently knows when a legal threshold has been crossed.

With the amount of money being spent on lawyers, and the habit of channeling business to friends, the public cannot be blamed for thinking that maybe district management has friends at these law firms. After all, when a lawyer from Rotary is struggling to keep his law practice afloat, he makes a call and his wife is hired without qualifications or meaningful experience. What are the rest of us supposed to believe about the intelligence of district management?

These are the same people that are making decisions about how best to educate our children.

From a personal perspective, I was rather surprised to see the District hire Perkins Coie to challenge my use of for non-profit, community discussions about the Edmonds School District. [Let the legal billing begin, The District wants your wool socks] If ever there was a reason to use .org, a public forum would be the perfect venue for such a domain. Hiring a high-priced law firm to mail a few threatening letters does nothing more than incur legal fees that have to be covered by the public.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to have a portion of the legal fees incurred by the District passed along to the manager that engaged the firm to mount an offensive position on the issue. Perhaps 10%? Maybe 25%? The District has developed an itchy trigger finger because they never paid for the gun or ammo and have no stake in the bloodshed the bullets may cause.

Next was the senseless defense of Gary Noble's ineligibility to run for a seat on the Board. Despite the fact that board policies were written in English and they were very easy to understand, the District's next law firm relied upon irrelevant state laws to manufacture a non-existent defense of Gary Noble. [Gary Noble should immediately resign, "Exit Items" reveal that Gary Noble must go, Shoveling smoke and talking by the hour] The State Auditor and Attorney General have both weighed in and have concluded that Gary Noble is out of compliance. The Board continues to deny the fact that Gary Noble is a squatter and needs to be ejected from his illegitimately acquired seat.

The issue will no doubt end up in a court room and will result in one simple conclusion. Unfortunately, the legal fees incurred by the District will never be covered by Gary Noble, despite the fact that his refusal to relinquish an undeserved seat is at the root of legal expenses.

The question posed was this:
When is a law firm obligated to advise their client that the facts do not support their case?

On the one hand, the law firm is made up of partners that have an expectation of maximizing income for their firm. On the other, the firm needs to adequately protect their client from incurring unnecessary charges chasing after bad policies that will only result in future losses.

Is a law firm doing its job when their client spends very little paying for lawyers? Of course. Where is the sense of justice when a law firm just spins bad decisions long enough to wear down their opponent? What happens when such cases arrive before a jury? Are members of the public so simple that lawyers can easily convince them to focus on a single dot rather than a line or a pattern?

The District will continue to bleed cash on lawyers when people that lack legal training or legal sense engage the services of lawyers to defend incredibly stupid choices. The lawyers defending the District are reminiscent of the worst sort of defense attorneys - those doing whatever is necessary to get their client off, even if their client committed the crime.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Public servants or self-serving fraudsters on public assistance?

Interesting article in our local paper on the sparsely populated side of the state. Seems the State Auditor is concerned with travel costs paid by Washington school district for professional meetings. Spending too much money on hotel rooms, not renting economy cars, etc. Now, we are talking about 1/3 of 1% of the total amount of money spent on schools, but "reducing travel costs...would free up more dollars to educate kids." (Tri-City Herald, 11/17/08, B1)

Paying the school superintendent less than the governor would have the same effect. Not purchasing contaminated land would have the same effect. Not lease/purchasing pianos through a purposefully convoluted process (and not being able to find the paperwork or checks) would have the same effect. Not paying relatives above the standard pay grade would have the same effect. The list is extensive, Mr Sonntag.

Yes, it was the bean counters who finally got Al Capone, but it seems that our Auditor's office is missing the big picture here. Knocking a district for staying at the hotel/convention center rather than the Motel 6 at the edge of town (and having to perhaps rent a car to get to the conference) while ignoring the waste of millions of dollars on the purchase of contaminated property that the district has refused for years to purchase (or any of the dozen or so issues placed before the Auditor's office) seems myopic.

But perhaps, if the Auditor can get an article in the paper every once in a while that "shows" he is doing "something," that would satisfy his goal of looking productive even if the big fish get away.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Woodway and Evergreen: Your days are numbered.

