Jose Banda of Anaheim one of 3 finalists for Seattle schools superintendent



Posted on April 24, 2012 at 5:40 PM

Updated Tuesday, Apr 24 at 7:35 PM

SEATTLE - As early as next week, the Seattle School Board could choose a new superintendent.

The three finalists are in town this week for their last interviews, and over the next three days, each candidate is meeting briefly with the press.

Jose Banda is coming from Orange County, California, a much smaller school system where most of the students are low-income and speak English as a second language.

Is Banda ready for a district like Seattle? He gave few specifics, but promised to bring stability.

Moving to Seattle would be a new challenge for Banda. The Anaheim district he leads only has elementary schools, unlike Seattle, which also has middle and high schools.

Anaheim has just about 19,000 students; Seattle 47,000. There are 24 schools in Anaheim vs. 91 in Seattle. While Anaheim has 1900 employees, Seattle has four times as many.

"It's really the same, whether you go from 20 to 40 to 60,000 students, it's really the same application, it's just a matter of you're dealing with more staffing, more larger issues," said Banda.

Unlike previous searches for a superintendent where candidates faced parents and the community in lengthy public forums or took public tours of schools, this search is much more private, with only invited guests and panels. The district is dividing the press into three groups, each getting 15 minutes to ask a few questions.

So, what does Banda think about charter schools?

"I haven't had a lot of experience with them, there hasn't been a need in the district that I served," he said.

What would he change about Seattle schools?

"I'm not the kind to come in with a set plan that I'm going to do this, I've heard so many things I'm going to make changes based on what I hear.  I have to go in there and get to know who the folks are,” said Banda.

And what does Banda think about politics and the high turnover of Seattle superintendents - one who was ousted in a financial scandal and the interim superintendent who has never explained why she took a job in a smaller district?

"I don't look at that as a negative.  I see the attention from the media, I see the politics here as being a good thing.  You have people who are wanting to be actively engaged,’ said Banda.

One of the sensitive issues in Seattle is the new evaluation system for teachers, which takes into account how well students perform on tests. Banda says he believes that's appropriate. He also believes in standardized testing, which he says puts less emphasis on which textbook you're using.

When asked what his plan would be for middle schools, he said he would focus on algebra.

Two more candidates coming up Wednesday and Thursday.