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Maria Goodloe-Johnson is NOT Super

April 22, 2010

Maria Goodloe-Johnson’s contract is up for renewal.  It is time for us to ask what we are getting from her, and if it is worth renewing the contract of a woman who has done little to help a struggling system.

As the parent of a student at South Shore – just now emerging from an air quality problem that quickly turned into a communications crisis – the problems we faced perfectly reflect the problems the district faces under the leadership of Maria Goodloe-Johnson. Namely, an absence of communication and leadership. She did not attend community meetings at our school. She did not speak to the press or the parents or the staff. It was not until a group of parents called the media that many in our school even knew there was a problem – much less a solution.

The South Shore debacle received a lot of media attention because we had the twisted-luxury of sick students to tug at heartstrings. But there have been many more problems in the district that, when combined, paint a condemning picture of a leader who can’t lead.

A quick survey of parents and teachers across the city reveals a shocking sense of disenfranchisement and distrust of Goodloe-Johnson.

  • In Madrona, a principal whose leadership was measurably improving student test scores was reassigned, mid-year, without warning to the community. While resourcing decisions are part of the normal business of running a school system, the process and time frame undermined the ability to maintain leadership and progress at the school. Furthermore, the lack of clear communication and abysmal lack of community engagement left the Madrona community with little say in the process.
  • In Queen Anne, three principals out of 5 in the cluster were reassigned, one mid-year and again, without warning.  Both K-5’s in the cluster lost their principals.  There is no clear policy for reassignment, which fosters fear and uncertainty and makes it impossible to have a stable school environment.
  • Math and science scores across the district are continuing to flounder, after three years with Goodloe-Johnson. Whether or not it is attributable to bad curriculum, it is clear that three years of her leadership has not helped in this core area. What’s worse, the quantifiable disparity between the “rich” schools and the “poor” schools is getting wider, while the autonomy for schools and teachers to innovate is being taken away.
  • Schools like Garfield, Ballard and Roosevelt are struggling under the weight of students who are thrown into mainstream high schools as non-native speakers, without curriculum to address their language needs. Goodloe Johnson has been told about the problem, as well as solutions, and has ignored the recommendations of teachers and staff who know that the tools they currently have are NOT working.
  • The Title 1 / LAP swap has continued to draw needed money away from schools that desperately need it, and she has refused to reevaluate the formula that she put in place. Her initial idea of using the swap keep private businesses at bay was a good one, but has become part of a pattern of making decisions without later following up to see if they work.
  • The adoption of the MAP program as an electronic means to assess student learning will cost nearly $4.5 million to implement district-wide, and I found very few teachers who think that it is useful at all. That money could buy a lot of teachers, books, supplies and building improvements. (Of course, Goodloe-Johnson is on the board of the company who created the MAP program.)
  • Her focus on top-down leadership to drive the same curriculum in all schools is taking away the ability for teachers to customize learning for their populations. This “everything the same for everyone” approach not only cripples real teaching, it puts innovative programs at risk. For example, the district may take away the marine biology program at Garfield, which is an amazing program. But, because the other schools don’t have it, it is at risk in the name of equality. That is like telling one child they can’t excel at soccer because all of their siblings play the piano.
  • Unlike many, I supported the idea of redrawing the district lines – and applaud the strength that it took to make such an unpopular decision. However, her inability to rally support behind a future vision is a perfect example of her inability to be a true leader. She, once again, made decisions without engaging the community, assessing their needs and their hopes, inviting their energy in to drive the change. You cannot change a community without community involvement.

Leaders inspire other people to follow them into a future. Puppet masters stay behind the scenes and pull strings, manipulating people who are not engaged. Now, more than ever, we need a leader.

We are at a time of fiscal and social crisis in our school district. It is not clear that Goodloe Johnson is capable of being part of the solution. I urge the board to take a “wait and see” year before renewing the contract of a woman who has achieved little in terms of academic traction, almost nothing in terms of fiscal responsibility and who’s leadership has been marked more by alienation than inspiration.