The agenda for the Board meeting scheduled for November 18th includes a first reading for the closure of Woodway and a first reading for the closure of Evergreen. What happened to the "study" being conducted by the CPC? What happened to the deliberation by the Board? The CPC was to study and develop a plan for consolidation. Where is that plan?

Will the Board at least "read" something to the audience during the Board meeting? Normally, they think that reading the agenda item constitutes an actual reading of the action item. The rest of us would like to know what is happening and just because our elected BMs don't care doesn't mean the rest of us don't either.

It must be very troubling to be a parent of students at Woodway or Evergreen. They appear to be rather quiet on this topic. Have they been drinking Nick's Kool-Aid?

In a matter of a few years, the Evergreen site will be grabbed by the City of Mountlake Terrace at some bargain basement price - or perhaps just given away. The City wants to develop the site and has been threatening to do so for years. It wasn't long ago when they attempted to rezone the site, making it impossible for the school to make any meaningful improvements. So why did greater minds seek to confront this change in zoning?

When it all comes down to it, the City will get their zoning, a developer will get the site and Marla will get whatever it is that she wants from this. The only loser in the process will be the taxpayers of the Edmonds School District.

NEW BUSINESS (2 minutes each)
1. Single reading, approve Acceptance of Public Works Contract, District Support Center - early site grading package, Resolution #08-47.
2. First reading, Woodway Elementary School Closure (no action)
3. First reading, Evergreen Elementary School Closure (no action)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Public perception is the District's only priority.

While many in public service are only interested in how things look at the surface, there are many of us that poke and prod at issues that casual observers care not to explore.

For instance, the State Auditor is currently using a Google-supported script to generate an email every time his name surfaces in a blog entry. My logs show that he doesn't really spend much time reading, just staying long enough to see how others might perceive him. He isn't reading for substance, just trying to glean the manner in which his name is being used.

What makes this habit terribly unfortunate is that public agencies lose their ability to delve into topics in a meaningful way. They begin to evaluate issues by limiting themselves to how the public may see them. Obsession with public perception is at the root of what is eroding our public agencies. As public interest and analytical abilities wane and vanish, the public agencies being "held accountable" slip further and further from their assigned path of due diligence.

When forced to contend with an adversarial relationship, they only see opponents in very simple terms. Enemies of the organization are pounded into pre-defined roles that are better understood by the public. From hours of watching television, the public knows that opponents tend to wear dark clothing, have facial scars and are most active in the evening hours.

Public agencies have adopted a strategy of illusion. Dazzle your constituents with simple trickery and slight of hand maneuvers and no one will cast an unfavorable glance in your direction.

Fortunately, there are still a lot of public agencies that believe in their organizational mission. Unfortunately, the Edmonds School District is not one of them.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Board Meeting Report – November 4th

At the last Board Meeting, I specifically asked the Board to be accountable and RESPOND to the public in their requests – not just the "Thank you for your comments" – truly respond, state their positions and be accountable to the community they serve. Simply, they did not and acted as if I was not even in the room.

The only time this Board responds to issues is when they are addressed by the media (or to an issue that the Administration requests – of which it is a "rubber stamp") - NEVER to the public or the "rank and file staff". This is unacceptable when there are huge cuts in services being proposed by the Superintendent. A partial list of issues and abuses brought to them over the last year includes:

Children being denied food and embarrassed at school

School Lunches rising over 100% in a single year (no other school district has prices CLOSE to this)

A multi-million dollar overpayment of a contaminated land purchase

The implementation of a policy to charge PTAs rental fees so they can volunteer their time for our kids

Clear circumvention of procurement procedures to purchase hundreds of thousands of dollars for pianos

Clearly ignoring the active promotion of a culture of fear amongst district employees

Ignoring repeated calls to address school closures and dismantling the Terrace Park Middle School Program in a responsible manner

Ignoring fraudulent actions on the part of a Board member, Dr. Bruce Williams and spending thousands of dollars in legal fees that should be going to our kids

Ignoring a clear conflict of interest by another board member, Mr. Gary Noble, to run for a seat he was ineligible to run for (and did anyways with full knowledge of the violation).

