KCTS 9 Connects/Seattle School Superintendent José Banda - July 27, 2012

Connects: José Banda 07/27/2012
  • KCTS 9 CONNECTS

Superintendent José Banda

A newsmaker interview with new Seattle School District Superintendent José Banda.

CNX: Kristina Anderson and Sam Granillo full interview
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Watch Full Interview

Virginia Tech shooting survivor Kristina Anderson and Columbine shooting survivor Sam Granillo share their thoughts on recovery and healing for the people of Aurora, Colorado in the wake of the theater shooting.

  • About
  • José Banda Transcript
  • Granillo and Anderson Transcript

About the Episode

We feature a newsmaker interview with new Seattle School District Superintendent José Banda. What are his priorities and most significant challenges in his first year leading Washington state's largest school district? We also feature Virginia Tech shooting survivor Kristina Anderson and Columbine shooting survivor Sam Granillo, who share their thoughts on recovery and healing for the people of Aurora, Colorado in the wake of the theater shooting. Plus, our Insiders Roundtable analyzes the latest polling results that show Jay Inslee jumping out to the sizeable lead in the Governor's race.

Kristina Anderson - Virginia Tech

Kristina Anderson is a survivor of the Virginia Tech shooting. On April 16, 2007, Kristina was in her French class when gunman Seung-Hui Choi barged in and opened fire. Kristina suffered a gunshot wound to her back and foot. Thirty-two people were killed and 17 others were wounded by Choi, who eventually shot himself. It was the deadliest shooting incident by a single gunman in U.S. history. Today Kristina lives in Seattle and heads up the Koshka Foundation which works toward ensuring school safety.

Sam Granillo - Columbine High School

Sam Granillo is a survivor of the Columbine High School shooting. On April 20th, 1999, Columbine students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold went on a shooting rampage at the Littleton, Colorado school. They shot and killed 12 students and wounded 21 others before taking their own lives. Sam was a 17 year old junior at the time. He spent three hours trapped in a kitchen office along with 17 other students hoping the gunman would not find them. Today, Sam is a filmmaker. He is producing a documentary about Columbine titled Wounded Minds about the impact of the shootings on those who survived Columbine as well as other mass shootings.

Related:
Read: Seattle Times article "Banda is Calm Voice for a Turbulent District"
Koshka Foundation website
Columbine: Wounded Minds Project
Watch: Kristina Anderson on Conversations at KCTS 9

Enrique Cerna:
In May, the Seattle school board appointed Jose Banda to the post of superintendent of Washington state's largest school district. Before taking the new job here in Seattle, Jose Banda was the superintendent of the Anaheim city school district, a district with some 20,000 students. He held the top job there for the past four years. Banda has more than 30 years of experience in education, as a teacher, principal, and superintendent. And he's been on the job here in Seattle now for almost a month. Jose Banda, welcome to connects. We appreciate you taking the time and welcome to Seattle.

José Banda:
Thank you for the invitation.

Enrique Cerna:
Well, tell me first why you wanted this job.

José Banda:
Well, you know, it's one of those things where you always look at opportunities for growth and opportunities to continue your craft. And you know, my job started out as a classroom teacher, and it's always been about education, public education, and ways to contribute to that and improve it. So looking at Seattle, it's not only a large district, but it's a district that's on the national scale. And so I thought it would be a good opportunity. And potentially a good match for my background and my skill set. And with the needs here.

Enrique Cerna:
So you come from a school district as I mentioned, that a little less than half of what the Seattle school district has, 20,000 in Anaheim, up 48,000 here. In Anaheim, you probably dealt more with Spanish speaking students as the main population there. Here, I don't know, probably over a hundred different languages. That's a different, a big change.

José Banda:
It is. But it all comes down to children, it all comes down to providing quality education for children. So for me, it's, whether it's an English learner that's trying to acquire the English language from Spanish or from another native language, I this ithat a lot of the strategies, a lot of the good teaching practices apply across those different languages and across the different ethnic groups.

Enrique Cerna:
So in this first year, what is going to be your priorities and what do you see as the big challenges?

José Banda:
Well, it's always going to be the focus on children. Ultimately, it's always going to be how can we improve the educational opportunities for our children, the access, the equity piece that seems to be a big challenge here in Seattle. But at the same time, I need to also work on the structure and the organization of the district.

Enrique Cerna:
Talk about that. Some here feel that the bureaucracy of the central office is too big, and that those in the central office, particularly in the higher levels of that bureaucracy, make too much money. And the resources really should be focused more on what's happening in the classroom. And that isn't happening. How do you respond to that?

