There has been a lot of talk about accountability. The Superintendent is talking about it. The Chief Academic Officer is talking about it. The School Board is talking about it. The School Board candidates have been talking about it. But who, if anyone, is doing anything about it?
In a recent thread about the NAEP, I noted that the District Policy on testing isn't being followed. Dan noted two other Policies that aren't being followed. On any given day I can probably point out a whole list of Policies that are getting ignored. So where is the accountability?
A number of these policies are derived directly from the State law, so when the Policy isn't followed, a law is getting broken. But where is the accountability?
I believe that most of the people who violate Policy aren't even aware that they are doing it. They simply haven't read the Policy. Do the motivations really matter? If the District staff doesn't comply with a Policy, does it make any difference if their non-compliance is knowing, willful and intentional or if it is done out of ignorance of the Policy, or if it is a simple, innocent oversight? In any case, the Policy wasn't followed.
So what happens then? Typically nothing.
I cannot recall the Board ever publicly telling the Superintendent that one of his decisions is in violation of District Policy and must be rescinded. That's probably for the best since a conversation like that would be more effective in private. A correction of this sort could easily be seen as a rebuke, and there is good reason for the Superintendent and the Board to appear united and in agreement. Just the same, I have scant evidence that such conversations have occurred in private either.
When Mr. Manhas "re-classified" about 900 students from 10th grade to 9th grade without so much as a wave towards the policy on the promotion/non-promotion of high school students, did the Board step in and tell him to rescind the decision? It's hard to tell. Perhaps they did talk to him about it, because he didn't repeat it the following year (or maybe he did and it simply wasn't reported).
Some of the candidates for School Board were been talking about holding the Superintendent accountable. Now they only talk about holding themselves accountable. Perhaps that's because they came to discover that the Board has no means for holding the Superintendent accountable - let alone the other members of the staff.
This, by the way, is quite an intriguing new trend. Everyone is promising to hold themselves accountable. Few are promising to hold someone else accountable, and no one is offering to be held accountable by others.
Usually when a Policy is neglected no one notices. Sometimes the policy violation is noticed and reported, but that's where it ends. You can tell the person who broke the Policy about it. They may be mildly distracted to learn of it, but it is regarded as trivia. They are holding themselves accountable, so they forgive themselves the mistake and then move on without correcting it.
You could report it to Customer Service, but they aren't interested in such complaints and they have no authority to compel corrections. They may not even respond to you.
You could report it to the Board, but they are likely to tell you that they have bigger fish to fry. What else can they do? They don't have the authority to compel corrections either.
So what can you do? If the Policy violation is also a violation of state law, you could try to contact the legal authorities. I've tried it, with no success. The previous Board - through sloppy bookkeeping - broke a state law by overspending the ASB budget one year. According to the law, the Board members could be held personally liable for the overspending, about $100,000. I contacted the state attorney general's office, but they declined to pursue the matter. So did the King County Prosecuter's office. That was pretty much the end of it. These folks weren't interested in enforcing that law.
Last year the District violated another state law regarding school improvement plans. I discovered that the State Board of Education was responsible for enforcing that law. I contacted the person at the state board of education with that job responsibility and she sent Mr. Manhas an email asking him about it. I contacted her again a month later and her response was that Mr. Manhas had yet to reply to her email. That was the limit of their enforcement effort.
The short-lived legal case over the closures taught me that any action of the Board that violates state law can be challenged in Superior Court. Within a specific time limit - I think it's 90 days - any citizen can bring the District to Court in an effort to overturn the vote. This sort of action takes a lawyer, which means money, but it is sure to bring the matter to someone's attention. Trouble is, very few Policy violations include Board votes. Most of them are just decisions by the Superintendent, the CAO, or a manager. Most of the time you can't get anyone to hear you. Most of the time you just get the brush off.
It may be, with the commitment to track and respond to issues raised in public testimony at Board meetings, that you could get some sort of acknowledgement if you could talk about the policy violation in testimony, but that is probably expecting too much from such a flimsy platform.
So what can you do? Just do what you can. The fact that all of your efforts are futile doesn't absolve you of the responsibility to make the effort.