Friday, January 25, 2008

Refusing to march to the District's drum of mediocrity.

I found the articles regarding National History Day (posted 1/23) very disturbing. It saddens me to learn that a program that promoted academic growth in middle school students was dismantled. This is not the first time I have heard about academic mediocrity in the District.

While I was at the District, I was fortunate to get to meet and know parents from various schools as part of emergency preparedness activities. Madrona K-8 stood out from all the rest as they had an established robust program. Later, I learned that parent involvement in every aspect of the school was exceptional, not just with preparedness activities. Students reaped benefits of enriched programs from a staff spurred by the engaged, dedicated community. However, from what I have been told, the school is now just a shadow of what was due to the systematic dismantling of outstanding programs and the loss of talented teachers.

One of these teachers, Tim Kennedy, had (and still has) the precious talent of inspiring kids while they learned MATH. Unconventional in style, Mr. Kennedy was forced to resign. No matter that the students adored him. No matter that they learned and were prepared for high school. Mr. Kennedy did not march to the drum of mediocrity preached by the administration.

How to teach math has been at the heart of debate for several years. Instead of teaching math how mathematicians, engineers and scientists actually use it, math is taught how educators believe how students will learn it. This begs a question. Which would you rather your child do? Learn how to drive a car from someone who never has but can describe it to them bit by bit and hope they discover how; or learn from someone who can actually drive and will let them take a supervised spin? No wonder the WASL deadline for math is now 2013. (This topic is covered in David Ross’s book Math Wars,

Erin Hothschild, a colleague of mine who is 23 years old, tells a powerful story. In the sixth grade, she and her best friend used to "cheat" in math. They were required to exchange and grade each other’s papers. They changed answers to get better grades.

Her grades compelled her teacher to place her in advanced math in middle school instead of integrated math. She academically caught fire as she took a traditional curriculum in middle and high school of algebra, geometry, trigonometry, analytic geometry and calculus. Now she giggles, "I’m now an engineer because I cheated in math!" She admits she would have never known her potential had she not had the opportunity to be challenged and would be "Flipping burgers like everyone else."

This is in stark contrast to the Edmonds Woodway High graduate I know who had to drop out of engineering school his first year because he was not mathematically prepared for the program. This begs another question. Why does the District cheat its students of the opportunity to excel? Equity does not have to mean mediocrity. When you set your sites on the lowest common denominator, sadly, that is what you will achieve.

Claire Olsovsky


Anonymous said...

If you are superintendent, how can people apply for a job? said...

My board of directors appointed Claire Olsovsky Superintendent of

Kippy, Moshi, Mr. Wiggles, Thumper 1, Thumper 2 and Rufus all voted in favor.

Wally the stuffed ostrich abstained.

It was a hotly-contested race with Claire running against 15 anonymous candidates.

Anonymous said...

Looks like there is better competition here than at the less virtual place of employment.

Anonymous said...

Well now, if the Edmonds School District had a viable educational program it could not have added yet another assistant superintendant to the payroll. Tony Byrd might still be an elementary principal - and that just would not be the way to for the administration to treat on of its friends.

Be realistic Claire, supporting the administrative clan is what this school district is really about. Children are just the conveniently haphazard justification for achieving the former.

Parents who wish educational excellence for their children make the sacrifices to place their children in private schools - or at least move them out of District.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad that someone mentioned Tim Kennedy on this blog. He was politically forced out of Madrona due to his unorthodox approach to teaching yet he was hugely successful. My son still regards him as a very positive influence and one of the best teachers he ever had (or will have). This speaks volumes for the ineptitude and narrow-mindedness of our District in its treatment and respect of personnel and its blind obedience to assumed authority. It is madness, really.

Anonymous said...

Madrona is a shadow of what it once was. Mr. Kennedy was a popular teacher and was very good at reaching the kids who had trouble in math. But the problem was he didn't fit the round hole the principal at Madrona tries to put everyone in. I am so glad we only have a few more years to go at Madrona. But then I look to the future and think are the high schools any better???

Anonymous said...

Tony Bryd has his eye on the head Superintendent job. I can remember when he went from Beverly Elementary to Cedar Valley, because he wanted more diversity. He was only there for a year or two at the most. I wonder what was his platform for leaving Cedar Valley and applying for the position he has now? I will never believe it was because he cares about children.

Tony Bryd is not by himself. There are other principals (Cedar Way, Evergreen, Madrona and Maplewood Center) who feel they will be the next Supt. Staff in the Edmonds School District. The children in the Edmonds School District deserve building principals who really care about them and want to see them become the best future leaders of tomorrow.

I don't know if this is the place to mention this, but I can remember a couple years ago when some of the kids at Cedar Way, I think unrinated on the bathroom floor and the principal had them come in on a Saturday and clean the Bathroom. Is this ironic when an adult Manager in the Edmonds School Distict urinates on the floor and the custodian have to clean up behind him? Tell me, what is wrong with this picture?

