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January 25, 2012 at 8:58 PM

Seattle School Board tables proposal on its power

In a sign of division, the Seattle School Board voted 4-3 Wednesday night to postpone consideration of a proposal about its own power.

The vote, the first 4-3 vote on the board in months, followed an unusually long and contentious debate about the proposal, which would have spelled out clear guidelines for appropriate behavior by board members — in essence, directing them to focus on districtwide policy and avoid interfering in day-to-day school operations.

Board President Michael DeBell wrote the proposal after popular Interim Superintendent Susan Enfield announced last month she would not seek the job on a permanent basis. DeBell believes consistent micromanagement by board members drove Enfield away and will hurt the school district’s chance of attracting a quality replacement.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Enfield herself offered support for that perspective.

“It is sorely needed,” she said of the proposal in what may have been the first hint at the reason for her decision.

But despite that, four members led by Board Vice President Kay Smith-Blum successfully argued the proposal deserved discussion at a full board work session.

“I want to make sure we get this right,” she said.

Meanwhile, board member Betty Patu expressed anger at the proposal, which she feels is targeted at her

“If I am being accused of being an advocate for our students, staff and community, then I plead guilty,” she said before arguing the proposal would hinder her ability to respond to her constituents.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the board unanimously approved a plan to deal with serious school overcrowding in West Seattle and other parts of the city. The plan, which has been debated for months but has not significantly changed, would reopen the old Boren High School building (5950 Delridge Way S.W.) as an optional elementary school, add about 30 portables across the city and reduce the zone that is guaranteed admission to popular John Stanford International School.

Overcrowding will continue to be an issue, with enrollment expected to increase by at least another 4,000 students, to 52,750, by 2015. There will not be enough money available in the budget for significant new construction until 2016.

Comments | More in Education | Topics: Betty Patu, board power, Kay Smith-Blum

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