Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Expensive, reconfigured cubes now sit empty.

A few months ago, the blog uncovered a reconfiguration within Facilities Operations (also known as Facilities AND Operations) intended to alter the work environment of seven individuals. The work was performed during the day and with all of the minor complications normally experienced with such an undertaking. No one stuck around to watch the reconfiguration take place, so no one on staff will ever be able to perform future reconfigurations without help from outside vendors.

It has come to the attention of the blog that the employees that were to benefit from this recent reconfiguration just relocated to the District warehouse, leaving their new, $11,000.00 cubicles vacant. So, not only was it excessive to blow $11,000.00 on reconfiguring space that will soon become Scriber Lake Alternative High School, the beneficiaries of this expenditure are no longer working in the ESC.

Perhaps the plan is to start a museum for government waste. Visitors could donate a dollar and walk through the new cubicles and experience the less-than-standard space that was constructed for Custodial Services staff.

Perhaps the plan is to absorb more board member pet projects. To complete the “Powerful” set, they could start up “Powerful Purloiners” and apply for grant funding. They could call it a “think tank” and concoct new and mind-teasing ways to pilfer public funds. If Sonntag ever loses an election, the District could tell the next real auditor that all of the corruption was actually just research. Powerful Purloiners could be geared toward crafting district press releases that constantly stretch the limits of creative writing. They could dream up new ways to bamboozle an unengaged public. They could assemble words into new and exciting ways to say “It’s for the Kids.”

To be honest, the cubes are probably empty because no one wants to work in such a depressing environment. The department has definitely gone through a radical transformation. The resulting climate must be terribly oppressive for staff to prefer working in a dark and musty warehouse. But then, I’m just speculating.

Monday, July 28, 2008

New Principal at Edmonds Elementary was never a finalist

Edmonds Elementary's new principal is Melissa Oliver, who comes from the Mercer Island School District, where she was a teacher mentor and acting principal at Island Park and Lakeridge elementary schools.

Read the entire article by clicking here.

The Community Forum was advertised on the District's website and did not mention Melissa Oliver among any of the finalists at any of the schools.

Edmonds Elementary

Doug Johnson: Doug is currently serving as Vice Principal at Mead Elementary School in the Lake Washington School District.

Betsy McGregor: Since 2006, Betsy has served as the Dean of Students and teacher at Martha Lake Elementary here in Edmonds.

Margaret Mesaros: Margaret is the Title I Specialist for Edmonds, and from this past January through March served as the Interim Principal at Hazelwood Elementary (while Tim Parnell was on leave).

To view all of the other finalists and all community forums, click here.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The bar isn't lower since 1996, it is laying on the ground.

MUKILTEO - Embattled School Board President Bob Hall has no plans to step down, despite calls for his resignation at last night's packed School Board meeting.

Blog: Demanding that a board member do the right thing does not always result in as much, except maybe a board member with a medical degree working in Edmonds.

Hall was accused of meddling too much in the running of the schools, of being rude and violating School Board policies.

Blog: Once upon a time, School Board policies meant something and most would prefer a gang of rude board members over a crop of misguided fools blowing millions of tax dollars.

When asked after the meeting whether any of the claims were valid, Hall replied: "Absolutely not."

Blog: If a board member says it out loud, then it must be true.

Parent activist Andy Hopson led the charge against Hall, who was elected to the board in November.

"You have attempted to deceive your constituents," said Hopson, who, with the support of many in the 150-plus crowd, asked Hall to resign at the School Board meeting. "You have most certainly violated board policies you were elected to uphold."

Blog: "Attempt[ing] to deceive ... constituents" is seldom a greater travesty than actual deception. Violating board policies seems to be a common offense among elected board members.

Hopson, co-chairman of the district's levy committee and founder of the Mukilteo Schools Foundation, said Hall's letters to Kamiak Principal Bill Sarvis violated board policy that says "the board will not assume the administrative function."

Blog: There you go again, mentioning board policies. They aren't really "policies" per se, just optional guidelines. Just ask Brian Sonntag.

The letters related to a Feb. 8 meeting with Sarvis, assistant Bruce Ullock and the school's Community Relations Committee, of which Hall, whose daughter attends Kamiak, is a member. The meeting was held to discuss possible changes to an athletics drug-and-alcohol policy.

Hall sent Sarvis a letter Feb. 21 saying he and Ullock "looked and sounded totally inept."

Blog: Expressing an unsanitized opinion in writing is the kiss of death in school administration.

"It has become extremely obvious that you only value certain staff members' opinion and that hell will freeze over before the opinions of a representative group like this will be recognized," Hall wrote.

After Sarvis sent Hall a response saying his memo was "inappropriate, inaccurate and derogatory," Hall sent another letter March 11, along with minutes of the original meeting and a list of people who he said supported his version of the meeting.

Blog: Rocking the boat will only force those that fall overboard to tread water or sink.

Critics speaking at the board meeting also accused Hall of lying about site councils, made up of staffers and community members. They help to determine a school's goals, and work with the principal on budgets and other issues.

Critics say a March 22 electronic memo from Hall to Superintendent James Shoemake proves Hall lied to the public when he said at an earlier board meeting that site councils aren't mandated. The e-mail, dated days earlier, complained about Sarvis not supporting a site council and accused him of "insubordination."

Blog: Lying is just the way a school board does business. Swearing to uphold optional guidelines? Is it really a lie? Signing a lease to pay rent in the ESC? They're just words - relax.

Shoemake, who will leave at the end of the year to become the superintendent of Tacoma schools, said the problem was a miscommunication between him and Sarvis, who didn't realize he was supposed to include parents at a meeting he held. Kamiak has since begun meetings between staff members - many of whom were at last night's meeting to express their support for Sarvis - and parents to discuss the issue.

Hall said he saw no problem with his letters to Sarvis because they were from him as a parent, not as a board member. He also didn't see a problem with his letter as a board president to Shoemake about Sarvis and site councils because that was intended as internal correspondence.

Blog: What a great idea. Kay Noble's complaints to Nick Brossoit about Lynnwood High School must be as a member of staff, not as the spouse of a board member.

