Sundquist’s alleged corruption taints Seattle Schools closure process
1 word: discrimination.
The quintessential definition of discrimination is treating two groups (or in this case; schools) of equal circumstance differently.
I know many are likely thinking that the definition above is over simplified, that we need to take mitigating circumstances into account when making decisions. Maybe you’re right. However, that does not change the fact that the definition above stands, and stands true.
I have spent much of the past four days thinking about discrimination as it’s been defined here, and I have come to this: Steve Sundquist must be investigated for his discriminatory practices as an elected Seattle Public Schools Board Director for his treatment of students and families at Cooper Elementary vs. his treatment of students and families at Arbor Heights.
I wanted to jump right to Sundquist losing his seat, but that rarely happens without some sort of investigation, unless he was to resign, and well, that’ ain’t happenin’ any time soon. Thus, he must be investigated by a panel that is NOT biased in favor of the District or the Board.
The plan “hatched” by AHPTSA members and Dir. Sundquist became public last week when a brave AHPTSA member stepped forward with internal messages between AHPTSA members (and despite the insistence that ALL of these communications were public, the ones referenced here and in other SV posts ARE NOT) that outlined not only how the fall of Cooper would come about, but the strategic targeting of Rainier Beach High School as well.
Sundquist’s behavior during the closure talks has been nothing short of unethical. He has all but refused to meet with, talk with, or address the concerns of Cooper families (the little stunt with CPPS @ WS Elementary does NOT count as adequate contact with Cooper), staff and students in Board work sessions or meetings, yet he has been strategizing with AH families since before the Superintendent’s recommendations were made public. Of course, AH has denied this, stating it only found out when everyone else found out, but we know this is not true. We know because the tight knit AHPTSA family is unraveling, whether due to frustration, guilt or paranoia, the seams are started to tatter and folks are starting to talk. The woman I met with Thursday night didn’t call or meet with me out of spite, or anger…it was out of guilt. She knew her affluent, predominately White school was kicking the shit out of poorer, majority minority schools, and that those schools had no idea who was behind the beat down. She wanted to be absolved of the guilt she was feeling, and while I’m not the all powerful White guilt absolver, I am a truth teller. So I commenced to tellin’ it, as clearly and as loudly as I could.
Since all of this went public, a few have piped up and said “nothing was done in secret”. I beg to differ, but it doesn’t matter if it was done in secret or not; it was done, simple as that.
I have to say that, when I first reviewed the documents, I was totally furious at the AHPTSA for their complete disregard for other children and families. It wasn’t until I got to the details about their plans for Rainier Beach High School that I started shaking- yes Fam, I said shaking; a plan to sabatoge a school in black and white, read with my own eyes.
“If we can move Summit k-12 (again), from RBHS”, we can argue that the school close, saving the District millions, and saving Arbor Heights. No mention of the students at tha Beach. No mention of the teachers, the families, the history, the needs, the successes- just get rid of them. Secure $2 million dollars for the District and save Arbor Heights. Money in exchange for favor, for security. At least in Chicago, they call that a bribe folks.
It is crystal clear that AHPTSA was working in cooperation with Sundquist. The repetitive use of “we” highlights the partnership throughout the communications. In the real world, PTSA’s don’t have power like that, not over their own building, certainly not over other buildings, and certainly not over other buildings outside of their cluster, across the bridge and on the other side of town.
In an eye-popping and jaw-dropping interview on KUOW radio that made me pinch my damn self, the AHPTSA Co-Presidents admitted the entire thing. They came together as a group and made the choice to target Cooper and RBHS to save AH, and they worked with Sundquist to solidify their arguments, backed up by data and dollars. As if that were not enough, it was Sundquist who threw Cooper into the fire, and it’s in the fire where they still sit today, so do not tell me that they did not work together on this; they absolutely did. The AHPTSA has NO power without a Board member. The AHPTSA cannot get schools added onto or taken off of any list, only a Board member can do that. Tell me then, why is it that the “hatched plans” in the secret documents mirror the efforts of Sundquist around closures? Because they are one and the same.
Some of you may be wondering “well why not send Pathfinder to Cooper?” This has been vetted in previous closure attempts, and shot down by the Board. It was recently shot down by the new Superintendent for those same reasons. In fact, one of the PTSA members can be quoted as saying “the District is against us, the Board is not”. So the District was not gung ho on Pathfinder to Cooper. Yet and still, there sits Cooper in the fire, burning up, while AH sips tall glasses of lemonade over ice and pats themselves on the back for a (dirty) job well done.
Giving favor to one school over another (or all others, for that matter), requires one to discriminate, which is what Steve Sundquist has done as an elected Board member for the Seattle School District.
