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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Seattle Teachers Have A Chance To Replace Their Stodgy Union Leaders With Up-and-Coming Rabble Rousers

Posted by on Tue, May 6, 2014 at 5:46 PM

Last year, a thoughtful skeptic of standardized testing and corporate education reform ran a shoestring campaign for a place on Seattle's School Board. She was up against an establishment candidate (whose wealthy supporters were running slimy attack ads). But, she did get the endorsement of The Stranger Election Control Board. In the end, she won. Her name is Sue Peters.

Now Peters, along with a coterie of brilliant people—from Seattle Schools watchdog Melissa Westbrook to teacher Jon Greenberg, public defender Lisa Daugaard, Real Change publisher Tim Harris, Council member Kshama Sawant, and Council member Nick Licata—are all endorsing another insurgent activist standing up for our schools: Garfield high school history teacher Jesse Hagopian. (You may remember Hagopian from last year's successful boycott of a particularly pointless, onerous standardized test.)

The union's election wraps up tomorrow at midnight, and there's strong turnout expected from the Seattle Education Association's roughly 5,000 teachers, substitutes, counselors, office staffers, and other members. Voters can change their picks in online ballots until it ends.

"We’re definitely the underdogs in that it’s never been done before," Hagopian, who's running to be the union's president, tells me. An incumbent leader at the union has never lost a re-election bid, he says.

The current president, Jonathan Knapp, could not be reached for comment. But in the Seattle Times, he criticizes Hagopian for—wait for it—garnering too many endorsements from people outside the school system. To his credit, Knapp led a campaign this spring to pressure the district into reversing $4 million in budget cuts. But Hagopian says it's "the first proactive thing" he's seen the current union leadership do, and argues it's no coincidence it happened during an election season.

Hagopian and his RESPECT ticket, which includes elementary school teacher Marian Wagner and teacher/community organizer Dan Troccoli, were leaders in the attention-grabbing boycott of the MAP test last year. They faced down threats of firings from Seattle Schools Superintendent Jose Banda, then held out until the district caved and agreed to no longer make high schoolers take the test. With that, Hagopian was catapulted into the national spotlight.

"That’s what really gave us a shot at this thing," Hagopian tells me. "There are teachers in a lot of these buildings who know that we stand for something." Here he is on NBC's Education Nation last year:

What does RESPECT stand for with regard to the Seattle's teachers union? "A more member engaged union that can build partnerships," Hagopian says. One that links up with the wider community to "fix the affordability crisis in Seattle."

For example, he says, the union should work to lower caps for counselor caseloads. "At Garfield we have 100 homeless students," Hagopian says, "and the caseloads for our counselors are at around 400. There’s no way they can help students...That’s the exact kind of issue where we would partner with the community and make a public campaign. But we didn’t do that and we gave in [to the district]."

With roundly-criticized Common Core tests coming down from the national level to Seattle schools this fall, teachers who mount another boycott would have a stalwart ally in their union if Hagopian wins. Here's hoping.


Comments (11) RSS

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dnt trust me 1
100 homeless high school students?! That's crazy. Thanks for getting the word out. Plenty of Sloggers here to take them in and give them shelter. We're an actively concerned bunch.
Posted by dnt trust me on May 6, 2014 at 5:58 PM · Report this
dnt trust me 2
Wait, I just found my 2 dollars off coupon to Subway. I can ... Nah, even homeless people know it's right to be elitist assholes when it comes to their foodscraps.
Posted by dnt trust me on May 6, 2014 at 6:29 PM · Report this

this alum parent is with you and so proud of the staff of seattle public schools.
Posted by go bulldogs on May 6, 2014 at 8:19 PM · Report this
kk in seattle 4
Here's who is roundly criticizing Common Core tests: a comedian and a bunch of right-wing lunatics who get their news from Fox. This feels an awful lot like the anti-vaxxer coalition.
Posted by kk in seattle on May 6, 2014 at 8:29 PM · Report this
@4 you know that is nonsense. That's the Common Core party line and frankly, it's a tired line.

There are parents, educators, taxpayers, education experts and yes, even conservatives, who oppose Common Core for many valid reasons.

