Friday, May 30, 2008

Will the Superintendent follow his own advice?

May 30, 2008

To: Edmonds School District Staff

From: Nick J. Brossoit, Ed.D. Superintendent

Subject: For Those Who Cry Wolf

Most are familiar with the fable, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, which is attributed to Aesop and written in 1673. It is about a shepherd boy who for self entertainment repeatedly “cried wolf” to stimulate the townsfolk to rush to his aid, only to find he had raised a false alarm. When a wolf actually came and his plea went unanswered, he was victim to the wolf. At least one moral of this story is to not raise false alarms; there may be others we can glean.

In public education, we work with all types of people; there may be some who have developed a reputation based on past interactions. They might be a persistent complainer, or a person who communicates in such an uncomfortable way that the manner of their communication becomes stronger in offending people than the substance of what they are sharing. I do not expect any of our employees to be verbally abused by anyone, and if that happens please use your supervisor for assistance. What I am talking about are those persons by their behavior that can cause some to dismiss them, or not listen to them very well. Here is the danger in doing so - - -

Sometimes there is a wolf. There will be some merit, truth, or reality in the substance of the issue the person brings forth. We are wise to listen and sort through our feelings about them, our experiences with them, how they communicate, and simply establish the veracity of the “alarm” they share. When “that sometimes annoying person” raises an issue, can we be disciplined enough to see what parts (if any) are legitimate and need to be dealt with? Can we avoid dismissing all of what someone says simply because of who said it, how we might view them, or the “different” lens they use to view things?

We can learn from everyone. Granted, we should continue to operate in a safe, sensitive, caring, and reasonable manner in all things- -we still might lock our doors at night for a good reason. However, at times I am concerned that in our quest to be safe and guarded, we might disregard the voice of people who are “different” in our view, and we may not consider as thoughtfully those divergent views that may be of value. Sometimes there comes information to us from a source we might prefer to disregard. To the extent we can sort through our feelings, experiences, and tendencies to dismiss the message due to the messenger, there is a chance to benefit from discerning that which was valuable and applicable.

If you hear the cry of wolf, regardless of whom is calling, how often, or your opinion of them--look up to see if there really is any legitimate issue. If there is, deal with it. We don’t have to invite the person who is of this nature out for lunch or put them on our buddy list; still, let’s learn what is useful and valuable from all people and all situations and use it for betterment.

Thank you again for your great work, for being caring and competent in your service, and for patience and persistence at this busy time at the end of another school year.

Blog: Based solely upon this rather startling twaddle, the Superintendent and the Board would be well-advised to review the contents of this blog with an objective eye.

Supervisors may need supervision

This situation with the Everett School District is quite the fiasco. Superintendent Carol Whitehead and the district require the Kodak paper to submit copies for review prior to printing. Seems like a reasonable request given that the target audience is children and the paper's publishers are also children, using district equipment and supplies paid for by taxpayers.

The district slaps some heavy rules on the newspaper. Teacher Kay Powers openly supports the kids in their First Amendment lawsuit against the school district. The next group of kids publishing the underground version of the paper violate those rules and Ms. Powers disobeys adminstration directives. The district tries to fire Ms. Powers only to turn about in the face of strong union opposition.

Then we hear that the district may have hidden a camera to spy on Ms. Powers, the discovery of which may have been behind their decision to reinstate her. Through late last week, Ms. Whitehead vehemently denies knowing about any videotaping. Then days later she turns around and says she was consulted on the original decision to install the camera months ago. Is there a blatant and very public lie in there somewhere? Maybe "it depends on what the meaning of the word 'videotaping' is."

You could make a soap opera from the whole thing. If only it weren't playing out in front of the kids. The original intent of the request by Whitehead to review the school newspaper before publication appeared to be a show of concern for the children and youth who would read it. It appeared that there would be some adult supervision added where it has seemed lacking of late. I'm thinking that the adult supervisors may be the ones who need supervision.

Read the rest of the letter by clicking here.

John Smith

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Union seeks hearing over surveillance

The Everett teachers union says it will file a complaint against the Everett School District over the district's videotape surveillance of a high school teacher's classroom for about a month last year.

The union says the district violated labor practices and employees' rights and is calling for an open hearing about how the recordings, which are now missing, were used, The Herald (Everett) reported Wednesday.

District Superintendent Carol Whitehead revealed Friday in a two-page letter to district employees that the district used a video camera to tape English and journalism teacher Kay Powers' classroom from May 10 to June 11, 2007.

Last month, a district lawyer had denied a surveillance camera was used.

The surveillance was done to determine who was entering and leaving the classroom on weekends, Whitehead said, adding that it is the 18,500- student district's "paramount duty to protect students."

"I don't believe we have violated any laws," she said.

School board members have declined comment on Whitehead's statement.

Powers was placed on leave in June and fired in November for helping students publish an underground newspaper despite a warning not to do so. She was reinstated in April to a teaching post at Henry M. Jackson High School after reaching a settlement with the district.

In her letter, Whitehead said Powers was fired because she spent hours alone with a student producing an underground newspaper, violating curfew and district driving rules.

Powers also misused school computers, equipment and software, Whitehead wrote.

Powers and the students involved knew their "own behaviors were hush, hush," she said.

Mitch Cogdill, a lawyer for the teachers union, said that had the case gone to a hearing, the district would not have been able to prove those allegations.

"If all this is true, why did she hire (Powers) back?" Cogdill asked. "Isn't she being negligent in doing so if it's true?"

Teachers union leaders voted Tuesday to file an unfair labor practice complaint with the Public Employees Relations Commission in Olympia.

School officials defended the practice of using video cameras, which are commonly used in hallways and parking lots.

"Video cameras are used as needed to ensure the safety of students, staff or public policy," district spokeswoman Mary Waggoner said.

The rest of the story.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A tradition of "obscured bureaucracy".

The latest findings have been released by the State Auditor. No surprises.

2006-2007 Accountability Audit and Findings
2006-2007 Financial Audit and Findings

Let's review the facts:

The State Auditor totally missed an obvious case of embezzlement over many years. Only after it was pointed out by district staff were they able to start their evaluation. To date, the full impact of the theft has yet to be determined. There have only been estimates.

