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The Magendanz Family Blog

The Magendanz Family Blog


August 13
Regional Labor Market Adjustments

On Monday I provided public testimony to the Quality Education Council regarding the recommendations of the Compensation Technical Working Group.  Here's a copy of that testimony:


Madam Chair & Members of the Committee:


Thanks for the opportunity to provide public comment today.  My name is Chad Magendanz, and I’m president of the Issaquah School Board and member of the legislative committees for both the state and national school board associations.  I represent about 18,000 students and 60,000 registered voters who have some of the highest rents and home mortgages in the state, and the cost of living is so high that many of our youngest teachers can’t afford to live in district.  Consequently, I’m here today to testify in support of including regional labor market adjustments in any future compensation plan.


The Compensation Technical work group was tasked to develop an enhanced, collaboratively designed salary allocation model.  Among its key statutory directives was to account for regions of the state where it may be difficult to recruit and retain teachers because of higher prevailing wages, but their final recommendations did not include any regional labor market adjustments.  Specifically, we believe that the compromise “salary cap” of 10% of the state allocation drawn from local levies doesn’t meet the intent of this directive, and the suggestion in their report that compensating for regional labor market differences falls under “local non-basic education needs” is misguided.  The ability to offer competitive wages for any employees funded under the Basic Education Funding Formula should be considered basic education.


Under current Washington state policy, salaries for teachers of the same education and experience are effectively the same across almost all Washington school districts. Unless one believes that the cost of living and locational amenities are also identical across all districts, this type of uniform wage policy is sure to lead to teacher shortages in some regions, with districts in higher cost and/or less attractive locations generally likely to suffer higher attrition and greater difficulty in recruiting.


We were very impressed with the quality of Dr. Taylor’s work cited in the working group report, and suggest her research deserves more careful consideration.  The comparable wage index (CWI) from the National Center for Education Statistics divides Washington into 16 areas and considers not only cost of living but also local amenities that make living in a region more or less desirable.  The data suggests a substantial amount of variation in wage costs within the state.  Specifically, districts in the Richland-Kennewick-Pasco and Seattle-Bellevue-Everett metropolitan areas are at a particular disadvantage. In some districts, particularly in the Yakima and Spokane areas, wage costs as a whole are relatively low but teachers with math and science skills may be substantially underpaid.


As a result, the Basic Education Finance Task Force (BEFTF), which authored the original language that became ESHB 2261, recommended that any new compensation system include a “mechanism for adjusting salaries based on regional labor markets, so that salaries are competitive with similar jobs in similar locations.”  Their sample salary schedule even included a column titled, “Regional Wage Adjustment”.


The proposed 10% “salary cap” compromise is just a variation on the current TRI compensation model with levy lids, which was found inequitable by the BEFTF:


“TRI compensation is inequitable. Equally well‐qualified teachers performing the same duties in different districts are paid different salaries with no justification other than the arbitrary availability of inequitable and historically unstable local levies. TRI pay promotes the inequitable distribution of qualified staff and educational opportunities.


The statutory prohibition on the use of TRI compensation for basic education purposes is disingenuous; TRI pay is frequently used to increase teacher base salaries without regard to additional time, responsibilities, or performance attributable to financial incentives. It must be repealed.”


In short, regions with higher cost of living are already paying higher state taxes, and they shouldn’t be required to pass additional local levies in order to offer competitive wages for their teachers.


Thanks for your consideration.

January 05
Press Announcement
Campaign Banner
Today I held a press event announcing my 2012 bid for State Representative in the newly reshaped 5th Legislative District, a seat that Rep. Glenn Anderson announced last week that he will be vacating to run for Lt. Governor. More details on my campaign are available on my website ( and there are some excellent write-ups in the local papers.
I want to personally thank all the folks who took time from their busy work day to attend this event and cheer me on. It's a big step, and I'm grateful for all the support I'm receiving from friends and family.
November 01
Working for Microsoft Robotics Team
Reference Platform
If you can believe it, Microsoft is now paying me to play with robots.  Yes, robots!  My kids think this is the coolest job ever, and I simply point out that there's no limits to what you can do with a great education.  For more information, click here.
October 11
Defending Education Reform

So the state teachers unions have recently been stepping up their attacks on education reform organizations such as Stand for Children, the League of Education Voters, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and now even the Washington State PTA.  They've been criticizing these organizations for their advocacy on behalf of charter schools, meaningful teacher evaluations, and performance-based layoffs and incentives.  Considering the fact that these issues have widespread public support and are already important criteria for states to qualify for federal grant programs, it's hard to imagine that they chose this battleground for the hearts and minds of Washington state voters...but then I would never be one to underestimate a lobbying organization that collects $30M each year in compulsory dues.


