Betty Patu is resigning from the Seattle School Board. We're just asking for a legitimate, transparent process... (that results in appointing a champion for equity)

Betty Patu, our longtime school board director in Southeast Seattle, will resign her position at the end of the month, but the timing of her announcement has cast doubt on the integrity of the entire process.

Patu announced her resignation at the May 15 school board meeting, which wouldn’t be remarkable except that if the announcement had come three days earlier, her replacement would have been elected by voters.

As it is, the school board will take applications from the public, and the board will have the final say in appointing Patu’s replacement.

Betty Patu has been our school board director in District 7 — my home district — for 10 years now. She is known as a champion for students by some, and understood by others to have overseen the perpetuation of the status quo in a district that desperately needed deeper and more pointed advocacy.

In the end, she’s a bit of both, as is true with most things. And if it’s time for her to move on, then our community is ready for a breath of fresh air.

Regardless, her record is not particularly the issue here. Her 10 years on the board gave her plenty of time to become familiar with the system. She defeated a qualified candidate in Chelsea Byers in the 2017 election, but now resigns more than two years ahead of schedule, three days after a critical deadline, because… it’s “time for someone new to come in.” That’s been her only explanation.

We elected the current school board to do its job, but we did not elect them intending that they choose their successors as well.

On the one hand, it’s important to me to know whether I was intentionally kept out of the voting process, or if it was because of the continued incompetence of the board itself. Perhaps another possibility exists that I'm not considering. But on the other hand, the outcome is the same. It’s bad for our community, bad for our students, and murky at best as to what’s really happening and why.

I’ve asked Director Harris and Director Burke to shed some light on the subject, especially since they specifically declined to comment on questions about whether or not they knew about or discussed the deadline with Patu. We’ll see. Regardless, this is another disappointing, oddly suspicious turn of events on a Seattle School Board that has not exactly earned our trust.

What we need, as always, is a true champion for equity. Someone who knows what’s at stake and takes on the job of school board director without political ambition.

Local hero Erin Okuno, executive director of the Southeast Seattle Education Coalition (SESEC), has been spearheading an effort to advocate for a transparent and inclusive process to replace Patu — and for insurance that the board’s decision reflects the expressed needs and interests of the District 7 community.

Okuno drafted and sent this letter to Director Harris last month, along with the signatures of a variety of community leaders. I’ll keep digging and discussing. Let me know if you see something I’ve missed.

24 May 2019

Dear School Board President Harris:

District 7 families and the community-based organizations serving them are highly motivated to provide input into the process of replacing Director Patu. We hope you can provide assurances there will be an open and transparent process in appointing a new school board director to fill the vacancy. We look forward to participating in the process.

We would like to suggest the following actions take place to ensure there is a fair and transparent process:

Publicly share and widely communicate a timeline for the appointment process, especially in outreach efforts connected to Southeast Seattle and in ethnic media.

The qualifications and criteria used to select the new school board director will be publicly published in a timely manner.

At least one public forum be held to interview candidates. Residents from District 7, educators working in schools in District 7, and non-profit and community partners operating in District 7 should have priority in asking questions and giving input for the board to consider. If written input is allowed, input from District 7’s residents, educators, and nonprofit partners should be weighted and given higher consideration than the public at large. This is to recognize that the person filling the seat will represent District 7.

A proactive engagement process with Black, Indigenous, People of Color living in District 7 to ensure they are able to participate in the process.

Interpretation and translated materials will be made available during the selection process.

Live streams and video recordings of the forums are made publicly available.

We would appreciate hearing back from you on how we can work with you to ensure these steps are taken. Please contact Erin Okuno, Executive Director, Southeast Seattle Education Coalition, erin@allfivesinfive.org or 425-243-7079 to coordinate next steps. We thank Director Betty Patu for her extensive years of service to our community and schools.

Sincerely,

Melanie Arena
Vice President, Kimball PTSA

Susan Balbas
Executive Director, Na’ah Illahee Fund

David Beard
Policy & Advocacy Director, School’s Out Washington

Nimco Bulale
SESEC Board Member & Education Program Manager, OneAmerica

Phyllis Campano
President, Seattle Education Association

Gregory Davis
Managing Strategist, Rainier Beach Action Coalition

Janice Deguchi
Chair, Asian Pacific Directors Coalition & Executive Director, Community for Youth

Regina Elmi
Executive Director, Somali Parent Education Board

Carolyn Feng
President, Beacon Hill PTA

Sandy Gunder
SESEC Board Member

Matt Halvorson
Rise Up For Students & District 7 Parent

James Hong
Executive Director, Vietnamese Friendship Association

Michael Itti
Executive Director, Chinese Information Service Center (CISC)