The State Auditor's report was available prior to the election, but not made available to the public until one week after the Tech Levy election. In fact, the report is dated April 18th and yet "issued" on May 27th. The
findings were mentioned during a school board meeting on May 20, 2008, and yet the voter's didn't have a chance to read the report until today.

The State Auditor established
a toll-free tip line for citizens to direct complaints and concerns. This information is still available on the Auditor’s website and yet they also seek to "reduce the overall number of findings" while remain "free both in fact and in appearance from personal, external and organizational impairments to independence". Whistleblowing, by its very nature, is external and weakens independence. If the State Auditor routinely conducted a more comprehensive evaluation, there would be far fewer whistles to blow.

Members of the public have directed their concerns to the State Auditor’s Office and our server activity clearly shows the number of visits to our site and the total time the Auditor spent here.

The State Auditor concluded that only two issues warrant actual findings and these two items were included in their annual report. This could only mean that the level of corruption and inappropriate conduct within the District must be relatively constant, since the number of findings has been relatively constant over the last several years.

It could also mean that if an investigation was launched into these issues, then evidence was either destroyed or, also very likely, the State Auditor does not view the sort of misconduct cited as relevant and perhaps entirely within the realm of normal business conduct. This would be the same auditor, and therefore the same standard, applied to all public entities in the State of Washington.

Furthermore, the statements made by the District appear to suggest that a “change in personnel” was at their direction and in response to previous audit findings related to property leases and rental arrangements. No notifications or comments have ever been made to previous staff regarding the need for changes in personnel and no action has ever been taken to address previous audit findings regarding leases and rental revenue.

With the timing of the Auditor’s release of these findings, one week after a Tech Levy, it has become abundantly clear that the Auditor’s office seeks to protect and preserve the current state of mismanagement at the Edmonds School District.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Everett schools secretly taped teacher

A hidden camera secretly taped the classroom of a controversial Cascade High School teacher to find out if she was helping students work on an underground newspaper, Everett School District officials acknowledged Friday.

The video has since disappeared. And administrators have created rules for any future surveillance deemed necessary in the 18,000-student public school district.

The admission by Superintendent Carol Whitehead proves that the teachers union was right last month when it accused the district of spying on Kay Powers before she was fired. At the time, a lawyer for the school district denied the allegation.

On Friday, Whitehead told the district's 2,500 employees in a two-page letter that Deputy Superintendent Karst Brandsma authorized the taping.

"I was not aware that there was any video," she said in an interview. There was no audio taken by the camera, she added. To do so without prior consent from those being spied upon is illegal in Washington.

Whitehead did not say whether any taxpayer money went to pay for the surveillance company that set up and monitored the camera.

After the teachers union made its allegations public in April, Whitehead hired another lawyer to determine if her district did in fact spy on Powers.

Whitehead said she wanted an "independent investigator" who could question district leaders.

That report, by Seattle lawyer Mike Patterson, concluded that a video camera was installed in the classroom between May 10 and June 11 of last year. It was unclear Friday how much the district spent to employ Patterson.

"Deputy Superintendent Brandsma authorized video monitoring from the hallway looking at the door to Kay Powers' classroom to determine if students were frequenting her classroom late at night or on weekends in violation of school policies and the district directives to Kay Powers," the report said.

Powers and her students were banned from using district equipment to publish an alternative newspaper. Powers' firing followed the district's discovery that a student had used a classroom computer to copy files from an e-mail account to his personal laptop for use in an alternative student newspaper.

It was unclear whether Brandsma would be disciplined; he could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Click here for the rest of the story.

By Eric Stevick
Herald Writer

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Who promotes recycling without a recycling program?

The blog tip line received a call regarding an email message that went out to staff. As stated in an earlier entry, a message went out encouraging staff to "Put paper, glass and aluminum cans in recycling containers instead of garbage cans". The caller had other news to report.

Apparently, the District only recycles paper. Teachers across the District have routinely complained about a lack of recycling in their schools. Some have even gone as far as to transport their recycling home to ensure that it doesn't make it to a landfill.

It looks like management may be out of touch with actual business and operations.

The caller went on to complain that site staff bring trash from home to throw into the school dumpster.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Layoff notices sent to teachers

Layoff notices have been sent to some teachers of art, vocational education and Chinese in the Edmonds School District.

Altogether, the district did a reduction in force of 1.5 full-time equivalent, or FTE, certificated positions, said Debbie Carter, assistant superintendent of human resources. The teachers taught part-time.

The positions were reduced because of declining enrollment, which brings in less funding from the state. Enrollment in those specific areas was low, and the teachers had limited certification so couldn't be assigned to other areas, Carter said.

The programs, including Chinese, will still be offered, she said.Altogether, the district closed 21 certificated positions this year due to declining enrollment. Most of those people were reassigned and not laid off, thanks to retirements and resignations.

The district had a deadline of May 15 to send layoff notices to certificated employees.In addition, the district has eliminated other positions to help fill a roughly $3 million budget gap. The gap comes from declining enrollment and other factors, including raises for teachers that are mandated but not fully funded by the state.

The district has closed 3.5 FTE administrative positions that worked out of the district office and 12.5 FTE classified positions.

The 12.5 FTE classified positions closed include office personnel at the schools and the district office, though the majority of them are at the district office, Carter said. It also includes some paraeducator positions, professional technical positions and volunteer coordinators.

In addition to that, officials are looking to cut about $269,000 in paraeducator hours.

Job cuts and other cuts related to the budget gap will be discussed at community meetings this month and in June.

Read the rest of the story by clicking here.

Sarah Koenig
Enterprise reporter

Editor: Chinese character above means "Get Out!"

Stop selling chickens and start selling pelts.

As we wait for the results of the 2007 audit by the State Auditor, it is important to remind everyone that Mr. Sonntag's audit team missed a fairly obvious case of embezzlement for a number of years and it was only after district staff exposed the issue and brought it to management that the matter was then investigated by the Auditor. They are not so good at finding problems but they have ready-made expressions that they can cut and paste into a report to describe what transpired.

It also continues to amaze me how the District was so adamant that the embezzlement couldn't possibly be happening. Management went as far as to suggest that the budget analyst that discovered the crime had to be mistaken. No doubt a solid "Hen House Fox Protection Program". With all of the foxes raiding the place, we would should stop selling chickens and start selling pelts.

