Wednesday, November 25, 2009

New entries are password protected for now

There have been a number of topics that have been set aside for discussion outside of this public forum. Since it really wouldn't make any sense to cover these issues while they are still officially unresolved.

For a select few individuals, I have been providing usernames and passwords, so that healthy and open dialogue can occur without concern for the whole community watching. Sort of like "Executive Sessions".

Thank you for your support and I look forward to continued discussions "off the record" until the air is clear and I can start posting the accumulated entries.

The site may be found at

All the best.

Mark Zandberg

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Is anyone surprised that print media is failing?

For readers of the blog that are tracking all of the clear evidence illustrating the close ties between this local rag and the District, here is a rather vivid case in point.

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Wednesday, October 21, 2009 8:48 AM
To: Jocelyn Robinson; Eric Stevick
Subject: Questions for Candidates

I was just informed that the Enterprise published a Q and A article regarding the candidates for Edmonds School Board. I was also informed that you have no information from me and that I "did not respond".

May I ask just how exactly you attempted to contact me because no one has ever had any difficulty in doing so? Is this fair and effective journalism for our community?

While it is true that I was in Ethiopia for the month of September, my calls and email were monitored every day and I was still responding to every inquiry - even from Addis Ababa.

At the very least, all of my biographical information and my views on every issue imaginable are freely available on the internet.

Mark Zandberg

Hi Mark,

We sent the letters and questions through the mail to the addresses listed on the Snohomish County auditor's website.

I've attached the questions we sent to Edmonds School District candidates. If you can get these back to me by Monday, Oct. 26, I can include them online. I can't guarantee that we'll be able to publish the entire answers in the newspaper, but we will at least include a referral to the website.

Please contact me if you have any questions.

Jocelyn Robinson
Enterprise News Editor

I returned from Ethiopia on October 3, 2009, the day after the Public Forum hosted by the City of Edmonds. There was nothing in the mailbox from the Enterprise and no telephone messages or email from anyone at the Enterprise. There was nothing ever mailed to me from the Enterprise to the address where I was living at the time I filed as a candidate, nor was anything from the Enterprise forwarded to my address in Edmonds.

Clearly, the Enterprise felt it would be beneficial to allow Ann McMurray and Susan Phillips to get their messages out in their small newspaper while maintaining the illusion that they were being fair and effective.

What newspaper, in this day and age, sends questions out in snail mail? One could naturally assume that if something was mailed to a candidate, the responses could be mailed back. The "journalist" (and I use the term loosely here) would then have to have the questions and answers typed up. Why not send the questions by email? After all, our email addresses were included with our physical addresses when we filed as candidates. And of course, any real journalist wouldn't have any difficulty finding contact information for the moderator of a blog with more than 400,000 page views.

Why wouldn't this "journalist" follow up with a telephone call or an email? "Gee, I noticed that you did not respond to the letter that I mailed. Did you ever receive it?" Of course, I cannot respond to a letter that was never mailed.

What is funny is that after I "complained", I was given an opportunity to respond but not given any real chance to appear in print. There was a notation at the bottom of their web article stating that my responses were submitted after the original article was published. As if to suggest that I would copy the written work of the other candidates (assuming they actually wrote their own statements).

Is anyone actually surprised that print media is failing?

Scams uncovered on the blog are "too complicated"

When I met with King 5 (contaminated site), KOMO (frozen cheese sandwiches) and the Herald, everyone was telling me that the scandals I cover in the blog are just "too complicated" for their intended audience. They couldn't possibly explain the nature and impact of each scam in a way that could be easily understood. While the blog has made an effort to reveal the feculence seeping from the operations side of the district and infecting the education side, it is clear that we need to start catering to a wider audience.

On a bright note, when I explain these real estate transactions to the many commercial brokers with whom I mingle, they immediately understand and quickly express shock at how a school board can be so blind to such blatant malfeasance.

In the very near future, the blog will be taking its message to YouTube. Our mission will not be to explain every last detail, but rather give our community a taste for the schemes being unleashed by management at the expense of the public.

The mission will be to provide a five minute snapshot of each questionable attack on our senses by district management. The viewer can watch one video in the series or all of them. They will be able to watch them in any order and watch them multiple times so some of the details will start to make sense.

Along with the use of this new platform, the blog will be revamped, restructured and revitalized with a long list of issues that have been piling up while I was in Africa.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

This community needs a proactive school board.

The most efficient way to cover the long list of material covered on this blog is to read the "Summary" section and then drill down to individual topics for greater detail. You can get to the "Summary" page by clicking right here or by clicking on the word "Summary" in the margin to the right.

While I can appreciate there are a lot of topics covered here, the overall trend clearly demonstrates that our current school board cannot provide the oversight they have been elected (or appointed) to provide. They may collectively claim to be doing their best, but "their best" is not good enough.

It all comes down to whether this community wants a reactive board that lacks the tools and experience to resolve problems or a proactive board that has a history of recognizing problems before they happen and has the skill and resources to prevent the problems that plague us now.

With the long list of issues covered here, just imagine how much more effective district leadership can be with the right person asking the right questions at the right time. This community cannot afford more of the same.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog and please remember to vote.

Friday, October 16, 2009

"He didn't disclose something confidential."

If you have been following my departure from the District, you may recall that Marla Miller and her minions were spewing the concept that I somehow violated the public trust by revealing something confidential about the Old Woodway Elementary transaction.

For those of you who still cling to the statements made by questionably-motivated managers, please review the following, simple facts.

Before the Old Woodway Elementary site was sold, it was advertised in the Herald as being a surplus site and it was marketed to developers in its entirety. That means, it was made available for purchase as a complete site of 11.2 acres. The fact that such a declaration was made in the Herald (albeit just once, not the legally-required twice) and that the site was advertised to developers as 11.2 acres means that no portion of the site was obligated to anyone and certainly not the City of Edmonds. Making such a declaration in a Letter to the Editor was just restating publicly-known facts. If any portion of the site had been committed to anyone else, then the entire site would not have been available to developers.

For those of you who still choose to cling to the statements made by Marla Miller, I advise that you read her own words here in this transcript of her own words and approved by her lawyers. Line 14 on Page 141. The rest of her transcript will be posted later.

So, why would Marla Miller, Nick Brossoit and the Board take action to constructively terminate a highly-praised employee? Clearly they wanted to silence the only voice of reason in a real estate transaction that was far more complicated than it needed to be and that resulted in millions of dollars lost for the District. Remember that the Old Woodway Elementary transaction happened right on the heels of the District's purchase of the contaminated site - a site purchased without the Board-mandated Site Acquisition Committee.

I say again, since I have said it numerous times before, Marla was gravely concerned that the manner in which district funds were being squandered, through poorly-crafted real estate transactions, would deeply upset the community. What she failed to understand is that our community doesn't have the time or energy to study the issues that come before our school board. That is precisely why we elect board members who create and maintain board policies. Our community believes that their elected board members understand the consequences of their decisions. Unfortunately, the current board is not capable of the oversight they have been elected to provide. Susan Phillips may "pledge to do [her] best for our students and District" but, quite frankly, her best is not good enough.

