Letter of Resignation
Kathryn S. Deierling
Position 1, Snohomish School District 201

 

 

I address my comments tonight to the students, staff, parents and community members of the Snohomish School District 201. Over the past almost four years I have repeatedly seen issues within our public education system that have brought me to both anger and tears. I have seen suffering by the students and parents of this district that can only be described as unbelievable, and yet........the Board of Directors of this district has moved since the spring of 1998 in a forward direction to resurrect the problems of the past and build a strong new future for our children and our community........until now. We have over the past years brought a runaway budget under control, we have added eleven new classrooms at the high school, we have put forth the necessary funding to begin the restoration of our building and facilities, and we have made marked progress toward bringing our textbooks and curriculum into the twenty-first century. All of this accomplished because of the faith and goodwill of our voting community.

In the past year, I have experience the humility of ostracism by administrators and board members, I have seen the duplicitous actions of our education community leaders in ways that are disingenuous to not only our students and staff, but to the very citizens who are resp9onsible through their representation of the integrity and academic excellence that the Snohomish School District has be acclaimed for.

Without taking the time to delineate the issues, I am herewith requesting that the following documents become part of the permanent record of this school board meeting. These documents include:

1) Neal Powell's letter dated September 24, 2001 to the Certificated Staff Members of thie district relative to the District Offer of 9/23/01 on the SEA contract negotiations. I would like it stated for the record that I have in both executive sessions and an open meeting requested a documented representation of the district's proposals and offers. As of the beginning of the Executive Session tonight I have not received any response to this request, and yet, through the distribution of this memo, which I received via email from a district citizen not employed by the school district, Pr. Powell has judged that the request of a board member for information is not as relatively important as the dissemination of information to the Certificated staff community. I cannot support ht means by which this school board is supporting the negotiations with the SEA of this significantly important contract.

2) Wade Esvelt's letter to the Snohomish School Board dated August 30, 2001 with regard to the lack of academic accreditation of Mr. Powell's doctoral degree, and the substantiation of my comments regarding Mr. Powell's contract compensation increase in excess of 6.5%. Pr. Powell accused me personally of misrepresenting the facts of his contract. I will stand on my comments of that meeting.

And finally,

3) An email from Dr. Patrick Groff, Professor of Education Emeritus at San Diego State University with a Doctorate in Education from the University of California at Berkeley. Dr. Groff had the following comments regarding Mr. Powell's representation of his doctoral degree:

and I quote, "Generally speaking, a person who is not wholly forthcoming as to the quality of his/her education is one that does not possess the ethical qualities demanded by the role of leader of a school district. Honesty in ths respect is a special demand of a person who is placed in charge of molding the values of school children."

In light of the continuation of actions of Mr. Neal Powell and members of this school board, who arre aware of the request for information relative to this contract and other issues, and who by their deference show a lack of respect for this community, and more importantly for the education of our students, I have chosen to submit, through this statement, my formal resignation from Position One of the Snohomish School District 201 Board of Directors.

(Signed)
Kathryn S. Deierling
26 September 2001


#2 - Wade Esvelt's letter

Wade Esvelt

7116 65th Ave. SE

Snohomish, WA 98290


Aug. 30, 2001
 

To: Snohomish School Board Members

The recent issue of "School Views" from the district prompted this letter. In "School Views" Supt. Powell refers to the lack of trust in the district, with the reproach that it "may not be right to withhold trust from a new administration based upon the experiences of the past." The adage "Those who do not learn from the past are destined to repeat it" is very appropriate here. I have seen no change in the practices of the Board in dealings with our new superintendent of the community. The same "rubber-stamp" mentality that proved so damaging in this distict in the past has been displayed by this Board since the first days of this new administration.

Prior to receipt of "School Views, I had obtained a copy of Supt. Powells' June 1, 2001 memo to Kathryn Deierling and the Board (copy attached) ardently defending the Ph.D. he disclosed came from the non-accredited University of Santa Barbara-formerly Lawrence University-which "bestowed" the degree. I readily admit a strong personal bias regarding this issue, as my father spent two full years in graduate school at Washington State University earning his doctorate. Two of my uncles did the same in different academically accredited university, all three serving as superintendents in this state. I saw first-hand what it takes to earn a doctoral degree from an accredited program.

Motivated by that understanding and family pride, I looked into the degree Mr. Powell uses. Supt. Powell's memo states the University of Sant Barbara is approved by the California Dept. of Education to confer degrees. That is absolutely false. The California Dept. fo Education has no connection with the University of Santa Barbara. (Do not confuse the University of Santa Barbara with the University of California at Santa Barbara which is an academically accredited university.) Institution such as the University of Santa Barbara are licensed by the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education (BPPVE). This bureau reports not to the Department of Education, but rather falls under organization to award degrees of offer programs, including cosmetology schools, dog training academies, schools of hypnotism and truck driving schools.

