Q&A with Mr. FW: School district better off without Moore, Neu

Mr. Federal Way - File photo
Mr. Federal Way
— image credit: File photo

Q: Mr. Federal Way, Tony Moore and Rob Neu. Thoughts?

A: Last Friday wasn’t a good look for the Federal Way school district. Its two most powerful forces said goodbye. Moore, a school board member and former president, is now a convicted felon and Neu, the district’s superintendent, pulled a Clay Bennett and is taking his “talents” to Oklahoma City.

Moore’s conviction on seven counts of felony theft April 18 in an Oregon courtroom for stealing $150,000 worth of tires is far more embarrassing to the Federal Way school district. It’s pretty obvious that Neu just wanted to get out of Federal Way and has been applying for every superintendent job opening across the United States.

In the end, Moore’s departure to a jail cell in Oregon and Neu to the plains of Oklahoma might be a good thing for Federal Way Public Schools. It will give the beleaguered district a chance for a new direction, some new blood.

Mr. Federal Way just hopes the officials within the district take their time and appoint the right candidates to lead Federal Way schools in the future. Currently, there is a vast disconnect between the district’s parents and students and the administration.

Mr. Federal Way has heard the complaints loud and clear. Let’s hope district officials have also heard the same things.

After Moore was found guilty, he immediately resigned from the school board. He was allowed to return to Federal Way, but will have to return to Oregon on July 9 for sentencing.

Moore said he is going to “learn from this and I’m going to move forward. My mom and dad raised a man and I’m going to stand up and be a man.”

What’s even more disturbing is that Moore had a chance to “plea” to a lesser charge and could have spent just 90 days in jail. But his ego got in the way, leading to the possibility of Moore spending up to 10 years in prison. Quite a difference.

“But it’s not about all of this; it’s about the kids. It’s always been about the kids,” Moore said after the guilty verdict was read. “It kind of breaks my heart because that’s what I love to do.”

What will Neu’s legacy be in Federal Way? That’s a tough one for Mr. Federal Way to answer because the more Mr. Federal Way thinks about it, the more that legacy suffers.

Looking back, it seems like Neu used his position with the Federal Way school district as a stepping stone. He used his relatively short time in charge to add a few paragraphs to his résumé with the goal of being an educational innovator, while experimenting with the students he was serving.

It just didn’t work out here in Federal Way. However, those bullet-point items that can now be listed on his résumé did help him land the gig as the head of Oklahoma’s biggest school district.

In short, Neu pulled off a Bennett, the billionaire who bought the Seattle SuperSonics with the sole intent of moving them to Oklahoma City. The pair both used the people of the Pacific Northwest as pawns in their own “Game of Thrones.”

Three main issues have clouded Neu’s “memorable” four years at the helm of the Federal Way schools:  the standards-based grading fiasco, spending six-figures to travel the world in the name of education and the $42,000-a-year raise he took last summer.

The standards-based grading system might be the biggest swing-and-miss for Neu. The initial motivation was improving the district’s graduation rates, and making sure that Federal Way students are truly prepared for the next level in their academic career.

The end result, however, was an ultra-confusing situation for students, parents and teachers. The grading policy, which had to be changed in December because of a massive amount of backlash, punished the kids who worked hard to achieve good grades in order for the lazier kids to push up Federal Way’s graduation rate.

Neu’s Global Learning Initiative racked up nearly $100,000 in total costs during 2013 alone. During that time, Neu and other board members, including Moore, took trips to China and other parts of Asia, along with a $60,000 trip to Europe.

The goal of the Global Learning Initiative was to make sure students are internationally minded, with the skill sets to ensure success in the new global economy.

“The objectives of the initiative are first and foremost to learn from our international educators,” Neu said in October. “We have got to do better, in Federal Way, in Washington state, in the United States. Why not learn from those around the globe? I would love to see every student in Federal Way have the opportunity to study abroad, I would love to see every staff member in Federal Way have the opportunity to teach and learn and share with their partners around the world.”

Talk about pie-in-the-sky thinking. Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to experience the world? That’s like asking my kids if they would rather have ice cream or broccoli for a snack.

Doesn’t it make more sense to give “our” students here in Federal Way the proper tools to learn before looking globally? Mr. Federal Way doesn’t pull Mr. Federal Way’s neighbor’s weeds, while Mr. Federal Way’s flower beds are filled with dandelions.

The salary issue is also a perplexing one. According to the Oklahoma City Public Schools, Neu will make the exact same salary of $240,000 that he makes in Federal Way. The board awarded Neu a $42,000 raise last summer, which made him the second-highest paid superintendents in the state, behind only Seattle.

So, with everything being even, why would Neu want to uproot his family for the second time in four years and move to Oklahoma? Are the prices of stuff that different from Federal Way and Oklahoma City?

It makes Mr. Federal Way really question if Neu just wanted out of Federal Way. As a progressive superintendent, Mr. Federal Way would assume that the goal would be to finish what you started.

Why not see things through?

It doesn’t make sense to Mr. Federal Way. But, it’s probably for the best. Mr. Federal Way wants somebody in Federal Way who wants to be in Federal Way. Not somebody looking to add bullet-points to their résumé, looking for the next big thing.

Q: Mr. Federal Way, what is your favorite restaurant in Federal Way?

A: None of your business.

Got a question for Mr. Federal Way? Email mrfederalway@federalwaymirror.com

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