Brianna Jackson
Executive Director, Launch

Lexi Keeler
SESEC Board Chair & District 7 Parent

Peggy Kwok
Youth Development Program Supervisor, Chinese Information Service Center (CISC)

O’Hara Jiménez
PTA co-President, Graham Hill Elementary

Lee Lambert
Executive Director, City Year

Julie Marl
Executive Director, ZENO Math

Munira Mohamed
Executive Director, East African Community Services

Behnosh Najafi
Co-President, Friends of Hawthorne Elementary

Dieu Nguyen
PTSA President, Asa Mercer International

Roxana Norouzi
Deputy Director, OneAmerica

Mark Okazaki
Executive Director, Neighborhood House

Erin Okuno
Executive Director, Southeast Seattle Education Coalition

Estela Ortega
Executive Director, El Centro de la Raza

Mira Posner
South Shore, PTSA co-president

Ryan Quigtar
SESEC Board Member & Executive Director, Renton Innovation Zone Partnership

Shira Rosen
Interim Executive Director, Communities in Schools-Seattle

Heidi Schillinger
Founder & Principal, Equity Matters

Rich Stolz
Executive Director, OneAmerica

Katharine Strange
Secretary, Van Asselt Elementary PTA & member, Integrated Schools Seattle

Emily Tomita
SESEC Board Member & Youth Program Manager, Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA)

Mia Tuan
Dean, College of Education — University of Washington

Vivian van Gelder
Families and Communities for Equity in Schools (FACES)

Julia Warth
Director of Policy and Research, League of Education Voters

Elizabeth Whitford
CEO, School’s Out Washington

Laura Wright
Co-Executive Director, WA-BLOC
Photo by Matt Halvorson

Photo by Matt Halvorson

A quick thought about the Seattle School Board

This is the year, if there ever was one, to really change Seattle Public Schools. In addition to the four seats up for election this fall, two additional school board members in Seattle (Betty Patu and Zachary DeWolf) have announced their desire to resign this year and vacate their seats early.

The school board only has seven members to begin with. By the end of this year, we could essentially have a completely new school board. I've written more about this that I'll share tomorrow, but I just want to plant the seed for now.

Our school board has been a dysfunctional roadblock to change for too long. Imagine six new champions for equity filling these school board seats. Think of what's suddenly possible!

This is a rare opportunity. Let's make the most of it.

We need to choose a middle school for our son. How do we make an informed decision?

We need to choose a middle school for our son. How do we make an informed decision?

In the Seattle area, choice is a privilege that not all families benefit from. Economic privilege is inextricably linked to school choice — school performance (as measured by assessment scores) correlates to median household income, so higher-performing schools tend to be in the higher-income areas of the city. And since school assignment is typically determined by area of residence, for those families with limited financial resources, the ability to choose a school that works for their children may be nonexistent.

Read More

Seattle's kids desperately need strong candidates for school board this year. Are you one of them?

Seattle's kids desperately need strong candidates for school board this year. Are you one of them?

Critics of the current school board note that it spends too much time focused on issues that don’t improve student achievement and don’t resolve opportunity gaps. In fact, actions the board has taken in the past have made those gaps worse. And though it made an impressive hire, appointing Denise Juneau as superintendent last summer, it has also hampered her and the professional educators that she leads in addressing these issues.

So, could you do better?

Read More

Systemic oppression demands a systemic exodus

Systemic oppression demands a systemic exodus

Our traditional public schools are systemically inequitable — in Seattle, in Washington State, and everywhere else in the United States. Put another way, our schools are consistently producing inequitable outcomes based on race and family income, and it’s a form of systemic oppression.

We know this, most of us. But for most of us, that’s all we do. We know it. It’s mostly an intellectual idea.

So instead of idle knowledge, let’s consider for a moment what that really means — systemic oppression — and what it means for us as human beings.

Read More

Seattle Public Schools unveiled a new strategic plan based on targeted universalism! Will it be enough?

Seattle Public Schools unveiled a new strategic plan based on targeted universalism! Will it be enough?

The opportunity gap, as we all know, is a byproduct of systemic oppression playing out in our schools. The way to upend systemic oppression is to find a way to turn the system on its head. Targeted universalism applies that table-flipping mentality in a constructive way. I’m so surprised and pleased to hear this idea mentioned as our schools’ strategic north star.

But…

Read More

Jesse Hagopian is being displaced at Garfield High School

Jesse Hagopian is being displaced at Garfield High School

Tracy Castro-Gill, the ethnic studies program manager for Seattle Public Schools, posted on Facebook today that “Garfield administration has chosen to displace Jesse Hagopian.”

