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.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

"There is no porn at the warehouse!
There is no porn at the warehouse!
There is no porn at the warehouse!
There is no porn at the warehouse!"
"Sorry Chuck you are no longer needed."
Maybe there was porn at the warehouse.
"Whoops! I just cried wolf. My name is Nick, and do as I say and not as I do."

Anonymous said...

I remember when Dr. Brossoit came to the district. He gave a speech in the high school stadium to district staff describing all of the wonderful goals we were going to achieve, the growth in technology, etc. Then he said something to the effect of, "If you're not going to get on board, then go somewhere else." I was stunned. He continued on about how he had risen out of a difficult life to this great achievement. But after watching what has happened in the ESD over the past four years, I wonder "what has he risen to?" He has been so absent from the very real classroom challenges we face in education. He was followed by two very disparate presenters: the structure-based learning with "all on the same pace" viewpoint and the "use every tool you have" approach. Boy, was I confused.

I expect to work hard, to face new challenges, to trust others and collaborate. Over the years, this lead to rich classroom projects, extensive use of technology, National History Day projects which resulted in regional, state and national recognition. Students who had never truly committed to work hard before embraced NHD because they had a choice. And they worked with joy! Word came back from the high school that students who participated in NHD were coming to school with excellent English skills. Rather than encourage NHD, our principal limited our use of it in order to get us to leave, in spite of the fact that OSPI was encouraging the use of NHD to fulfill Classroom Based Assessment requirements for '08. And he was backed up by Limon.

Nick talks about The Boy Who Cried Wolf. He says, "The moral of this story is to not raise false alarms."

I could not agree with him more about false alarms. However, in the story, the townsfolk rushed to aid the boy. But false alarms NEVER happened in Edmonds School District; the warnings were real. Instead you had a pack of wolves shredding the shepards, those who were trying to give warning.

Why did Lemon (yes, that's intentional) ignore the senior teacher when she came to him with concerns in '04? Why did he ignore my husband's identical warning in '05?

Why did Tam Osborne tell me to suck it up, that a principal can say anything he chooses to staff, walk into their room any time they choose, and assign them any way he/she chooses?

Why did he promise that the new principal would know what had happened--then not do it?

Why did the new principal ignore my suggestions that previous practices used to control the hallway be implemented in the fall of '06, and then not follow up? She did not listen. Bullying in the hallway was at an all time high when I left fall of '06. Why do the WOLVES not care about children?

Why did the district hush it up when my husband, Richard, described the bullying of students and teachers at the school?

Why did Tam blanch when Richard pulled out his two-inch three-ring binder full of documentation?

Why did he break off the meeting and refuse to look at it fully?

Why did Limon and Wilson hold an impromptu, hush-hush meeting after school at MMS the Friday after Richard was put on leave?

When a parent asked what happened to Mr. Reuther, why did Houser feign ignorance and tell her he did not know and then asked her to let him know if she heard anything?

Why did administration say they would conduct an investigation when they did not? INVESTIGATIONS INSIDE THE WOLF'S DEN DO NOT COUNT.

Why did the principal leave?
Why did the office manager cry in the office when the principal told her she would be leaving?
Why did the office manager leave?
Why did a science teacher leave before Thanksgiving Break '06? Why are teachers still trying to get out of MMS?

These were ALL warnings. The wolves were in charge, and the townspeople were in hiding. They couldn't help the shepherds, the caretakers, the whistleblowers. Are there people at the district who have "tendencies to dismiss the message due to the messenger"? Is this in somebody's job description?

Nick says, "I do not expect our staff to be verbally abused by anybody."

Of course not, what kind of goal would that be? What would the rubric look like?

Whether you expect it or not, verbal abuse happened. I have previously written of this abuse; I shouldn't have to go over it again. I was yelled at and my evaluation was threatened by an angry principal for no reason, with no warning. Twice. Once in front of witnesses. The office manager routinely withheld services, sneered at, and was publicly disrespectful of senior teachers. She verbally abused office workers. As time went on, the abuse was doled out by other teachers who may have been trying to protect themselves. It is too coincidental that you had two people behaving in the same manner in the same timeframe. This seems to have been a conspiracy.

The democratic way of doing things disappeared. Eventually, there were no elections for department chairs; they were appointed by the principal as favors to his allies and those beholden to him. Perks went to the principals buddies.

