He’s the least egotistical Seattle Schools superintendent in recent memory. At least according to a former Seattle School Board member who attended Crosscut’s December 18 editorial lunch with Jose Banda.
Banda said all the right things during his hour-long discussion with Crosscut writers and editors, and even added spice to the lunchtime conversation with a few unscripted surprises.
But does the affable Banda’s ability to sidestep landmines mean that, instead of being mired in politics, he will be able to focus on the considerable work at hand or will it make him merely a “warm-up act” for a more dynamic leader?
Here's where he stands on a variety of education issues:
Student achievement: Banda wants to look at a variety of metrics and make data easily accessible to teachers, principals and parents. Future metrics for analyzing this data are currently being developed. He wants to continue the focus on providing strong interventions for struggling students, focusing on multi-tiered systems of support. Fashioning the right level of targeted support will be the cornerstone of his student achievement plan, he said.
Longer school days: In response to a teacher’s question about how SPS can guarantee extra instructional time for students who are not making adequate progress, Banda said he would not rule out a longer school day. He said he is prepared to discuss this during upcoming teacher contract negotiations, though in the end, the decision will boil down to money.
Strategic Plan: As he said in his recent State of the District address, many of the goals of the district’s current five-year plan have not been met, though after four years some schools have shown tremendous gains. Banda reported that Seattle Public Schools is developing a “refreshed” plan, with the help of an outside consulting firm, that should be completed by the end of May, for School Board approval in June.
Key components of the plan are likely to be a stronger emphasis on standards-based instruction and “explicit direct instruction,” a collection of collaborative instructional practices that enable teachers to consistently design and deliver well-crafted lesson plans.
Preparing for the statewide implementation of the Common Core Standards, which is expected to conclude in 2014/2015, is a key mandate for Banda. So far, most of the training has focused on principals, though Banda acknowledged the need to focus training efforts on teachers. “Once we do that,” he said, “it will create a level of excitement.”
Managing Seattle’s culture: “My strength is building relationships and creating teams,” Banda said, in a rare show of self-esteem. “I always say the district has a lot of work to do, but we can’t work alone. We need partners, including parents and the community.” Banda also reported that he recently attended a Seattle School Board retreat, in which he and the Board developed standard practices for effectively working together.
Seattle is pleased to be part of the consortium of schools awarded Race to the Top funds, as part of the Road Map Project. “We have the reputation of going it alone,” Banda said in reference to this achievement. “My style is collaborative.”
Banda says he has a plan for coordinating use of the Race to the Top funds among all Seattle schools, not just those in the South End.
Teacher Quality and Retention: Banda says he has elevated the issues of equity and race and created a plan to strengthen efforts to create a diverse teaching force. He cited the new Seattle Teacher Residency program (a collaboration with the Seattle Education Association, the Alliance for Education and the University of Washington College of Education) and a SPS collaboration with the Martinez Foundation, as instrumental to improving teacher quality and diversity.
Downtown School: “A downtown school is a great idea, but we can’t fully fund it ourselves,” Banda said. “We have a lot of priorities, especially providing a sound, safe environment for all of our students.” He suggested one favorable outcome might be to have a developer donate a few floors of a high-rise as the location for a downtown school in exchange for a tax credit.
Like what you just read? Support high quality local journalism. Become a member of Crosscut today!