July 26, 2015

Seattle School Board Races

An important election is coming up for Seattle School Board members, one that will decide whether there will be a functioning majority that will be able to keep the district moving forward.  Three school board directors will be selected and fortunately the choices are quite clear.
First, in district 2, in which no incumbent is running, there is an extraordinary candidate:  Rick Burke.  If you want our district's children to have a good math education, Rick is your clear choice.  He has lead the Seattle group of Where's the Math, co-founded the Seattle Math Coalition, and has played a leading role in the successful upgrade of Seattle's elementary school math curriculum.  He has been PTA co-president, has had three children in Seattle public schools, and is a high-tech professional.   I have known Rick for years and have been ceaselessly impressed with his leadership skills, focus, hard work, and excellent people skills.   He will become a leader on the board.

Rick Burke

In district 6 the best choice is Marty McLaren, who has served on the board since 2011. I know Marty well, having worked with her for years to improve math education in the Seattle district. Some of you may remember that she sued the district with her own money when it choose extremely poor math books for our children. Then as a school board member she worked to correct the situation and today Seattle's elementary school children enjoy a decent math curriculum. If elected, one of her priorities will be to revamp middle school math...and I bet she will succeed.

But Marty has achieved many things during her first term. When Jose Banta, decided to leave our district for California, she was one of the majority that voted to put Larry Nyland in place to replace him. Nyland is probably the best superintendent the district has had in decades. Competent, approachable, and deeply knowledgeable about the region and district.  Importantly, Marty is supported by teachers. Jonathan Knapp, president of the Seattle Education Association, said that McLaren is the one person on the school board who “will listen to educators,” noting that she was a teacher. He said she’s the one person on the board who can help get to consensus to fix problems, instead of “grandstanding.”

Marty believes in listening, Of showing respect for others, even when she disagrees with them. And she now has deep experience and knowledge of the district. The board needs some members that are listeners and who can build cooperative relationships with the school administration.    Marty has been very successful in this role.  It would be a major mistake to replace her.

Marty McLaren

So there is  a clear choice for Seattle voters.  Elect Rick Burke and Marty McLaren and there is a good chance that the district can maintain its impressive movement with improving academics, increased enrollment, and smoother functioning district administration.   Midde school math will get fixed.  If you live in Seattle, please vote for them.


  1. Thank you for your recommendations, Cliff.


  2. I am so glad that you did not allow the narrow minds at your campus radio station to muzzle your free speech! The idea that having a doctorate in matters atmospheric disqualifies you from having informed views on the mathematics education needed to get you there is just dumber than a bag of rocks. Huzzah! Huzzah! for your work in behalf of real education for those coming behind us. Thanks for all your good work, Cliff!

  3. Big shout out to the districts(including Seattle) that support the International Baccalaureate Program The program provides world class curricula and outstanding teachers. Daughter just graduated and what a ride. She is headed up to the UW to study engineering.

  4. Mr. Mass,

    Just tried to leave a post here and will try again.

    I very much respect and appreciate your advocacy on issues of math in the Seattle Public Schools and your friendship and collaboration with Director McLaren. But, please do not represent me or my positions. The appointment of Supt. Nyland on Thanksgiving Eve with NO public input whatsoever were issues of transparency, trust, and communication - issues that Dir. McLaren and others ran on last election. An election that I suppported Dir. McLaren in. I nor have many many other people suggested that "a national search" was the only option - that is a frame adopted by a defensive School Board.

    What is your position on the unilateral closing of Middle College High School @ High Point - a program that both Dir. McLaren and I worked hard to save 4 years ago when it was evicted from SSC? SPS failed to respond to SCC's request to bargain for rent after having having been there for over 10 years rent free? What is your position on the dismantling of the staff at Ida B. Wells Middle College? These are critical programs that save lives. Director McLaren has apparently disavowed these programs and accepted the unilateral changes. If the programs need assistance - fix them - do not close them.

    Please note that the Seattle Times suggested I "may come across as abrasive in her critques of board policies and decisions". It did not state I was abrasive or a flame thrower. I am neither. The Times also advised I am a "detail-oriented" aalystical thinker who aims to create better transparency and communication between the school board and the children and families it serves. She will demand better accountability and educational outcomes from board policies."

    I have not survived and thrived for 30 years in litigation and on service of national, state and local boards without the ability to work collaboratively. Please see the endorsements on my website www.harrisforschoolboard.com - many of these fine people and organizations have known me for decades, including several that endorsed Dir. McLaren in her last run.

    I welcome the chance to sit down with you and discuss your perceptions.


    Leslie Harris

  5. I usually agree with you Cliff but I find myself disagreeing on the Board elections.

    Rick Burke is a good choice in District 2 - agreed.

    Lauren McGuire is a smart, capable person but not the skill set we need today. We need someone like her opponent, Jill Geary, who is a lawyer who has been an administrative judge for OSPI in Spec matters and knows how to ask tough questions and get the answers. Lauren really did not stand up well for parents even as SCPTSA president. If the PTA didn't stand for parents, then will McGuire do this if elected as a Board member?

    Lastly, I agree that Marty McLaren is a nice person but she seems to be easily swayed. Leslie Harris, her opponent, has a legal background (like Geary) and again knows how to ask the tough questions. What you may see as "flamethrowing" the rest of us see as courage to protect students, parents, educators and - let's not forget - taxpayers.

    As for Nyland, he's a figurehead who seems - at times - to work for the Mayor and not the Board. It's very troubling.

  6. Melissa,
    At least we agree regarding Rick Burke. Regarding Marty McLaren, you say she is easily swayed.....but she has made some strong decisions during the past years, from supporting the new elementary math curriculum (which I think you support) to voting for the new superintendent (which you clearly do not). She has assured me that she strongly supports a revamping of the middle school math curriculum. You seem to believe we need a sharp, legal type on the board, rather than a more compromising/listening style as evinced by Marty. I suggest a well balanced board is well served by someone like Marty....cliff


Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

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