Letters to the Editor

Superintendent Neu, your company is broken | Letters

A lot of press was given to the pay increase that Federal Way Public Schools Superintendent Robert Neu received. It was about a 20 percent increase ($42,000), raising his annual pay to $240,000.

The rationale given for the raise was that it was commensurate with what a CEO would make at an equivalent-sized company. I’m not sure I agree with comparing the Federal Way school district to a public company. Public companies face competition, and if they are inefficient and ineffective, they fail and are replaced by a better company.

Your “company,” Mr. Neu, is essentially a monopoly. Efficiency and effectiveness are not determinate factors in the survivability of the “company.”

But if it were a company, it would probably be a manufacturing company. The process takes approximately 12 years to complete and produces either a student that is ready for the next level of education (community college, university, etc.) or a student that is ready to join the workforce.

Graduation rates are typically used to measure the success (or quality) of the process. The truth is a high school diploma is not 100 percent necessary for either outcome. It is also true that given the number of college students in remedial classes, a high school diploma is not always a good measure of readiness for college.

In either case, it is what the state superintendent (OSPI) uses for rating school districts, and we are well below the state average. In other words, the process being used is broken — or at least not working as well as it should.

Your customers are not happy. The school board meeting on Nov. 12 made that extremely clear. The primary topic for that meeting was the grading system — a tool that is critically necessary for communicating the progress that the student is making along a very long journey. The problems with the latest grading system are too numerous to list here. The grading system used in the prior two years was no better. Your customers have been patient, but three years of a failed grading system has worn them out.

I suspect that the visible problems with the “company” are symptomatic of a much larger problem. The short-term and long-term goals for the district are unclear.

Your customers are well aware of the problems, but the actions by you and the district leadership appear inconsistent with anything that would address the problems. There has been a lot of press regarding overseas trips and the Global Learning Initiative. It would be wonderful for our students to be fluent in multiple languages, learn diplomatic skills and participate in exchange programs.

It would be better if they had mastery of English, mathematics, science and other core competencies expected by employers and colleges. Your customers are unhappy because it is their money that is being spent, and it is their children that are being victimized by a failing “company.”

I recommend that Mr. Neu and the school district leadership get serious about fixing the “company” and stop experimenting on the students. There are lots of districts in this state and the U.S. that are performing considerably better than ours. Create your goals, identify your measures, seek out root causes and find districts to model. Communicate your plan and your progress to your customers, but above all, stop experimenting. When the district is performing at acceptable levels (and your customers will let you know), then we can start looking at Global Learning Initiatives.

Rick Weir, Auburn

 

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