Change is needed on the Board. In electing even one board member that has the intellectual capacity to articulate consequences before they happen, never again can our school board claim to be uninformed or refuse to accurately assess circumstances before they devour us. One voice of reason would be a great start to a total board transformation that must happen sooner rather than later... for the sake of our children.

Blog: Photo acquired through flickr and pfly.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

School Board candidate returns from Africa

I am fairly confident that if the school board election were held today, in Ethiopia and Kenya, I would win by a wide margin.

For the many of you that have been writing in during my absence, I would like to thank you for filling my inbox. There are so many things to discuss and so many questions to be answered. An email that I received today served as a valuable reminder as to why it is so important to have a strong school board with inquisitive, analytical minds at work for the taxpayers of our district.

I am including this most recent email here and will respond more fruitfully once I have explored the issues raised. The email is as follows:

Hi Mark:

I don't know if you're still actively maintaining your watchdog blog (last update: June 30) but I wanted to know if you were aware of this:

Parents got a mailing recently from ESD Transportation Department urging them to make sure their (eligible) kid rode the school bus this week, October 12-16, as a student headcount will determine the amount of state funding for the department.

The card says:

"Already, we use local levy dollars (about $4m last year) to backfill the gap in transportation funding because the state's formula does not cover actual costs. The levy dollars also directly fund classroom expenses, such as curriculum and salaries. So by ensuring all assigned bus riders are on the bus during the 'count' week, our District can recoup the maximum amount of transportation funding to which we are entitled - and preserve more dollars for the classroom."

I'm asking:

Is it legal and proper to raid the local levy fund to keep bus service at full strength at the further expense of classroom ops? Parents already get incredible 'wish lists' from teachers, asking us to contribute the most basic classroom supplies... why are they so ready to strip the classroom experience to the bone and beyond to keep the bus fleet running?

If maximum ridership is so politically important, why did ESD rule this year that no kid within a radial mile of his/her school can ride the bus? Surely this policy is costing us state money.

Why is ESD in the transportation business anyway? I've wondered this for years. Fueling and operating 100+ buses is far, far outside ESD's core competency, and it's a major drain on capital. In the private sector you'd look at the Transportation Department as a natural candidate for sell / leaseback, outsourcing or spin off action. It strikes me as completely insane that ESD has such a fetish for buses (but so little apparent skill at running them) and now is actually raiding the classroom-funding bucket to keep the "bus business" whole. It's like an airline cancelling flights and laying off pilots to keep the kitchens making its in-flight meals running at full strength.

Would we not be better served by selling the ESD bus system's assets to a private contract operator (that knows something about fleet management, fuel hedging, personnel management, etc.), banking the proceeds, then tying the contractor's pay rate to performance metrics? One of the really frustrating things about the current arrangement is that there's no way to sanction bad performance. We have buses run late or not at all... kids standing in the rain and darkness for 20, 30, 45 minutes...substitute drivers get lost... and the Transportation Department just shrugs and says it wishes they could do better. If they were a contractor performing this way, they'd have to do more than shrug.

This "buses first, classrooms second" line is especially frustrating considering the giant salaries ESD leadership is earning...

Thanks, and I'd sure like to know what you think about this. Please keep me anonymous if you use this on the blog.



Blog: The State does not reimburse transportation costs for students living within one mile of their school. There have been discussions outside of board meetings that involved students walking away from their schools to bus stops just outside of the one mile restriction. Such a student would be counted but the practice is clearly contrary to the intended policy.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

District response intended to mislead the Public

The District continues to dodge the real question that must be asked. Of course, this question can be asked many times and the responses are normally not connected to the question.

The Edmonds School District continues to peddle the argument that their team of assistant superintendents are compensated in a normal, reasonable fashion. However, the question that must be answered is how many assistant superintendents do other districts have? More revealing would be to ask, "How many people in other districts earn more than $100,000.00 per year?" I suspect the result would be rather troubling.

I would never suggest that an assistant superintendent or "deputy" superintendent should not be paid $150,000.00 a year. Yes, it seems rather excessive when you compare such a salary to average salaries within our community, but if this assistant superintendent was a powerful force for educational empowerment and motivated our community to take greater interest in producing great students, I would readily argue that the salary was not high enough.

Part of the responsibility of the Superintendent's Office is to build upon the successes achieved in the classroom and nurture support from the community to strengthen the District's mission. If we had a superintendent that successfully accomplished this goal, with an appropriate number of assistants, that would be newsworthy. Unfortunately, we have assembled a team of six assistants while other districts work with far fewer.

Here are a couple of rather telling documents provided by the Edmonds School District. First, there is a direct comparison (here) with other school districts in our region and the level of compensation provided to their assistant superintendents. Notice the absence of real information, like how many assistants work at these districts. Notice also that Bellevue has no "deputy" superintendent. How is that possible? Based upon the Edmonds model, they should have at least five.

Second, there is a document (here) that reveals the financial impact of having so many assistants, each of them receiving a cost of living increase on an annual basis. If our district had just one assistant superintendent, the financial impact would be significantly less. Unfortunately, we have six assistants. Every couple of years, the COLAs alone would fully fund yet another assistant. Of course, that same series of adjustments could add capacity to the number of teachers.

Third, there is a rather interesting document (here) that illustrates just how many assistants are dining at the trough of public funds. While there may eventually be an initiative to reduce the number of "assistant superintendents", there will never be a downward adjustment in the number of dollars spent on these employees. Titles may change, but salaries will continue to move onward and upward.

How is it possible that so many other districts can survive with so few "assistants" and "deputies"? I have said this many times before and I will mention it once again. During periods of financial challenges, when raises cannot be handed out to upper management, titles are used to make people feel better about themselves. When funding improves, these managers start wondering how people with such powerful titles can be earning so little - raises come flooding in. These raises come at a direct cost in the number of teachers, paraeducators and librarians.

Make no mistake, it is a club and until our community is prepared to address the senseless gluttony demonstrated by these bloated salaries, we will continue to struggle financially.

District will meddle in school board election

For those of you that may think our electoral process is free and impartial, let me caution you now. We have only to look at the record to see just how far the District is willing to go to protect their own.

It is only through having an unengaged crop of board members that management can force through poor property decisions and illegal procurement practices.

Bruce Williams
Shortly after Bruce was compelled to leave his home through the filing of a restraining order, the Superintendent contacted me to have Bruce's director district redrawn. The intent was to have a rather elongated portion of Director District 4 reach across Director District 1 and include the apartment on Edmonds Way where Bruce Williams was living at the time. Of course, I knew it was sheer lunacy and didn't even pursue the matter, and in the process tell the world we are a collection of fools.

Nick Brossoit even expended considerable effort researching WSSDA recommendations as to the validity of Bruce Williams' status - not that WSSDA governs anything or has any influence in the manner in which the District is held accountable to its voters. Clearly, Nick was prepared to chase the issue to the end of the earth to save Bruce from a premature departure from the Board.

Gary Noble
The matter surrounding Gary Noble was made very clear to the Board and the Superintendent and yet they spent public money hiring attorneys to unsuccessfully reinterpret the English language. Board policies made it very clear that his occupation of a board seat was improper and his position as a board member was unauthorized under the terms of board policies.

