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School Board May Pick Next Superintendent Today

Phyllis Fletcher

The Seattle School Board meets in private Friday to talk about — and maybe pick — their next superintendent.

The interim superintendent took herself out of the running in December. So now, school board members have found three people they want to consider. They had their final interviews this week.


Think back to your last job interview. You probably tried to be nice.

Banda: "Building relationships is really, really key."

Sell yourself.

Husk: "I think I'm pretty good at communicating and keeping a lot of momentum behind the work."

And you practiced, "If I were to get the job — "

Enoch: " — I would push out some guiding questions to every one of our schools."

Now, imagine you had your job interview in front of reporters. They want to get you on the record about everything they possibly can in case you get the job.

Candidate Steven Enoch said he was glad to get the chance to talk about one thing in particular. He used to be Superintendent of San Juan Island School District in Washington state. He spoke to reporters right after he read an article about himself in the Seattle Times. The article said after he left, the district was in a financial hole.

Enoch: "In the year that I left, actually, against my recommendation, they purchased a new district office. And that's a huge cash flow hit."

Enoch says he thinks that's why the district ran out of money. He just retired as head of the San Ramon Valley district in Northern California — relatively wealthy one.

Enoch: "We've become the highest–achieving large district in the state. And I share that with you because it would have been easy to go there and just say, let's rest on our laurels."

And Enoch says he didn't.

In comparison, the Seattle district has more kids living in poverty and the achievement gap that goes with it. When it comes to educating poor kids, Enoch says —

Enoch: "Candidly, if I could just sit here and tell you, this is what it takes, I'd be on the speaking circuit making lots of money all around the nation."

He says one ingredient is a teaching staff that wants to be there. And if what you do doesn't work, change it.

Sandra Husk runs a higher–poverty district right now. She's superintendent in Salem, Oregon.

A reporter asked how she feels about standardized tests. She says in poor schools, they have what she calls real consequences.

Husk: "Whether or not the school stays open. Whether or not they receive their funding."

In Seattle, the last superintendent put language into teacher contracts to make test results part of job evaluations. For some reason this has come to be called value–added systems. Husk says her understanding is —

Husk: " — that the value–added systems would not be beneficial to use as high–stakes on individual teacher feedback."

Like, to fire a teacher. But she says test results could be useful to compare schools or districts.

A problem in high–poverty schools is high turnover of students. They move a lot. So student improvement can be hard to measure and hard to do. Husk says she knows about that and she likes a system that would collect and evaluate students' daily work.

Husk: "Even if they were there for a month, you would have ways of seeing whether or not there was learning in progress."

Jose Banda also runs a high–poverty district in southern California: Anaheim.

Banda: "We need to look at every one of our students coming through our door as potentially being the next valedictorian at their high school graduation."

Part of the high–poverty equation in Seattle is people who can afford to leave Seattle Public Schools, sometimes, they do.

Banda: "Focus on building that world–class educational system where you start to reduce the people that are leaving. You create programs that create interest."

A development he likes is a movement toward nation–wide curriculum standards. He says that rescues districts —

Banda: " — from a huge reliance on textbooks. And textbooks should never be the way to drive your instruction. It should be standards."

In Seattle, a fight over math books led to yelling matches between parents and divided the school board.

In the past, the board has presented a united front when it's chosen a superintendent.

School Board President Michael DeBell has said the board could announce its next choice as soon as Wednesday.

I'm Phyllis Fletcher, KUOW News.

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