Tim Allen, a parent, spoke in Hall's defense, saying voters chose Hall, George Anillo and Ron Woldeit in November over incumbents because they wanted change. Allen said that if Hall offended some parents, that needs to be addressed, but that people should see that Hall is working to increase parental involvement.

Blog: Saying you want change and actually implementing change are two entirely different things.

"I was offended as a parent that we weren't involved" in Kamiak's first meeting about site councils, Allen added.

Read the entire article by clicking here.

Linda W.Y. Parrish
Seattle Times Snohomish County Bureau

Saturday, July 26, 2008

And I thought the operations side of the house had problems.

Robert Carkhuff was a self-published Washington OSPI contractor whose thinking system was the basis for the Washington education reform movement and WASL. He has had a decades-long professional relationship with key OSPI staff members Terry Bergeson and Shirley McCune. Documents show he was paid more than $1 million to restructure Washington state education around his thinking systems.

Carkhuff created the new
Three R's, relating, representing and reasoning to replace reading, writing and arithmetic as the primary basic education goals for Washington state.

A 2006 Snohomish Tribune investigation concluded that the work of Carkhuff was largely responsible for creating an invalid framework for the controversial WASL test that failed half of all students and 3 quarters of under performing minorities in 2006 that
Terry Bergeson had pledged would give all state seniors a world class diploma by 2008.

Professor Don Orlich has concluded that the WASL math test contains many items which are developmentally inappropriate (much too difficult for any given grade level), and other critics say that the math test is really a test of reading and reasoning, and require the most explanation of comparable state tests.

A spokesperson at the OSPI stated "that Carkhuff is listed as one of the 100 most important social scientists by the Institute for Scientific Information".

Co-processing with God

A Passage from The New Science of Possibilities, authored by Robert Carkhuff and Bernard Berenson, and purchased by the State of Washington by Terry Bergeson's office:

God is The Great Montessori Teacher: He co-processes only with those of us who use His most precious gift—the intellect with which He has endowed us.

We came to know God only when we came to generate human and phenomenal possibilities, for God is in the phenomena He presents to us.

It is only when we begin to employ the plural pronoun "we" that we know that we are approaching collaboration with God: first relating interpersonally with our fellow collaborators; then processing interdependently with our phenomenal universes; perhaps only then co-processing with God.

The State of Washington purchased nearly $75,000 worth of Robert Carkhuff publications for distribution throughout five States.

Dr. Shirley McCune authorized payment for the purchases from Robert Carkhuff's publishing company, Human Resource Development (HRD Press). Dr. Shirley McCune and Robert Carkhuff coauthored the Possibilities Schools. When asked to stop promoting New Age religion in public schools, she responded by telling a member of the public she considered her religion as being Metaphysical.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Don't take a ride from a blind cabbie.

For over 12 years WASL has been pushed as a "tool" to measure student learning in its own title: Washington Assessment of Student Learning. Often the word "accountability" is thrown around connected to WASL for students, parents, teachers and school districts. Where is the accountability for our state superintendent's office? In recent months, State Auditor Brian Sonntag has conducted audits on many of our school districts. Our governor is repeating the line "fully fund education according to our state Constitution" as part of her campaign. Everyone knows the WASL comes with an extremely high cost, but do we really know how much the taxpayers are paying for this flawed test?

The Pearson Educational Measurement contract is to be signed again in August. Shouldn't people know where we stand fiscally with our education dollar before the contract is a thing of the past? Isn't it time to focus an audit on the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction so we know where our money is being spent? How are we to make an educated vote without this important information?

Not only is the WASL contract coming up, but the State Superintendent's race is hotly contested, with a field of six running in the primary, one being the current superintendent. It sure would be nice to know if the self-proclaimed "Queen of the WASL," Terry Bergeson, is running the kind of tight ship the taxpayers of Washington expect. Shouldn't there be accountability for the office responsible for implementing our expensive "tool"? Do we really know if the taxpayers are fully funding education without being assured where and how our money is being spent? Forty-eight percent of the state budget is a big hunk of change. Mr. Sonntag needs to let us know if OSPI is a sinking ship. We already know the WASL is.

Rachel DeBellis

Read this Letter to the Editor and many more great articles from the Herald by clicking here.


I wouldn't hold your breath for Brian Sonntag to audit OSPI. For the last 16 years, the Auditor has had little to no effect at tracking or preventing theft of public funds or holding public agencies accountable. Anything he happens to stumble upon is purely coincidental.

The blog at has a long list of examples where our staff have pointed out problems and his staff have offered overly simplified dismissals for misconduct. He doesn't understand the mind of criminals or the societal impact of prolonged corruption.

Like many voters, I have no faith in Brian Sonntag and have little regard for the conclusions he draws that merely perpetuate the problems and guarantee continued work for his staff of simpletons. When public officials are not held accountable for their conduct, we all suffer.

Please take a few minutes and read the recent conclusions out of the Auditor's office regarding the Edmonds School District's Piano Scheme and immoral property transactions. Sonntag's priority is apparently to protect public administrators not public resources and his protection of OSPI will not be any different.

Mark Zandberg

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bond passed while district had fingers crossed.

The Herald offered a retraction. How nice of them. But it does open a new topic that might best be explored at this time.

Apparently, Cypress Equities seeks to construct mulit-family housing. This could be apartments or condominiums. Either way, people will be living on the site and paying a portion of their housing expenses toward a periodically-adjusted ground lease. In the current housing market, this may not pencil out very well. Would a bank loan money to a potential condo buyer if their mortgage and associated ground lease payment was variable? What would happen if the condo buyer financed their purchase with a variable interest rate? They might achieve compounded variability.

If the multi-family housing development was an apartment complex, then one developer (Cypress or a designee) would have to construct a rather large and fairly expensive housing structure without owning the dirt upon which it rests. This could create a problem for those interested in determining potential cash flow. Investments usually yield income. Building an apartment complex on leased land can only mean that someone is getting screwed. By default, it is routinely the public sector. The devil is in the details.

If you want to determine just how far we are being led astray, ask the District to provide written assurance - signed by the Board of Directors - that no portion of the Lynnwood High School site will be sold to anyone, at anytime for any price. The Board sought funding through a capital construction bond with the understanding that Lynnwood High School will be ground leased. Now that the bond has passed, the District will quickly roll out the excuses and make claims that they had their fingers crossed.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Twelve thousand page views in two days.