Mr . Powell asserts the University of Santa Barbara was nearing the end of the accreditation process-that they "Lacked only one factor (lack of financial reserve) of being assigned stause by the regional accrediting organization." In California, the accrediting body is the WASC -The Western Association of Schools and Colleges. To confirm Mr. Powell's statement, I called Mrs. Barbara Nagai, a fifteen year staff member and Administrative Assistant to the Executive Director of the WASC. She counted that rather than only being a financial step away from accreditation, the University of Santa Barbara had numerous shortcoming, was therefore denied accreditation and has never attempted to re-apply. Hardly an institution on the brink of valid accreditation.

No, to be a superintendent in the State of Washington, one does not need a degree from an academically accredited institution of higher learning. As Mr. Powell states, the law does not even require a superintendent in Washington to hold a superintendent credential. But as a leader of our school district, should the superintendent not be held to a higher academic standard? In a district in the middle of accrediting teachers, how can our superintendent hold our teachers and achools to a higher standard than he chose to take?

That others in California and this state took a similar fast track to add letters behind their name does not give the degree any greater academic integrity. A degree from an institution that is more expedient does not give it more validity. The fact that our School Board did not bother to investigate and appreciate the differences does not elevate Powell's degree, but only shows this Board continued to neglect their responsibility to personal confirm facts presented by the superintendent.

I believe this lack of Board involvement continues and will jeopardize current negotiations with the Snohomish Education Association. Our teachers are being asked by Supt. Powell and the district to accept only the state dictated cost of living increase. The District contends these are lean times and cannot afford a larger increase. This follows Supt. Powell's vehement assertion at a Board meeting that his re-negotiated contract represents only a 3.7% increase.

Quick calculations show his previous contract was $117,100 for 224 days of work or $522.76 of compensation per day worked. The newly approved contract is $121.433 for 218 days of work or $557.03 per diem-a 6.5% increase. Add to that, three additional days which the district will pay for and 60 days of additional accumulated sick leave from Powell's previous jobs (only 12 or so of Powell's approximate 250 accumulated sick days have been earned at Snohomish.) Suddenly Supt. Powell's public contention that the contract represents an increase of only 3.7% is a very arguable point and sounds a bit empty in light of the minimal "cost of living" increases for out teachers already set in the 2001-2002 budget.

Unfortunately, we don't have the luxury to bury increased in compensation by giving our teachers additional vacation time in lieu of higher salaries-we need them in the classrooms. Our teachers cannot revise their contracts to set themselves up for a higher retirement package (as one educator in this state retorted when shown Supt. Powell's contract revisions.) Once again, the Board seems to be blindly supporting the administration position of "lean times" even though they approved Powell's contract and, I am told, have allowed the number of administrators in the district to clomb t unprecedented levels. Who is running this district?

Supt. Powell's contention in "School Views" that it "May not be right to withhold trust from a new administration based on the experiences of the past" is laughable with the repetition of rubber stamp actions by the current board. In the past, the district went through very difficult times when the Board members did little personal review and blindly accepted the administration's recommendations. This Board continued this same practice and should hardly be surprised by continued lack of trust in their leadership.

Until such a time as they do, or new members are elected who will both devote the time it takes to become personally informed of the issues and have the personal strength to stand up for what they believe, trust will continue to be an issue with the leadership in Snohomish Schools.

Wade Esvelt

Cc: School Board Candidates
Margaret Soth, SEA
High School Accreditation Team c/o Eric Cahan

*************************************************************************

Snohomish School District
Memorandum


Date: June 1, 2001
To: Kathryn Deierling
From: Neal Powell
Re: Doctoral Dissertation

As you requested, I have enclosed a copy of my doctoral dissertation. As I have only bound copies, I asked that this one be Xeroxed for you. Appreciate the assistance of my secretary, Diana, in completing this laborious task.

It may be that you have questions about the doctoral program in which I participated. The following information is respectfully provided for you convenience:

1. The University of Santa Barbara is a private graduate school that is approved by the California State Dept. of Education to confer doctoral degrees. They were nearing the end of the accreditation process when I was a student, and there was every reason to believe that they would achieve accreditation. In actuality, they did not. I was told that this was due to lack of financial reserve rather than the quality of the program.

