New ballots counted today went 3.77% in my favor, increasing my margin to 485 votes and a cumulative margin 1.84% in my favor. With later ballots trending more strongly toward me, the math has become inescapable, so I’m declaring victory!
I could not have won this election without tremendous support from many old friends and many new friends I’ve made throughout the campaign. I know that you have supported me because you care deeply about our students, and I am truly gratified at the trust you have placed in me. I am going to depend on you to hold me and the rest of the board accountable for honoring that trust.
Over the next few weeks I will be scheduling school visits to meet with parents, teachers, and administrators and hear your perspectives on the state of our district. For those of you I haven’t met yet, I look forward to meeting you at one of those visits.
I can’t wait to be sworn in on December 13 and begin working to bring more openness, accountability, and community engagement to the Bellevue School District!
New Times Call for New Leadership
Join Me In Making Our School District Even Better
The Only Candidate Endorsed by the Bellevue Education Association: “Steve McConnell is the candidate who will increase the effectiveness of the school board and BSD leadership. He is an independent/ critical thinker, and is clearly outcomes-focused. As a software executive and business owner, Steve has gained experience in strategic thinking and the ability to focus on the comprehensive needs of the entire organization.”
Dear Bellevue Voters,
My wife, Ashlie, and I are the proud parents of a 9th grade daughter, Haley, and a 6th grade son, Parker, both in public schools. I’m a 25-year Bellevue resident, 15-year Bellevue business owner, author of Code Complete, and employer. I’m running for school board because Bellevue schools are good, but I think we have both the opportunity and the obligation to make them much better.
You might have heard that our schools are the best in the state. Indeed, our high schools have achieved exceptionally high college prep rankings in U.S. News and Newsweek. Despite these accomplishments, many people are not aware of how much our district has fallen behind the past few years as a whole. Consider these facts:
- Bellevue now has the lowest on-time graduation rate of any Eastside school district.1 10% of Bellevue students do not graduate at all. 2
- By the time students reach 10th grade, Bellevue now has the lowest reading scores and the lowest writing scores of any Eastside school district. 3
- According to the federal government, the Bellevue district has failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for the past five years. 4 Two years ago, 10 of our schools failed to make AYP. Last year, 17 did. The trend is not going in the right direction. Our AYP score has dropped from 100% in 2006 to 81.7% in 2011, meaning Bellevue now has the worst AYP percentage of any district on the Eastside.5
- Bellevue has the highest per-student expenditure of any Eastside district, spending $1000 more per year per student than Issaquah does. 6
Acutely aware of these issues, in September Bellevue teachers voted 97% no confidence in our district superintendent.7 The current school board members dismissed that message, said they were “disappointed” in the teachers, and expressed “strong support” and “confidence” in the superintendent.8
Changing times call for a leader who is willing to face problems directly, without rationalizations or excuses. My goal is to make Bellevue a strong, visionary district again through a program of accountability, openness, and community engagement. Here are the key issues I see in this year’s school board election.
Accountability. We spend almost $200 million per year on Bellevue’s public schools, and that calls for a high level of accountability. Accountability should be based on outcomes, which means we must be clear about what outcomes we want, i.e., goals. Our district does not currently express its goals clearly enough to be held accountable to them. Districts ranging from South Kitsap to Lake Washington and Issaquah have stated their goals this clearly. Bellevue is behind in this area and needs to catch up.
Our district should be accountable for the number of students who go to college, enroll in trade school, or enter the work force. It should also be accountable for financial performance, parent satisfaction, teacher satisfaction, and student safety. It should be accountable for meeting the needs of low income students, ESL students, and special ed students. The Bellevue district has room for improvement in each of these areas.
Openness. Fifteen years of running a successful company have taught me that to have true accountability, you must also have openness (also known as transparency). Performance numbers, including student outcomes and financial performance, must be made public, or accountability is too easy to avoid.
Our district can raise its level of openness in ways ranging from publishing an annual report (as Vancouver does) to publishing a clear district scorecard (as Issaquah does) to providing online video of school board meetings (as Lake Washington does) to ensuring all school board members understand Washington’s Open Public Meetings Act (as Naselle-Grays River Valley does) to publicizing the superintendent’s evaluation criteria (as South Kitsap does).
Our district should be surveying parent and teacher satisfaction annually, and it should make the survey results public. Teachers should have a “skip level” forum for communicating issues with school board members without their principal or superintendent present. These ideas are Management 101, yet our district is not doing them.
Community Engagement. Bellevue has changed significantly during the 25 years I have lived here. We have become one of the most diverse communities in Western Washington, and the school board needs to catch up.
About 30% of families in our district choose private school for their students. Parents of special ed students, gifted students, and students in the middle have all told me that they feel like the school district is focusing on other students, but not on the needs of their specific students. Our district needs to work in such a way that all parents can be confident that their students’ needs are being addressed.
Why Voting for me Means a Better School Board and Better Schools
Before I decided to run for school board, I read the meeting minutes of every school board meeting for the previous year. I wanted to see whether the issues I cared about were already being addressed or whether there really was a good reason to run. Here’s what I found.
In the year before I decided to run for school board, the school board meeting minutes do not describe even one discussion about overall district-level performance. In addition, there were no discussions about district-level special ed performance–despite the fact that we have 2,000 special ed students and our schools had failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in special education the year before. No school board member proposed publishing a scorecard or annual report or emphasized accountability in any other way.
Similarly, there were no discussions about openness or transparency. No school board member held a town hall meeting. No school board member wrote a blog entry. No school board member maintained a website or a facebook page to communicate with parents and the public about school issues.
There was exactly one discussion in the school board meeting minutes about increasing community engagement; that discussion focused on whether more people would attend school board meetings if the meetings started at 7:00 pm instead of 4:30 pm. There were no discussions of town hall meetings, coffee meetings, focus groups, satisfaction surveys, blogs, facebook, twitter, or any other means of engaging the community.
Reading a year’s worth of meeting minutes left me more concerned than I had been at the start, and I concluded that it was important for me to offer to contribute to the school board. Our school board members have many strengths, but the board needs experienced, passionate leadership in the areas of accountability, openness, and active community engagement.
I am deeply committed to public schools and to educational excellence. You will not find any other school board candidate–past, present, or future–as passionate about ensuring “educational excellence” is measured and reported in meaningful ways, about holding the district accountable for student results, and about seeing that results are communicated to the public without bias or spin.
I ask you for your vote and your support so that I can work to implement these changes, bringing our district to world-class status for all students. Please be sure to return your ballot by November 8!
P.S. Because I believe strongly in accountability, you can see all my campaign promises on the Promises page on this website.
“An award-winning author and successful business leader, Steve has become an influential figure in the nation’s advanced education landscape, where his ideas and opinions are constantly cited in formal academic circles at the undergraduate and graduate levels. If Steve’s influence in advanced academic circles is indicative of his effectiveness at the local school board level, I am confident that he will make his mark as well.”
– Dr. J. Fernando Naveda, Professor of Software Engineering, Rochester Institute of Technology