It took just over one year to achieve the landmark of 100,000 page views. Thanks to some sort of coverage by the Enterprise, the blog had more than 12,000 page views in just over 48 hours.

The spread of IP addresses in our logs has never been so extensive with new visitors coming from all over the region. Of course, our IP address logs are only kept for the current month with all data deleted on the first day of the subsequent month.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Cypress Equities to "buy" Old Lynnwood High?

New Lynnwood High School rises
Construction on the $99.8 million project is about halfway done

LYNNWOOD (Unincorporated Snohomish County) -- Bulldozers hum. Construction workers ready steel framing. A school emerges.

Midway through construction on the new Lynnwood High School, the project is on schedule and on budget, said project manager Debra Born.

The foundation is nearly complete and much of the frame of the $99.8 million school is up. Lights surround the baseball field and the football field is ready for turf. Portions of the roof and concrete brick siding are up, and electricians are in the process of wiring the building. Plumbing is also in the works.

"It's exciting," Born said, looking over drawings of different parts of the new school. "There's a lot of ingredients to this project that make it quite rich and stimulating."

Construction began in June 2007, and the school is scheduled to open to students in September 2009. Furniture and classroom setup is slated to begin next June.

The school, east of I-5 near Mill Creek, will replace the existing Lynnwood High School, which is adjacent to Alderwood mall. A Texas-based development firm, Cypress Equities, plans to purchase the old high school and use the land to house retail space, multifamily residential units and a hotel.

Cypress plans to take control of the land in July 2009, according to Marla Miller, an assistant superintendent with the Edmonds School District. A few months prior to the sale, an appraisal of the site will be done to help determine the purchase price, she said.

Read the rest of this article by clicking here.

By Kaitlin Manry
Herald Writer

Friday, July 18, 2008

The accomplice to corruption is our own indifference.

Capital Facilities Plan was adopted but wholly ignored by the Board and district management in planning for student enrollment. Student numbers dropped significantly, as predicted by the CFP, but no adjustments were made to prepare for this drop and the District was left with a very large budget deficit.

● During the resulting “budget crisis” of more than $5,000,000.00 the District
approved large raises for all district administrators with a net increase to payroll in excess of $550,000.00 every year. At the same time, departments within the District were tasked with making substantial cuts to their operating budgets.

● The Edmonds School District spent
$5,600,000.00 for a property that their own consultants reported as contaminated and their own appraiser placed a value of just $3,300,000.00. The final purchase price was every penny of the appraisal supplied and paid for by the seller. No review appraisal occurred and no negotiations were conducted in an effort to reduce the total of $5,600,000.00.

● In violation of Board Policies 1260, 6810 and 9200,
Gary Noble serves as a member of the board while his wife teaches at the current Lynnwood High School. Gary Noble was an outspoken proponent of building a new Lynnwood High School in what is currently known as Bothell or unincorporated Snohomish County. This new construction is taking place without regard for long-term planning which suggests that enrollment is trending downward.

● In violation of Board Policies 1260, 1270 and 9200,
Pat Shields started a pet project called Powerful Partners and agreed by way of a lease to pay rent for prime office space in the District’s administration building. Not only has rent never been paid, their tax records show that the value of the space was described as a donation. Public assets cannot be donated.

● In violation of Board Policy 1245 and 9200,
Bruce Williams was allowed to seek re-election for a seat on the Board despite having moved from his director district long before the filing date to become a candidate. The Superintendent lied numerous times in claiming that Bruce was just “modernizing” this second residence while maintaining a presence in his primary address that was used for filing purposes. However, Bruce had a restraining order filed against him by his wife, making it impossible to live at the address where he was claiming residency. Bruce Williams resigned on September 11, 2007.

● The current Warehouse Manager, also the husband of an employee in Human Resources, was found to have downloaded a huge amount of pornography on a District computer during working hours. The District's version of an investigation was conducted and despite irrefutable evidence, the District did nothing to address this misconduct. This manager has since created a hostile environment for staff assigned to his location.

● The current Payroll Manager recently hired her sister from the clerical sub list and then processed a salary modification moving her from the standard rate of $10.50 an hour to $18.50 an hour. No justification for this action has been provided. Investigation in progress.

● The District entered into numerous interlocal agreements (ILAs) with local city governments and then
refuses to collect payment. Over the last several years, invoices have been sent to the City of Lynnwood and the City of Mountlake Terrace only to have their obligations waived by the Assistant Superintendent.

Marla Miller also struck a deal with Seattle Piano Gallery that has been characterized as a “scheme” by legal counsel. Marla agreed to lease 14 pianos to avoid procurement processes. She did not competitively bid the acquisition of these pianos but just handed more than $76,000 to her friend and owner of Seattle Piano Gallery, Arnie Tucker. At the end of the one year “lease”, Mr. Tucker was to sell the 14 pianos and refund a portion to the District to defray their initial investment. However, before the end of the lease arrived, Marla provided a check to Mr. Tucker for just under $40,000.00, the threshold for bidding. This check was retained by Mr. Tucker and the District asked for it back. To date, those funds have never been collected.

● The District has also allowed staff to take vacations during contractual work periods while paying their salary and a stipend and not deducting the days away from work. Investigation in progress.

The District sold property to Snohomish County and City of Lynnwood for no less than 90% of the appraised value, as required by state law. However, when the initial appraisal was offered to the City, they complained because the City was receiving the property from the County, but only up to a certain dollar figure, anything more than that figure would have to be covered by the City. Staff was directed to redefine the manner in which the appraisal was performed. Essentially, the appraiser was instructed to view the wetland buffer in the most conservative manner allowed and then add additional buffers. This reduced the overall acreage available and reduced the value of the site. Approximate loss totals more than $50,000.00.

● The District has reported, through their legal counsel, that they
do not retain copies of checks, despite evidence to the contrary from current and former staff. The District has used this response to mislead residents in the District into believing that rent is being paid by municipal partners and other non-rent paying occupants in the administration building.

● The Edmonds School District routinely
hires managers without applications or interviews. One business manager was “gifted” his current position. One Assistant Superintendent was “gifted” her current position, though the title has been slightly upgraded.

