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Kate Martin, Roosevelt High School, and "civil leadership"
Posted by Brian M. Rosenthal
On March 10, 2009, Kate Martin went to Roosevelt High School to ask the principal to move her son to a different math class. The ensuing altercation caused Martin to be escorted from the building by police after she became "extremely angry and very rude," according to a report of the incident by a Seattle Public Schools security guard.
Martin is now running for Seattle School Board in District 2 and her incumbent opponent, Sherry Carr, is pointing to the Roosevelt incident as evidence that Martin will be "detrimental to a district in need of collaborative, civil leadership in challenging economic times," according to a statement released by the Carr campaign earlier this month.
But for Martin the incident is an example of the passion and willingness to take action that she feels has been sorely missing from the school board over the past four years.
"Do I regret what happened? Not for a minute," the 53-year-old independent design consultant said. "Sherry's trying to make this into a negative, and it's not."
Martin said that the teacher who had been teaching her son was incompetent.
Melissa Westbrook, a former PTSA president who runs the Save Seattle Schools blog, said her son also had that particular teacher and that she, too, felt he was an ineffective educator.
Martin noted that she succeeded in getting her son transferred to a different class and that his former teacher eventually left the district - something that may not have happened if Martin hadn't staged her protest at Roosevelt.
"I'd do it all again in a minute. I encourage others to do the same," Martin said. "It's the job of the principal to have a competent teacher in every classroom. Parents must demand it."
Some parents are fully in support of Martin's abrasive style at a time when the district is perceived to be in poor shape.
But others have asked whether her tone is wrong for a public board that controls a $500 million budget.
The security report of the Roosevelt incident said Martin proved herself "incapable of handling a situation in a calm and orderly manner." Roosevelt Principal Brian Vance declined to comment.
The Carr campaign news release, which noted the Roosevelt altercation as well as three other incidents - a mix of statements and actions that Carr deemed that were described as "divisive" - concluded that Martin's style is "completely out of line for someone running for our district's school board."
In an interview, Carr sought to downplay the criticisms made in the news release. But she stressed that her experience as a senior manager at Boeing has taught her how to work with people in a constructive manner.
"I have a well-formed opinion about what type of approach is effective and what isn't," she said.
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