José Banda:
Well, I don't know that it's necessarily too large. This is a large district and it has a lot of needs. So I think that for me, it's really focusing on the organization in terms of making it more efficient, more effective, making sure that we're delivering the services that are necessary for our children to be successful.

Enrique Cerna:
You also will be dealing with a Seattle teachers union that I think the contract expires next summer. So have you even start that process of getting to know who the people are in the union and how you're going to work together?

José Banda:
Just prior to coming on officially, when one of the visits I was here, I met with the outgoing president of the S.E.A., the Seattle educators association, and then since I've arrived, I've actually also met with the new president, with Jonathon Knapp, so we're starting to build that dialogue and starting to build that relationship, that's very important when we're working with our associations, our unions.

Enrique Cerna:
You have a reputation as someone that has dealt with tough situations but worked to bring some stability. And working not in a real clashing way, but describe your style.

José Banda:
My style is a very collaborative style. First of all, it's really making sure that we set clear expectations, and our primary mission here is to support our children and provide a high quality education for them all across the board. And so for me, it's also about making sure that the team, that the leadership team, whether it's at the district office or at the site level, are in tune to that, and are making sure that they're really clear about the expectations and making sure that all the decisions that we make at any of those levels, making sure that we take our children into account.

Enrique Cerna:
One of the bigger issues of concern here has to do with the achievement gap. And we've had this issue in this community for quite a long time where you have higher achieving, and then you have many students of color that tend to be those on the lower end of things. How are you going to address that, how are you going to grapple that?

José Banda:
Well, first of all, I think what I have to do, and what I am doing right now is looking for some key positions, hires for those positions. For example, the special ed executive director position. It's been one that's had tremendous turn over over the last 9, 10 years here in the district. In fact, we're looking for an executive director now. Another one would be the teaching and learning position, the assistant superintendent. Those are very, very key positions, they should be intertwined, they should be very tight in terms of the needs of our children, which can range from the very gifted to the students with special needs.

Enrique Cerna:
Now, there's going to be a charter schools initiative on the ballot here in Washington state. Where are you on charter schools?

José Banda:
Well, I think that I've already gone on record with that one as saying that I'm not necessarily pro charter, but I think that the voters, or at least to get the initiative on the ballot, shows that there are people in this community, parents included, that think that perhaps we're not doing as good a job as we possibly can be doing with public education. So if it does pass, then we are going to work with whatever charter group approaches us. Because the bottom line is we need to be serving all children. And whether we do that through our public education system or perhaps a charter, if it's a charter that's introduced, as long as we're meeting the needs of our students, we have to have kind of a more global look at it.

Enrique Cerna:
What do you want to see, I guess if you look at where Seattle is now, and as you come in here, what's your game plan for let's say five years out, and what you hope to see by that period of time?

José Banda:
Globally, I think what I want to see is a very active and engaged school community. I know there are a lot of groups out there, there's a lot of committees, there's a lot of parent organizations, or city organizations, that all are very focused on public education in Seattle. And what I'd like to see is everyone actively engaged and everyone working on the same, towards the same goals, that we don't have these various disparate goals that aren't focused on students. So we have to bring everybody to the table. So what I see five years down the line is an actively engaged community at all levels, including our parents, including our employees, our staff, working towards the same common goal of making this a very high, productive, high class educational system.

Enrique Cerna:
What about your relationship with the school board? How do you see that working? How do you see that evolving? Because in the past, your predecessor, the interim person in this position, there was clash there, one of the reasons she left.

José Banda:
First and foremost, that's the area that has to work well. That's the governance team. And so the governance team is the seven elect board members, but also the superintendent. So my job coming in is to make sure that we work well, that we're on the same page, we're focused on the same issues. And we're working collaboratively towards solving that. Part of the challenge is you have a board that's had a lot of turn over, much like the district, turn over in the various board director positions. So trying to bring in the ones that have been in there a little bit longer, the new ones, and trying to make sure we form a really tight team.

Enrique Cerna:
Got less than a minute here. Where are you on the art sports of types of things? That has taken a big hit in all districts, including here in Seattle.

José Banda:
I think it's important that we maintain those as best we can. Because of the budget crisis, that's more challenging. So we have to look at real creative ways to to be able to have the revenue to continue those programs. There may be groups and agencies out there that want to continue to support those.

Enrique Cerna:
You go out to the community and corporations and get involved here?

José Banda:
Absolutely. We need to maintain those.