● In response to an increase in public records requests,
district management has actively destroyed documents rather than provide them to the public. Several eye witnesses have reported seeing documents in specific locations and then the District hired a clerical substitute without training or expertise in the retention of critical documents to dispose of a large volume of materials prior to filling requests for them.

● The District is also
aggressively hiring totally unqualified people to fill key roles that may otherwise have objected to mismanagement. One recent hire earns $58,000.00 with minimal knowledge of Word, Excel, or basic email applications and will certainly never detect poor choices in property sales or acquisitions.

● The District has also allowed an
atmosphere of professional bullying to take root and flourish, resulting in an exodus of highly-qualified teachers and staff. When Nick Brossoit said he was going to change the Edmonds School District, we thought he meant in a positive way.

For more information regarding these issues and many more, please use the navigational labels in the column to the right.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

This is why the bullies win.

What happens when you give up and leave? Bully, one: subordinates, zero. And the match sets up again with a new target. Who will that target be? People are ducking into their cubicles so that it won't be them. Work is not accomplished to standard in a fearful atmosphere.

The bully tells us that "if you don't like it here, you can go somewhere else." Well, of course, that is true, but it can be turned around on the bully as well: "Hey, if YOU don't like it here, YOU can go someplace else. You are not welcome to stay here and make life miserable for others just so that you can feel powerful and almighty or feed some long-held psychological need you have for control. In fact, why DON'T you go? NOW!!"

Walking away without a fight was not an option for me. If I walk away, I know that someone else will have to endure the same treatment (predictably, the next principal continued the bullying). I could not walk away and set someone else up to endure that; it would make me complicit in whatever happened to them, if I could have done something to stop it. Perhaps the next victim will have to endure the "treatment" for the seven years it will take to get their kids through college or reach full retirement or whatever; perhaps they will not be able to "go someplace else." They will continue to be subjected to the abuse.

I am occasionally criticized for this course of action. "Why don't you just give it up and move on?" That is not the point; it is about staying engaged in the struggle for the justice that is due the employees of Edmonds. Civil rights were not won by people walking away from the struggle; they were won by staying in there. We fail if we do nothing; we succeed if we try. "Winning" is not necessarily part of the rubric right now. In one sense, we will never "win" as our principled stand has cost us $800,000, not to mention the sleepless nights.

In the book "Black Hole in the Blueprint," documenting the San Diego schools' purging of senior staff, the author notes the suicide of a school volunteer because, as his wife put it, he couldn't stand to watch the way the teachers were being treated. A VOLUNTEER.

The last time I mentioned the psychological effects of bullying in this manner, Limon issued the "no trespass" order against us. The truth will not be changed by such tactics, Mr. Limon. Bullying puts people at risk of mental and psychological problems; you cannot deny it. Banning us from speaking to our former colleagues about it will not change that fact. And remember, Ken, it was that faculty member who first came to me saying, "I see how you are being treated.." I didn't start the conversation, but rather was trying to follow it up by expressing my appreciation for their concern and supplying some factual information about depression and risk. YOU are the one who badly overreacted, not me.

What is reported to us here on the blog and through personal conversations is that the administration of the Edmonds Schools has a large problem with abuse of power. Whether it's pianos or contaminated property or bullying staff or ignoring school board policies or pornography on computers or workers not putting in a full day's work for a full day's pay, they all boil down to "abuse of power." There is no one watching the candy jar and those in power are taking advantage. If all you do is give up and walk away, the candy will continue to be taken.

It's gotta stop somewhere. There is a poster that hangs on the wall of many classrooms in the District: "Stand up for what is right even if you are standing alone." Do we want to show our students and children what that really means or will we show them by our inaction that it's just so much BS?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The high price of eating dirty cookies.

Imagine that you are a child and your mother gives you a dollar to buy a cookie. When you go to the store, the cashier convinces you that the tastiest cookie is actually the smallest and looks a little dirty.

"Not to worry", says the cashier, "Those are just chocolate sprinkles."

You then ask why the cookie costs a dollar when the sign clearly displays the price as 25 cents.

"Oh, that is the price for 1/4th of a cookie. The entire cookie costs one dollar."

You then give the cashier your mother's dollar and take the dirty-looking cookie home.

As you get closer and closer to your home, you start feeling uncomfortable about the cookie you just bought. You start panicking a little about what your mother might say about spending a whole dollar for the dirty little cookie. You decide to avoid any potential problem with your mother's opinion of the cookie and just shove the whole thing in your mouth.

When you get home, your mother is relaxing on the front stoop reading a romance novel. She lowers the book just long enough to ask about your cookie. Fortunately, you devoured the whole thing on your way home so there isn't anything for your mother to evaluate. She now has to rely upon your description.

"It was delicious. It was the perfect cookie. I know that you trusted me to buy a great cookie with the dollar you gave me and I did exactly that."

Unfortunately, a few hours later you develop an extreme case of botulism, slip into a coma and become hospitalized, your immune system weakens and you become infected with flesh-eating bacteria.

Fortunately for you, death is impossible.

Hint: You are the Edmonds School District. Your mother is the taxpaying public. The cookie is the new adminstration site.

Unconventional, Bee-Swallowing Reformer

Michelle Rhee got a reality check in her first year of teaching, in 1993. The second graders at Harlem Park Elementary in a tough neighborhood in Baltimore were hard enough to keep in their seats, let alone teach anything. One day a bumblebee got into the classroom and the students were more out of control than ever. The daughter of Korean immigrants wasn't about to let a bunch of rowdy 8-year-olds trample her aspirations to get them to learn. When the bee landed on Rhee's desk, she swatted it, popped it in her mouth and gulped it down. For the first time, it seemed, her students were quiet. After that day they paid more attention, even if they were just waiting to see what she'd do next. "The kids were, like, 'Oh, my God, she's crazy! Who is this woman?' " Rhee says.