It is also important to mention that the State Auditor, Brian Sonntag, continues to ask the public to call a tip line to report government waste and fraud. It will be interesting to know what sort of response a lengthy list of complaints will receive. According to RCWs and the District's own Business Service's website, the Piano Scam should result in the termination of the Assistant Superintendent of Business and Operations. I remain confident that the audit report will be watered down and the blame will be cast in the wrong direction.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

District capitalizes on voter apathy.

Preliminary Election Results

Dear Parents, Guardians, and Community Members:

The first County count of ballots for our May 20th Replacement Levy for Technology and Capital Projects shows the measure passing by 63%. There will be another count of ballots on Thursday, May 22nd at 5:00 p.m. by the County. We will provide an update later in the week.

This measure is only subject to a “simple majority” threshold for passing; therefore, this is a fantastic result. It is prudent to wait for more ballots to be counted given those that come in by mail after May 20th; however, historically later ballots cast for school measures tend to be more favorable. Thus, we won’t make a final declaration until it IS official; still, this is really positive.

It is extremely heartwarming to have this level of support in any school election, in particular when the economy and the public’s concerns for their real costs of living are so profound. To have voters express this degree of support in this environment, is testimony to the tremendous commitment our voters have for students and public schools. Your continued caring and competent service for students, learning, and our community – are essential for this community support. Thank you!

We will develop some “district” ways of thanking our community for their support with this measure; however, please extend yourself in any appropriate way to thank those (including yourself) who shared information, volunteered, and/or voted. We are a great district and always working to be even better.

Nick Brossoit, Ed.D.

It is important to keep this "victory" in perspective.

The total number of votes cast in support of the Tech Levy is 83% of the number of students in the District. It would stand to reason that if each child came from a supportive home and had influence (earned or otherwise) over .83 adults, these would comprise the individuals that actually voted in favor of the Tech Levy.

This assumes no involvement from registered voters without children in district schools.

This does not include all of the employees living in the District that would naturally vote to financially support their employer.

Worse still, thirty-six percent of the votes cast were against the Tech Levy. So, if you apply the comparison mentioned above, more than one third of those that took an interest in voting actually voted against the Tech Levy. It might be more prudent for the District to focus on all of that negative energy, not just trying to win over people who don't care enough to vote anyway.

That sort of apathy is entirely unacceptable.

Fun Factoids:
(figures are approximate and as of 5:28 on 05.22.08)

Cost of the District mailer regarding contaminated site: $6,500
Portion that was spent on postage: $6,000
Total number of households based upon .41 stamp: 14,634
Approximate multiplier for potential registered voters per household: 1.7
Approximate number of potential voters that received mailer: 24,877

Total number of ballots cast for or against the Tech Levy: 25,848
Total number of votes supporting Tech Levy: 16,535
Total number of votes rejecting Tech Levy: 9,313

Editor: Congratulations, Nick. Please spend the money appropriately. A dollar goes further if you trim the unnecessary fat and honor the promises you made to voters.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Reduce our carbon footprint along with the budget.

As part of the budget reduction feedback I’ve received, several people have asked for a reminder to staff regarding energy conservation.

This suggestion may have been prompted by budget discussions, but we know it is a win/win to reduce energy, save money, and serve as good stewards and role models for our students and community.

You can make a significant contribution to reducing energy consumption and utility costs by following these guidelines:

1. Turn off the lights whenever a room is unoccupied.

2. Turn off computers, monitors, printers, and copiers at the end of the day. (Technology asks us to keep our computers on over Thursday night, so they can implement districtwide software upgrades. You can still turn off your monitor and printer, and with the CPU left on your computer will receive the software updates.)

3. Reduce or eliminate appliances and electronic devices that are always “on” (like mini-refrigerators, individual clock radios, etc.). Share resources with colleagues whenever possible.

4. Keep outside doors closed, so the building’s HVAC system can work at the minimum level required to maintain a balanced temperature.

5. Put paper, glass and aluminum cans in recycling containers instead of garbage cans.

The above tips are a compilation of the current advice from several energy conservation agencies and utilities, and are probably very familiar to all of you. With the growth of available technology and personal appliances, our demand for electricity in particular has increased significantly in our schools. We have over 1,000 classrooms and well in excess of 10,000 computers/electronic devices, so even small changes in behavior make a big difference in energy consumption across the whole district.

Any additional suggestions you have are welcome.

The blog has a few modest suggestions:

1. Immediately introduce VPN (Virtual Private Network) and have all staff work from home. The vast majority of ESC lights would never go on. Computers would never go on. Toilets would go unflushed. Parking lots would go unused. Copiers would never go on. Faxes could be diverted to home offices, FedEx-Kinko's or collected at the ESC once a week.

2. Human Resources can be just a red telephone. Walk-in customers can pick up the receiver and it immediately dials the "on-call" HR staff member. Then HR can figure out how to compensate their own staff for carrying the duty telephone. An intern can be left in the ESC to fumble around in the dark following the direction of the on-call staff member.

3. Existing cubicles can be "rented out" to pet projects of board members for dark, unheated storage.

4. The parking lots could be leased to the Dodge dealer across 68th. With the price of gas, they will need the new space for their new line of Dodge hybrids powered by the wind and pork bellies.

5. The current site could be modified to accommodate Scriber Lake High School immediately.

6. A new administration building would no longer be needed. No risk of exposure to unknown elements. Rent the site back to Raskin for wine festival shuttle parking.

7. Due to contractual agreements with the union, the ESC custodians would also work from home.

8. Install a credit card machine in the ESC lobby so community groups can rent the board rooms. When their time runs out, the lights go off and an alarm sounds. They can recharge the room with another swipe of their credit card.

9. Staff meetings can be hosted at Shari's or Pizza Hut. Better still, you could use the Lynnwood Convention Center because no one else seems to be using it.

10. Conference rooms can be rented out to board members that want to "modernize" with discretion.

11. No need to pay a fortune to reconfigure cubicles if they aren't going to be occupied.

12. Staff can stay at home and work in their pajamas. Fewer showers and loads of laundry saves water. Fewer trips to the ESC saves gas. Think of the impact to our community's carbon footprint.

By implementing these few suggestions, the Edmonds School District will get national attention and Nick's reputation will be off the chart for appearing to care so deeply for our environment. Of course, the Assistant Superintendent of Business and Operations would have to get a bus pass so she can randomly check on staff. A very small price to pay to maintain administrative efficiencies.