Nick says to look to see if there is "a legitimate issue. If there is, deal with it."

If we have not proved that bullying and abuse of senior faculty occured at MMS, we don't know what else we can do. If 250 documents don't do it, what will, Nick? How many staff members spoke up for Richard when Tam finally moved those interviews out of MMS and people felt free to speak their minds?

I witnessed these behaviors directed at several staff members. This was not something that I dreamed up; I wasn't the only one to witness, either.

Many people went to the EEA rep, Richard, with their concerns. Those concerns were passed on to EEA officials, and eventually to Limon. They were not taken seriously. Richard was doing his job as a union rep; he was representing his co-workers. He carried the burden for all of us. Was he punished for his union activities?

During the three-year reign of this principal's leadership, best practices were eliminated: teaming disappeared at the eight grade level; NHD was openly discouraged; senior staff were badgered and moved to different assignments without discussion; rich and inviting ways to teach English, history and science were discouraged. These are actions that directly effect student learning. Negatively.

Don't tell me that a principal can assign people anywhere they choose. Respectful principals always discuss the situation; they do not need to dominate, making unilateral decisions. I know, I have worked with seven principals and VP's over the years.

So "What did you learn from those who are different from you" Nick?

1)Some people know how to document what happens to them. Keep records. They are dangerous and need to be marginalized.

2)WASL scores go down when senior teachers are driven out of a school.

3)Bullying in the halls will increase when strong existing discipline programs disappear and when senior staff leave.

4)Assigning two high school administrators to a middle school leads to poor communication, poor discipline, poor climate.

5)Achievement will drop when students are afraid; bullying in the hallways will grow without a strong, consistent discipline program in place.

6)Teachers will choose to leave schools where best practices are discouraged, where they are not treated with respect. Fourteen people left MMS in '06, many of them NOT targeted for bullying or a direct result of Richard's revelations.

The last year I was in Edmonds there was a new principal at MMS. That fall I had a boy hit in my classroom and knocked to the floor. Students were screaming to me. I sent the assailant to the office. She was allowed back in class the next day. This should never happen; there should be parent conferences and other steps taken. So much for district rules on fighting. Message to the kids? The administration doesn't care about student safety.

"A safe, sensitive, caring, and reasonable manner" cannot abide where secrecy and bullying exist.
Nick, if you are so sensitive and caring why didn't you come talk to me at the Public Forum in May of '07? It would have actually meant a great deal. You might have even gained some respect.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I really didn't "get" this letter from the Nickster until I looked at the auditor's report Saturday morning and saw new "concerns" from the auditor about "rental and lease agreements".

Now I realize that Nick is covering his butt with this letter because of the new release from the auditor so that publically it looks like Nick's saying that we should listen to people who cry wolf (like Mark and the blog). And that if there is a “legitimate issue, deal with it. We don’t have to invite the person who is of this nature out for lunch", but we should listen to him/her.

So, Mark, don't expect a lunch date with Nick, but the blog readers will be glad to chip in and buy you a burger anytime!

Anonymous said...

No one listens! nothing new and it won't change. You can't trust those in power and the peon's know lots but no one would listen! We have 2 bully's in the SS dept. is anyone listening????

Anonymous said...

Will the Superintendent follow his own advise? I think NOT! His letter just "sounds good" to tax payers! said...

Okay, so we already know that Nick is a buffoon. There is nothing new to learn from this latest letter. He writes for the benefit of unengaged, uninformed and unenlightened parents. (If you are offended, then I am not talking about you. You are reading the blog.) Nick is pandering to his support base.

The topic is intended to deflect the impact of a soon-to-be-released audit. Yes, another one. Be patient while we wait for the objective review of complaints made by this forum. said...

Before Nick started with the District, I drove him around Edmonds and Woodway in search of acceptable housing. It was on the weekend and without time sheets or expectations. He did, however, invite me and my wife to lunch and we dined at the Beach Cafe.

I have had my lunch date. I would prefer not to have another.

Anonymous said...

Nick has bemused & bewildered most readers with a vacancy of application to his most recent rambling. Those of us who have previously brought serious incident & situations to his notice were summarily dismissed. I must agree that he is preparing for something & this must be a first step in his defense. As he has on other occasions he seems to borrow most of what he says & one must wonder how many original thoughts he is really capable of. He does have a strong sense of self preservation. His position requires that he be a great communicator. This much more reflects someone who is talking only to himself, convinced, no doubt, that he is brilliant. Not only are these the ramblings of a lost individual, insincere & intended for his own self-considered purpose, Nick is himself bereft of necessary emotion & empathy to ever be believed.