“Jesse teaches less than half time at Garfield because of his work with Rethinking Schools,” Castro-Gill wrote. “He authored the course description and curriculum for the only board approved ethnic studies course. His leadership in the BLM@SCHOOL movement has strengthened the fight for ethnic studies. And now the district is not willing to pay the 0.4 FTE to continue his work at Garfield.”

Read More

Every day at Summit is an experience: Finding myself and fostering independence, by Sumayo Hassan

Every day at Summit is an experience: Finding myself and fostering independence, by Sumayo Hassan

Today’s planet faces many tough challenges. High school has helped me understand that while challenges can be daunting, they can be overcome by hard work and innovation. I’d like to study bioremediation, which is learning how to clean up the environment from toxins that degrade our ecosystem and the organisms that live in them.

One of my most memorable experiences at Summit Sierra was seeing — in real-time — the impact bioremediation can have. We conducted an experiment in science class that demonstrated the process of cleaning up radiation from nuclear fallout where we planted mustard seeds. To see this powerful process in-person reinforced my interest and determination to improve our environment and that it’s possible to work toward a sustainable and more livable planet.

Read More

Black History Today: Marcus Harrison Green, voice for the Southend

This post is part of an ongoing Black History Month series written by Marcus Harden, a truly unsung hero of South Seattle, as he honors the living legacy of Black history in his community and beyond, and recognizes the people who are shaping the future.


"I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has had to overcome while trying to succeed."


Marcus.jpg

By Marcus Harden

In an era in which truth is under attack for what is comfortable, authenticity is sometimes seen as weakness, and recollection of the facts as heralded as “fake news.” Those that still want to stand for what is true, what is authentic and what is good are in great number, yet often lack the platform — and sometimes the courage — to stand in those values.

Marcus Harrison-Green has embodied and championed those values for the last few years. Born in the legendary Southend of Seattle, Marcus (what a glorious first name) attended private schools — often as the ‘only’ Black student — and upon graduation from high school he attended California Lutheran University.

While at CLU Marcus experienced what many do when they “get out” and find themselves in predominantly dominated culture spaces. He was the token Black student in a place he says believed in “Reagan, Money and God...in that order.”  Upon graduating Marcus walked down the path many are told to travel: get a good job, stash your money and live happily ever after.

However, Marcus’ happily and ever-after weren’t connected to working in a small investment firm, having a nice house and driving a nice car. His happily-ever-after was connected to writing — specifically telling the stories of the communities and the people who often hadn’t had their stories told properly.

Marcus made one of the most courageous and impactful decisions of his life when he walked away from it all, packed his life up and moved back in with his parents to begin the journey of writing about others’ journeys while living his own. In 2014 Marcus founded the South Seattle Emerald, to explore the lives and stories that were true to the people he knew and interacted with everyday, behind the headline sensationalism that often depicts Southeast Seattle.

Since that time Marcus has helped steward the Emerald to be a viable source for reliable storytelling and news in Seattle. In 2018, Marcus took that experience with him to the Seattle Times to promote that same voice and energy of the Southend to the greater Seattle region.

Marcus’ greatest story, though, may he his own, opening up about his battles with mental health, self love and self worth. The courageous nature of a man who shares others’ stories of triumph and trial with the world, openly sharing his own, true leadership and truly newsworthy.

Marcus has had an odyssey that has taken him on a journey of self-discovery and examination that have led to his gifts manifesting in service of his community. Lois Lane once said about her famous reporter friend Clark Kent, “That's the thing about heroes. No matter how brightly you shine the light on them, they always want to stay in the shadows."

Marcus Harrison-Green is a hero who prefers the shadows, but deserves the spotlight. He is a voice for the voiceless, for the community in the community, and that among many reasons is why Marcus Harrison-Green is Black History, today!


To learn more about Marcus:  https://www.seattletimes.com/author/marcus-green/






Upendo!

-MLH

Black History Today: Adrienne Decuire-Packard, purveyor of family, advocacy and justice

This post is part of an ongoing Black History Month series written by Marcus Harden, a truly unsung hero of South Seattle, as he honors the living legacy of Black history in his community and beyond, and recognizes the people who are shaping the future.


IMG_3087.jpg

“You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once but don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.”
-Michelle Obama


By Marcus Harden

If you grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, there were varying images of who Black people were and how they lived. We could be movin’ on up, or busy pitying the fool or maybe even asking, “Did I do that?”

However, one of the aspirational staples of a young childhood in that era was seeing the image of a Black doctor and a Black lawyer having functional, everyday-life conversations and promoting Black excellence. Claire Huxtable served as an image for many to aspire to.