As a community, we get what we deserve.

The result of the election was predictable. The uninformed public gets what it deserves; to throw away money in this disposable society. As long as parents believe that their little Johnny or Susie is getting their fair share, what do their care? Why look beyond the surface and get involved?

But what kind of return are they getting for their investment? Or the more appropriate question; how much more could they be getting if they had competent, qualified staff spending their tax dollars? The taxpayers of the Edmonds School District will not know, at least for now. For that we can thank the news media and the State Auditor’s Office.

The news media lacks the guts to even publish that there are allegations of mismanagement. Why do they hesitate? Are they too members of the Rotary in line for a handout? Or perhaps it’s something more sinister at play: Apathy. Why rock the idyllic boat ride they take on placid waters? Why shatter the myth of the idyllic Northwest life of beautiful vista’s, political correctness, and the good-life; after all isn’t it just coffee, computers and the Cascades here?

As for the State Auditor’s office, is it a coincidence that the report was not available before the election? I honestly think not. When it comes to education dollars, enforcement agencies are coached not to do anything that would take tax dollars away from schools lest they be painted ‘as stealing from education.’

How much of a scandal does it take? How much waste does it take? Five million? Fifty? At the Port of Seattle, management and the board of directors had the gall to suggest that corners were cut in hiring “friends” as a means of expediting work. That explanation is pure crap. In time I predict the same thing will be said once the Auditor’s report is released and the spin begins.

Where will it end? Exactly where the taxpayers put it; of that I am sure.

Editor: Thank you to another anonymous contributor.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Timing suggests District needs come before the public.

The ten largest school districts in the state are listed below, along with the last set of audits posted on the Auditor's website. As you can see, two of the ten largest districts have yet to have their financial and accountability audits posted. Seattle School District and Edmonds School District.

Just what is the reason for the delay with the Edmonds School District? Could the timing be politically-motivated to keep voters in the dark prior to a levy election, or is there just so much to review? Perhaps the State of Washington is trying to pacify the Edmonds School District since the latter is suing the former for "not fully-funding education". Keeping money out of the hands of the District is a position anyone could defend.

1. Seattle School District
(5/25/07 Financial, 6/22/07 Accountability)

2. Tacoma School District
(5/19/08 Financial, 4/21/08 Accountability)

3. Spokane School District
(5/19/08 Financial, 5/19/08 Accountability)

4. Kent School District
(5/5/08 Financial, 5/5/08 Accountability)

5. Evergreen (Clark) School District
(5/12/08 Financial)

6. Lake Washington School District
(5/18/08 Financial, 5/18/08 Accountability)

7. Federal Way School District
(5/5/08 Financial, 5/5/08 Accountability)

8. Vancouver School District
(5/19/08 Financial)

9. Puyallup School District
(4/7/08 Financial, 4/7/08 Accountability)

10. Edmonds School District
(5/11/07 Financial, 6/15/07 Accountability)

To date, nearly all of the school districts in the state have had their audits posted on the Auditor's website.

Editorial: Feel free to cruise the State Auditor's website for information. Just click here.

Don't forget to cast your vote.

Whether you believe the District is "spending money wisely" or wasting untold fortunes with no regard for public accountability, you need to mail-in your ballot or drop it off at the appropriate location.

Essentially, it all comes down to two different positions. Those that believe whatever the District tells them and those that do not.

I believe the District would be much better off if the Levy passed AND they had cost-effective project management with deliberate oversight and a regard for the public assistance they receive. I also believe that the panhandler begging for money on the street corner will buy a sandwich with the $5.00 I would like to give him. Call me a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.

Unfortunately, the current management model (or lack thereof) leaves me without confidence that the funds voters provide will be used responsibly.

A vote in support of the Levy is a vote for throwing more money at a poorly-managed district. I could make comparisons to political parties and the armed conflict in Iraq, but no one will die if this levy passes. Though no doubt, suffering and mismanagement will continue unabated.

Editorial: Is it just me or do others find it peculiar how the State Auditor's report for the Edmonds School District hasn't appeared yet. Why not provide voters with the insight needed to cast their votes effectively? Most of the other district audits have surfaced.

Monday, May 19, 2008

No real "education" stories coming out of schools

The real problem with this community is as clear as the front page of the Herald - or every page inside. If you visit and try to find any meaningful story about educators, education or the plight of students in our community, you find absolutely nothing. Visiting the quick links on their web page doesn't yield much either. The only "newsworthy" stories appear to be related to sports. I pay property tax to support education, not prepare Johnny for the minor leagues or Susie for the WNBA.

If I were a superintendent in Snohomish County, I would seek to change such irrelevant and inadequate coverage.

Some months ago, Nick Brossoit mentioned that he would never advertise the success of the Edmonds School District in and effort to increase enrollment at the expense of a neighboring school district. Why not advertise success so that our community might have a clue as to what the District does to our children every day? And by "advertise" I mean have someone not on the District's payroll write something meaningful.

Everyone in administration knows that 70% of this community doesn't have children in district schools. When there is a public relations problem, a mailer goes out to parents so they can circle the wagons. The last mailer was totally reactionary (and intentionally misleading) and cost more than $6,500 to promulgate. What about the rest of us? I pay my fair share of property tax and yet only receive a quarterly newsletter - which, quite frankly, is far too often. I don't need the District's propaganda machine weaving drivel into something that looks like news. I want something spontaneous, not some old swill cooked up in the District lab for the general population.

Where are the stories of student success? Where are the stories of personal struggle and the fight to overcome adversity? Where are the stories about a diverse workforce and efforts to strengthen community cohesion?

The knee-jerk response from the District would likely involve pointing to a number of unsophisticated publications and websites. But no doubt they are targeted at a defined audience - Parents. The time has come to broaden your definition of an audience and pretend like there is some degree of community accountability - not just parental accountability (if there is such a thing).

Sunday, May 18, 2008

WHITE CHALK CRIME: The REAL Reason Schools Fail

[Richard Reuther]
The book is great. [WHITE CHALK CRIME: The REAL Reason Schools Fail] It is THE investigative book that we have been looking for. This puts most of our trials in the Edmonds School District (Washington) in focus. If you are inclined, go to for a blog and archives of evidence of District highjinx. It was started by a former employee at the head shed and we have been contributing our prespective from the (former) classroom side. It has been absolutely amazing to read the book and see how the two worlds are related. This is a deeper sink hole than the one in Texas that opened up this week.