Anonymous said...

SS was the model department to be associated with. It is well known, that you have two bullies, and one worthless person working there. It is very sad to see the great teamwork that once existed there has gone, and SS has, and is going to hell in a handbasket. Like other departments in the ESC, you have no one to turn to for help. Two rotten apples, have spoiled the entire bushel.

Anonymous said...

Wrong story. The comparasion doesn't work. How about "The Emperor's New Clothes?" Except in Edmonds it would have a twist; the little boy who dared to point out that the emperor was naked would have been bullied out of town by the emperor's body-thugs. Or marginalized by being called degrading names. Or re-assigned to less significant duty. Or had his schoolmates threatened to keep them from talking to him and comparing notes. And then fired on thin, trumped-up charges.

Anonymous said...

The story of "The Boy that Cried Wolf" implies that the boy inappropriately cried wolf when no wolf existed.

In the case of this blog, the "boy" is wearing a suit of armor, is safely perched in a tree, and the entire area is crawling with wolves.

Not once was "Wolf" declared without reason.

Anonymous said...


I have been following this BLOG for some time and have found it to be very informative. Based on what I have read, I have several questions that I would like answers to. Hopefully the answers are forthcoming.
I have never responded to a BLOG; but I decided to do so today after reading Superintendent Brossoit's "For Those Who Cry Wolf" memo/weblog (?). I am not sure that I am interpreting it correctly and hope that you, Superintendent, can help me. Are you saying that folks may not have been paying attention to or listening to this "Blogger" (I am not sure if that is the correct terminology or if this message will even get to Mr. Brossoit???) because they may not have particularly cared for him? Perhaps he should have been listened to and taken seriously sooner? Is this your advice to us?
I do like this statement:
"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." I try hard to do this every day. It is a good reminder for me.
Please tell me what you mean by your message. Remember, I am new to this so I may be missing something. Is it customary to send memos to staff via a BLOG? I am glad that you did or I never would have read this.
I appreciate your time in addressing my questions.

I guess that I will contiue to read this BLOG to see if you or anyone responds.

Thank you,


Anonymous said...

Are you talking about SS being Student Services? Did one bully appear around January 2008. They feed off each other.

Anonymous said...

I read, with interest, in the Herald newspaper this morning, that the next "Superintendent's Roundtable" discussion, open the anyone who cares to attend, will be chaired by Marla Miller. It appears that Marla runs the entire District; I thought that the ONE thing the Superintendent did was to chair the Round Table discussions. Now he has passed this on to Marla. How in the world does the School Board justify his salary? He makes more than the Governor of the State of Washington for Heaven's sake!

Anonymous said...

Actually, the story goes more like this:

The sheppard, is guarding a "flock" of students and sees the wolf harassing several other sheppards. He calls out to the citizens for "help." Only the assistant to the mayor comes out; he expresses little concern. "I'll get back to you," he says. The next day he comes out and says to the sheppard, "Look, I called the wolf yesterday and he says he's not doing any of that stuff you say he is doing. He and I are tight, so don't bother me any more. Whatever the wolf is doing is OK with me."

The next day the wolf is out there harassing the other sheppards again, but this time he comes by the sheppard's flock and threatens the sheppard, "You make trouble for me, I'll make trouble for you." The sheppard tries to continue to do his job, but suddenly there are more wolves out there giving him trouble and threatening his ability to keep the flock safe. He's really nervous about not getting any help from the town and he's afraid for his flock. He feels very alone and cut off.

One day he sees one of the wolves threatening to take a couple of his sheep to make them work at the wolf's house. The sheppard is very concerned, but he knows that the assistant to the mayor won't help him, so he goes into town and rings the town bell to get the attention of everyone to help protect his flock because he doesn't know what else to do. But before he can get the second ring out, the assistant stops him and punishes him because he didn't follow alarm protocol; he doesn't have the authority to ring the bell. The assistant doesn't want anybody to think that he wasn't doing his job so he turns the sheppard over to an assistant's assistant who locks up the sheppard and doesn't allow anyone to talk to him, hoping that everybody would forget that the whole thing happened. But enough people heard the first ring of the bell and had noticed that what the sheppard had warned about the wolf was correct, so to make it look like he was doing something, the assistant had to go out and find his friend the wolf and tell him to go away for awhile and lay low but that he could come back after the heat died down. Which he did a year later, but the sheppard's wife pointed him out to the townsfolk and the wolf had to slink off to another town.

