Mar 13, 2008

comparison of coverage: 5/17 vs. The Daily O.

This morning's Olympian has a report on last night's OSD applicant forum titled "Candidates offer philosophies." Compare my liveblog and recap. Read each before you consider my critique, and note that this isn't (just) a chance to trumpet New Media values, but a kindly suggestion to the paper of Olympia's record to deepen and expand its education coverage.

Let's look at the pluses and minuses to see why and how.

Minus: If you're scanning the headlines, expect confusion. Candidates? For what? This isn't an election. The Board will choose one of the three applicants by majority vote of its four members, or, failing that, the ESD will handpick one. Though their educational philosophies were asked for and presented, the article itself doesn't list them.

Plus: My question about extracurricular activities makes the cut. Obviously, the writer and editor have good taste in interrogation tactics.

Plus: The article's summary of the backstory is concise. However, this also becomes a...

Minus: Lots is missing. No word from the article, for example, that the process could potentially fail, and the ESD would have to step in

Minus: There's no other analysis. Are the candidates substantively different? There's no mention of Tsou's "data driven" style, or her call for diversity, or unguarded moments. There's no discussion of the lone applause line (which John Keeffe delivered). There's no link to Parker's fundraising mustache, obvious and credible evidence of his community activism.

Most important, there's not mention of the tiny turnout.

I think most of the minuses can be explained by the demands of newsprint. When you have a set column space to work with, you have to skim and selectively quote, get the gist and move on, quickly. And, to be fair, the paper covers a wide range of issues for three major districts. Lord knows we can't get perfect depth on every single one.

Maybe it's time to really make something of the new medium, Olympian. You have a blog: now start linking to local bloggers. Teachers with no real free time Livebloggers are bruising their metacarpals filling in the gaps. For free. Take advantage.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your live blog during the OSD applicant community forum. I sat in the row in front of you and wondered what you were doing :).

For the record, only two district staff members (Joni Wolpert and Debbi Hardy) clapped during John Keefe's statement and if I recall correctly, John didn't state any behavior he would exhibit that the other candidates didn't state that should have prompted the applause. He might have tied it to the strategic plan but that was the only difference.

I attend most of the board meetings and I thought the turnout at the forum was great. Normally, there are only a few district staff in the audience with a few parents scattered about (usually 2-5).

If the district wanted more people to attend, they would have sent information home with the students or put information on school reader boards or left an automated voice mail message. That's one thing this district is not very good at--communicating with the community and parents. In my opinion, they much prefer to have as few people in the audience as possible. There were only six people in the audience during the board's question and answer session the week before. One of them was the Olympian reporter and I believe the rest, except me, were OSD staff.

The district is facing over $2 million in budget cuts (that's the last number that was given during a board meeting). Do you find it odd that the district isn't doing anything proactive regarding this? At their last board meeting they had a curricula adoption on the consent agenda--the total cost was between $66,000 and $86,000.

Did any of the board members ask if this could wait until the new levy funds roll in next year? No. Did they ask how many students the 70 items (plus one building site license) would benefit? No. Did they ask if staff was just trying to spend down their budget before the end of the year? No.

I sure hope they pick a board candidate who will ask questions and not just sit there silently as the district sinks more and more into a budget black hole. If they just looked closely at similar expenditures, maybe they could wait on $2 million in purchases until next year and when the extra $5 million in levy money comes in, they could buy those items then.

Then . . . there would be nothing to cut in the next few months.