[Karen Horwitz]
Thanks for the feedback. I'm glad you agree with me. Even I sometimes question my own judgment having worked on it so long and so by myself if you know what I mean. I got the first review of it from a member, who wrote the following on

A shattering expose of how the multi-billion dollar world of education in America has been turned into a business. This seminal work by an expert who has spent her entire life in the field of education pulls back the curtain and exposes the almost unbelievable degree of corruption that exists in the Wizard of Oz world of educating our nation's children.

It has become less about what is good for children and more about how tens of thousands of people, reaching to the highest levels of government have found countless ways to skim and milk the system of money that should be going towards helping educate children in the classroom.

Teachers nationwide who dare to expose this corruption, that manifests itself in countless different forms, (both within schools proper as well as inside the labyrinthian bureaucracies that control the funding), are dealt with swiftly and harshly.

I myself was one such Whistle-blower who attempted to report massive corruption, financial mismanagement and ongoing Federal Civil Rights violations occurring in schools in New York City. My reward for doing the right thing was that I was removed on trumped up allegations and found myself fighting a "David versus Goliath" legal battle for the past four years and counting.

Should anyone wish to know the real reason/s I was removed from my position, it is only necessary to visit the United Federation of Teachers website:

There one will see a photograph of me being decorated by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in New York's City Hall as a "Teacher of the Year" for Exceptional Achievement in Education. I had designed, built from the ground up, and personally funded, the first premiere Medical Illustration Program in the United States for gifted Minority students. The goal of the program was to serve as a launching pad to propel those highly intellectually gifted students from socio-economically deprived backgrounds into Ivy League Universities and into careers including Medicine, as Physicians and research Scientists.

The success of this unique program was such, that it attracted the attention of Pulitzer Prize winning Journalist, Clara Hemphill.

But once I became a Whistle-blower the New York City Board/Dept of Education went after me with a blistering degree of vengeance and retaliation not witnessed in decades and has led to the Legal arm, known as NYSUT, of the United Federation of Teachers, filing a $ 30,000,000 (thirty million) NOTICE OF CLAIM against schools Chancellor Joel Klein, Esq. and the New York City Board of Education on my behalf.

My case, in the way the press and other assorted news media have reported the above story, in the most skewed and distorted manner possible, makes the case one of the poster children of Karen Horwitz's amazingly factually detailed book. Ms. Horwitz recounts dozens of stories, like my own, all part of an ultimately shocking and illuminating expose of how the world of Education has become a form of billion dollar "piggy bank" for those in a position to raid and feed at the trough of publicly funded Education budgets.

The countless stories of the fates that have befallen teachers nationwide and the abusive, often sadistic and illegal methods that have been utilized to retaliate against and silence teachers who have tried to report egregious wrongdoing and outright theft of taxpayer money is ultimately heartbreaking but a story that must be told.

This is a landmark and seminal book, painstakingly researched over a decade, that will hopefully serve and assist the long overdue need to expose the rampant theft of the enormous financial resources that are intended to educate our children. This monumental work will also hopefully call the public's attention to what has happened to the lives and careers of hardworking, dedicated educators nationwide, who at great personal and professional risk to their careers, have spoken out about WHITE CHALK CRIME: The REAL Reason Schools Fail.

If you have time, when you finish, be sure to write a review because I am sure a bunch of EducRAT$ will write horrible reviews once they hear about this!

The WASL money must be followed

The Thursday article about the candidates for state superintendent of public instruction candidates ("Teachers union tries new tactic to defeat schools chief," Associated Press) and Terry Bergeson's comments on education funding leave me confused.

The assessed value of my home has doubled in the past three years, even though a fire rendered it uninhabitable for two of the three years. It's a stretch to say that property tax revenues are down, and are having an effect on education funding. I have read reports that the cost of administrating the WASL runs in the millions, and because of the new grade levels being added every year, those costs are expected to double in the next year or two. Is it worth spending millions of dollars to meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind to receive $500,000 in federal money? Seems like Bergeson, and our state lawmakers, should a have special session to learn applied math.

Read the rest of this great letter by clicking here.

Deborah Cummings

Saturday, May 17, 2008

"Spending money wisely" means maintaining your budget.

Another thing that Tracy probably doesn't understand is the organizational race to spend money. Budgets are built upon a department's perceived level of need. If a department fails to spend all of their allocation, their budget essentially gets trimmed for the following year. That is how a department decides to spend $11,000.00 for a reconfiguration when they didn't actually need to change their work environment. It wasn't the value of the work being performed but the value of maintaining their budget for the following year.

Now, imagine that the District was in the middle of a budget "crisis". Wouldn't it stand to reason that if money was left over in a budget it might be expected that a responsible steward of public funds would return it to the General Fund? Those precious dollars could be used to save an educational program or save a teaching position.

It is discomforting to know that simple-minded people don't bother checking their facts before making sweeping statements. This blog has been delivering the news as we uncover the corruption. We rarely speculate and we seldom take the word of anyone without authenticating the claim. Tracy, on the other hand, probably called Marla or Nick and asked "Is the District spending money wisely?" Their answer would have been "Of course!", because their image depends upon it.

Tracy has no reason to complain about how the District spends money. She has three children being supported by taxpayers. Those of us that don't have children, happily pay our taxes but demand a level of responsibility that should accompany the receipt of public assistance.

This District has no motivation to spend money wisely. They are guaranteed an annual income and just have to make sure they don't spend more than they receive. They can make foolish decisions as long as the money is available to blow. No one will hold them accountable because most people (70% don't have children in district schools) just see their property tax as a necessary evil and the parents among us rejoice at having a place to park their children during the day. They are involved but only at the surface. Question district management and watch how fast your children become a problem at school.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Stock up on sunscreen.

Some parents are incredibly simplistic in their understanding of how the Edmonds School District operates. They are quick to praise the virtues of school administration for providing a few token dollars for core mission issues but continually fail to realize the real cost of delivering those few token dollars.

I recently read in the Herald that the President of Citizens for Schools feels that the District is spending money wisely. My first question is how would she know? When did Tracy Greene work for the District? When did she manage a bunch of projects or monitor a budget for the District? When did she sit in a staff meeting and discuss how to reconfigure seven cubicles for $11,000.00? When did she meet with Capital Projects to discuss a transition of $150,000.00 in matchable money only to see it swept under the rug?