And the list goes on, and on.

We need a fundamental change in the School Board to allow us to create a District that is representative of our community, operates effectively and independently from the Administration, provide QUALITY education to our kids and communicate with our parents and district staff.

We need to vote the entire board out of office and start fresh. We need a board that is RESPONSIVE to the needs of the community and is ACCOUNTABLE to the community they serve.

Rick Jorgensen

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Blog has become a permanent record of district misconduct.

In reviewing blog traffic recently, it has become abundantly clear that our entries are being read by a wide range of people from a wide range of places. Many of our visitors have been reading articles from the summer of 2007 while the majority are reading several entries every day.

Thanks to StatCounter, I can tell how long each visitor is staying on the blog, what articles they are reading, in what order and where they go once they leave This is powerful information and can be used to specifically guide topics for discussion. I know what is interesting to our visitors and I know what generates the most traffic.

The vast majority of our visitors come from a Google search of keywords. There are many other search engines being utilized, but the bulk of searches come by way of Google. The same can be said of browser locations. There are many people visiting the blog from all over the world, but the vast majority come from Snohomish County.

People are using Google to search for things like "Nick Brossoit", "Edmonds School District blog", "election results", "Randy Dorn", "pat shields school board edmonds", "School district superintendent, no trespass, retaliation", "why cheese sandwich in schools" and "Seattle Northwest Securities school bond". What is most interesting is that the information presented on the blog will be available for many years to come. It will forever illustrate what this current band of scoundrels has been up to and it will offer all of the evidence for their misdeeds for the foreseeable future.

To date, the blog has exposed election fraud by Bruce Williams, utter stupidity and election fraud by Gary Noble, theft of public resources by Pat Shields, refusal to photocopy checks or keep adequate records by management, favoritism in Human Resources, violations of public procurement requirements by Marla Miller, absolute incompetence by management regarding Cedar Valley, Site 6 and the new administration site, irrefutable evidence of simple-mindedness regarding the Capital Facilities Plan, blatant theft of public resources regarding the Capital Partnership Program and a wide assortment of other iniquitous conduct by district management. All the evidence any reader would need is right here in this blog. If anyone has a doubt, ask the District to explain themselves. They won't because they can't.

The blog also has more than 186,364 page views and more than 500 entries.

Additionally, the blog has been contacted by countless concerned parents and community members expressing a desire to stop this obvious and deplorable conduct. The general consensus at present is to challenge the District in court. The Board has been given every opportunity to correct their behavior and, to date, has demonstrated a shocking disregard for the public. I am inclined to believe that change will not happen without a court decision.

The next step in this process is to have the Gary Noble issue heard in court. Only through such a process can the many issues presented in this blog be presented in a courtroom - to be heard by a jury.

Clearly we have a problem. The blog, the State Auditor and the Attorney General all believe that Gary Noble was not eligible to run for a seat on the school board. It was recommended that board policies be changed to prevent this sort of stupidity from happening again. Those policies have been changed, but the illegitimate outcome of last year's election has not yet been corrected.

As the next phase moves forward, Gary Noble needs to decide if his unjustified seat on the Board is worth racking up additional legal expenses for the District.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Things that are holy are revealed only to men who are holy.

So far, on all of these issues where board policies and state law were violated, where the superintendent lied repeatedly to protect the sanctity of the board and its members, where crooked deals were pieced together to enrich friends and associates on the District's dime, we have seen something rather amazing unfold. The board and its tentacles are so enamored by themselves and their minions that all logic, fact and basic extrapolation are thrown out the window in favor of a simple tenet. They are God.

The Board is infallible, therefore all supporting evidence must be fabricated to support any conclusions they have already adopted - with the greatest of faith and divine intervention, no doubt. Anyone that dares speak against the sanctity of the Holy Board must immediately be labeled a heretic and cast asunder.

Contrary to this opinion is an ever-expanding string of irrefutable facts all leading to a simple conclusion of District corruption. We have the single cell organisms. We have the amphibious vertebrates crawling from the primordial soup. We have the prosimian. We have the Homo Habilis, Homo Erectus and Homo Sapien. We have the Olduwan, Acheulean, Iron Age and the Industrial Revolution. We have all of the evidence demonstrating the depth and scope of corruption in the District, but the Board, in all of its holiness, has adopted a new way of thinking: Facts are meaningless unless ordained and consecrated by the Holy Board.

