There were some unhappy journalists at the John Stanford Center this morning as Seattle Public Schools carefully doled out interview time with José Banda, the first of three superintendent candidates to be cautiously shepherded past the press.
Rather than holding a single press conference to introduce each of the candidates, the district has chosen to divvy their time up into three 15-minute availabilities each, with different reporters assigned to different slots. That means each reporter only gets 15 minutes with each candidate, shared with the other reporters in his or her group, an arrangement that has some reporters understandably peeved.
Hell, I can take more than 15 minutes just to ask a question, so it's not a format that exactly welcomes an in depth give and take.
That said, Banda was more satisfying than the interview format in which he was shoved. He diplomatically hedged a bit on a series of litmus test questions, but certainly did not come off as a member of the corporate reform camp. It's "not something that I would consider a high priority" Banda said of charter schools, while praising the many unique and innovative programs already under way in the Seattle schools. As for Teach For America—the controversial program that brings uncertified teachers into the classroom—Banda said he had no experience with it in California, where they've been laying off teachers, not hiring them, but that he'd have to "really research it" before going down that path in Seattle.
Banda also gave a fairly nuanced take on the standard testing craze, saying that "standards are great ... but the testing is a whole different thing." And in answer to the question of whether student performance on standardized tests was a good measure of teacher performance, Banda unhesitatingly answered "No." And then elaborated. That's exactly the way I like questions answered.
It's hard to get a feel for Banda's academic philosophy in such a short amount of time, but I came away impressed with his calm yet forceful demeanor. Banda has a reputation as a consensus builder, an approach he emphasized in his answers, and a skill we could certainly use after a contentious decade of musical superintendent chairs. It'll be interesting to see how the other two candidates compare.