People like Tracy Greene are incredibly simple. Perhaps she represents the majority of parents. Perhaps every active parent fixates on the end result and fails to acknowledge how the end result happened. It might be true that $10 made it to the classroom but it cost the taxpayer much, much more to get it there. Sure, the District could be praised for contributing $10, but what about the untold fortunes that have been misdirected along the way? These fortunes are untold because active parents in our community fail to recognize the real problem with education and would likely refuse to tackle financial issues even if they knew of them.

The education side of the house suffers because they have no comprehension of how the operations side of the house conducts business. Their support base has no regard for the manner in which property is acquired, developed or maintained. There is a huge drain on the District budget and it unfortunately has very little to do with educating our youth. When a superintendent allows the operations side of the house to run amok, as this one most certainly has, the consequences are catastrophic.

Without a doubt, parents like Tracy Greene possess a degree of faith that is woefully misplaced. It is far easier to believe that everything happens for a reason, that corruption doesn't exist and that some higher power will decide the time and place of our demise. Perhaps their response to global warming would be to change nothing and just stock up on sunscreen.

Monday, May 12, 2008

How to Pass a School Levy in Six Easy Steps!

1) Always postpone bad news until after an election.

Bad press is not a way to win voters and influence people. In 2003, a case for fraud by former bookkeeper Vicki Lewin was not pursued until after the levy that year lest the taxpayers catch on that the chicken coop had been breached by a fox living right underneath the farmer’s nose.

2) Use scare tactics and make things sound worse than they really are.

The condition of Lynnwood High School was characterized to be so dilapidated and such a "safety" hazard that a family fought and won, the right to send their daughter to another high school. The reality was that when the school was evaluated in 2002 for the state Renovation Grant, the school did not qualify for funding to fix its highest priority; concrete falling from its second floor walkways.

3) Play with the numbers.

Make budget shortfalls sound huge, then "revisit" the budget and "find" money to make it look like the District is working hard to make reductions.

4) Play to the heartstrings.

How many people have heard the cry, "its for the kids!" That line has been used far too often. If administration was actually concerned about the well-being of students they would start spending money responsibly.

5) Blame others.

The state legislature is taking the heat for the current budget shortfall. However, most of the shortfall is a result of an absolute disregard for internal planning and enrollment forecasting. Administration uses opportunities like these to target undesirable elements of staff. All those pesky educational assistants and librarians that work for some reason other than money.

6) Make parents feel the pinch.

Nothing motivates a throng of supporters better than when parents feel their services are being reduced. Make parents drive their children around from program to program or to their school of choice. Shift some financial burden to the end user. Soon the parents will be happy to pay a taxpayer's dollar for a shiny new quarter.

Editorial: Thank you to another anonymous contributor.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Please VOTE NO on May 20th

I don’t know about how other taxpayers feel but for myself I am tired of funding education its not my job but the Feds and State. I pay for education every time I purchase something and when I pay the property taxes each year. I believe the law says that Public Education is to be fully funded by the government. We are not funding education as it was in the 1930’s, 1940’s or 2000 we need funding for the 2008 and beyond. The students need to keep up with technology we are not purchasing inkwells and pens we need funding for computers and many other high-level technology equipment. Teachers must keep up with all the new technology but the state doesn’t fund it. The funding needs to change so when one pot has excess it can then be used to fund something that is going in the negative. I am tired of hearing about all the different pots of money in the district and how they can’t be intermingled with other funds when it all should be available for the students needs no matter where the need is or which pot the money comes from. The state needs to fully fund the salaries of support staff and pay them for the job they do each day.

We are being taxed out of our homes, is that the goal to hit the older generation so they cannot afford to keep their homes? I for one will not be voting for the tech levy in my district because the state needs and should step up to the plate and start NOW to fully fund Public Education for our students. And the district needs to become very good financial steward of the money they receive for education. Don’t buy land for a new administration building when student enrollment is declining. When I have less money coming into my household budget I make cuts to things I can live without the district has known since 2001 that the enrollment in our district was declining they continued to live high off the hog. The district needs to make cuts at the top. We are too top heavy with Assist. Supt. They may be taking on extra work but so will everyone else. Our titles won't change and our salary won't change. Lets cut the salary of the Supt. and bring it enline with other districts in the state just like all other bargaining groups. Believe me Supt. in other large districts are not making $200,000 salary annually. I wouldn't want to leave the district either if I could make that kind of money and lead our district into the red and still get to keep my job. Supt. said he would not leave the district in the financial bind it is in now for someone else to clean up his mess like the Supt. did in Shoreline. The Supt. also said he would not give up any of his salary to help with the budget.

Please VOTE NO on May 20th.

Editor: Thank you to another contributor.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The problem with the Edmonds Tech Levy

Dear Editor:

As anyone in Snohomish County would naturally conclude, dedicating public funds for the support of educational issues is a great thing. But what would happen if only 20 cents of each dollar committed actually went to support the cause? What if 80 cents of each dollar went toward the administrative costs in tracking the 20 cents? Would the dollar be well spent?

Like many people in the Edmonds School District, I believe that technological support for educators and students is an important aspect of public education. In an ideal world, every classroom would have all of the technological enhancements needed to accomplish organizational objectives. But how foolish would it be for the public to pass a levy that points money in the right direction but is quickly depleted by mismanagement before it gets to the destination?

It is clear when reviewing the monumentally foolish decisions in recent months and years that this school district is out of touch with the value of money. They pay far too much for far too little and waste public assistance like they have the authority to do so.

Having worked inside the District for more than six years, I can attest to the obscene amount of waste that has been happening over the years. Contaminated property was purchased in 2005 for nearly twice the actual value. Business has been diverted to enrich the friends of management. Board policies are routinely ignored when it suits the board and management. There is a lengthy history of financial mismanagement and no one seems to think it matters.

While I would love to vote in favor of the Tech Levy, I would have greater faith in handing cash to students rather than continue to feed corruption.

Mark Zandberg

Edmonds levy would buy schools laptops

Laptops, carpet and mobile computer labs in south Snohomish County schools are on the line in the May 20 election. Voters in the Edmonds School District will decide the fate of a technology and capital facilities levy that would replace a levy that expires this year.