Editorial: The Scientific Method seeks conclusions from facts while the Creationist Method seeks facts to support conclusions.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Randy Dorn appears to be winning.

For the latest election results, click here.

Randy Dorn held a slim lead over incumbent Terry Bergeson in early returns Tuesday in the race to become Washington state's top schools official.

If Dorn wins, it would be a big upset for Bergeson, who has spent three terms in office, and hasn't had a tight race since she first ran for the post in 1992 and lost.

"We gave the voters of the state a choice and we think we're going to win, and it will be the best thing for kids," Dorn said. "We definitely need a new set of eyes and a new leader in education."

Bergeson said she knew the race would be close, and laid some of the blame on the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which requires states to test students more than ever before.

"That's why I'm in trouble tonight," she said. "It's the weight of too much testing and too much negativity."

Win or lose, she said, she plans to find a way to work with President-elect Barack Obama's administration to make major changes in the No Child Left Behind law. Bergeson sought a fourth term to continue work she's done since the mid-1980s.

She has presided over efforts to write new learning standards for students, and to develop tests to judge whether they've reached them.

Those tests are known as the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL), which are given in grades 3-8 and 10, and cover reading, math and, in some grades, writing and science.

If re-elected, she said, this four-year term would be her last.

Dorn, executive director of a union that represents 26,000 teacher aides, bus drivers, janitors and other school employees, said he ran because he's become disenchanted with Bergeson's leadership.

As a state representative from 1987 to 1994, he helped write the education law that Bergeson has implemented, but he says she's taken it in directions that he and others never intended.

If elected, he pledged to work to get rid of the WASL and replace it with a shorter, less-expensive exam.

He particularly objected to the way Bergeson developed the math section of the WASL, saying it tested students' reading abilities as much as their math skills.

Dorn's union played a big financial role in the race.

The political-action committee of the SEIU's national office sunk about $400,000 into ads supporting Dorn, and others opposing Bergeson. Dorn sits on the SEIU national board.

By Linda Shaw, Seattle Times

Friday, October 31, 2008

The District's masquerade of integrity and virtue.

It seems appropriate to discuss district management's lack of empathy on this day of disguises and masks. Clearly, they lack the ability to look beyond what appears on the surface. They look no deeper than the masks of others and expect no one to look beyond their own masks. Until management understands that real people have real lives and actually have independent thoughts and feelings, nothing will ever change.

Management quickly thrusts opponents into a mire of negativity because they lack the ability to discern between thinking, feeling people and the shell of humans they perceive and portray. It seems their strategy is to dazzle thoughtless and shallow humans when really their audience is just unengaged and uninterested. There is a difference. People have their own lives to live and their own concerns. They don't have the energy to take on honorable causes because their honorable causes are closer to home - like family.

What is also rather striking is district management's propensity to project their motives on others. I suspect management readily assigns a rather twisted purpose to people that speak out against them. If the roles were reversed, district management would be sneaky and conniving. They may sue for no other purpose than money. They may blog for no other reason than to attack and belittle others.

If the roles were reversed, there is no way on this earth that district management would take on a personal struggle to improve the plight of others. No. If district management took on a challenge, they would have no other motive than personal enrichment and self glorification. Just look at the Piano Scam, the contaminated site, Gary Noble, Pat Shields, Bruce Williams and the lengthy list of other very bad choices made in the last few years. The record speaks for itself. It clearly demonstrates that management serves no one but themselves. If anything positive happens, it is either an unplanned coincidence or there is an underlying scam that has yet to be exposed.

Until management digs a little deeper and tries to understand others, they will amount to nothing more than paint. It may be fashionable on the day it was selected, but trends change and once the old color is covered - it is soon forgotten. I just hope that the long term impact of this current batch of paint doesn't rot out the sheet rock, studs, and exterior siding.

Happy Halloween.