I write for Seattle Schools Community Forum blog and just wrote a white paper on Common Core and the issues around it. It is deeply troubling and Jesse Hagopian is right; we need a moratorium on assessments until teachers have been given the professional developments and resources to make this HUGE switch. Ditto on parents being in the loop about what is coming. (And FYI, Louis CK is a NYC public school parent and entitled to state his opinion.)

But Common Core is not the issue of the thread; the SEA leadership is. Jesse and his slate really get it. They just spent last Sunday at an event asking parents what matters to THEM.

Teachers and parents working together? Collaborating for better academic outcomes instead of currying up to the powers that be.

Jesse Hagopian for SEA president.
Posted by westello on May 6, 2014 at 8:45 PM · Report this
So Goldy was probably fired for wanting to post a dodgy political opinion, but now apparently that's OK? Hagopian is probably the best choice but for the Stranger to come out with a campaign piece in an election that isn't even open to the public is a bit hypocritical after Goldy's departure.
Posted by sarah70 on May 6, 2014 at 8:48 PM · Report this
dnt trust me 7
westello, you make sense. a couple of questions.
Are the ideas of E.D. Hirsch behind Common Core?
and if so, back in the 80s, Hirsch's methodology wasn't exactly welcomed by Liberals. I don't believe much has changed with his thought, yet Liberals on the whole now seem to back the Common Core. Any thoughts on this shift?
Posted by dnt trust me on May 6, 2014 at 9:15 PM · Report this
TheRain 10
What I know is that when the SEA catches a fever, the rest of the WEA gets the chills. When the SEA gave in on evaluation we all got pounded on that during the legislative session, and it would be nice to have leadership there that could put a scare into the all-too-comfortable legislature.
Posted by TheRain on May 6, 2014 at 10:38 PM · Report this
@7 - Hirsch does support CC (somewhat to my surprise). He had two pieces in Huffington Post about his support. I think he is dead wrong on believing that they will work for the early grades (in fact, 500 prominent early childhood educators say CC is developmentally inappropriate for K-2).

He does say (and boy, it's a big statement): "Not even most prescient among us can know whether the Common Core standards will end in triumph or tragedy. That will depend on what the states actually do about developing rich content knowledge "within and across grades."

What's interesting is that he also says:

The favored structural reforms haven't worked very well. The new emphasis on "teacher quality" implies that the reforms haven't worked because the teachers (rather than the reform principles themselves) are ineffective. A more reasonable interpretation is that reforms haven't worked because on average they have done little to develop "rich content knowledge within and across grades."

Well, that and states throwing a lot of $$ at it (it's estimated to cost California about $1B just to start implementation).

He also is VERY worried about the tests.

"These tests could endanger the promise of the Common Core."

He also says: "The solution to the test-prep conundrum is this: First, institute in every participating state the specific and coherent curriculum that the Common Core Standards explicitly call for. (It's passing odd to introduce "Common Core" tests before there's an actual core to be tested.) Then base the reading-test passages on those knowledge domains covered in the curriculum."

As for your question about liberals and public education, I think I'll ask the Slog if I can write a guest post on the topic as it is a large one. Suffice to say that I believe if most liberals truly understood how ed reform isn't working, they would not be for it.
Posted by westello on May 7, 2014 at 9:21 AM · Report this
kk in seattle 14
"And FYI, Louis CK is a NYC public school parent and entitled to state his opinion."

Who said he wasn't "entitled to state his opinion"? Yikes.

Now I definitely feel like this has the anti-vaxxer-like paranoia.

But as a new report by the non-profit Southern Poverty Law Center points out, the loudest, angriest voices in the Common Core debate are making a case that is not even remotely based in reality. From the farthest reaches of the Christian right to Conservative pundits and even elected officials, a radical, factless propaganda campaign has been building that, the SPLC suggests, looks poised to take down not only Common Core but the entire institution of public education.
Posted by kk in seattle on May 7, 2014 at 1:30 PM · Report this
@14 - you'd be surprised at the number of people who said he shouldn't have spoken out. That's why I said that. There are actual people who said that he was "just" a comedian and didn't know what he was talking about. The fact is, he's an involved father and knows that his daughters' homework and testing has changed and stated that.

Even comedians get to have opinions.
Posted by westello on May 7, 2014 at 10:33 PM · Report this

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