Personally, I've found Stand for Children to be a completely grassroots organization, attracting education leaders from the community and soliciting legislative positions entirely from its membership. They never encouraged me to run for the school board, but it’s through organizations like Stand and LEV that involved parents like Alison Meryweather and I learned of many opportunities to get more involved. I’m not surprised that key activists from LEV and Stand are finding themselves in more positions of influence armed with the knowledge they need to make a difference, and that’s a great thing for the kids of Washington state.


As for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, I have the greatest respect for their unique approach to targeted philanthropy.  Coming from the business world, they have a keen sensitivity to return on investment and very thoughtfully and deliberately invest where they can have the greatest long-term positive impact.  At Microsoft I've worked personally with both Bill and Melinda, as well as with their current CEO, Jeff Raikes.  These are incredibly smart people who've learned to surround themselves with more tireless overachievers armed with the best data and technology available.  When they recommend investing in a creative new approach to education, I listen.


What I find frustrating is that the defenders of the status quo have learned to make broad accusations only in forums where theirs is the only voice. Last month over 1000 teachers in our district received a direct mail that told just one side of the story, but where's their opportunity to hear any other perspective? They made similar accusations in June during public input at a school board meeting, knowing that I wouldn't have the opportunity to respond except in this blog. What we need here is an honest public debate on the issues so that teachers and the community hear all points of view and can seek out the common ground that will best benefit our future generations.

September 30
Who is this guy?
Quinn (09-11) Football
So my oldest son Quinn just started high school this month, and it's probably worth taking a minute to appreciate how far he's come.  I still remember Quinn as the wailing wrinkled bundle that was placed in my arms only moments after birth, but at 14 years old he's now 6' 1" and 165 lbs.  I can look him square in the eye, and sometimes it's a little unsettling.
In football he's playing offense, defense and special teams, so he practically never leaves the field.  In soccer he's a Division 1 Premier League goalkeeper and past member of both Olympic and Elite Development Programs.  Last year he finished his second season in a row undefeated on the varsity wrestling team.  Finally, this fall he joined the NJROTC program and was selected honor cadet and won the Ironman competition during Basic Leadership Training.
Academically, he was one of only two boys in his Jr. Honor Society class to maintain a 4.0 GPA throughout middle school and max out on community service hours.
I know that raising teenagers can be challenging, and not a day goes by that we don't harp on him for some behavior that we find unacceptable.  Stepping back, though, I have to admit that he's off to a good start.
June 28
Ross Hunter on Education Funding

Here’s a new blog entry from Rep. Ross Hunter that caught my eye this morning:


Note that he give a polite nod to David Iseminger’s plan, which I find encouraging.  David and I met with Ross and Marcie Maxwell early in the session, discussing how we might find a stable funding source for ESHB 2661.  I think when David first released his plan in 2009 that everyone expected it to be the first of many that would be proposed to address this chronic problem, but except for I-1098 nothing of substance ever followed.


Ross seems committed at this point to fixing this problem, drawing the best elements from David’s plan and likely culminating in a 2012 ballot initiative.  As chair of the House Ways and Means, he seems in a unique position to make this happen, and I’m cautiously optimistic.

June 09
Charter Schools

After helping the Issaquah PTSA Council with language in their proposed state PTA legislative position on charter schools, I agreed to have my name listed as a contributor.  Unfortunately, this caught the attention of the local teachers union and their president brought it up during public input at Wednesday’s school board meeting.  Personally, I’m more than willing to publicly debate the merits of charter schools with anyone, but there just wasn’t the opportunity at the meeting.  So, I’d like to put my position on record here.


The position in question that will be considered during Washington State PTA Legislative Assembly on Oct. 14-15 is as follows:


The Washington State PTA shall initiate and/or support legislation or policies that drive innovation and accountability in public education by allowing the operation of public charter schools in the state of Washington.


Later, when asked by the WSSDA Legislative Committee to prepare a similar position for consideration in their Legislative Assembly on Sept. 23-24, I refined that to…


The WSSDA shall initiate and/or support legislation that drives innovation in public education by allowing the operation of public charter schools under the oversight of locally elected school boards.  While granted greater autonomy to pilot unconventional new methods, these schools are still accountable for showing measureable improvements in student achievement and must be established without religious affiliation, selective admissions practice, or tuition.


