Seattle School Board District 5
Mon July 15, 2013
Candidate for Seattle School District 5: Capitol Hill, Central Area, Leschi, Beacon Hill, Downtown
Occupation: Retired, volunteer tutor for Ethiopian immigrant children
- Reduce racial inequity.
- Stop school closures and reopen closed schools.
- Increase community involvement with the School Board.
Why are you running for the School Board?
I am running for the School Board for the sake of the child and his education. And by that I mean whatever will be beneficial to the child’s future happiness or his ability to prosper in life; that is the area of my concern. If anything is disturbing or disruptive to the child or his education, I am against it.
What do you think is disturbing kids’ education in Seattle Public Schools these days?
Some of the problems I have with the district. I feel that, overall, the failure to work cooperatively with all involved in the education of the child, and the failure to treat all students equitably, has been the major cause of all of our problems, and I would like to mention a few of the ways in which I think that it has been detrimental to the education of the child.
Number one: no textbooks. Some students graduate never having a textbook. Subjects are taught via hand-outs. So I will work toward having a textbook for every subject taught, especially in middle school and high school. With an assigned textbook, the parents will know exactly what is being taught in any subject, and this is a must in order to have tranquility in the community.
And then there are teachers not allowed to teach the subject. For instance, the middle school math teachers is only a monitor in the classroom. They are to see that the students stay focused while working on problems in groups. And I will work to get rid of any curriculum that will not allow the teacher to teach the subject.
Closing of schools, shuffling programs, and having certain programs in only a few schools is destructive to the education of all students. Those that go to that school get the benefits where the other students do not get that same benefit.
With me, it was nice to have gone to one school with one set of teachers and one group of students from K to 12, and this should be allowed for every student in the school district.
I am against school closure, especially where it is dismantling a minority program such as the Indian Heritage High School, and as it was with the African-American Academy and [Martin Luther King, Jr.] Elementary School.
Another problem that we have with the district is that there is no contact person with the district, since the board is supposed to represent us, but once in office they close themselves off from the public. I will reopen that door.
Also, we have a problem with the teachers. As one parent told me, the principal didn’t know how to handle students, especially black boys. I know this is the job of the superintendent, but I will work for a policy to see that school personnel are willing to work with all enrolled in our public schools and able to do so.
There is discrimination amongst individual students as well as groups of students, and this is detrimental to their education. Director [Michael] DeBell said in [the June 1, 2013 issue of The Seattle Times] regarding the special ed students [that] they weren’t a priority but should’ve been. The same can be said of the American Indians and the African-Americans. And what group has not been treated the same way? This discrimination has driven many out of the district.
And then failure to teach students. [A] Seattle Times editorial said one in five Seattle public high school students will not graduate on time or even with the fifth year of high school. After sitting at the teachers’ feet for 13 years during prime time of each day, and the kid not ready to graduate? This has got to stop. One of the reasons for is that there is a glass ceiling put on the kids’ head by the board and administration. I will endeavor to instill in each child the attitude that I will learn and I can succeed in school and later in life.
I feel that the actions taken by the board and the administration for the last 10 or 12 years has been disruptive to the school community. Not only to the child and his education – such as closing schools and so forth – but also to the parents. I will strive to return to a quiet, peaceful existence between the board, administration and in the community. From experience, I learned that if I did my job right and on time, I had no phone calls – no letters and so forth. But if not, I was bombarded with these. Also, in 2005, the president of the Bellevue School Board said that he received only a dozen or so emails per month, and most of them thank-you notes. And he spent 10 or 15 hours per month on school matters. This is the goal I will strive for.
What would you like to achieve as a member of the School Board?
Unity in this community. I think that we need to come back down to a peaceful existence. The Bellevue School Board had only a dozen or so emails per month. One of the [Seattle] School Board members talked about having over 300 a week at that time. Also, we have had School Board members get off the board because they were having to spend so much time as a School Board member.
I think the School Board needs to do the policy-making, and I think the superintendent and administration should be doing their job. So I’m going to work toward that goal: Getting us back to the job of only educating kids. Closing schools and all this other stuff has been so disruptive, and we need the tranquility in the community. And I believe [we need to] have the parents’ support – this is what they need and what they want.
I heard one [parent] at [former Seattle School Board Member] Mary Bass’ community meeting, she said, “We elected you to go down there and handle these problems. Why are you sending us down there to testify?” I believe it can be done. I believe we can get kids to stop dropping out of school and having to spend five or more years trying to get a high school diploma. The tranquility in this community is one of my major issues.
Do you think that kind of tranquility has ever existed in Seattle Public Schools?
I can’t answer that question, but I can answer it: where I come from it was.
What do you attribute that to?
The School Board did their job. The superintendent was elected and not under the thumbs of the School Board. I have said all the way through, we need an elected superintendent so he can get out from under the thumbs of that board and he can do the job. He will also be answerable to us, the people. He will have been a member of this community.
Ever since 1980, we’ve had an outsider being the superintendent. He doesn’t know us, he doesn’t care anything about us, and he does anything that he wants to do and we have no say in the matter. It’s totally out of our hands, we the people. The parents, the community. It’s totally out of our hands. They do what they want to do. And they are not answerable to us. But as an elected School Board member, I’ll feel obligated, and I will have to answer to those who vote for me – to those in this district – I will be answerable to them. But we have, on the School Board, members who think that they are not required to go by our wishes. I think we should.
Interview has been edited for clarity.
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