While Claire inspired a generation, we needed real examples in our lives to truly know what could be possible in a field that many times doesn’t look like it’s meant to serve us. Adrienne Decuire-Packard is that reality of Black excellence — a fictional image come to life.

Born and raised in Seattle to a large biological and extended family, Adrienne is a proud alumnus of Garfield High School and the University of Washington, and her passion for justice is evident upon meeting her.

Adrienne is the personification of passion and joy, and it was her passion that pushed her across the country to pursue her dream of becoming an attorney at the prestigious Howard University School of Law. Through trials and triumph of charting unknown territory, Adrienne graduated and passed the bar, along the way finding time for love with her supportive husband, Darryl.

Her passion would then spread to different cities, Boston and Chicago, where Adrienne would serve as a voice for the voiceless in civil rights matters as a staff attorney for the American Bar Association. Eventually she married her gifts of advocacy and education together, becoming the Associate Director of Student Affairs at the University of Chicago Law School — in service of all students, yet fiercely creating pipelines for women and students of color.

For Adrienne, the adage “You can’t go home again” doesn’t apply, as in 2015 she was offered to return to her second home — the Mecca, Howard University School of Law — as the Director of Student Affairs, utilizing her passion to fulfill her purpose of servant leadership, shining as a realistic example for others to see and be.

Adrienne's passion for the profession and for creating pathways within it are only exceeded by her passion for her family. As a loving daughter, inspired little sister and proud big sister, the art of love was shown to her at an early age. She manifests that art as a powerful wife and loving mother to her three incredible children.

Because of women like Adrienne, we don’t need made-for-TV accounts of powerful Black women living fully in spaces that we once never saw and thought possible. Her advocacy to help shape and create better environments and opportunities for Black women is inspiring, and her ability to balance those as a 3D model for living life's purpose and passion is astonishing.

If the scale of justice is the pursuit of a perfect balance between love and advocacy, then Adrienne pushes those scales to change the world for the better days, which is why Adrienne Decuire-Packard is Black History, today!

To learn more about Adrienne’s work: http://law.howard.edu/

Upendo!

-MLH




Black History Today: Brayon Blake, a reflection of present greatness

Black History Today: Brayon Blake, a reflection of present greatness

This post is part of an ongoing Black History Month series written by Marcus Harden, a truly unsung hero of South Seattle, as he honors the living legacy of Black history in his community and beyond, and recognizes the people who are shaping the future.

Read More

Black History Today: Jamal Crawford, superstar mentor and hometown hero

Black History Today: Jamal Crawford, superstar mentor and hometown hero

This post is part of an ongoing Black History Month series written by Marcus Harden, a truly unsung hero of South Seattle, as he honors the living legacy of Black history in his community and beyond, and recognizes the people who are shaping the future.

Read More

Black History Today: Anita Koyier-Mwamba, brilliant mind and beautiful spirit

Black History Today: Anita Koyier-Mwamba, brilliant mind and beautiful spirit

This post is part of an ongoing Black History Month series written by Marcus Harden, a truly unsung hero of South Seattle, as he honors the living legacy of Black history in his community and beyond, and recognizes the people who are shaping the future.

Read More

Black History Today: Kendrick Glover, a gem of a mentor creating change in South King County

Black History Today: Kendrick Glover, a gem of a mentor creating change in South King County

This post is part of an ongoing Black History Month series written by Marcus Harden, a truly unsung hero of South Seattle, as he honors the living legacy of Black history in his community and beyond, and recognizes the people who are shaping the future.

Read More

Black History Today: D’Vonne Pickett Jr., fearless dreamer at home in Seattle's South End

Black History Today: D’Vonne Pickett Jr., fearless dreamer at home in Seattle's South End

This post is part of an ongoing Black History Month series written by Marcus Harden, a truly unsung hero of South Seattle, as he honors the living legacy of Black history in his community and beyond, and recognizes the people who are shaping the future.

Read More

Black History Today: Dawn Bennett, empowering educational activist

Black History Today: Dawn Bennett, empowering educational activist

This post is part of an ongoing Black History Month series written by Marcus Harden, a truly unsung hero of South Seattle, as he honors the living legacy of Black history in his community and beyond, and recognizes the people who are shaping the future.

Read More

Black History Today: Bookie Gates, a local hero with a bat

Black History Today: Bookie Gates, a local hero with a bat

This post is part of an ongoing Black History Month series written by Marcus Harden, a truly unsung hero of South Seattle, as he honors the living legacy of Black history in his community and beyond, and recognizes the people who are shaping the future.

Read More