When AH found themselves on the list, to be dissolved so that Pathfinder could have a new home, they worked with Sundquist for a reprieve- and got it.
When Cooper found themselves on the list (where Sundquist put them, in place of AH), they reached out to Sundquist for answers, for assistance, for understanding…and got ignored.
That folks, is the quintessential definition of discrimination.
As if that weren’t enough, Sundquist worked to thwart plans to strengthen Rainier Beach High so that it would close, thereby saving Arbor Heights.
That’s called corruption.
If the closure process is unbalanced, unfair and corrupt, it must not go ahead.
Sundquist should be- no- must be investigated. Until then, he has earned our “Rat Bastard of the Week” award. Congrats.
Update: 10:13pm Sunday December 14, 2008 (read the comments section)
I’d like to say this, before things get stupid ugly in the comments section and people think they can start talkin’ shit to me and I’m gonna fold up and go home. As anyone who has ever started a blog will tell you (including beat reporters); at least one if not THE ONE reason why they did so was to report on things via a sensative and rational perspective; their own.
There are millions of stories in the world that need to be told; depending on who is watching- through their eyes, frame of reference, bias and rationale is how the story is going to be told; it’s the same for the Sable Verity.
I know my perspecitve doesn’t mirror your own, and that is why I think it is so important. I am a woman of color living in Seattle, with children of color in the public school system. I am a minority in ways you’ll NEVER understand no matter how hard you try, how nice you are or how many friends and associates and coleagues of color you and your friends have and your children have.
We are different. We have different realities that run parallel to each other. Sometimes they cross, sometimes they connect for extended periods of time, sometimes they conflict and sometimes they compliment each other; but they are still different.
I am not a bigot or a racist-ass anything. I am well educated on school closures and have in fact attended board meetings and work sessions on school closures for- gosh- years. I’ve sat and talked with many of you, you’ve shaken my hand and given me hugs and smiled in my face. And here you come, completely oblivious to whom you are talking, showing your true colors. I am not shocked at all. Not one single bit. Because when people’s comfort zones get threatened, they lash out in desperate ways, just as you all have done here, some via self righteousness, and some via hatred; all with a common thread.
Maya Angelou said, “when someone shows you who they truly are, believe them the first time.”
Well you’ve shown me, and I believe you.
As the tag line on this blog says, “you can disagree, but I’ll still be right”; that means, I don’t need you to agree with me for me to be right. As a person of color that is a lesson I have had to learn and embrace. I don’t need White people, brown people, red people or blue people to co-sign, for me to be sure that what I am bring is the truth.
Thankfully that is a mindset I was freed of a long time ago.
I know good and hell well that I am biased. Unlike other bloggers, I DO NOT TRY AND DENY IT OR HIDE IT. I don’t write for the Associated Press, I write for the Sable Verity Blog. MY BLOG. We are ALL biased; that doesn’t mean we can’t be fair, or that I cannot be fair. I openly offered space for Sundquist, the Board and the District to make comment; they have not thus far. That invite still stands.
Just because I am reporting information that makes people uncomfortable doesn’t mean that it’s not true or that it’s unfair or that I am somehow a bigoted racist out to get the good White people of Seattle. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just because it is something touchy and sensitive, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be talked about.
How else can we bring about true change?
By being challenged and pushed outside of our box?
To be challenged on those things (and people) that you think are true and right?
To do a self check to be sure that you are not complicit in things that negatively impact anyone else, simply because you aren’t paying attention, or you because you trusted someone else to do the right thing?
The answer is, (d) all of the above.
This battle in the comments section reminds me a lot of the presidential election. In the last few weeks of the election, Palin and McCain started pushing the envelope of respectability, using racial fear and hatred to turn voters, and their supporters shredded the very same envelope, screaming hatred filled rants at rallies and town halls across America. “Kill him!” “Traitor!”, “He’s not one of us!” “Treason!”
If you couldn’t figure it out, yeah, I just compared AHPTSA to Palin/McCain for their shitteous actions, and the commentors on this post to those that attended rallies, filled with anger and hate, ready to lash out no matter what the cost.
’nuff said. Comments such as the ones above will not be put through again. Rest assured there are plenty of OTHER blogs that are happy to have those kinds of comments, so find your audience there.
The voice of the minority is what we strive to prepresent here on the Sable Verity, and we do so in the spirit of truth, righteousness, and a lot of plain fuckin’ talk. If you don’t like it, your constitutional right is to ignore it.
But you’ll never silence it.