That's precisely the question being asked in Washington, D.C. Rhee, 37, has taken on the city's most unruly job: reforming the D.C. public schools. When the city's new mayor,
Adrian Fenty, asked her to be his schools chancellor last summer, she refused at first. "Absolutely not. That's an impossible job," she recalls saying. D.C.'s public schools spend more per student than almost every other major school district but have some of the worst test scores in the country. Fenty said he'd risk his popularity to fix them, so Rhee accepted his challenge. She has already piqued unions and parents by announcing plans to fire more than 100 administrative workers and close down 23 schools. "If the rules don't make sense for kids, I'm not going to follow them. I don't care how much trouble we get in," she warned Fenty.

No one is more aware than Rhee that she is an unconventional fit for D.C. She has never run a school district. Then there is the issue of a Korean-American running predominantly African-American schools. Rhee has tried to defuse racial tension with her blunt talk. "I bet you are wondering what this Korean lady is doing here," she told one all-black audience.

A compulsive e-mailer, she has been involved in minutiae like repairing broken water fountains. She told the lawyers to stay away while she tries to renegotiate a new teacher contract herself. She has met with every school principal, telling those at failing schools they could lose their jobs if they don't raise test scores. Her imperial style has irked some. "Good. I don't want them to be comfortable," Rhee says. Just as in Harlem Park, everyone is waiting to see what she does next.

More great articles published by Newsweek magazine may be found by clicking here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Speech may be free, but republishing articles isn't.

June 20, 2008

Mr. Zandberg:

The Enterprise newspapers, published by the Herald Co. in Snohomish and King counties, Wash., cover local school and education issues in numerous communities, including Edmonds. I assume you know this, since some of this coverage has earned attention on your blog.

Unfortunately, you are violating the law.

These stories are copyright material, protected under both state and federal laws.

Most bloggers provide commentary on news articles and supply links to the news sites that originate them. Computer users who click on those links are then sent to the publication’s site. This is a legal and widely accepted practice.

Your blog, unfortunately, has republished the entire content of our articles. In doing so, you have appropriated material for which you have not paid or secured legal reprint rights.

Our company is committed to protecting our legal right to editorial work products – articles, photographs, graphics and page images – that our employees produce. We must demand that your website remove the full-text versions of our stories and all of our photographs. It should be a technically simple matter for your organization to comply with this request, and it is our expectation that the situation be corrected by the end of the day, June 24, 2008.

As noted above, publishing a summary of these articles and providing a link to the Edmonds Enterprise site, hosted on, would satisfy our demand.

Failure to respond to our demand could expose you to legal liability, including financial damages.


Neal Pattison
The Herald co
Everett, WA

July 15, 2008

Ms. Koenig:

The Edmonds School District Weblog (Blog) covers local school and education issues in the Edmonds School District. We assume you know this because your employer recently sent a cautionary letter to the blog (June 20, 2008) expressing the criteria whereby we could utilize portions of your employer's published work.

The blog fully approves and authorizes the use of any and all written work, generated by the blog, for use in any other publication, provided appropriate citations are made and references back to the blog are included in any published work.

“Most bloggers provide commentary on news articles and supply links to the news sites that originate them. Computer users who click on those links are then sent to the publication’s site. This is a legal and widely accepted practice.”

We fully expect the reverse to apply, in that if the Enterprise chooses to draw from the material contained in the blog, an active link will be included in any internet-based publication.

“...publishing a summary of these articles and providing a link to the Edmonds Enterprise site, hosted on, would satisfy our demand.”

The blog is not making any demands but rather seeking reciprocity regarding the effective release of information.


Mark Zandberg

Sunday, July 13, 2008

State Auditor relies upon the Honor System.

Most people would agree that having the police around is a great idea. They exist to protect and serve the public and their role in society is at the heart of what keeps things together. Without the police, our neighborhoods would quickly slip away from the standards that our free society demands. The police play an important part in creating and maintaining happy and healthy neighborhoods.

Just what would happen if the police decided to stop issuing tickets? How many of us would start driving a little more quickly? How tempting would it be to sleep in a few extra minutes knowing that you could always make up some time going 60 through downtown Edmonds? Stop signs would be a thing of the past. Double parking would become the latest craze. School Zones? What are those?

Would it be necessary for the police to issue a press release announcing their decision to eliminate tickets? Would it be necessary to declare the motivation behind such a decision? What if such a new policy was the result of one person deciding that tickets infringed upon the rights of motorists? Would it make the consequences of lawlessness any more palatable?

While it may take several years before many of us realized the police have opted out of the ticket writing business, there are others that would be tipped off by their friends in local government. They would be busy zipping by me on a blind corner while I calmly hope for a police officer with a radar gun around the next bend.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Sale of apartment complex called off because of soil contamination.

A year ago, the Port of Seattle's plan to tear down a Burien apartment complex drew the wrath of housing advocates.

Several sued to stop demolition, and Port officials, who had hoped to put a big-box store or a cargo warehouse there, were pressured into selling the apartments to the King County Housing Authority.

On Friday, the housing authority and the Port said the sale was off. Tests showed significant soil contamination, left over from the site's days as an auto-wrecking yard in the 1950s.

The 162 Lora Lake apartments, which had become a political poster child for a countywide effort to end homelessness, will come down.

"We're obviously very sad and disappointed," said Rhonda Rosenberg, spokeswoman for the King County Housing Authority.

She said the fight was still worth it.

"It helped focus regional attention on the unnecessary loss of rental housing."

Public Health — Seattle & King County will spend a month looking at whether previous residents could have been exposed to dangerous levels of dioxins, which could increase risk of cancer.

Charissa Fotinos, medical director with Public Health's clinical services, said it is difficult to assess anyone's risk at this point. "We're certainly concerned," she said.

The apartments have been empty since residents moved out last summer.

The private developer who built the apartments tested and cleaned the site in consultation with the state Department of Ecology in 1987, according to the housing authority.

Read the rest of the story by clicking here.

The blog launches first annual book drive.

We have a new twist on the concept of a book drive. While others may seek the donation of books from any author and without regard for any particular title, the blog seeks one specific book from one specific author.

Title: "How to be an Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful Loving"
Author: David Richo

We are also not seeking donations. The blog will pay $5.00 for every book mailed to the following address:

ESD15 Blog Book Drive
9003 Olympic View Drive
Edmonds, WA 98026

You can also email us at: and we will send a member of staff out to your location to collect the book and drop off a check. If you prefer, you can email us anonymously and we can leave a check for you at our office.