This forum reported the issue to the State Auditor and the Board was directed to adhere to their policies or change them. The Board elected to change board policies to allow clear conflicts of interest to occur. They also went as far as to review all board policies so as to suggest to voters that the need for changing the restriction upon Gary Noble was something they discovered on their own.

Oddly, even though the Board had gone through a review of all board policies, they had missed the policy regarding the filing date for school board candidates - a point raised by this forum. The change was immediately adopted because it was characterized as an issue coming from a member of the public. Had it been revealed that the blog made the suggestion to revise the policy, there would probably be a flurry of legal briefs generated and untold fortunes spent on lawyers.

Pat Shields
The issue surrounding Pat Shields has more to do with his affiliation with Powerful Partners and the protection the program has been provided. Despite having signed a lease, Powerful Partners refused to honor their obligation to the tax-payers of this district. When the matter was brought to the attention of the State Auditor, Powerful Partners had mysteriously changed their name to Powerful Tutors, though still used their original name to endorse the District's ballot action.

The refusal of Powerful Partners to pay the rent was particularly painful since it had been happening for more than seven years and the District was in the process of redefining their facility use policy and seeking to pass along rental obligations to casual users of community facilities - particularly parent groups and fund-raising activities in support of district schools.

Susan Phillips
No one is saying that Susan Phillips is a bad person. On the contrary, her willingness to continue her involvement in the community should be applauded. Unfortunately, this district needs someone on the Board that cares about the financial stamina of our public schools. We need someone that knows what enrollment forecasting is all about. We need someone that knows a scheme when they see one. We need someone that knows how the District works from the inside. We need someone on the Board that isn't afraid to speak up for tax-payers and ensure that public funds are spent appropriately.

Unfortunately, that person is not Susan Phillips.

The District needs someone on the Board that understands facilities issues. We need someone on the Board that knows about the legal requirements of public procurement. We need someone on the Board that knows what a Capital Facilities Plan is and the impact such a document has on an operating budget. We need someone on the Board that is significantly more critical of how dollars are spent on education than a group of five people with an irrefutable belief that any money thrown in the direction of education is money well spent.

In times like these, we need to be a little more particular and much more targeted in our approach to funding.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Endorsements come with consequences.

At the risk of upsetting my numerous supporters, I must voice a word of caution to the Edmonds Education Association that invited me to speak for five minutes last week. In this current climate of illogical cuts to district programming, it probably wouldn't be a good idea to rock the boat and allow district management to view your association with anything other than a favorable eye. If such a group were to express any interest in endorsing a candidate who stands for the appropriate use of public funds, district management would likely become enraged.

The fact that current, sitting board members were allowed to sit in your audience demonstrates the Board's keen interest in knowing what your group is thinking. Surely they don't attend with a legitimate interest in understanding your issues but rather to detect opposition before it has an opportunity to form.

While it is true that I am a relative newcomer to the realm of politics and running for school board, my record for defending public funds is without question. A lot of the bad decisions made by district management were endorsed by this current board. Just take a few minutes and read about Gary Noble and how this board had no idea what their own policies required. Even the legal team they hired was completely in the dark. It was only after my concerns were expressed directly to the State Auditor that the Board "decided" to review all of their policies and make changes. But alas, they missed a big one.

Perhaps some of you may recall the most recent change to Board Policy 1235 on June 2, 2009. It clearly specified that the filing period for school board candidates was in July. After I called out the misinformation, the issue was taken up at the next board meeting and corrected immediately. It was a case of simple language and didn't threaten a board member's service to the community. What was mildly humorous is the manner in which the Board tried to characterize the change as something they discovered on their own.

Why wasn't the Noble conflict issue handled as quickly? Why did this board have to hire a team of lawyers to redefine terms and expressions in the English language? It merely proved that the district's lawyers will say anything for a fee and that this board was unable to understand the meaning of their own policies.

Rules were also violated when Bruce Williams filed as a candidate from an address where he was legally prevented from living. The blog pointed out this issue and it was resolved with his resignation.

The ubiquitous Piano Scam is another issue that came to light under the watchful gaze of this forum. It is further proof that this current board is unable to truly dissect a recommendation from staff before rubber stamping it. The District lost a pile of money and even the piano vendor himself described the entire transaction as a "scheme". Read the blog and see for yourself.

The many questionable decisions coming out of Human Resources also shows how detached the current board is from reality. If management was even remotely concerned about having their conduct challenged, they would take a little more time to cover their tracks or work a little harder to conceal misconduct. When there is no real oversight there is never any danger of seeing the consequences of getting caught.

There are many examples of misconduct by district management to be found on this blog. The fact that the current board is either unable or unwilling to hold management accountable clearly demonstrates how disconnected the Board is from the responsible use of public funds. This board would be well-served by having a more inquisitive mind among them - someone with the experience of seeing the misconduct of management from the other side.

I am not suggesting that every decision made by this Board is wrong, but I am suggesting that too much money is being wasted on the wrong choices at the cost of adequately funding the right ones.

I am not asking to be elected to the school board along with four like-minded friends. However, I am absolutely convinced that adding me to this current board would offer something more to the discussions behind closed doors.

Besides, Nick Brossoit keeps telling us that 70% of residents in this district don't have children that attend district schools. Why not have such a person on the Board? Why not have someone on the Board that just wants to see our schools become even better? Why not elect someone that just wants to make sure that public funds are spent wisely before asking the public to provide additional funding for new projects or buildings?

Ultimately, what the Edmonds Education Association chooses to do with their endorsement is their business. I certainly wouldn't want to see an important relationship suffer within the District. As a group you can endorse my opponent, but as individuals I would hope that you would vote differently - after a little research into what this district truly needs to get things back on track.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Voters will benefit from a televised debate.

June 7, 2009

Dear Susan,

With the recent filing of candidates, I noticed that only the two of us will be contesting the position for Director District 4. This being the case, I am writing to express hope for an open and honest dialogue regarding matters of importance to the Edmonds School District. In the spirit of such discussion, I would like to invite you to debate the issues facing our beloved district at a venue to be determined and moderated by a member of the media.

It is also my hope to obtain your consent to have the debate videotaped for broadcast on local television. Clearly, the voters of our community deserve to know where we stand on the issues. Not every voter may be familiar with our names or the positions we take on matters of great importance. It would be through a televised debate that our community can gain greater insight and develop a more meaningful opinion than just seeing our names on yard signs.

Please respond as soon as possible, as a facility will have to be arranged and a mutually-agreeable moderator will have to be coordinated.


Mark Zandberg, Candidate
Director District 4, ESD15

Friday, June 05, 2009

Blogger remodeling to accommodate new tenant.

To reduce operating costs (general funds), I have elected to remodel my primary residence (capital funds) and then rent the house to a family that could more fruitfully utilize the 2,400 square feet of living space. The house is just way too big for two people that spend most of their time working anyway.

Of course, I would have loved to hire my favorite contractor two years ago, but since I was an employee with the District and met this contractor at that time, I wanted to make sure there wouldn't be anything inappropriate by hiring him. So I waited until now to start this project.