The proposed $31.5 million levy is expected to cost residents 28 cents per $1,000 of their property's assessed value. The owner of a $400,000 home would pay $112 each year.

The expiring $44 million levy cost voters 52 cents per $1,000 of the assessed value of their property.

The new levy would help replace outdated computers and buy laptops for classroom use, said Cynthia Nelson, director of technology for the Edmonds School District. The state usually doesn't pay for computers, so most districts buy their computers with levies or grants, she said. Every school in the district has at least one mobile cart of laptop computers that is wheeled into classrooms so students can use computers in their room instead of having to work in a computer lab. Additionally, around 30 percent of the classrooms in the district have a set of seven laptops for classroom use.

Most of the computers were bought in 2004, with funds from the previous technology levy. Nelson said many are having issues and need to be replaced. "We've done a lot of work to pretty much bring the Edmonds School District into the 21st century -- and renewing this levy will allow us to continue that good work at an even lower tax rate than we're currently running," she said. "It is pretty amazing if you talk to a lot of teachers, they're not real sure how they could go back to the old way of doing things."

The levy would also pay for security system improvements, roofing upgrades and changes to make schools more energy efficient.

There is no organized opposition to the levy, but a few people have criticized it online and in letters to newspapers. Although he thinks technology is important, Edmonds resident Mark Zandberg plans to vote against the levy because he doesn't like the district's management style.

"I think the levy is a fantastic thing," said Zandberg, a former planning and property management specialist for the district. "This community needs that levy to pass. However, the manner in which the district manages those funds, I can't tolerate at all. I'd rather take a hit in the short term."

Read the rest of this article by clicking here.

Kaitlin Manry

Editorial: Gee, what were they expecting the president of Citizens for Schools to say? She is clearly detached from reality if she thinks the District spends money wisely. But then, if I had three kids attending school in the District I might want lots of everyone else's money paying the way - even if a small fraction actually gets to where it needs to go.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Someone searching for dirt on blogger.

For nearly a year, many of my faithful readers have emailed me directly, expressing a concern that the District will take every opportunity to find free-thinking employees accessing my blog site. While their concerns are real, the District's abilities are limited.

Someone has been feverishly searching for incriminating evidence against me. They routinely scour the portions of my server that allow public access. It isn't much, but it does offer a few meaningless pictures. The extent of their access is limited to sites like this and this. They cannot see much else, though they are trying.

Every day a script peruses my server looking for new and exciting images or websites that I might be developing. They also seem very interested in "keywordspy", thinking that it might lead to information they could use against me at some future date.

Oh well, it comes with the territory.

More parents choose to home-school kids

Recent articles about declining enrollment left out an important reason: more parents dissatisfied with public schools are homeschooling. Nationwide, over 2 percent of students are being home-schooled this year.

Although "cyberschool"/online school is offered through local public school districts to retain funding, many more home-schoolers are operating independently and with great success. Local home-schoolers enjoy many support groups and activities such as orchestras, speech and debate clubs, sports teams, and hundreds of classes through local co-ops and park districts.

Home-schoolers have received full scholarships to Ivy League schools, have significantly higher SAT and ACT average scores, and are sought after by universities for their strong academic skills, community involvement and independent learning skills. With home-schoolers winning many national spelling and geography bees, science contests and sports awards (Heisman trophy!), coupled with the finding that the average home-schooler is involved in 2.5 activities, the old questions about academics and "socialization" have become laughable. Thomas Edison, the Wright brothers, a third of our presidents, George Washington Carver, Booker T. Washington, Einstein, Clara Barton and Sandra Day O'Connor were all home-schooled for at least part of their education. Homeschooling is efficient, can be done inexpensively (using Internet and library), and takes much less time than people assume, thus homeschooling parents include those who are single, working, handicapped, chronically ill and grandparents.

Read the rest of this letter by clicking here.

Elizabeth Scott

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Committee to decide use for school site

The Seattle Department of Neighborhoods is seeking members for a committee that will help determine the use of the Martin Luther King Elementary School building.

Seattle Public Schools closed the school, at 3201 E. Republican St., last fall because of declining enrollment. Now the district is considering nonschool uses for the building, and the city's process calls for public meetings before a committee composed of neighborhood, school-district and city representatives.

The city is seeking eight representatives: two who live within 600 feet of the school; one who owns property within 600 feet of the site; two from the general neighborhood; one at-large representative; one from a community organization; and one from the school district.

To apply, write a letter to Thao Tran at the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods stating your interest and affiliation. Include your contact information; letters must be received by Friday. Applicants can fax it to 206-233-5142 or mail it to P.O. Box 94649, Seattle, WA 98124-4649.

Seattle Times

Editorial: What a novel concept for a public agency to seek the input of others when deciding how to use or dispose of publicly-owned property. If only other public agencies were so enlightened.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Detached from the real world and the value of money.

Article in the Herald

Dear Editor,

While it is terribly unfortunate that our local schools are suffering as a result of declining enrollment and increased operational costs, I find it difficult to remain sympathetic.

The Edmonds School District, for instance, has been actively tracking student generation rates since 2002 and their own Capital Facilities Plan has been clearly demonstrating a downward trend in enrollment. It troubles me that conclusions drawn by their own staff are not incorporated into their planning processes.

What is equally perplexing is that everyone in our community must make concessions in their personal finances to keep up with the increasing costs of utilities, fuel and basic commodities. How would any agency, solely dependent upon public assistance, not manage their finances under the same basic principles?

It is a tragedy that school administrators are now left with the daunting task of hand-picking programs to eliminate. During such times, it is critically important that we have the right people working on budget reductions. In the Edmonds School District, for instance, they just paid $2,300,000 more for a piece of contaminated property than it was actually worth. Such an obvious detachment from the real world and the value of money cannot be helpful during a budget crisis.

This is the same school district that pays people to sit at home, funnels money to piano-selling friends and violates every conceivable board policy that is intended to prevent public funds from being wasted.

Mark Zandberg

Seven schools for seven finalists.

Is it just me or does it seem odd to have seven finalists for seven elementary schools? Why are there so many people leaving? One third of our elementary schools will have new principals when classes start in the Fall. Does this seem peculiar to anyone else?