If anything was made clear through the South Shore crisis, it is that Goodloe-Johnson has hired a team of consummate professionals in everything from facilities to finance, transportation to enrollment. With these excellent people in place, she should be free to inspire and lead the community. If she can’t do that, then she needs to be replaced with someone who can. Her contract should not be renewed until she shows that she is able to truly lead us into the future.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. April 23, 2010 4:41 am

    Marie Goodloe Johnson has not hired a team of consummate professionals to handle finance, transportation and enrolment… the stuff ups are appallingly huge and legendary in the District…

    Try getting a straight answer out of Finance about what money is in the coffers, where its been allocated, what specific budgetary items really cost… Meg Diaz has some pithy comments to share about that…

    The enrolment process is a shambles… high school kids right now are being given/mailed packets of information for schools they might not even be attending…

    And transportation? We had all these cutbacks in district-wide transportation and earlier bell times to save money… that was supposed to reduce the number of buses on the road by about 49 (if I remember correctly, saving around $2M)… I read a comment somewhere the other day that the actual reduction in buses was around 20, which would mean that the savings are negligible, compared to the distress, confusion and inconvenience those changes have caused…

    The ONLY thing Marie Goodloe Johnson has been expert at during her time at SPS, has been to push through the Broad agenda for busting unions, privatising schools and pushing forward on high stakes standardised testing using MAP, all of which activities are conflicts of interest vis a vis her position as Superintendent…. She sits on the Board of Broad, The Alliance for Education (funded by Broad/Gates) and NWEA (the company that sells MAP to the District) and she engages in overtly political fundraisers, where the stated agenda is to foster the adoption of more corporatist education ‘reform’…

  2. April 23, 2010 9:56 am

    The one good thing that Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson promised to bring to Seattle Public Schools was management. The three previous superintendents had left the District un-managed for about ten years. The most fundamental elements of management – such as making sure people did their jobs – were just absent. If you read the report from the blue-ribbon panel that Superintendent Manhas had assembled you will see that the whole first third of it basically says that the Superintendent isn’t doing his job and that he needs to be replaced.

    So he was. And in comes Dr. Goodloe-Johnson chanting “accountability”. It was printed on every page, spoken in nearly every sentence. She was going to make sure that everyone in the District did their job. Then she discovered the depth of the problem: after years and years of non-management, people in Seattle Public Schools didn’t even know what their jobs were. Teachers didn’t know the curriculum, so how could they teach it? Principals didn’t know how to supervise, what to check for, or how to budget, so how could they manage their staff or their schools? Education directors didn’t have goals or action plans so how could they make progress? Central staff had no job descriptions or goals, so there was no means for evaluating their performance.

    It’s a big job to bring order out of this chaos. Unfortunately she has demonstrated that she is exactly the wrong person for the job. She’s the wrong person because she doesn’t know the difference between statistics and reality.

    Take curriculum alignment for example. It is absolutely a right idea. We should defnitely work towards it. Curriculum alignment means that students in the same grade or in the same class are learning the same core set of knowledge and skills regardless of which classroom or school they are in. Students at School A and students at School B will get instruction in the same core content. They may get other things in addition to that core set, but they will all get at least the same core set. It is not just a noble goal; it is achievable. Unfortunately, the superintendent shortcut the process and substituted the cheap version – standardized materials and scripted lessons – for the genuine article.

    There are multiple examples like this in which cheap imitations and emulations were adopted or imposed instead of the authentic reality.

    In addition, she did not address the primary trouble at the root of all of the District’s other problems: the District’s dysfunctional culture. the District continues make decisions based entirely on internal politics and the District continues to refuse to address the needs of the population it ostensibly serves. She has not improved the District’s culture. If anything, it is worse. It is less transparent, less engaged, less honest, more political, and less accountable.

    She has been enabled in this decay by a Board that thinks they work for her instead of for the public.