Remodeling a home kicks up a lot of dust and creates a lot of obstacles for a person having to get up at 5:00 AM to catch the train to work. So as to prevent any temptation with rolling up my sleeves after a 12 hour work day, jeopardizing my productivity at work, I have decided that the best path forward would be to leave the house and let the contractor take total control of the premises.

The project involves the relocation of walls, upgrading all plumbing, heating and electrical systems, the installation of an enhanced security system and running Cat5 cabling to all rooms on both floors. There is also a considerable amount of tiling and carpet to install. It is my hope and expectation to have all of the work completed by the end of summer.

Because it is my intention to rent out the house after the project is completed, I have taken up residence elsewhere in my community. That new residence happens to be in Director District 4.

To be very clear, the following points deserve to be mentioned.
1. My wife has never filed a restraining order against me.
2. I have never filed as a candidate for a school board position from a former address.
3. The "modernizing" going on at my former residence will be performed by a real contractor.

Blog: A special word of thanks to Nick Brossoit for doing a little research on this issue.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Governors are doing the best job they possibly can.

The blog is pleased to announce the receipt of another negative comment about the blog. Including this recent arrival, the grand total is now three.

you people are are seriously uninformed. What I see in these postings are comments filled with hate and spite. You really have NO idea what Madrona and Maplewood families deal with in their daily lives. I am sure I will get some hateful responses to my posting because that is what happens on this blog. First, get your information straight before you start trash talking about people you don't know. Secondly, name calling shows your ignorance. I won't be comming back to this blog. I don't need your kind of "bias" telling me that everyone who doesn't agree with you are "stupid"
Redmond, WA

Let's study this entry, one point at a time.

1. The writer appears to suggest that you people are seriously uninformed. This statement is in direct conflict with statements made by Nick Brossoit that the blog is a one man show. It may leave the impression with casual readers that more than a single person is at work here and that even this statement could not have been written by the same, single individual.

2. The reader suggests that these postings are filled with hate and spite. A statement such as this appears to suggest that the writer is a recent arrival to the blog, otherwise they would be well aware of the fact that we are a force for change and a conduit to enlighten the community as to what happens to public money when left in the hands of the misguided. It is more likely that suggesting the presence of hate and spite may provide new readers with a motivation to draw conclusions without reading more of the blog. It also appears to be indicative of a response to a recent topic, as opposed to a sweeping condemnation of the blog and its mission.

3. The writer is correct in assuming that I have NO idea what Madrona and Maplewood parents deal with in their daily lives... which is why this blog exists. Parents generally have a lot on their plates and cannot always dedicate the time and energy to perform an effective evaluation of the manner in which their school district is being managed and public funds are being wasted. For the record, it is also quite likely that I have NO idea as to what other parents at other schools deal with in their lives.

I am not sure what the writer is attempting the achieve by only mentioning Madrona and Maplewood. I am aware that the parent community at these schools is very vocal and incredibly active, but perhaps this has more to do with the amount of time they can afford to dedicate to their children's educational needs. Does this make such people better parents? Does this make their children more deserving of public resources? Again, I am not sure I see why mentioning two specific schools validates your argument. Are you suggesting that because parents deal with more important things in their lives they warrant greater protection and funding from the District?

4. No one affiliated with this one man show will respond hatefully to your comments. We always appreciate constructive comments. It is clear that the budget reductions are impacting your life as they are impacting the lives of everyone around you. People are being laid off, teachers are being let go, programs are being slashed, librarians at smaller schools are being threatened with reductions, kindergarten programs are in danger of being dismantled. We are all aware of the suffering in the District and this blog is a mechanism for positive change. We seek to illuminate the questionable calls that result in the senseless waste of public funds. Whether capital funds or general funds they are still public funds and should be spent with our children in mind.

5. If "straight information" is something you believe the blog is lacking, please provide it. We take every reasonable step to ensure that our information is correct. The blog receives innumerable accounts deemed unreliable and we don't publish any of those. For instance, yesterday there was a rumor floating around the District that the soon-to-be Executive Directors of Human Resources and Business Operations will each be taking a $25,000 a year pay cut when they move into their new titles. Unfortunately, this was determined to be nothing more than a rumor. Salaries are governed by contractual arrangements and though the impression may be left with others that pay reductions are forthcoming, it is more than likely a tactic to encourage other unions to accept reductions in pay and benefits. If someone is telling you that an administrator is reducing their own pay - believe it when you see it.

As far as talking about people I do not know, you should know, if you have been reading the blog, that I had been an employee of the Edmonds School District for more than six years. I know a lot of people and have seen many things that should have never happened.

6. I am not entirely sure if you are writing about the contents of our entries or something someone may have said in a comment to an entry. Either way, name calling is not the goal of the blog. Offering a position is what we are all about. Dissent in government is a good thing. In order for any meaningful system of checks and balances to occur, there must be an alternative source for information and ideas. It is through the expression of opposition that arguments strengthen and organizations become better. We all want a better school district.

This forum also believes that Nick and his Governors are doing the best job they possibly can ... and that, my faithful readers, is the problem.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Program selection for cuts reveals another motive.

For the many of you that could not attend last night's board meeting, here is a brief overview.

First, Nick performed a total reversal on the issue of half day "kindie-garten". (Why people like Nick pronounce it this way is just bewildering.) While attending the community input meetings he was adamant that no reliable, valid or objective evidence has ever been shown to support the strength of half-day programming for kindergartners. At last night's meeting he mentioned "legal" research that helped staff decide to retain the half-day kindergarten programming and appeared to have an epiphany regarding the wisdom of half-day programs. Should a superintendent be performing research about the strength of early childhood development AFTER announcing that such programming would be cut? Wouldn't it have been better to know the strengths and weaknesses of an issue BEFORE blasting a hole through it?

In my opinion, the District is retaining the half-day program for two primary reasons. The first reason is that the community knows how vital such a program is and it came through in their comments. Sadly, our community seems to more in touch with the research associated with early childhood development than district leadership. It is the role of our educational leadership to know what works and what doesn't. This just seems a little too sloppy on Nick's part. I suspect another motive.

Whenever budget cuts are proposed, the District routinely threatens to slash programs they know will never be cut. I am convinced that such suggestions are made for no other purpose than to inflame the sensitivities of this community. I am convinced that mentioning half-day kindergarten programs on the list of potential cuts served no other purpose than to quickly rally support behind the District in an effort to cut anything else. So, the District is either misinformed on fundamental matters relating to education or they are manipulating us. I am convinced of the latter.

The same can be said about librarians at "smaller" schools.

The District also proposes to reduce the size of the Superintendent's Office. One path forward is to revert some of the six assistant superintendents back to "executive directors". However, since salaries will not be changing, how is this a budget reduction? Nick mentioned that administrators have been discussing furlough days, but such days only offer a temporary suspension of budget problems. The same salaries are being paid and the same level of retirement contributions are being made. Vacation and sick days are accumulated at the same rate as usual and COLAs still move these administrators further into the stratosphere.

Real and lasting cuts can be accomplished by cutting administration. The District needs to shift away from the model that assigns a correlation between salary and qualifications and toward a model that strengthens the organization as a whole. The District needs to become a place where people want to work and desire to be a part of something exciting. We already have a lot of teachers that have such a passion to teach, where are the administrators that have a passion to lead and care a little less about earning obscene salaries?

