Combatting ‘Passive Progressiveness’ in Seattle Public Schools

Combatting ‘Passive Progressiveness’ in Seattle Public Schools

A couple years ago, near the end of my term on the Seattle School Board, I used the term, “passive progressivism” to answer a question about why our racial achievement gaps actually got larger every year of my board service. I noted that nearly every person I engaged with while campaigning strongly agreed with my platform, but once in office, I faced stiff resistance from many of these same stakeholders, anytime we were grappling with a racial equity issue.

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Brandon Hersey is our new school board rep in Southeast Seattle

Brandon Hersey is our new school board rep in Southeast Seattle

The Seattle School Board appointed Brandon Hersey as the new representative for District VII in Southeast Seattle.

Whether or not Hersey was a good choice, what I expected to happen is exactly what ended up happening: rather than listening to the people, the board chose the candidate they wanted. In other words, the candidate who would have been elected was not the candidate who was chosen. That’s tough to grapple with.

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Catching systemic racism in the act in Seattle Public Schools

Catching systemic racism in the act in Seattle Public Schools

Systemic racism is often hard to see in action.

It’s easy to look back and wonder, how did we get here? How do we have such deep-rooted opportunity gaps in our schools? How do we have so few Black teachers? How can there be such a thing as a “school-to-prison” pipeline? How do we have so few women of color in positions of elected leadership?

These systemic issues are not necessarily carried out by people of malicious intent. They are carried out by all of us every day as we make seemingly reasonable decisions, and through polices and processes that masquerade as neutral.

We are in the eleventh hour of one such process, but it’s not too late! Today — this very evening — we have a chance to catch the system in the act. So let’s do it.

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Three good candidates, but one clear choice to represent District VII

Three good candidates, but one clear choice to represent District VII

If you’re reading this, you probably know: Betty Patu resigned. It’s true.

You probably know that Betty Patu was the school board director for southeast Seattle (District VII) for a long time.

You may even know that the remaining six Seattle Public Schools board directors now have to appoint Betty’s replacement, which means we southeast Seattle residents will have our school board director chosen without our direct input.

Tonight is the final candidate forum, and we’re hearing from the final three candidates: Julie Van Arcken, a local education advocate who quit her job to run for this school board appointment, and I’m not sure what that job was; Brandon Hersey, a teacher in Federal Way Public Schools and a District VII resident; and Emijah Smith, a community and non-profit leader and longtime pillar of the South Seattle community.

So, I’m sitting in the audience at Rainier Beach High School, and I’m going to try something new. I’m just going to write about what’s happening as it’s happening. And about what I think about what’s happening, obviously. And this way, we’ve got pretty much no filter, which ought to be interesting. And very little editing, so beware.

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As we begin another new school year, what are your hopes and fears for the children in your life?

As we begin another new school year, what are your hopes and fears for the children in your life?

The past couple years have been full of change. Nothing if not exciting — and exhausting — we welcomed our second new baby in less than 13 months this summer. Our house and our lives are in general chaos most of the time.

And so, it was with relatively little fanfare that we sent the two older boys back to school this week. What are your hopes for the children in your life as they embark on a new school chapter? What are your fears? What is on your mind in the first fresh days of this new school year?

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With this many good applicants to represent District VII, who will the Seattle School Board choose? And how will they decide?

With this many good applicants to represent District VII, who will the Seattle School Board choose? And how will they decide?

This unusual appointment process presents a quandary for the six sitting board directors, who were all in attendance at the forum. Patu announced her departure just before the elections deadline, effectively blocking District 7 voters from choosing her successor. Instead, the six school board directors, and not the Southeast Seattle community, will choose who represents the district on the school board for the remaining 2 years and 3 months of her term.

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Let’s meet the candidates for Seattle’s District VII school board position

Let’s meet the candidates for Seattle’s District VII school board position

I’m thrilled with the depth of this candidate pool and impressed with every candidate’s passion and good intentions. They are standing before us volunteering their time and souls to service on the school board. And they’re opening themselves up to everything that comes along with that process, including being considered by people like me who have thoughts and opinions. But the fact also remains that we have to choose one person, and that we don’t get to just take the whole field.

So, as we seek an equity champion, a change-maker with an unshakable sense of urgency and possibility and love, a hero with an understanding of the relationship between systemic oppression and public education, here are my first impressions of the candidates — my takeaways from the District VII Candidate Forum. I look forward to seeing how tonight’s forum at RBHS shapes my thinking even further.

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Guest Post: "Stop feeding the school-to-prison pipeline with expulsions," by Rebeca Muñiz

Guest Post: "Stop feeding the school-to-prison pipeline with expulsions," by Rebeca Muñiz

Rebeca Muñiz is a candidate for Seattle School Board District 3. She holds a Masters in Education Policy and Leadership from the University of Washington. During her time at UW, she conducted research on the Seattle Public Schools racial equity teams, which informed her understanding of systemic disparities in schools and ways we can address it. Rebeca now serves as a volunteer with One America and the Gender Justice League.

Learn more about Rebeca’s campaign at www.ElectMuniz.com.

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Twelve candidates have applied to represent District 7 on the Seattle School Board. Here's what we know so far ⁠— and what to watch for.

Twelve candidates have applied to represent District 7 on the Seattle School Board. Here's what we know so far ⁠— and what to watch for.

Over the weekend, the Seattle School Board finally released the applications of the 12 Southeast Seattle residents who filed to replace Betty Patu on the board. The District 7 seat, which Patu held for 10 years, was vacated July 1 and will be filled when the six remaining board members cast votes for their preferred applicant at the Aug. 14 board meeting.

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Dear Leslie Harris... I wrote you a song.

Dear Leslie Harris... I wrote you a song.

Leslie Harris is the president of the Seattle School Board, and she will preside over an important decision this summer as the board appoints a new representative for District 7 in southeast Seattle. Here Matt Halvorson asks for a transparent, inclusive process... in song!

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The portal is now open. Seattle, our time is at hand.

The portal is now open. Seattle, our time is at hand.

The portal is now open. Our time is at hand. 

It sounds like science fiction, but alas, the portal is online rather than interdimensional, and the opportunity we now face would allow us to completely revamp our school board before the end of the year.

So the machinations of the Seattle School Board might involve fewer lasers than you were hoping for, but it’s important nonetheless. 

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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 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.

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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.

An outdated update on the Seattle School Board science curriculum debacle

An outdated update on the Seattle School Board science curriculum debacle

Above all, if we don't know what impact this will have on marginalized communities in the district, then we need to find out. If we're serious about wanting to close the opportunity gap, then the first and most important question we need to ask about every single decision concerning our students and our schools is what impact it will have on Black students. What impact will this have on low-income families in Seattle? What impact will this have on Seattle Public Schools’ indigenous students? What impact will this have on the kids we talk about wanting to uplift?

If our outcomes are ever going to change, then our decision-making processes have to change. Otherwise, we will continue to end up in the same places again and again and again.

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Stephan Blanford: Seattle students, lagging behind other districts, deserve a new science curriculum

Stephan Blanford: Seattle students, lagging behind other districts, deserve a new science curriculum

Our kids deserve better. They deserve a school board and a community that prioritizes “students furthest from educational justice.” The school board can show it is serious about its values by approving the recommended science curriculum.

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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.

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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?

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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…

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