Anonymous said...

You would find that other "more effective" teachers were pushed out at MMS, also. In August of '05 the English teacher with the most qualifying students on the WASL from the previous spring retired rather than continue being targeted for bullying. The tactic used was to marginalize their accomplishments. KCTS 9 Golden Apple Award winner? No, problem. Let's go demean her for "complaining" that she had more students than books. She had more students than books because she was being set up for failure by the principal. The next step would have been for him to criticize her for having students who were failing the class. Why were they failing? Because they didn't have any books! It's really hard to teach Japanese without books.

Same tactic was used with the for-high-school-credit honors biology class-put too many ill-equiped kids in there, then criticize the teacher when the students failed. It's really quite a racket. Set the teacher up for failure, then write 'em up when they fail. Classic bullying management. And Mr. Limon was cool with it. He was aware of the situation and sided with the principal.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Tim for being the most inspirational and motivational teacher our children ever had. You are our hero and we miss you. Madrona and the Edmonds School District lost a great teacher in you. We all hope it is temporary and that you will be back soon to teach MATH to our children. You are great!!

Anonymous said...

The Madrona principal as sup staff? That *would* be a new low!

Anonymous said...

Remember the "Peter Principle."

Anonymous said...

I cannot even imagine the Principal at Cedar Way Elementary as Superintendent, but I am sure this is his goal. He came in with an attitude, which is very obvious, had his former wife, yes FORMER, come in and choose paint colors for the building. Why weren't the staff, PTA, community asked for input?? He rules with an IRON HAND and it is HIS WAY OR THE HIGHWAY! He picked and chose his own staff and got rid of employees who didn't fit his criteria by writing unsatisfactory evaluations. Some had been serving CWE for 25+ years, with dedication, honesty and loyalty. Is this what we want for our LEADER down the road once Nick is gone??

Anonymous said...

Sounds like CWE underwent the same purge as MMS. Any other buildings see this?

Famously, the SecDef said that you go to war with the army you have, not the one you wish you had.

Some supervisors seem to think that they can beat the odds by pushing people out and bringing in more "yes" wo/men. (Most of those pushed out are over the age of 40, a possible violation of age discrimination laws. The administration may be leaving themselves open to costly lawsuits paid for by taxpayer money that should be going to the classroom.)

It takes 5-10 years before a teacher reaches their best form. You push out the 25+ year veterans and bring in a bunch of new grads. Where does that leave our kids?

What a surprise it will be to those newbies when they have 25 years of experience and the "new kid on the block" decides to get rid of them!! What comes around, goes around.

Anonymous said...

The big question is "Why do we even have superintendents?" Sure would be nice to use that money for classroom teachers and materials. Why do we have any superintendents?

Anonymous said...

You are correct in saying "what comes around goes around". Eventually these bullies get what they deserve; pay-back time, however some live with NO conscious and continue to destroy lives, but eventually, they will have to answer to a higher power. In many cases, the district is smart enough to include age discrimination in their "deals" they force employees to sign when they have been written an unsatisfactory evaluation. One is so distressed at this point, they go ahead and sign just to get over the grief and trauma caused by intimidation by District HR staff who work with union reps to get rid of employees. In my case, the lawyer from the union who was representing me, happened to know Debby Carter; they chatted about past dealings while I sat there in dis-belief.

Anonymous said...

That's what was disheartening about looking for a lawyer in my case. I'd get to the point of "and the union didn't do anything" and they would end the interview saying, "I've done work for WEA and this would be a conflict of interest for me because you are talking about a 'failure to represent' case." Suddenly, an age discrimination/violation-of-the-state-bullying-law case becomes a can't-rat-out-the-union case.

Dave Woods, WEA Uniserv rep, handed me the "settlement agreement" (identically as described in the 2/7/08 1:58am posting) and said, "This is the best offer you're going to get." This did not, either at the time or now, feel like he was working FOR me; it felt like he was working AGAINST me. He sounded as if he were just as happy as the administration to get rid of me.

My crime? Blowing the whistle on the bullying of students BY the principal and office manager. I witnessed it; there was no ambiguity about it. Threats of highly inappropriate punishment were made in all seriousness. I was trying to protect the students and I was the one who was given the settlement agreement and shown out the door.

Limon, HR, Wilson and Woods all shirked their duty over a two and 1/2 year period when I (and others) tried to protect the staff and students from the bullying that was clearly going on. I wasn't the only one who saw it.

Assistant supers are supposed to investigate bullying when it is alleged (at least that's what it says when I read the RCWs). HR is supposed to investigate reports of bullying (Board policy). Uniserv reps act in a quasi-legal capacity (RCW); they are supposed to advocate FOR their members, not join in screwing them over.

Bleach. Gallons and gallons of bleach. That's what we need to clean and freshen this district and it's union halls.

Anonymous said...

I hope the people at the district are paying attention to this blog....It is going to get lonely at the top.