Just take a few minutes and ponder this point. If everyone had all of their bills and mortgages dissolved overnight, what percentage of our teachers would continue teaching as salaries moved toward zero? What percentage of district administration would continue to work for this community as their salaries moved toward zero? I am sure there are many great administrators within the District, but there are also far too many assistant superintendent salaries being paid. We might as well start calling them Governors because their salaries are nearly as much as our governor's.

Another point from last night's meeting stuck in my head. A teacher from Cedar Way suggested that a "pay-to-play" fee be evaluated for music programs at the District. Nick's response was some senseless drivel about music needing to be free because it is required under the auspices of the Basic Education Act. Well then why would you cut the program all together? I suspect if parents had the choice to pay a fee or see a program be cut they would likely start paying a fee. Such logic was applied to district athletic programming why would it not be at least considered in lieu of total elimination?

As the son of a librarian, I am still irritated by the District's insistence that librarians in smaller schools do not mean as much as librarians in larger schools. They are quick to reduce the level of service of librarians but why not apply the same reasoning to principals? Splitting librarians across two schools apparently wouldn't adversely impact students, why not split principals across the same two schools? In fact, let them car pool. Like many others, I am left wondering why a small school like Maplewood wouldn't be in danger of losing their librarian? Is it simply a matter of catering to the most vocal parents rather than advocating for the needs of ALL students?

Friday, May 29, 2009

The real consequences of misguided leadership.

There used to be a time when offering high salaries brought the best and brightest to your company. With all things being equal, the prospective candidate for a position within your organization could consider things like compensation as a determining factor. However, things have clearly gotten out of control.

The mentality of many public agencies is to automatically assume that higher pay means a higher set of qualifications being brought into service to advocate for an agency's priorities. Sadly, when everyone offers obscene wages to their leaders, while retaining a board that doesn't understand the work these "leaders" do, there is a disaster just waiting to happen. That disaster is now devouring us.

What happened to the days when a candidate for superintendent wanted to lead a school district and be a part of its community? What happened to developing a reputation as a great place to work and attracting stellar candidates that want to be involved in cutting edge work and the provision of exceptional services? What happened to developing leadership from within an organization and investing in our community resources, like employees? There doesn't appear to be any real concern for leaving a constructive and positive legacy. We recruit random outsiders that rave about the random success of their respective organizations... organizations they appear to be in a hurry to leave.

These days it is all too common for "leaders" to move between organizations and demand high salaries under the pretense of perceived success. As we survey the industrial and commercial landscape in search for a representative sample of what this strategy has created, one cannot help but take notice of the innumerable casualties and countless programs that have withered under the pressure of misguided leadership.

When a "leader" tells our community that no meaningful research exists to support the assertion that five half days of kindergarten each week is better than two full days and one half day and then protects half day programming at Madrona and Maplewood, what conclusions must this community draw?

Why slash half day programming everywhere else? If it works at Madrona and Maplewood, why doesn't it work everywhere else? If it doesn't make any difference everywhere else, why protect the programs at Madrona and Maplewood? Perhaps the answer has more to do with the inclination toward vocal dissent among those parents than any real educational objectives.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Edmonds School District just paves over problems.

The Herald published a very interesting article this morning about the contaminated site the Everett School District bought in 1986. Tainted soil costly for Everett district.

The Everett School District identified their site as necessary for acquisition in 1986, while the Edmonds School District had rejected their new administration site twice before.

The Everett School District knew their site was contaminated and they spent years developing a plan to remediate the existing consequences from known conditions, while the Edmonds School District still has no idea as to the extent of contamination at what was an informal dump site for decades.

The Everett School District determined that removing the contamination would be a far more effective solution to their problem, while the Edmonds School District elected to just pave over the problem.

The Everett School District is performing their clean-up voluntarily instead of in response to a directive from the State, while the Edmonds School District just decided to pretend that no such contamination exists and provided no meaningful information to the State.

The Everett School District held this property for years before developing the site, while the Edmonds School District rushed into their purchase and even rejected their own $3,300,000.00 appraisal in favor of the seller's $5,800,000.00 appraisal.

The Everett School District is paying approximately $450,000.00 to haul contaminated soil from the site, while the Edmonds School District spent $2,300,000.00 to grade and pave their site.

The Everett School District has administrative staff working in three old buildings (One is 40 years old, one hasn't been updated in more than 40 years and another is 97 years old), while the Edmonds School District has administrative staff working in one building constructed less than 20 years ago.

The Everett School District has increasing student enrollment, while the Edmonds School District is shrinking.

The Everett School District has one person managing Facilities and Capital Planning, while the Edmonds School District divides those tasks to prevent the departments from working together effectively.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Librarian issue offers a peek into district thinking.

At our "evening of community enlightenment", Marla and Nick offered a rather feeble explanation as to why librarians at smaller schools need to be cut. Marla appears to believe that smaller schools must be populated with smaller children with smaller brains. Perhaps she thinks they come from smaller families, eat smaller meals and have smaller feet. Her logic is flawed and here is why.

If a smaller school needs to have less than a full time librarian, why not have less than a full time principal? If there are fewer students wandering the halls and sitting in classrooms, why not reduce the number of hours a principal works at the school? It wouldn't be the first time in human history that a principal performed the duties of a site administrator at more than a single school. A single principal could be shared by two smaller schools. Mornings could be at one location and afternoons at another. They are smaller schools after all.

Marla furthered her argument by suggesting it would be inequitable for a full time librarian to work at a small school because the time spent per student at a small school would be higher than at schools having more than 500 students. Applying this manner of reasoning would suggest it would also be unfair for a small school to have a full time principal because the time spent per student would be greater than at a larger school.

Can the same thinking be applied to maintenance and custodial staff? Would it make sense to reduce the number of hours spent at a facility because enrollment happens to be lower? Assuming the District still had a fully-staffed Grounds crew, would they mow a smaller portion of the field? Would a custodian clean a smaller portion of the school?

Of course, there are those of us that work in facilities that would call such a tactic "deferred maintenance". It could make sense to just limp along until enrollment increases and funds come rolling in from the State. The facility may suffer in the short run and the costs involved in making needed improvements may be significantly higher when performed at a later stage, but can the same tactic be used when educating our children? Have we adopted a philosophy of "deferred intelligence"?

This tactic smells a lot like the one year suspension of swimming. While it may improve the look of your budget to have the additional $20,000.00, it does absolutely nothing for those swimmers relying upon their involvement on the swim team to build a future. Whether we deprive a student of a pool or a librarian, there are core issues that directly improve the academic potential of students. While the District may see simple cuts as nothing more than a few dollars in the General Fund, their obsession with attacking children in the short run to garner long-term sympathy from voters is sad, disruptive and academically irresponsible.

As for the District's lawsuit against the State of Washington, are they suing for money that doesn't exist or suing to encourage change in the way government manages resources. I am a firm believer in the latter and the District lacks the capacity to know such a thing when they see it.

Blog: Today is a furlough day - part of a strategy used by some public agencies to apply an equitable distribution of financial consequences in dealing with the effects of budget reductions.

Wearing a kilt doesn't make you a Scotsman.