Please make sure the book is in good condition and all of the pages are in tact.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Inquiring minds want to know.

Hi Mark –

I’m the education reporter for the Enterprise and am doing a story on your lawsuit against the district.

If you had any time to talk about this on Monday, that would be helpful for my deadline. If you can’t talk about it, or know someone else who can, please let me know.

You can e-mail me about this or call me at 425-673-6526.

Thanks –


Sarah Koenig
Education reporter
Enterprise newspapers
4303 198th St. SW, Lynnwood WA 98036

Blog passes One Hundred Thousand page views

Congratulations to the 100,000th visitor.

11:43:01 AM (

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

State Auditor stumped with simple change of name.

July 8, 2008

Brian Sonntag

Dear Mr. Sonntag,

Thank you for your recent response to a concerned member of our community. Your response was forwarded to me for an opinion. While I have already weighed in on the strength of your other responses, your response regarding space rentals and Mr. and Mrs. Noble is shocking. To think that the Washington State Auditor is prepared to hang his hat on such a feeble set of arguments is baffling.

Space Rental

Clearly you have lost your mind. The organization that you claim "disbanded prior to 2007" merely changed their name from "Powerful Partners" to "Powerful Tutors". They have the same staff, the same space in the administration building and continue to use the name "Powerful Partners" when they require name recognition - like when they endorsed the District's Tech Replacement Levy late last year. [Bottom right corner of page 2]

By your reasoning, it would be appropriate for criminals to legally change their name and have all prior criminal activity instantly vanish. If our county prosecutors used this approach to combating crime our prisons and jails would be empty. Who would have guessed that the bookkeeper that pilfered funds right under your nose for years could have just walked to the courthouse next door, paid $65 and avoided spending thirteen months in prison?

Additionally, you have been making recommendations to the District to refine their monitoring of facility rentals and leases for years. Your guidance is clearly landing on deaf ears, or perhaps no one takes your audits seriously. Based upon the strength of your findings, it is likely the latter.

Board Policy Violation

First, "It is the policy of the Edmonds School District that non member of the Board" should read "no member of the Board".

Second, your interpretation of the referenced RCW opens a larger issue that needs to be explained. Can a school district adopt board policies that are inconsistent with state law? Can a school district adopt policies that are more restrictive in an effort to remove any possibility of future conflicts of interest? Can a school district adopt policies that seek to create and maintain an elevated standard?

Your argument weakens the quality of elected school boards across the State of Washington, when clearly it was the intent of the voters in the Edmonds School District to remove any possibility of the corruption that may routinely occur elsewhere in the State.

Furthermore, Board Policy 1260 has nothing to do with Board Policy 6810. Board Policy 1260 pertains to contractual work performed for the District where a board member may be affiliated in a non-salaried capacity. Meaning, the board member cannot receive any financial benefit from any business transaction between an employer and the District - unless this relationship is specifically disclosed and recorded in board minutes. The policy essentially sought to exclude conflicts between board members (spouses and dependents included) and entities providing services to the District.

In case the Conflict of Interest provisions were not entirely clear in Board Policy 1260, earlier, more enlightened boards specifically called out a circumstance that would be a clear conflict. It is contained in Board Policy 6810 and reinforces the conflict described in Board Policy 1260. The inconsistency is not between Board Policy 1260 and Board Policy 6810 but rather between these board policies and the conduct of this board.

So, now the Edmonds School District will revise board policies to specifically allow clear conflicts of interest to exist. Would such a revision be in the best interest of the public?

Board minutes have also reflected the Board's intention to revise policies contained in the 1000 series, when in actuality; any revisions in that series would be meaningless without altering the intent of Board Policy 6810. Maybe this board intends to eternally postpone any action on Series 1000 until Gary and Kay Noble have milked every conceivable advantage in maintaining this conflict.
Discussion Topic 1 on Page 2 of the Board Agenda]

I look forward to your response to the many other concerns I have forwarded.


Mark Zandberg

State Auditor provides no legitimate oversight.

July 8, 2008

Brian Sonntag

Dear Mr. Sonntag:

Thank you for your response to two of my many concerns regarding the Edmonds School District. Your response leaves me, and many others, appalled by what passes for an audit these days. If the Internal Revenue Service conducted personal audits in a similar fashion, no one would pay federal income tax but rather expect a meaningless letter to arrive more than a year after someone else decided to complain.

Piano Scheme

First, the evidence for conflicting interests is abundantly clear. Ms. Miller and Mr. Osborne met with Mr. Tucker numerous times outside of and prior to this piano transaction. They had an established relationship through the Edmonds Jazz Festival and connections through Rotary in Edmonds going back a number of years.

Second, the piano "lease" was crafted with the sole purpose of transferring ownership of a number of pianos from Seattle Piano Gallery to the Edmonds School District. Taking possession of these pianos under the auspices of a lease scheme was merely a ruse to avoid legally required procurement processes.

Perhaps your audit team never viewed a summary of the scheme drafted by the attorney for Mr. Tucker. It may also be found at

Recommending that the District use a legally required process for future transactions confirms that this transaction was, in your opinion and in fact, illegal. Why would any law-abiding entity have to be reminded to follow the law?

Purchase of Land

First, a point of clarification. I never stated a belief that the District "paid more than the asking price" for the new administration site. The District paid every cent of the seller's asking price of $5.6 million immediately after their own appraisal determined the value to be $3.3 million and without regard for obvious and documented contamination.

Second, the District's own Board Policy requires that a Site Acquisition Committee be convened, in writing, by the Superintendent prior to the purchase of land. That never happened. The closest thing to such a committee was a group of consultants all advising the District not to buy the property.

Third, state law requires a review appraisal. WAC 468-100-103 "A qualified reviewing appraiser shall examine all appraisals…" A school board may be elected by voters and have the power to make decisions to buy property but the voters do not expect their elected officials to disobey the law.

If I wasn't a resident and taxpayer in the State of Washington, I would find it uncomfortably funny that the State Auditor stands behind the statement that an appraisal is required but need not govern the final purchase price. The State Attorney General has numerous published opinions that call such overpayments a gift of public funds.