In short, I believe that charter schools…

  • must pilot unconventional methods to engage kids that would otherwise be struggling in traditional classroom settings,
  • should be subject to direct community oversight, just like all other public schools, and
  • are held accountable for measureable improvements in student achievement over conventional schools.

Ironically, this position maps very closely to the NEA’s public policy on charter schools.


To be completely frank, I have some concerns that charters have been oversold.  Their biggest advantage in my opinion is that they allow innovative approaches that have been prohibited in public schools due to proscriptive government mandates or restrictive collective bargaining agreements.  The danger is that we don’t hold them to the same accountability standards as every other school.  As with start-ups, many innovative new ideas fail, and we still have to hold our charters accountable for success, factoring out the fact that they reap the benefits of having a demographic that’s already genuinely interested and engaged in the success of their schools because they chose to go there.


The simple reason that charters are necessary is because it's untenable to experiment with the general student population.  If there’s a promising but unproven new approach to instruction, charters provide a means for parents to choose to participate in the experiment.  After these pioneers blaze the trails and have gathered the necessary data to substantiate their claims, others can safely follow.  Maybe it’s the Microsoft in me, but I happen to believe that there’s far too much blood on the bleeding edge.  I prefer to be a fast follower, but I recognize that we need an accepted mechanism for early adopters to pioneer new techniques.  Charter schools are really the clinical trials of education, necessary and occasionally showing great promise, but not also without substantial risk.


The other truth that I discovered during the WSSDA Legislative Committee debate is that there’s very little that districts could do under a new charter school law that can’t be already done as an innovative school.  In fact, many districts throughout the state have outstanding new alternative programs being implemented as innovative schools, and the opportunities have only increased with passage of E2SHB 1546 this past legislative session.  If districts want to innovate in the classroom, there’s no need to wait for passage of a charter school bill.  They should get started right now.


Update (10-15-11): The Washington State PTA Legislative Assembly voted to adopt our proposed position on public charter schools this weekend with no amendments.

April 27
Are these the right 51 teachers?

Tonight I had to sign a piece of paper telling 51 teachers in the Issaquah School District that they weren’t welcome back next year.


Setting aside the economic conditions and budget cuts that have forced school districts to make difficult decisions like this, I find that my community and my own thoughts are preoccupied with one question:  Are these the right 51 teachers?


We currently have about 20-30 teachers that received an “unsatisfactory” on their summative evaluations, requiring they be placed on a Plan of Improvement.  It seems obvious that if we’re forced to lay off teachers that these should be the first to be let go, but the unions won’t let us do that.  And while I understand that they want to treat every member equally, the truth is that teachers aren’t unskilled labor.  They’re not a commodity, where one is as good as any other.  Putting a highly effective teacher in the classroom is the best thing we can do to improve student achievement, and I want to tell every parent that we’re doing everything in our power to keep those teachers with their kids.  If the unions won’t advocate for those highly effective teachers, we must.


While you might not like how he did it, Senator Tom amended HB 1443 in the Senate to put an end to RIFs based only on seniority.  He also added language to improve access to online learning and allow principals in turnaround schools more control over the teachers they hire.  Along with the original QEC recommendations, this bill now contains some of the best language we’ve seen for kids…and with minimal budget impact.


I encourage support for ESSHB 1443 on the House floor during the special session.  When this bill is enacted, just think of how many effective or highly effective teachers could we save.  Tonight I can think of about 51.

March 27
"Flipping" math with the Zhan Academy

I’m sure many of you are already familiar with the Zhan Academy, but this pilot with the Los Altos School District looks like an amazing switch on how to teach math.  Instead of doing lectures in class and sending practice assignments home, they assign the video lecture and use classroom time to work through the problems.


The tools for teachers, coaches and parents for tracking their progress are also quite nice.


Are any districts in Washington considering a pilot like this?

March 06
Working on Windows 8 Server
Windows 8
This spring I'm starting an extended onsite contract with the Windows File Server team, working on the release of Windows 8 Server products.  My responsibility is development of the storage and file sharing plug-in for the new release of Server Manager built on Windows Presentation Foundation.
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DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any employer or organization to which we belong.




 Issaquah School Board
 Issaquah Schools Foundation
 Issaquah PTSA Council
 Volunteers for Issaquah Schools
 Stand for Children
 League of Education Voters
 Kiwanis Club of Issaquah
 Jetstream Software