Nick Brossoit has decided to make a shift in how many pigs eat from the same golden trough. For some reason, several years ago, it was decided that Marla Miller and Debby Carter should become assistant superintendents. Someone must have asked these two employees if they deserved more money and then believed their explanation. Worse still is that such a decision was made while the District already had too many assistant superintendents.

Knowing the District the way I do, I would be willing to bet my collection of smurfs that Marla and Debby will have their titles changed but retain their swollen salaries. They each earn slightly less than the Governor of the State of Washington at $140,000.00 a year plus an additional third for benefits. Keeping in mind that these salary figures are from a records request in 2008 and they have likely received a number of upward adjustments since that time.

Question 1: How is it a budget reduction to move unchanged salaries around? Sure, we might count the reduction in the Superintendent's Staff column, but what are the real impacts to wherever these salaries are moving?

Question 2: If salaries have changed downward, why did the District feel the need to pay more than the positions required? The Board allowed these adjustments to occur and there must have been a compelling argument made to dazzle away the public wallet.

Question 3: Would this be a theft of public funds by the employee or a gift of public funds from the Board? The job of Executive Director never changed in the last several years but somehow the Board managed to approve this ridiculous shift in public resources in a direction that was never warranted. Only when hard times come around does the party, at the public expense, come to an end.

Question 4: How does this differ from the practice of hiring friends and family members into positions for which they are utterly unqualified? The blog has already received countless complaints of shameful hiring practices and we have relayed many of them on the blog. Debby Carter seems to be hiring staff with the same disregard for public resources as Marla Miller has for student enrollment projections.

Since the arrival of challenging budget years are inevitable, the District decided to hire anyone and everyone as temporary placeholders. When times get tough, they have a long list of potential cuts, all of whom have varying degrees of personal relationships with management. If they have to be cut, it was good while it lasted. Zero accountability and free money until economic conditions change.

The same can be said for enrollment forecasting. While the Board has been adopting Capital Facilities Plans since 2002 that show nothing but shrinking enrollment, they still allowed staffing to swell and programs to grow when they really should have been contracting. That is the purpose of a Capital Facilities Plan. Time and energy go into the production of the document and the Board merely glances through it while looking to Marla Miller for a recommendation.

The manner of management must change in Edmonds. It does nothing for anyone to have change forced upon us. The result is a few poorly structured "community input meetings" where no real input is wanted by any of the presenters. As was mentioned by a member of the audience at the last gathering, there are a lot of people in this community that have more education and intelligence than our current band of district managers and this community is entitled to at least a moderate degree of honesty from these public servants.

Imagine if Boeing built planes to the standards maintained by this school board. Worse still, imagine if such a company was denied the opportunity to fail and received an endless stream of revenue from the government.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

"...and we pay these people to do this to us."

There were a number of significant disappointments at last night's Community "Input" Meeting.

First, the manner in which kindergarten is being restructured to accommodate the need to reduce transportation costs just seems illogical. A rather astute member of the audience pointed out that the mind of a developing child performs best when they have five half days of instruction a week, rather than two full days and one half day with full day gaps in between. Nick Brossoit's response was that no valid or "objective" research shows this to be the case.

I will let others debate the strength of his statement but if we apply his logic, why not compress the academic week and eliminate days of instruction at all grade levels? We could save a bundle in transportation costs if we just divide five days of instruction over three. Instead of having classes from 8:00 am until 3:00 pm, Monday through Friday, we could shift the schedule to start at 7:00 am and end at 6:00 pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Perhaps we could try a four day week first.

Another fine point raised was the long-term impact upon our community when programs like music and athletics are cut from district programming. Music students tend to perform better academically (I am not saying that I agree, just relaying what was stated) and without athletic programming, students may wander the streets looking for ways to expend their pent up energy. It seems like a reasonable conclusion to draw that these students will drift from legitimate academic interests and start delving into areas that may not be in the best interest of our society.

Slashing transportation for students attending additional study sessions seems like a tough call to make. On the one hand, the District wants to leave the impression that they care about academic achievement, but on the other hand, they don't want to spend resources supporting the needs of a few students.

One significant blunder that surfaced last night was the total lack of real community input prior to compiling the presented list of program cuts. For instance, the District wants to increase rates for students that want to get involved in after school sports, but then they remove entire programs without considering the impact of their own proposed increase in fees. One activity in particular, which seems heavily weighted toward one specific gender, is the drill team. The District already contributes very little to support this activity and the various drill teams already raise a lot of money. Clearly, such programs are being targeted because their members will become outraged and just raise more money. Our community is being manipulated.

Take the swimming program, for instance. The District wants to "suspend" all swimming activities for one year. As a member of the audience pointed out, there are probably several students hoping to obtain an athletic scholarship for their swimming performance and "suspending" the program for one year would put next year's seniors at risk of losing an opportunity to reduce future tuition expenses. The benefit to the District would be a one time savings of $20,000.00 and yet a single student could receive much more than that amount in a single scholarship over their college career. Even a young man tapped as his school's swim captain next year chimed in.

One rather interesting development is the District's plan to revert their superintendent structure back to how it was before. While our community may be dazzled by the gesture, I would be willing to bet that, in typical district fashion, titles will change but rates of pay will not.

The District currently has seven superintendents. They are as follows:
Nick Brossoit, Ken Limon, Ellen Kahan, Sue Venable, Marla Miller, Debby Carter and Tony Byrd.

Each assistant is paid no less than $136,000.00 plus benefits and allowances. Their real impact upon the District's budget is probably closer to $180,000.00. The Superintendent is paid more than $208,000.00 and his real impact upon the budget is probably closer to $260,000.00. There is also a planned increase in pay of 7% which merely adds insult to financial injury.

I would be willing to bet that while these people may find themselves with different titles (along with the associated costs for changing stationery and business cards), their salaries will be untouched and, in fact, will likely continue on their obscene, upward trajectory.

Nick also mentioned a report generated by ESD189 suggesting that the Edmonds School District is understaffed in administration. Upon closer evaluation of the points they attempt to make, the assessment is entirely misleading and absolutely useless. One cannot determine the appropriate level of staffing based solely upon the total impact of administration salaries. Any grade school student would understand that you can continue to increase the salaries of assistant superintendents as long as there is a comparable decrease in the gross salaries of every other employee in administration. Essentially, the District is paying a select few number of employees an ever increasing salary, while expecting the remaining staff to battle over what remains. Of course, no actual battles will ensue because they are just far too busy doing all of the real work. If the District actually gets rid of a number of these highly-paid administrators, there would be enough to hire on additional staff to manage the real work that needs to be completed.

And of course, Marla and Nick were careful to point out that the comments and concerns expressed by attendees will not necessarily amount to any real adjustments to their grand scheme. The District didn't bother to legitimately engage the community before slashing vital programs, why would they ever start listening now?

Monday, May 18, 2009

"We know that leadership is very much related to change."

With all of the scrambling going on and the half-hearted attempts to explain what happened to our precious district, I cannot shake this nagging feeling that Nick will soon move to greener pastures. Call me crazy, but I just have a hunch.