As a public employee with continued involvement in the procurement of goods, services and property, I am flabbergasted by the lack of oversight provided by the State Auditor and, quite frankly, embarrassed by your dismissive attitude toward the misappropriation of millions of taxpayer dollars.


Mark Zandberg

Monday, July 07, 2008

The District can provide "information" but not answers.

June 27, 2008

Dear Mr. Zandberg:

I am responding on behalf of Superintendent Bergeson and we would like to thank you for your letter.

It appears the issues you raise are decisions made by or approved by the Edmonds School Board. The education governance structure in the state provides the elected school board control over budgets, hiring, contracts and managing the superintendent.

I contacted the district regarding these matters and found that Debbie Jakala, Community Relations Manager for the district, at 425-431-7044 can provide information about each of these concerns. In addition, you have the ability to raise these issues at a future board meeting. Again, please contact Ms. Jakala about the procedures to address the board.

Thank you again for your letter.


Jennifer Priddy
Assistant Superintendent
Financial Resources

About the Author: Jennifer Priddy holds M.P.A. and bachelor of arts degrees from The Evergreen State College.

Evergreen is home to "Narrative-style Evaluation"
You'll be evaluated in detailed narratives that become part of your academic transcript — instead of letter grades. Faculty will evaluate your work and your self-evaluation is also included. Experience has shown us that these noncompetitive transcripts are valued by employers and graduate schools because they are more descriptive and revealing than traditional grades.

If it works for Evergreen, why not use it on the WASL?

Board needs to revise conduct, not policies.

Brian Sonntag:
We also found that District Board Policy 6810 is inconsistent with the Policy 1260. Policy 6810 states that “No person shall be employed by the district who is the spouse of or dependant child of any member of the Board of Directors or of the superintendent.” We have recommended the District revise its policies to be consistent.

Mark Zandberg:
Board Policy 1260 has nothing to do with Board Policy 6810. BP1260 pertains to contractual work performed for the District where a board member may be affiliated in a non-salaried capacity. Meaning, the board member cannot receive any financial benefit from any business transaction between an employer and the District - unless this relationship is specifically disclosed and recorded in board minutes. The policy essentially sought to exclude conflicts between board members (spouses and dependents included) and entities providing services to the District.

In case the Conflict of Interest provisions were not entirely clear in BP1260, earlier, more enlightened boards specifically called out a circumstance that would be a clear conflict. It is contained in BP6810 and reinforces the conflict described in BP1260.

The inconsistency is not between BP1260 and BP6810 but rather between these board policies and the conduct of this board. Don't feel bad Mr. Sonntag, three years in law school and several years of practicing law apparently wouldn't have made it any clearer.

So, now the Edmonds School District will revise board policies to specifically allow clear conflicts of interest to exist. Would such a revision be in the best interest of the public? Would such a revision be "For the Kids"? How do these board members sleep at night?

Board minutes have also reflected the board's intention to revise policies contained in the 1000 series, when in actuality, any revisions in that series would be meaningless without altering the intent of BP6810. Maybe this board intends to eternally postpone any action on Series 1000 until Gary and Kay Noble have milked every conceivable advantage in maintaining this conflict. [Discussion Topic 1 on Page 2 of the Board Agenda]


It is the policy of the Edmonds School District that no member of the Board, or any spouse or dependent relative of such member, shall receive or accept any compensation or reward for services rendered to the District or have any pecuniary interest in any contract to which the District is a party except to the limited extent authorized by law. For the purposes of this policy, such pecuniary interest shall not be deemed to exist by reason of a contract between the District and the employer of a Board member if: (a) the compensation of the Board member from such employer consists entirely of fixed wages or salary; (b) such employment relationship is disclosed and is recorded in the minutes of a Board meeting prior to the formation of the contract with the employer; and (c) the contract is approved by a vote of the membership for the Board sufficient for the purpose without counting the vote of the Board member employed by the contracting party.


No person shall be employed by the district who is the spouse or dependent child of any member of the Board of Directors or of the superintendent.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Theft prior to audit is just water under the bridge.

June 23, 2008
Dear [Anonymous],

Thank you for contacting our Office regarding your concerns about the Edmonds School District. You stated you believe the District was providing non-profit organizations with District space rent-free. You also stated a District Board Member, and his wife a teacher at the District, are violating Board Policy 1260. You also forwarded a concern that the District had violated state bid laws when purchasing land.

Space rental

You stated a non-profit organization working in support of District operations did not pay rent for its use of District space, which violated the agreement between the District and the organization. We determined the non-profit disbanded prior to 2007. Therefore, we focused our review on policies and procedures for rentals and leases and reviewed current leases and rentals.

We found the District does not have adequate policies and internal controls over the rental and lease receipting process. Its policies do not provide guidance on how to determine the type of rental or lease agreement, the rate to charge, or ensure proper monitoring of the agreements. Due to these issues, the District is not applying consistent rental and lease fees and is not obtaining sufficient information about tenants, such as their intended use of District space and whether it benefits the District, prior to deciding to rent to the tenant or draw up a lease. We recommended the District strengthen internal controls in order to decrease the risk of misappropriation, loss of revenue, or the ability to detect errors in a timely manner, and to ensure all rental and lease revenue is received.

Board Policy violation

You stated a School Board Member and his spouse are violating District Board Policy 1260, which bars the spouse or dependant of a member of the Board from being employed by the District. We reviewed Board Policy 1260 which states:

It is the policy of the Edmonds School District that non member of the Board, or any spouse or dependent relative of such member, shall receive or accept any compensation or reward for services rendered to the District or have any pecuniary [monetary] interest in any contract to which the District is a party except to the limited extent authorized by law.

RCW 42.23.030 (Interest in contracts prohibited—Exceptions) defines the exceptions allowed under state law and include:

…the letting of any employment contract to the spouse of an officer of a school district if the spouse was under contract as a certificated or classified employee with the school district before the date in which the officer assumes the office and the terms of the contract are commensurate with the pay plan or collective bargaining agreement operating in the district…

We confirmed the Board Member’s spouse began employment with the District on September 12, 1990, prior to her husband’s election to the Board in 2003. We also confirmed the spouse’s compensation was in accordance with the agreement between the District and Edmonds Education Association. The District appears to be in compliance with Board Policy 1260.

