School & District Management

Seattle Voters Usher In New Majority on School Board

By Jeff Archer — November 12, 2003 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Following a recent series of missteps by district leaders, Seattle voters have put a new school board majority in charge of the 47,000-student system.

All three incumbents running for re-election last week lost their bids to stay on the seven-member panel. A fourth, vacant seat went to a candidate who has been highly critical of the system’s leadership.

The result is a major shake-up of a school board that had solidly backed the district’s administration as it sought to shift management authority to schools while defining new standards for learning.

That support became a major liability last fall, however, when then-Superintendent Joseph Olchefske announced that he had found errors totaling some $35 million over two years in the system’s $440 million annual budget. Mr. Olchefske stepped down in June after an external audit partly blamed him for the problem.

Darlene Flynn, a winner in the election, blamed the outgoing board for lax oversight and for not improving student achievement enough. “I think it was a lack of leadership that led to poor decisions about how to get academic outcomes,” she said.

“Ifeel a real sense of hope,” she added. “We have a cohort of people who have energy and tend to be proactive about problem-solving, communication, and public involvement.”

One of the first questions to face the new board will be who should run the system.

Efforts to find a successor to Mr. Olchefske broke down last month, when all four finalists for the job withdrew their names. The school board then appointed Raj Manhas, the district’s interim chief, to a one-year contract. (“In Search for Schools Chiefs, Boards Struggle,” Oct. 29, 2003.)

San Francisco Bond

Some of the newly elected Seattle board members have said the district’s top administrator should be an educator, however. Mr. Manhas comes from the world of finance, as did Mr. Olchefske.

Whatever happens, ousted school board member Steve Brown said he hopes the new leaders stay true to the district’s broader improvement strategies.

“We have brought in standards and set high expectations for every kid,” he said. “We actually have moved to a more decentralized process that has given schools the freedom to match their instruction to the needs and strengths of their populations. That’s something I hope we don’t lose.”

Elsewhere last week, voters replaced three of the five members of the school board in Marysville, Wash., the site of a 49-day teachers’ strike this fall.

And in San Francisco, they approved a $295 million facilities bond for repairs and renovations to public schools. The election result was a victory for the city school district, which had been accused of misspending previous bond money.

Related Tags:

Events

School Climate & Safety K-12 Essentials Forum Strengthen Students’ Connections to School
Join this free event to learn how schools are creating the space for students to form strong bonds with each other and trusted adults.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
Future-Proofing Your School's Tech Ecosystem: Strategies for Asset Tracking, Sustainability, and Budget Optimization
Gain actionable insights into effective asset management, budget optimization, and sustainable IT practices.
Content provided by Follett Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Schools Successfully Fighting Chronic Absenteeism Have This in Common
A White House summit homed in on chronic absenteeism and strategies to reduce it.
6 min read
An empty elementary school classroom is seen on Aug. 17, 2021 in the Bronx borough of New York. Nationwide, students have been absent at record rates since schools reopened after COVID-forced closures. More than a quarter of students missed at least 10% of the 2021-22 school year.
An empty elementary school classroom is seen on Aug. 17, 2021 in the Bronx borough of New York. A White House summit on May 15, 2024, brought attention to elevated chronic absenteeism and strategies districts have used to fight it.
Brittainy Newman/AP
School & District Management From Our Research Center Here's What Superintendents Think They Should Be Paid
A new survey asks school district leaders whether they're paid fairly.
3 min read
Illustration of a ladder on a blue background reaching the shape of a puzzle piece peeled back and revealing a Benjamin Franklin bank note behind it.
iStock/Getty
School & District Management Q&A How K-12 Leaders Can Better Manage Divisive Curriculum and Culture War Debates
The leader of an effort to equip K-12 leaders with conflict resolution skills urges relationship-building—and knowing when to disengage.
7 min read
Katy Anthes, Commissioner of Education in Colorado from 2016- 2023, participates in a breakout session during the Education Week Leadership Symposium on May 3, 2024.
Katy Anthes, who served as commissioner of education in Colorado from 2016-2023, participates in a breakout session during the Education Week Leadership Symposium on May 3, 2024. Anthes specializes in helping school district leaders successfully manage politically charged conflicts.
Chris Ferenzi for Education Week
School & District Management Virginia School Board Restores Confederate Names to 2 Schools
The vote reverses a decision made in 2020 as dozens of schools nationwide dropped Confederate figures from their names.
2 min read
A statue of confederate general Stonewall Jackson is removed on July 1, 2020, in Richmond, Va. Shenandoah County, Virginia's school board voted 5-1 early Friday, May 10, 2024, to rename Mountain View High School as Stonewall Jackson High School and Honey Run Elementary as Ashby Lee Elementary four years after the names had been removed.
A statue of confederate general Stonewall Jackson is removed on July 1, 2020, in Richmond, Va. Shenandoah County, Virginia's school board voted 5-1 early Friday, May 10, 2024, to rename Mountain View High School as Stonewall Jackson High School and Honey Run Elementary as Ashby Lee Elementary four years after the names had been removed.
Steve Helber/AP