Part of the complication in running a school district is when all of your real control and authority is handed off to others. When a leader hides behind someone maintaining the illusion of control, it is only a matter of time before people catch on and start demanding a more effective leader. The tide is changing and the best time to get out of town is before the locals realize they have been robbed.

Sure, I am speculating. One quickly wonders where another $200,000.00 job can be found in this current economic environment. The same environment that our superintendent cites as the sole reason for the hard times falling upon the district now. Like no one in district leadership is responsible for the questionable calls regarding pianos, property and slashing teachers and paraeducators. Things are bad and will likely get worse, with the current leadership model in place. The best thing for the District right now is to shake things up in administration and get back to the real reason for existing - like educating our children.

For far too long, this district of ours has been suffering from severely swollen management while the emaciated limbs continue to do without. The District needs a change and they need it now. We need to get back to basics and reinvent our organization from the grassroots up. In fact, we might be a lot better off if we just stop at the grassroots and remind management that they exist to serve our children. We don't need a superintendent that just tells voters what he thinks they want to hear. We need a leader that will tackle the real issues before the entire organization suffers from the consequences of poor choices.

It isn't the bad economy creating problems for the District, it is poor management and a general sense of confusion as to how to plan for a reduction in funding. Rather than whine and complain about the State's refusal to adequately fund education, why not pull together a plan that makes real sense and doesn't leave the fate of thousands hanging on the whims of the Legislature.

I expect an announcement to come before the end of the school year.

Friday, May 15, 2009

New web domains, for your convenience.

From time to time, people stop me on the street and ask why I am using such a complicated web domain. They wonder why I seem to think it is so easy to remember. One of the primary complaints has been, "What is that 15 and why does it follow ESD?" Well, to make matters a little easier, our web developer has registered two more domains to make finding us a little more straight forward.

From today, users can visit or for a direct connection to the blog. Please be careful when typing, since is registered to a real estate company and has traffic automatically forwarded to their website.

Thank you for your continued support of our effort to inform the public.

Friday, May 08, 2009

"Lots of folks confuse bad management with destiny."

Just like the discussions the District had with the community regarding the closure of Woodway and Evergreen, the "Reduced Educational Plan" seems to be following the same path. The District decides what positions and programs will be cut and then coordinates meetings to come up with ways to make cuts. The decision was already made. It would be nice if the illusion of community concern was at least sophisticated enough to happen before the cuts are announced.

If you haven't seen the 2009-2010 Reduced Educational Plan, you can see it by clicking here.

While I still find it troubling that the District is cutting staff and programs while giving another round of raises to administrators, that issue will be discussed in the coming days. For now, there are a number of items from the Reduced Educational Plan that give cause for concern.

1. The value of reducing or reorganizing district administration appears to be of a similar value to the entire fifth grade music program. Perhaps if district administration wasn't so bloated to begin with, it wouldn't be so costly to reorganize them. Perhaps if they double their efforts to reduce and reorganize they might save music.

2. It would appear that the guy the District hired to just sit at home waiting for the pager to go off is being eliminated. The position should have never happened in the first place and if greater minds had effectively pondered the issue years ago, they would have realized how insensitive it is to have people sitting idle, earning salary and benefits while paraeducators lose their jobs. Shame on the District for wasting this money in the first place. Congratulations on getting back to zero.

3. I misspoke in an earlier entry. While Custodial Services is taking a cut of 6.5 FTE, those positions were intentionally left vacant so the District wouldn't have to actually cut people. Unfortunately, these positions were probably very necessary to keep our schools clean, safe and free from the heightened possibility of disease transmission. There may have been a cut of zero people, but since these positions will now go unfilled, the costs will be borne by the schools and the other custodians that will have to pick up the slack.

4. The Planning and Property Management Specialist, which was already downgraded from a professional position when Marla hired her friend, affectionately called Twinkle Toes, has been scaled back to Office Personnel. Clearly, after two years of woefully inadequate service, it is more than apparent that the position no longer needs to exist. Of course, in cases like these, the District would invite the current occupant of the position to be involved in the reclassification process and stay on to serve in this newly defined capacity. The only time that doesn't happen is when the person is so unqualified their days become numbered. Perhaps my use of the term "clericalist" was just far too generous.

5. The cuts to Grounds seem a little brutal. These employees serve a far greater function than district management understands. I fault George Marschall and Brian Harding for failing to understand the role these employees perform and failing to effectively advocate for this portion of the work under Facilities Operations. There were other reductions that could have been made first, but of course, these relatively simple minds must believe that back-filling grounds positions would be a simple matter. After all, they just mow lawns, right?

6. The District is actually creating a job in facilities management and funding it with the revenue derived from renting out schools. While this move will take some pressure off of office staff - staff that was just reduced through budget cuts - why centralize facility use under these conditions? If schools were responsible for renting out their own space and told that their salaries depend upon the revenue generated, wouldn't it stand to reason that increased earnings could be realized? Will the new employee be provided with the same incentive? If you are funding the position from rental revenues, would you cut the position if they are unable to generate revenue? Will the rentals of athletic facilities move to this same position? You might just need more than one person.

7. Community Relations is taking a cut of $20,000 in their newsletter costs and $25,000 in reception support. While I could see an argument for doing away with the newsletter entirely, since I have never met anyone that ever read one, I fail to see how the reception desk can be unstaffed. Wouldn't this just be a cost shifting effort? Someone will have to cover the front desk. It looks as though the District will be drawing upon all of the free time that some of their other employees have. Will receptionists or secretaries in other departments be expected to sacrifice their staff and departmental productivity by having them cover longer periods of time? Is this fair to staff? Is it accurate to call this a reduction?

8. Under Human Resources there is a peculiar topic; "Seek collective bargaining changes". This is essentially a description of the District's interest in renegotiating labor agreements with staff. What upsets me is the blatant lack of equity. While the District pins their financial hopes on labor's willingness to reverse an agreement signed last August, they make no real effort to reciprocate in management. The union has even gone as far as to encourage their members to accept such a proposal because it will save jobs. What happened to management? Why are they not taking the same cut? Why are they not in jeopardy of losing their jobs? Why aren't cuts being made across the board?

It has been said many times before but why wouldn't the District institute furlough days to save money? There are already plenty of "in service" days where teachers come to work and students get a day off. Why not identify a number of set days in the coming year that will have the rest of district staff stay away? If there is a concern about having too many people gone at the same time, why not give different labor groups different floating furlough days, including management? Imagine the savings that can be realized if the District's herd of superintendents were required to take one unpaid day off each month.

Of course, the elimination of librarians is back on the table. It is terribly tragic when an organization that serves no other function than education feels it is acceptable to get rid of librarians. For the price of a single assistant superintendent you could save most of them, and it would have to be more than just moving Sue Venable to Teaching and Learning, unless she intends to become a volunteer. Clearly, the District intends to use the loss of librarians as a motivating force for those among us that believe that reading is fundamental. Instill a love for reading in a child and they will be richly rewarded with all that literature has to offer. Such children would also be far more likely to care about education and far less likely to allow poor district management to destroy our community from the inside out.

To the District's lawyers: I have been given the day off for all of the heavy hours I have been working because of H1N1.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Encouraging parents to take their children elsewhere.

