Letter to the Seattle School Board regarding Superintendent Search Process

On Friday, 26 January a group of 36 community members, parents/caregivers, and education leaders from over 30 organizations submitted a letter to the Seattle School Board asking them to slow down or postpone their superintendent search process. The letter is below. If you would like to send your own note expressing your thoughts you can email the board at [email protected]

Seattle Public Schools
Board of Directors
2445 3rd Ave. S
Seattle, WA 98134
Sent via email to [email protected]

26 January 2018

Dear Seattle School Board,

We are writing with grave concerns about the Superintendent search process. While community
input and engagement was a primary reason stated by the Board for initiating a search process,
we feel that the process as currently laid out is insufficient. As community based organizations
and partners to Seattle Public Schools we are asking for the following:

  1. Slow down or postpone the search process to ensure adequate time and the ability for
    community members, families, and stakeholders to give input and have the input used.
  2. Transparency to build trust: Basic information needs to be shared with the public to
    ensure we are informed and know what is happening and how our input is able to shape
    the search process.
  3. Shared decision making: Community members need greater importance in the
    decision making process, beyond simply providing input. We would like to have 3-5
    community representatives on the search committee.

The current search process, as laid out by Ray and Associates, detailed a very aggressive
timeline. It also appears to be a very board led search process with little room for community
engagement. According to the consultants, the final decision for who will be the next
superintendent will be known by 26 March 2018. The two-and-a-half-month timeline does not
allow adequate time for community input and engagement beyond tokenizing efforts. While Ray
and Associates held focus groups and a town-hall meeting, this should be just one-step of many
community touchpoints. The current process does not allow for an ongoing
community-engagement process. It also doesn’t utilize our community connections which are
valuable to you in the search process and will help the new superintendent. Good community
engagement practices require ongoing and meaningful opportunities to engage; one town-hall
and one survey do not meet the benchmark for authentic engagement.

We note as of 26 January 2018 a detailed timeline, including how decisions will be made and by
whom is not available on the website. This basic lack of transparency does not allow for
families, Community Based Organizations, and the public to see where and how they can
participate in the process, and to understand where decision making is held.

We are asking you to extend the search process by six-months to a year to allow for more
community input and engagement. There are other events such as the renewal of the Families
and Education Levy and Seattle Preschool Program Levy, SPS operations levy, and teacher
and principal contract negotiations happening this year. These events will have a significant
impact upon SPS and will require a lot of attention and leadership stability to manage well.
This search process can be used to build trust and goodwill with the community. Building
relationships and goodwill takes time and patience. As community partners, we want to work
with you to select the next superintendent. We have community ties, knowledge, and want to
help the next superintendent start with the best support possible. We look forward to working
with you. Follow up questions can be sent to [email protected].

Susan Balbas
Executive Director, Na’ah Illahee Fund

Katherine Barr
Deputy Director, STEM Paths Innovation Network

Hayden Bass
SPS Parent — Kimball Elementary PTA, PTSA Equity Project Seattle

David Beard
Policy Director, School’s Out Washington

Nimco Bulale
Education Organizer, OneAmerica and SESEC Board Member

Steve Bury
Executive Director, Urban Impact

Phyllis Campano
President, Seattle Education Association

Roy Chang
Lead Pastor, Seattle Chinese Alliance Church

Lisa Chen
Executive Director, FEEST

Dr. Lisa Chin
President/CEO, Boys & Girls Clubs of King County

Gregory Davis
Co-Chair, Rainier Beach Action Coalition

Gabriel de los Angeles, PhC (Learning Science and Human Development)
Snoqualmie Tribe

Sandy Gunder
Board Chair, Southeast Seattle Education Coalition

Briana Jackson
Executive Director, Launch

Patricia Lally
Consultant and SW Resident

Vu Le
Executive Director, Rainier Valley Corps

Julie Marl
Executive Director, ZENO

Kelly Munn
State Field Director, League of Education Voters

Sharonne Navas
Executive Director, Equity in Education Coalition

Roxana Norouzi
Deputy Director, OneAmerica

Mark Okazaki
Executive Director, Neighborhood House

Erin Okuno
Executive Director, Southeast Seattle Education Coalition

Ruel Olanday Jr, MSW
Community in Schools Seattle

Estela Ortega
Executive Director, El Centro de la Raza

Amy Pak
Executive Director, Families of Color Seattle

Shawn Peterson
Program Director, Na’ah Ilahee Fund

Heidi Schillinger
Founder and Principal, Equity Matters

Mia Tuan
Dean, UW College of Education

Vivian van Gelder
SPS Parent – Montlake Elementary PTA, PTSA Equity Project Seattle

Jessica Warner
Executive Director, Youth Development Executive of King County (YDEKC)

Elizabeth Whitford
CEO, School’s Out Washington

Laura Wright
Project Director, WA-BLOC

Susan Yang
Executive Director, Denise Louie Education Center

Daniel Zavala
Director of Policy and Government Relations, League of Education Voters

Signatories added after the letter was sent to the school board:

Lexi Keeler
Southeast Seattle Public School Parent

Regina Elmi and Fartun Mohamed
Somali Parent Education Board

Hueiling Chan and Peggy Kowk
Chinese Information Service Center

James Hong
Vietnamese Friendship Association