Schools superintendent finalist says she relies on research for tough decisions
Maria Goodloe-Johnson, the second of two superintendent finalists in town to speak with Seattle school officials and community leaders...
Seattle Times education reporter
The Seattle Public Schools channel will rebroadcast community forums with Seattle Schools superintendent finalists Maria Goodloe-Johnson and Gregory Thornton. Program times are 7 tonight, 10 a.m. and
3 p.m. Sunday, and
8 p.m. Monday on Cable
Maria Goodloe-Johnson, the second of two superintendent finalists in town to speak with Seattle school officials and community leaders, told an invitation-only forum on Friday that she didn't consider herself a cheerleader for education.
Instead, the current superintendent of the Charleston County School District in South Carolina emphasized her reliance on data, research and communication to make decisions that may not always please parents and teachers.
Goodloe-Johnson repeated at a news conference and a televised forum that she was recruited to apply for the Seattle job, calling it a "great opportunity" and citing Seattle's recent academic progress and financial stability.
Like Gregory Thornton, chief academic officer for the Philadelphia School District who is also seeking the superintendent position, Goodloe-Johnson said she would seek to install a districtwide core curriculum. In Seattle, schools can set their own courses.
Speaking about Seattle's recent experience of closing seven school buildings, Goodloe-Johnson said the city's preference for small schools is financially untenable.
"When I looked at Seattle, I was surprised at the number of schools. If we were in business, we'd be bankrupt. When you have schools with very, very small enrollments, you still have to pay the light bills, water bills and hire teachers."
If named to replace outgoing Superintendent Raj Manhas, Goodloe-Johnson would oversee Seattle's chief academic officer, Carla Santorno, who was Goodloe-Johnson's boss in the Boulder, Colo., school district 17 years ago.
Describing her approach to closing the achievement gap between African-American students and other groups, Goodloe-Johnson outlined a comprehensive strategy that included 15 extra hours of tutoring per student each week, Saturday classes and summer school. After touring Seattle schools, Goodloe-Johnson said she disagreed with separating special-education kids, instead preferring to mix students with different abilities.
The Seattle Public Schools channel will rebroadcast community forums with Seattle Schools superintendent finalists Maria Goodloe-Johnson and Gregory Thornton. Program times are 7 tonight, 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Sunday, and 8 p.m. Monday on Cable Channel 26.
Last week, South Carolina cited 21 of 80 schools in her district for narrowing scores between white and black students, but labeled 19 schools as failing, a number that sharply increased during her tenure.
Discussing her leadership approach, Goodloe-Johnson said a superintendent must share information with the elected board and follow its policy and budget decisions.
"We have to work collaboratively as a team," she said.
Goodloe-Johnson, 49, accompanied board President Cheryl Chow to the same schools visited by Thornton on Thursday.
Like Thornton, she answered several community and media questions about race in schools.
In official statements, the district seeks to dismantle "institutional racism" in education. An African-American school principal recently told a community meeting that white people in and around Madrona K-8 made her uncomfortable.
During a press conference, Goodloe-Johnson was asked how she would respond to a parent who said the district is institutionally racist and a principal who said white people make her nervous.
She said: "You need to have conversations about that because people's perceptions and what they say are real to them. My job is to find out why they feel that way and ... work to correct the issue if there is an issue. But you cannot take away how people feel."
Asked whether she would fire the principal, Goodloe-Johnson replied, "I think that would be very unfair to automatically fire someone without having a conversation about why they would say that. Now, I would be a little worried if someone said African-American people make me nervous. I'd say, now tell me about that ... . I think you need to understand the reason. Maybe it's not the right job, maybe it's not the right fit. You can't be a leader and have some groups of people make you nervous."
Lisa Macfarlane of the League of Education Voters said it was now up to board members traveling to Charleston and Philadelphia to investigate the finalists' backgrounds.
"These are two very strong candidates," she said.
Alex Fryer: 206-464-8124 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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