Fun Factoid: This is blog entry number 498. There are 31 drafts that have yet to be posted. There are 11 completely new topics that have yet to be revealed. We have had 184,941 page views since we started in June 2007.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

And just where are those fourteen pianos?

Many people have been asking, just where are those 14 pianos purchased, sorry "leased" from Seattle Piano Gallery? If anyone knows, please tell the rest of us.

It is one thing to thwart legally-required procurement processes and direct business to friends. It is entirely a different thing if the pianos purchased, sorry "leased", never stayed in the District.

Please click on the link and check if one of these pianos ended up at your site.

Someone could make a public records request, but I suspect the District will tell you that no such records exist that reveal the whereabouts of these magical pianos.

Monday, October 27, 2008

District Benefits: One step forward, three steps back.

From: Barney, Laura (ESC)
Sent: Friday, October 24, 2008 2:50 PM
Subject: Insurance Benefits and Pools
Importance: High

To: Group Leadership Members

From: Laura Barney, Manager of Payroll and Benefits

Re: Insurance Benefits and Pooling

Earlier this week notification was sent to the leadership of each employee group about the new pooling amounts for the 08-09 school year. As always, the cost of benefit coverage and the impact it has on all employees is an important issue for the District. In addition, during this period of economic uncertainty employees are more concerned than ever about the impact these increased benefit costs have on their pay. As leaders within your groups, I thought it would be helpful to share some "talking points" about benefits and pooling, so you are able to answer questions or address concerns from your members.

The perception is that the District has "cut" employees' benefits. This is not the case. In fact, the state allocation increased by $25 per month and all employee groups (with the exception of Superintendent's Staff) receive an additional allocation per month, funded by the District, based on midpoint data.

There are several factors that have occurred that have unfortunately caused greater out-of-pocket expense for several individuals:

Health insurance rates increased significantly in September. Although the District negotiated lower rate increases than originally proposed by the insurance companies, rate increases are a direct result of plan use the prior year. District employees and dependents are using their medical coverage to the fullest capacity and this has directly impacted the rate increases.

It is important that employees remember they are only guaranteed the state allocation (based on FTE) toward their benefit package each year. The District does pool the excess dollars for most groups so all additional funds go directly back to the employees, however, there is no way to predict the actual pooling dollars from one year to the next. We acknowledge this is difficult for planning purposes and that is why we are diligent about reminding employees in our benefit brochures, at the Benefits Fair and at labor management meetings that they should be making insurance decisions based on their needs, and financial decisions based on the state allocation each year.

Sometimes employees will forget that pools will vary from year to year and will make plan changes or will add family members based on what they anticipate will be available to them in the fall; then when the pools are calculated following open enrollment, they are surprised by the decrease in pool dollars and the increase to their out-of-pocket expense.

Pool balances are monitored monthly and are recalculated twice a year, once in October and again in April. Historically, pools are higher in the spring than in the fall. This occurs primarily because employees drop dependent coverage after they see their out-of-pocket expense in the fall, therefore "freeing up" pool dollars for others to use. We wait until April to adjust the pool dollars because during the first part of the school year there is a lot of fluctuation to all the factors that affect pooling; enrollment changes (dropping dependent coverage), new hires, FTE/hours changes, etc. Generally, by mid-year these factors are static and we are able to accurately adjust the pools.

There is a bigger impact to the pool when the employee group is smaller (like maintenance or principals) compared to the larger groups (teacher or paraeducators). A change by 1 person in a smaller group can significantly impact the pool dollars for every employee in that group.

Why does the notification about pool dollars happen so late in October?

Pools are calculated based on all the changes that occur during open enrollment. Open enrollment lasts the entire month of September. We calculate the pools once all enrollment changes are entered into the payroll system and all new hires and FTE changes are processed for October payroll; this is usually complete about the third week of October. As soon as this work is complete the information is shared with each group. It is not possible to calculate the pools prior to open enrollment since the pool amounts are driven by the changes that occur during open enrollment. The process and timing of calculating the pools is the same this year as it has been for many years.

Thank you for your help communicating this important information to our employees. If you have questions you can contact me directly at (425) 431-7037. If staff members have specific concerns, I am happy to talk with them.