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Contemptuous and heartless?
Is Seattle Schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson in for a drubbing tomorrow?

The school board will hear a report from a local consulting

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Schools Chief Maria Goodloe-Johnson Heads into Board Evaluation on the Heels of Scathing Surveys

Thumbnail image for goodloe-johnson2.jpg
Contemptuous and heartless?
Is Seattle Schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson in for a drubbing tomorrow?

The school board will hear a report from a local consulting company that summarizes what individual board members have said about the superintendent in one-on-one interviews, as well as what Goodloe-Johnson has said about herself.

The report will be used for a formal evaluation of the superintendent and will help determine whether she gets a raise and an additional bonus. It will also influence whether her contract, which runs through 2012, is extended.

If the report is anything like a recent community group's survey, Goodloe-Johnson is in trouble.

The survey (see pdf) was conducted by Community & Parents for Public Schools (CPPS), an activist group that arose out of the backlash to early school closure efforts. It now has 2,000 people on its e-mail list, according to president and parent Andrew Kwatinetz.

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CPPS parents, at a rally here, want to influence the board's evaluation.
He says CPPS wanted the board to hear from parents before making decisions about the superintendent. So it posted the online survey on its Web site and local education and parent blogs.

Six-hundred-and-sixty-two responses came back, 79 percent of which indicate dissatisfaction with Goodloe-Johnson's performance. The comments are even more scathing.

"MGJ is an arrogant and heartless administrator who is singlehandedly destroying SPS," says one, citing school closures, principal shuffles, and "poor curriculum adoptions." (Controversial math textbooks come to mind.) Others lament the new school assignment plan for limiting choice as it directs students to their closest schools.

Words like "dictatorial" and "autocratic" come up a lot, as well as a prevailing feel that the superintendent shows "contempt" for parents by not really listening to them. "At least she stopped texting during public testimony," says one sarcastic commenter.

An additional survey--posted anonymously on the Seattle Public Schools Community Blog--displays similar negativity.

Both board president Michael DeBell and district spokesperson Patti Spencer-Watkins dismiss the surveys as "unscientific," as did a Friday Seattle Times editorial that leapt to the superintendent's defense. Spencer-Watkins points to a different survey, released by the non-profit Alliance for Education last month, one she portrays as more credible because it was done by a marketing firm. That telephone survey, of registered voters, showed satisfaction with the public schools rising from 55 percent in 2006 to 60 percent this year. (It did not ask for an opinion on the superintendent directly.)

DeBell, as well as board member Steve Sundquist, add that enormous change has been happening in the district, such as the new assignment plan, and it's that, rather than Goodloe-Johnson per se, that could be causing unease.

Yet the surveys may influence board members more than they are willing to admit publicly. Both DeBell and Sundquist concede that the superintendent has "communication" issues. She does give an odd impression at board meetings of disinterest in what is being said, and when she talks, it's usually in education jargon. But, as we've noted before, she talks strangely little, leaving managers to present tough policy decisions to the public.

The board mildly took Goodloe-Johnson to task last year for her interactions with the public. We'll see if the board has any sharper words this year. The board's evaluation will be released at its June 16 meeting.

 
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