2. Many principal, superintendents, and county superintendents in California have degrees fro this institution. At the time I received my degree, several principals and superintendents in Washington State also had degrees from USB. My classmates were from all over the United States and Canada, and one traveled from Australia.

3. A large number of my doctoral credits, I believe 24, were taken at the University of Washington, in conjunction with earning my superintendents's certificate. I was involved in the UW doctoral program at that time, but determined that the USB program was a better fit for a busy, practicing principal. I attended two summer schools in Santa Barbara, and took additional courses by independent study.

4. Considering my experience with both schools, UW and USB, some of the very best courses I took were at USB. One visiting professor from New York University had international fame as a member of a task force on international law. My professor in statistics was the author of the statistics textbook most commonly used in graduate level courses in universities throughout the U.S. Most of the professors were retired from the University of California at Santa Barbara.

5. I did my research with the help of a grant from the School Information and Research Service. I later published two articles in the journal "Management Information."

6. I received a written invitation to write an article for a national journal regarding my research; however, a change in schools at that time did not allow me the time to do so.

Ph.D. Memo Page 2

7. I flew to Santa Barbara and orally defended by dissertation before a review committee, as doctoral candidates from all universities do. I later attended a formal graduation.

8. A doctoral degree is not required to serve as a superintendent. In fact, it is not even required by law for a superintendent in Washington to hold a superintendent credential.

9. Upon review of the above inflation and of my dissertation, I think it will be clear to most people that this program is very far from being a "diploma mill." It is a program that I was proud to be a part of and lacked only the one factor of being assigned status by the regional accrediting organization. Had I know that they would not achieve accreditation, I would probably have made other choices, but I can't change that now.

10. I have made no false representation regarding the program, and was forthright in voluntarily disclosing the accreditation issue to the entire Board before I was hired.
 

Pc: Ken Housden
Jay Hagen
Mark Hintz
Dennis Wick

***************************************************************************

10-2-01

Notes regarding Wade Esvelt Letter:

1. At he time I graduated in 1991, the University of Santa Barbara was approved by the California Department of Education. Since that time oversight of private postsecondary institutions was switched to the California Bureau of Post secondary and Vocational Education.

2. I was present as a student at USB when they were undergoing the accreditation process, and was among students who were interviewed. My only knowledge of why they failed to gain accreditation status is what I was told later by the University, which was that the primary issue was lack of financial base strong enough to guarantee longevity.

3. Other than the 3.7% raise and the ability to work and be paid for three additional days, the other changes in my contract this year were designed to bring the language into line with what is commonplace in Washington State. It is a common provision in Superintendent's contracts to be able to work extra days assist with times when it is necessary to work weekends of holidays.

4. It is universal in this State that districts recognize sick leave built up in other districts. All employees transfer their accrued sick leave when they change districts. Why would I lose that benefit by coming to Snohomish when I did not lose it in earlier transfers? RCW 28A.400.300(h)

5. The standard work year is 260 days. This is a sum of work days, holidays, and vacation days.

6. The number of administrators in the District is not at 'unprecedented levels." Our administrative staff is well below the state allocation formula of 1 per 1000 students. This is an allocation formula which many districts struggle to avoid exceeding.


#3 - The Groff email

From: "pgroff"
To: <esvelt>
Sent: Tuesday, September 25, 2001 6:21 PM
Subject: Wade Esvelt's expose of Superintendent Powell

Dear Susan and Wade Esvelt:

Congratulations on you distinguished expose of the shortcomings in the "Ph.D." that Superintendent Neal Powell holds. Generally speaking, a person who is not wholly forthcoming as to the quality of his/her education is one that does not possess the ethical qualities demanded by the role of leader of a school district. Honestly in this respect is a special demand of a person who is placed in charge of molding the values of school children. You may quote me to that effect, or use other of my comments in this e-mail as you see fit.

I found Powell's attempt to defend the quality of his education pathetic, at best. Have you investigated what is the "School Information and Research Service" that financially sponsored Powell's "Ph.D. dissertation"? Does it have an online Web page? The fact, as Powell expresses it, that there are "several principals and superintendents in Washington state" with degrees such as his, should stimulate you to fnd out who they are. This apparent failure of school administrators to be whooly truthful about the quality of their professional education actually may be an out-of-control scandal in your state. If you have allies on your campaign to make Powell be entirely honest about his education, they could help you in this needed survey, which I suspect the state legislature would like to know about.

Finally, I was shocked by the evasiveness of Powell statement that he "made no false representation regarding the program at USB. That sounds a great deal like the statements made by Congress Condit in the scandal in which he is involved.

All the best,

Patrick Groff
Professor of Education Emeritus
San Diego State University

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