McGinn’s advice to Seattle Schools

Mar 7, 2011, 12:09 PM | Updated: Mar 28, 2011, 3:46 pm

The Seattle School Board last week fired Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson after it was discovered that an employee misused $1.8 million in school funds. Mayor Mike McGinn is now offering free advice to the school district which he says, “We have some good principals and teachers in our schools, but mismanagement makes their job more difficult.”

His top suggestions, in an opinion piece for The Seattle Times today, are:

As we prepare new investments to help our students, the public deserves to see fundamental changes in the operation of the Seattle Public Schools.

• Hire a financial expert to get the house in order. Susan Enfield is a great educator. But she is not a budget expert. Neither am I. When I took office last year, I brought in Beth Goldberg to head the City Budget Office. I asked her to find efficiencies and establish a sustainable path for city spending. She did that, and it is my job as mayor to make sure her plan gets implemented. Enfield and the school board need to bring in an outside financial expert with authority to fix the schools’ budget — and commit to getting it done.

• Develop a culture of accountability. I find it very disturbing that school employees were discouraged and intimidated from speaking up about the fraud and waste they witnessed. It is part of a pattern of behavior that has existed in our schools for years, and it needs to end now. The school board and the new superintendent need to establish a culture of accountability — with employees encouraged to speak openly about how money is spent, and with everyone working hard to identify problems before they become a crisis.

• Accept outside help. The district can’t solve this long-term problem on its own. My administration stands prepared to partner with the district and help it fix these problems. City government can provide staff, management and fiscal expertise to the district. But we will do so only if the district is serious about change.

Former Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson has not commented since the board voted unanimously to get rid of her, along with Chief Financial and Operations Officer Don Kennedy.

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McGinn’s advice to Seattle Schools