Update Dec. 15 2008- The KUOW Report http://www.kuow.org/program.php?id=16518
How does a school save itself from closure? One way is to point the finger at other schools. And tell the District to close them instead. That’s what parents at Arbor Heights Elementary did in West Seattle. For now, it seems to have worked. KUOW’s Phyllis Fletcher has more.
IF YOU GO TO A SCHOOL BOARD MEETING, SOMETIMES YOU HEAR THIS:
IMPASSIONED APPLAUSE. USUALLY, IN SUPPORT OF A PARENT OR TEACHER WHO PLEADS WITH THE SCHOOL BOARD TO KEEP THEIR BUILDING OPEN.
BUT THIS APPLAUSE WAS FOR A PARENT WHO SAID, ‘GO AHEAD.’
IWAMOTO: “Show me and the general public that the district follows its own guidelines and logic by closing a high school.”
ERIC IWAMOTO IS CO–PRESIDENT OF THE PARENT–TEACHER–STUDENT ASSOCIATION OF ARBOR HEIGHTS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. HIS SCHOOL HAD BEEN ON THE LIST.
SO HE AND HIS FELLOW PTSA MEMBERS TOLD THEIR SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER, STEVE SUNDQUIST, TO LOOK AT CLOSING RAINIER BEACH HIGH SCHOOL AND COOPER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL INSTEAD.
THEN, BOTH SCHOOLS ENDED UP ON A CLOSURE LIST LAST WEEK. AND ARBOR HEIGHTS WAS SPARED.
SUZETTE RILEY IS CO–PTSA–PRESIDENT WITH ERIC IWAMOTO AT ARBOR HEIGHTS.
RILEY: “Uh, you know, it’s a really awkward position.”
RILEY SAYS THEY TALKED ABOUT IT.
RILEY: “Should we just try to defend our school? Or should we try to prove that other ones should be closed?”
RILEY: “Ultimately we decided that that was the safest position.”
AND SHE ADMITS: SOME OF THE FACTORS THAT LED ARBOR HEIGHTS TO POINT THE FINGER AT COOPER AND RAINIER BEACH ARE THE SAME THINGS THAT GIVE ARBOR HEIGHTS AN ADVANTAGE IN THE CLOSURE PROCESS.
ARBOR HEIGHTS DOESN’T HAVE A MAJORITY OF FAMILIES IN POVERTY. COOPER AND RAINIER BEACH DO. POVERTY AFFECTS A SCHOOL’S POPULARITY, WHICH IS A FACTOR IN THE CLOSURE PROCESS. AND RILEY SAYS POVERTY ALSO AFFECTS HOW EASY IT IS FOR PARENTS TO ORGANIZE WHEN THEIR SCHOOL IS UNDER THE GUN.
RILEY: “Demographically, we may have an advantage. Um, I think that may be true. But we’re all still working parents and just trying to do the best for our kids.”
RILEY’S CO–PRESIDENT SPOKE CANDIDLY ON A MESSAGE BOARD FOR OTHER ARBOR HEIGHTS PARENTS. HIS MESSAGES WERE THEN PUBLICIZED BY A SOUTH SEATTLE BLOGGER. ERIC IWAMOTO SAID TO KEEP THEIR SCHOOL OPEN, THE PTSA HAD TO OFFER UP A ‘SACRIFICIAL LAMB’–ANOTHER SCHOOL.
WILLIAMS: “That’s blasphemy.”
SHELLEY WILLIAMS HAS TWO KIDS AT COOPER. SHE WENT THERE WHEN SHE WAS A KID. SHE COMPARES THE CLOSURE PROCESS TO A BOARD GAME. AND SAYS A LOT OF PARENTS AT COOPER DON’T EVEN KNOW THE RULES.
WILLIAMS: “We have 6 parents I can think of right off the top of my head who have been in this country less than two years, and spent more than two years prior in a refugee camp. They don’t even know this system.”
SO SHE WONDERS, HOW CAN THEY POSSIBLY BE EXPECTED TO ORDER T–SHIRTS, SHOW UP TO SCHOOL BOARD MEETINGS, GIVE PUBLIC TESTIMONY, AND TALK TO THEIR SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS?
BUT BOTH SHE AND SUZETTE RILEY SAY THAT’S WHAT PARENTS HAVE TO DO IF THEY WANT TO GET THEIR SCHOOLS OFF THE LIST BEFORE THE SCHOOL BOARD VOTES ON IT NEXT MONTH. PHYLLIS FLETCHER, KUOW NEWS.
The RVP steps up with its own coverage of the AH/Sundquist/Cooper/RBHS debacle.
See also: SPS needs a lesson in equity
See also: SPS to RBHS: We do not have to talk to you