What Nick seems to be saying is that even if you/he/we think the sheppard who cried wolf is of a class of person that we don't respect (be that obnoxious/grating/incompetent or whatever), we should listen to what they are saying because there may be some merit to the complaint. This is a revolutionary concept, one we try to teach the students everyday, of course, but it is revolutionary to hear this coming from the ESC. (I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop.)

Gee, shouldn't that be the policy of the District in the first place? Why do we have to be reminded of it by the superintendent? Or perhaps the superintendent is the target of the reminder.

It really doesn't matter whether I was the greatest teacher in the world (which I have never claimed) or the worst (don't claim that, either). When I raised my voice to suggest that there was improper behavior going on in my building, I should have been given the courtesy of a hearing. Instead the wagons were circled, the meeting canceled, and my concerns were turned over to the bully who promptly got his buddies to increase the bullying.

And now Nick has the nerve to suggest that we have an obligation to listen to the "boy who cries wolf." As one of those who cried "wolf" and was ignored, I find the application of this parable to be a continuation of the mean-spirited treatment that I witnessed and endured while an employee of the Edmonds school district. It's the reason my notebook of documentation went from one volume to two even AFTER I left.

I will add this Superintendent's message to the end of Volume Two. It's the Duracell bunny; the effluent just keeps going and going and going...

Anonymous said...

Employees will not dare speak up about anything negative or they will be targeted by Marla, the "NEW" distirct supt. She has run the district for years it just stands out more because Nick doesn't know how to run the district. And truth be told neither does Marla.

I can't see KW allowing bullying in her dept. would make her look bad. They hired a bully and now they all gang together and feed of each other. They must not have a life.

Anonymous said...

In his book "The No A--hole Rule" Dr. Robert Sutton notes what you are seeing. Bullies hire bullies; they find each other in organizations. They reproduce and congregate. They are hard to get rid of.

But with a unified stand, employees can marginalize, control and/or eliminate them. Light is the important factor. It has to be done in the open with all stakeholders aware of what is going on. Stakeholders like parents, taxpayers and, yes, students. The students should be aware of the process so that they can learn how to do the same thing in their future when they run up against the bully. Think of it as "service credit" for a better life.

Anonymous said...

This is a very odd letter to come from a superintendent. It was strange enough as a letter to all staff, but this is up on the district web site as this month's "message from the superintendent".

Is it really appropriate for our superintendent to post such a cryptic message to the community with no clarity or explanation? It was obviously referencing some situation that, apparently, not everyone is privy to. It seems he is trying to use a thinly veiled general message to address a particular situation, but this seems to be a passive-aggressive way of doing so.

I'd prefer if the leaders of our district would model a clear and direct approach to handling conflict. If a situation needs to be addressed publicly, do so in a way that makes it clear to everyone you're involving.

Anonymous said...

As in "Communicate your concerns directly with the people involved?" Been there, done that, didn't work.

Anonymous said...

Hey Richard R: I heard that about 2weeks ago the teachers at Meadowdale Middle had a "no confidence" vote regarding their Principal (who's working on her Superintendent credentials) and the VP too. Must be something in the water. I don't have any more details, nor do I know how the administration is handling the no-confidence vote. All I heard was that the administrators were not backing up the teachers. And I heard the whole procedure was started by a teacher who usually doesn't rock the boat/nor complain about anything!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the information. We actually don't often keep in touch with our former colleagues as it might prove dangerous to their career.

A "no confidence" vote is not surprising. Before Chris left, she had a student physically attack another student in class. The offending student was returned to her class the next day. This is inexcusable behavior on the part of administration. It was a large part of the reason Chris left the building at Christmas rather than the end of January, planning to finish her work with the students on National History Day.

Students lost out on that one.

I can only hope that my leaving opened some eyes and gave people the courage to stand up for what is "best for the kids." Let's hope that others in the District can gain courage from MMS and that the District doesn't come rolling into town like the Soviets into Hungary in 1956. But then again, if they did, it would just be more documentation that they are only trying to cover their own...