I wonder if Human Resources will conduct exit interviews to help determine the reason why so many principals are leaving. Of course, there wouldn't be any need to interview if the reasons were already well known. I suspect these departures can be attributed to atmospheric pressure or philosophical differences. Whatever the case, I hope our "dearly departing" find greener pastures elsewhere. In most cases, they will be sorely missed.

The vacant principal positions are located at Beverly, College Place, Edmonds, Meadowdale, Mountlake Terrace, Spruce and Woodway. The seven finalists are Margaret Mesaros, Doug Johnson, Carol Frodge, Dan Davis, Betsy McGregor, Justin Irish and Steve Hopkins.

Editorial: Be sure to attend the Community Forum if your neighborhood elementary school is slated for a change in leadership.

Monday, May 05, 2008

A culture of secrecy and backroom deals.

Agreement Terms

Now therefore, it is agreed as follows:

1. [Deleted] will be paid a lump sum payment of [deleted], less applicable payroll taxes, on or about [deleted] 2008.

Translation: Subject will be provided a large sum of cash.

2. By entering into this Agreement, neither the District, the Union, nor [deleted] admits the truth of any allegation raised by the other parties, and no party admits any liability to the other for any matter related to the dispute which is resolved by this Agreement, other than the liabilities arising from this Agreement.

Translation: No parties are at fault.

3. [Deleted], the Union, and the District agree to keep the terms of this Agreement and its existence confidential except as required by law. Without limiting the foregoing, the parties shall not discuss this Agreement or its contents with any former or current District staff, parents, students, or community members unless otherwise required by law.

Translation: Don't tell anybody.

4. This constitutes the entire agreement by and between the parties and is full and final resolution of the issue.

Translation: This seals the deal.

5. This Agreement shall not hereafter be invoked by any party as precedent in connection with any other complaint or grievance or dispute between the parties, except for the purpose of enforcing the Agreement itself.

Translation: No one can use this deal as grounds for a future claim.

6. This Agreement is in full and final settlement of any and all claims by the Union and [deleted] against the District. The Union and [deleted] release, acquit, and forever discharge the District (including its board of directors, employees, and agents) from any and all actions, claims, and damages on account of or growing out of the aforementioned dispute. The only rights retained by them against the District are those expressly provided for in this Agreement.

Translation: The District didn't do anything wrong.

7. [Deleted] has reviewed this Agreement with his respective advisor and executes this Agreement knowingly and voluntarily.

Translation: Sign the deal and get the money.

Signed by [Deleted], the Union representative and Human Resources.

Being paid to wait at home.

There was a time, not long ago, when staff in Planning, Property, Risk, Safety, Custodial and Emergency Services carried the pager after normal operating hours. The standard approach was to pay designated individuals a small stipend for the inconvenience of carrying a pager and having to lug a huge book of information around. While "on-call" it was never convenient to go any further than the nearest table and telephone.

The stipend was a mere $22.16 per event. Not per call, per event. What normally happened is you might get a single call resulting in four or five hours of event time but still earn just $22.16. More often than not, the call would be something that can be handled relatively quickly, so the impact was supposed to even out over time. However, as staff became more skilled at reducing the noise from lesser calls and false alarms, the actual average event lasted longer and longer. Human Resources was unwilling to revisit the stipend and members of the department started opting out of providing coverage.

There were only two non-exempt employees carrying the pager. The remaining members of staff were exempt and it was felt that "Pager Duty" fell within their standard responsibilities. Over time, the non-exempt employees started carrying the pager more and more often. The rotation for staff normally required one weekend of coverage each month. That is 48 hours of being "on-call" each month. Of course, we also had our fair share of holidays each year.

Currently, the Edmonds School District employs a Level 3, Prof-Tech, Classified employee to actively work for 16 hours a week and sit at home waiting for the pager to go off for another 16 hours. The total combined hours of actual pay (with associated medical and retirement benefits) is .8 FTE for a mere 16 hours of actual, physical work. In fact, the actual quote from Cathy Birdsong is that the employee "will receive full 32 hour pay for 2 days working 8 hours and 2 days being on call for 8 hours."

During a budget crisis, this seems extremely disrespectful to taxpayers.

Editorial: Now would be a good time for District employees to give up the guilt for taking five extra minutes at lunch.

Dressing in layers is the answer to budget crisis.

Sent: Fri 5/2/2008 3:44 PM
To: @ESC
Subject: Monday ECS Heat

Good Afternoon,

Our Maintenance Crew is experiencing complications with the replacement of the HVAC system and is advising that the temperature in our building on Monday May 5 is expected to be unusually warm. Please remember to dress in layers.

I hope this is an "HVAC system" that can be used when the building becomes Scriber Lake High School next year. According to the District's promise to taxpayers, the building will be a high school this time next year.

When did the ESC change its name to ECS? I was not aware of the change and didn't read about it in the Beacon. Perhaps this ECS is an Electronic Control Switch related to the malfunctioning HVAC system. It could be a typo, but with this author you just never know.

Kudos for the solution to the District's budget woes and reducing utility expenses. Dressing in layers might be just the thing to get us back in the black.

Will the Auditor protect the public or the District?

The report should be out mid- to late-May.

Christopher J. Kapek, CPA
Audit Manager - Team Everett
Washington State Auditor's Office

I am writing to you regarding the recent news that the performance audit for the Edmonds School District will be released mid to late May. This news is rather disappointing given the original projections for its completion.

I believe the taxpayers of the Edmonds School District would suffer a great disservice should the document be made public after May 19; since Edmonds has a Technology Levy on the May 20 ballot. The constituents need to know just how their tax money is managed, or as I would characterize, mismanaged.

As a former employee I can attest to many of the allegations I know that your office is investigating. I also know of the arrogance of the management in their beliefs they are untouchable as public employees. While employed, I was reminded all too often management was solely ruled by public opinion via the press or the polls.

I urge you to have your office do what it takes to publish the report in enough time so voters can make an intelligent choice on May 20. If the report is favorable, there is nothing for the District to worry about. If the report is unfavorable, then the voters can weigh the pros and cons of funding the District and do what their conscience dictates. I am convinced the leadership will see it as a "win" if the report is delayed and it will feed their hubris. Put it to the voters to decide if they want the cycle of poor decisions to perpetuate.


Editor: This letter to Brian Sonntag was not written by Mark Zandberg.