For those of you playing at home, please take notice of the cuts that are being made at the Edmonds School District. Management is on verge of cutting Transportation by 25%. This ultimately will mean that children will be walking if they live within an ever-increasing distance from their designated school. It wouldn't be such a bad thing, since a little fresh air would be a great thing for young minds on their way to school, except there is no one on staff equipped to evaluate the safety of walking routes. As darkness returns in the fall, the number of accidents will increase.

One response would be the obvious increase in parents dropping their children off at school. This will put more cars in school parking lots and ultimately result in more accidents and congestion. While there is no doubt that cuts must be made, why target children? It almost seems as though war has been declared on our offspring. Cutting teachers while keeping throngs of assistant superintendents seems like warfare. Cutting Transportation seems like an undeniable declaration of war.

It seems that while the District is slashing music programs and stripping away the reasons why parents keep their children in this district, they are making the choice a little easier for parents. Why take them to school in our district? As long as our children are already in our cars, why not explore more options and other school districts that are between our homes and our places of work?

It also seems that parents that have the resources to consider other options will do so. Parents that care a little bit more about educating their children might start shopping around for better facilities, teachers and schools. Parents that have the means to seek out other opportunities will do so. Where does that leave the rest of us?

As for the slashing of four employees from Grounds, while there are only 11 employees looking after so many sites, it's only a matter of time before our schools start to look a little shabby and vandals move in. Keep in mind that these employees don't just mow lawns, they perform a long list of tasks that range from landscaping and site work to rodent and moss control. As the point was made at the Board meeting last night, with a new high school coming on line in the fall, it won't take long before that site looks shabby as well.

Stay tuned for the news about drastic cuts to Custodial Services. They already refuse to tell you about all of the MRSA cases in our schools, just what will happen when a serious public health crisis occurs?

Blog: Ever wonder what it feels like when middle management doesn't advocate effectively for the work you perform? And are you still wondering why Marla is actively dumbing down these positions and hiring people that will never oppose her?

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Too many employees, not enough parking stalls?

It has been said many times before that some of the budget cuts should impact staff at the ESC. After all, the District is supposed to be dedicated to the educational needs of our students and yet the bulk of budget cuts in previous rounds always seem to target the classroom. The time has come to lose a few assistant superintendents, and I don't mean just change their titles while keeping them at their current, swollen salaries.

If a few of these extra bodies were removed from the ESC, perhaps there would be enough parking stalls for everyone to find a place to park.

There really shouldn't be a need to have anyone sitting outside monitoring the parking lots. One sign, well placed, warning students that the District will tow unauthorized vehicles should be more than adequate. Unless the signs are posted in an obvious location, the District has no legitimate right to have any car towed - unless of course Paulson's Towing is one of management's "special friends". Spot checks should be good enough. A written warning under the wiper blade would also be a friendly approach.

No one with a bad back should be made to monitor a parking lot. There have been times in the past when students have been known to be confrontational. There might even be a slightly elevated chance of a fracas. Why would the District willingly place an injured member of staff in a position that might result in personal harm? Also, the lot monitor would have no way of knowing the driver's status as a college visitor until they left their vehicle and started walking toward the College. Is the lot monitor supposed to chase the offender and confront them? Perhaps district lot monitors have been trained to tackle students safely. Maybe they throw lawn darts or use pepper spray. The mind boggles.

I suspect there is probably a lot of interest in assigning light duty workers to Property Management. While the department has more than enough bodies to do their work, adding a lot more minds certainly couldn't hurt. The blog has been informed, on more than a few occasions, that one employee has been attending rudimentary classes, on district time, to learn how to use basic software applications. I wonder if she parks at the College on those days when most of her time is spent over there.

Better still, as long as the District is going to employ parking lot attendants, why not charge for parking? The District could sell monthly passes, they could validate ticket stubs for visitors and they could shackle large, yellow barrels to the tires of parking offenders. The practice would have the added advantage of generating a little extra revenue and encouraging staff to carpool, ride the bus or walk. Even better, the attendants could be provided with stylish uniforms that give the illusion of a highly-organized and financially-savvy enterprise.

The time has come to assemble another committee and we can call it the Citizens Parking Committee.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated

For the many of our readers that have been emailing me nearly every day asking after my health and well-being, I appreciate your concern. Rest assured, I am working on a number of issues related to this blog and will be back to work shortly. During the hiatus, I have been blessed with volumes of records from current district staff and still have more than 5,000 pages of documents to review that I acquired last year.

My heart goes out to the many district employees with careers hanging in the balance. While it is true that our state is experiencing many significant budget woes, the current economic crisis was clearly evident to whomever possessed the fortitude to look somewhere other than at their own feet. Our District is tacking through innumerable catastrophes and they have seven blind bobbleheads at the helm.

I did manage to drive by the ESC on Friday. As reports had indicated, there was a district employee in an orange vest, sitting in the sun, reading a book. The District exists for educational purposes and at least the parking lot monitor was reading.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

ESD189's staffing assessment is just more propaganda

What senseless gibberish is this? Nick Brossoit is asking for a third party evaluation of administrative staffing levels at the Edmonds School District. He called on ESD189 to provide this assessment based upon data found on the OSPI website. The assessment is absolutely meaningless and just more misinformation.

In the second paragraph, Jerry Jenkins claims that the process of actually answering the real and meaningful question is just too costly. Well, maintaining the District's administrative hierarchy is what is so costly. Hiding behind the illusion of financial responsibility creates the impression that Nick Brossoit cares about how public funds are being spent. I have news for you - he doesn't care. The proof is in his reluctance to make cuts in administration. Not in the number of staff, but in how they are compensated.

Nick Brossoit dare not truly assess the financial impact of all of his hand maidens, aka assistant superintendents, for fear that rational minds may demand their elimination. Try as he might to reduce the number of employees in the ESC, progress is rapidly unraveled when raises and promotions are doled out to his friends with unwarranted salaries and titles. Nick Brossoit will tell you that the Assistant Superintendents in his district are paid the same salaries as assistant superintendents in other districts, but how many do those districts have?

ESD189, like Nick Brossoit, is just playing with numbers. They offer a per student cost of administrative expenditures and total FTE per 1,000 students. There is no discussion related to the number of assistant superintendents each district has or how much is spent supporting each of them.

When people say the District is top heavy, they are not talking about the number of bodies, they are talking about the amount of money spent on assistant superintendents and the like.

The total amount spent for administrative support may be on par with comparable districts, but no effort has been exerted in illustrating a range of salaries. I would be willing to bet that the Edmonds School District has more staff per 1,000 students earning more than $100,000 than any other district in the state. If they are not right at the top, they'll be a close second.

Why is it so hard for a superintendent to understand the impact of poor choices? He and his board seem so enamored by creating and rewarding a small circle of "executives" and it comes at the expense of retaining qualified and competent staff. As more and more money is doled out to friends and allies, the net number of employees may shrink, but alas, the total volume of dollars spent actually stays the same or shifts upward.

It is no surprise that ESD189 thinks the District is understaffed. Fewer people are earning larger salaries while the real worker bees see no real change in their salaries. In a normal economy, such workers would resign and move to another district, but with our current financial turmoil and the charm of our region, few will actually leave.