We also found that District Board Policy 6810 is inconsistent with the Policy 1260. Policy 6810 states that “No person shall be employed by the district who is the spouse of or dependant child of any member of the Board of Directors or of the superintendent.” We have recommended the District revise its policies to be consistent.

Purchase of land

You stated you believed the District paid more than the asking price for property that will be used for a new bus barn. The District’s original appraisal valued the land at $3.3 million. A subsequent appraisal valued the land at $5.6 million, which the District paid. We reviewed state law (RCW 28A.335.090) which states:

…(2) Any purchase of real property by a school district shall be preceded by a market value appraisal by a professionally designated real estate appraiser as defined in RCW 74.46.020 or by a general real estate appraiser certified under chapter 18.140RCW who was selected by the board of directors.

While the law requires an appraisal, it does not say the purchase must not exceed that appraisal. We reviewed the District’s purchase and discussed the matter with legal counsel and determined the final purchase price was negotiated by the District and the seller and went through the proper approval process.

Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention. If you have any further questions or comments, please call Chris Kapek, Audit Manager at (425) 257-2137.



Business Services goes into Lockdown.

In an effort to ensure that stray documents don’t end up as court exhibits, Business Services has gone into Lockdown.

Employees can no longer work before 6:30 in the morning or stay later than 5:00. During the summer months, employees used to be able to take advantage of longer daylight hours and get their 8 hours of pain and agony out of the way early, leaving time for more comfortable activities like dental appointments and trips to the proctologist.

Under the guise of “security”, operating hours have been clearly defined and stepping outside of those hours will certainly result in termination. After all, what good can come from staff working longer hours than those prescribed by management? Going “above and beyond” is the stuff of comic books, not public service. Phase two will certainly include cavity searches and the installation of metal detectors.

I suppose with the pre-trial buzz of paper shredders, management wants to make sure that staff won’t file a claim for hearing loss or witness all of the activity after hours.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Some just want that commission check.

In the world of residential real estate, you get all kinds of agents. While many are looking after the best interests of their clients, some just want to get a commission check.

For the family that wants to list their home on MLS and recruit the services of a licensed agent, they might pick up the yellow pages and call a few real estate offices. Appointments are made to allow several agents the opportunity to provide a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA). These CMAs are estimates as to the current value of the seller's home.

Less than scrupulous agents will frequently inflate their estimate of the seller's home in order to secure the listing and improve their personal chances of getting a commission check. While more qualified agents and their CMAs may have been overlooked, the seller will naturally be tempted to go with the higher asking price. No doubt, the house will be listed at a higher price and sit on the market for months. Ultimately, the price drops to a level supported by market conditions - and more in line with the majority of CMAs.

Just what exactly happens during the time the seller's home is on the market? Prospective buyers might stop by out of curiosity to see why this particular house is priced higher than homes in the neighborhood, but they have no real intention to buy. When the price is higher than everything of comparable size and quality, agents won't even include it in their client tours. When the price eventually falls, people immediately conclude that something must be wrong with the house. Clearly, selecting an intelligent agent will result in the best conditions for a quick and profitable sale.

It is never a good idea to select an agent because they are telling you want they think you want to hear.

Of course, situations like these exist in other industries that involve professional services. Following the trail of invoices frequently exposes the real motives for providing those services.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Administration is blind and counterproductive.

If folks at the ESC are angry at the whistleblowers, they have only themselves to blame. It is not unusual for those who create the problems to not be able to take responsibility for them.

They have mismanaged many District assets including the most precious-their workers. Whether they are folks in the warehouse who have apparently put up with an extremely poor manager or teachers in the buildings who may have been subjected to bullying treatment bordering on illegal age or racial discrimination or just your average worker who is trying to keep their head down and their nose clean so that they won't be the next target, the Edmonds School District has NOT been a SAFE working environment for many. Working in such an environment is very likely to make you physically sick as well as heartsick.

If you don't feel safe, you don't do your best work. If you do not feel safe in the classroom, you aren't able to give the students your best.

That means the "what's best for kids" slogan is not a valid description of the result of some key administrative actions. The actions of the administration have been counterproductive to that stated goal.

If they are angry at people who are pointing out the contradiction, that becomes their burden, not those of us who are saying that the emperor has no clothes. People who speak truth to power in spite of the dangers-physical, psychological, and economic-should be thanked by those who cannot (for truly personal and understandable reasons) gather the courage to do the same.

We are thrilled that the matter is heading to court. Perhaps their anger will continue to blind them to their responsibility until the court corrects them.

Richard Reuther

Legal squabble to move off line.

After more than a year of blogging in the public eye, the time has come to shift new entries to a less visible platform. I will continue to generate entries every day, but they will be password protected until the legal squabble is complete. The blog located at will continue to be updated weekly, but nothing related to the federal case against the Edmonds School District will be included here.

As we move into this next important chapter, I just want to offer my sincere gratitude to the many contributors during the past 13 months. When the court case concludes, we'll merge both blogs and an entire record of what transpired will be readily available for the public to peruse.

If you have any thoughts, concerns, requests or questions, please feel free to contact me by email at


Mark Zandberg

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

"The bold leadership of a few individuals."

The 4th of July is approaching. Let's look at the Declaration of Independence, the founding document that this holiday celebrates.

William Kristol, editorial contributor to the NYTimes noted (June 30, 2008) the following from the Declaration:

"...all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed." Meaning that people will tend to bear the suffering of oppressive and unfair rule rather than abolish it, if possible. He goes on to observe, in his own words: "The people are conservative. Liberty sometimes requires the bold leadership of a few individuals."

He refers to the signers of the Declaration who had dubious authority from the people of their respective colonies to declare independence for the 13 colonies but did it anyway. What did they have to offer each other? "...we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." Not a big safety net.

By signing the Declaration, they put themselves on the "most wanted list" of the British and spent most of the rest of the war moving about from place to place to avoid capture and execution for treason.

The degree of the treatment and punishment may be different, but the concept is the same. Do you continue to suffer silently under an oppressive governance structure or do you take steps to change it?

Happy Independence Day to all.

Richard Reuther