    I was willing to accept a lot of ill and a lot of missteps if she would introduce management, but we have waited and endured and the management doesn’t appear to be coming.

  3. April 25, 2010 6:12 am

    Even if we assume that every single decision that Maria Goodloe-Johnson has made is the right one (which I’m more than willing to do,) then the fact that she cannot rally community support behind it is even more damning. She is supposed to be a leader, not just a powerful bookkeeper. It is vital that she interact with, listen to and engage the community if we are going to build an educational infrastructure that truly serves the community.

  4. fed up permalink
    April 26, 2010 3:49 pm

    some of us have been saying this publicly and privately for 18 months now. i encourage you to continue rallying the public to contact their board members and community leaders with the exact talking point above, because you are DEAD ON.

    and please also encourage them to change the focus and the leadership of the district communications department. it is not there to be the personal protection for the superintendent. all it seems to do is cover her butt in emergencies and to act as a buffer between her and the public. engagement is the main point of the department and it wouldn’t know how to engage the public if the public hit the folks over the head with bats and demanded it. scripted QAs. press releases only in times of possible litigation. pathetic web outreach and too much superintendent ring kissing. time for the department director and staff to move on. help us.

  5. May 5, 2010 6:36 pm

    Go here
    and tell SPS Board Directors not to sign on to RttT… an average one-off payment of $22 per pupil is not enough to sell our public education system to the private enterprise charter franchises, and will have negative impacts on our already disadvantaged low income communities and children of colour…

  6. May 7, 2010 7:51 am

    Marie Goodloe Johnson demonstrates yet again her complete lack of understanding of (and/or lack of interest in) the need to relate to the community she serves…

    She marked Teacher Appreciation week at Wednesday’s SPS Board meeting, by reading The Story of Teddy Stoddard.

    According to Teddy Stoddard is “a little guy in Mrs. Thompson’s fifth grade class that she just didn’t like very much. He was unpleasant, messy, and earned bad grades. Saw in his past records that Teddy’s mother had died when he was in the third grade and that his life had deteriorated after that. She began treating him differently and he later praised her for making a difference in his life, a difference that helped him get through high school, college, and medical school and become a doctor. He also asked her to take his mom’s place at his wedding.”

    The site goes on to say “this story was written by Elizabeth Silance Ballard and published in Home Life magazine in 1976. It was not represented as being a true story but rather as a piece of fiction. It was later republished in the magazine in 1976 with the notation that it was one of the most requested stories in the magazine’s history.”

    MGJ did not attribute the source of the story, and in her version, she changed the boy’s ethnicity from white to black…

    As so many commented on the Save Seattle Schools blog – couldnt MGJ find something real happening in our childrens’ classrooms to praise? She apparently had a powerpoint presentation prepared that did focus on Seattle teachers, but apparently did not have enough time to show it…

    Others have commented that she’s setting a bad example – certainly not excellence for all – in plagiarising someone else’s work and giving no attribution…

    Her choices in this matter once again reflect her disrespect for SPS teachers, SPS parents and our children.

  7. voleKelsger permalink
    May 16, 2010 7:35 am

    Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!


  8. Eric permalink
    May 16, 2010 7:04 pm

    Yep. She’s all that.


    a real Seattle Public Schools teacher

  9. June 7, 2010 11:05 am

    go here and sign… its a start in turning SPS around… first the Superintendent (tho why we’re not demanding she be fired I dont know), then remove the rubber stampers on the Board, to be replaced by people who aren’t owned by the corporate players, people who know what they’re doing educationally and managerially… who know our kids are not mass-produced widgets ….

    Staff at four Seattle schools have already voted ‘no confidence’ in Maria Goodloe-Johnson… a group of parents (representing the various interest groups/communities in SPS and calling ourselves the Seattle Shadow School Board/Seattle Education 2010) are circulating this petition, with a view to presenting it to the Board at its meeting on June 16th; we’re also planning a rally before that meeting…

    If you want to know more/be involved, call me on 206 679 1738….

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