Enrique Cerna:
Thank you for coming by. We'll no doubt talk to you in the future. José Banda, thank you.

José Banda:
Thank you very much.

Enrique Cerna:
All of us are still searching for answers in the aftermath of the Aurora, Colorado, theater mass shooting. For the people of Aurora, the focus now is on recovery and healing. And that no doubt will take a long time. This week, I spoke with two people who know that all too well. Kristina Anderson survived the Virginia tech shooting on April 16th, 2007. 32 people lost their lives in that mass shooting. Kristina suffered gunshot wounds when the gunman opened fire in her french class. Sam Granillo survived the Columbine high school shooting on April 20th, 1999, in littleton, Colorado. 12 students lost their lives that day. Sam was a 17 year old junior at the time. He spent three hours trapped in a kitchen office, along with 17 other students, hoping that the gunmen, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, two Columbine students, would not find them. Today, Sam is a film maker. He's producing a documentary about Columbine, titled "Wounded Minds," about the impact of the shootings on those who survived it and other mass shootings. Kristina and Sam, welcome, good to have you here. Well, Sam, unfortunately, you were touched by the violence in that Aurora theater. You lost a good friend.

Sam Granillo
Yeah. It's true. I had a buddy, Alex Teeves, he was a friend of mine, kind of going through this situation a second time. It's really, you know, quite draining. But you know, right now on the positive side, from experiencing this already, I'm able to help my friends out and have them go through this for the first time in a more positive way.

Enrique Cerna:
When you heard about this, Kristina, it's like going through this all over again?

Kristina Anderson:
Completely. I mean I woke up, I was in Seattle, I woke up. And it's like reliving it all over again. You hear about the numbers, what happened, just the mass tragedy of it. But then this time, I knew Sam was coming to Seattle. So it was more of a, I actually might know somebody that was in the theater, I have a friend who lives in Denver. It definitely hit home in a different way than before.

Enrique Cerna:
You were working on a documentary, Columbine, Wounded Minds, and really about the impact of that incident on you and others. In talking to other people, why Kristina, who have been through all of this, where did the idea come to do all of that and is it something that you're doing as a catharsis for yourself as well?

Sam Granillo
Yeah, absolutely. I really needed to find some counseling and therapy options for me, more long term, because it's been, well, at the time, it was about 10 years. And I was realizing, you know, more and more things that were kind of wrong with me psychologically that I knew that I needed some help with. So I wanted to find some counseling. Because I remember back in 1999, afterwards, they said that there was going to be counseling and therapy options for us forever, as long as we needed it, anything that we needed. Maybe it was just like a nice gesture, but they told a lot of people that. And that's always stuck with me. And so 10 years down the road, I was like, oh, great, you know, let's go look into that. And I found out that a lot of the funds were dried up within about two years. And there was nothing left for us. So you know, I wanted to find a solution for all of us.

Enrique Cerna:
And has this been the situation for others that have gone through something similar for you?

Kristina Anderson:
I don't think the Virginia tech survivors have gone through this phase long enough. Survival is an interesting thing, like you don't ever stop being a survive. You think right after it happens, you get over it and you move on or you go to therapy. But the truth is, as I'm experiencing, it changes as you get older, as you go through new things. So I don't think the survivors of Virginia tech are where they're saying, hey, I'm still having issues, I need help. They reach out individually between ourselves. In terms of what he's saying about the financial support, definitely. There isn't anymore. No one's really, you know, unfortunately, until something else happens, and the media comes back, and then people start asking and remembering, that's when the attention is returned to Virginia tech and to us as survivors.

Enrique Cerna:
Now, for Aurora, what will need to happen to help people go through this?

Sam Granillo
It's a long, multi-staged process.

Enrique Cerna:
Never ending?

Sam Granillo
Never ending.

Kristina Anderson:
Never ending.

Sam Granillo
There's things that need to happen immediately, there's different actions that need to happen immediately versus long term. So right now, they're in the, they need to take it hour by hour. And that's all that you need to do, that's all you can do at this time, you know, surrounding yourself with friends and family is all you can do. Eating, sleeping, like...

Kristina Anderson:
The simple things, exactly. That you don't really think about. Living, surviving. Realizing what happened to you is a really traumatic event and that you can go on and you have to maybe educate yourself about what happened and how you can move on. But you have to give yourself, I think time is what they need the most, time and support. And that support can come in different ways. It could be financial, could be friends calling you, could be people e mailing you. It could be people bringing you food. And that's really helpful. Because you're not thinking about eating.

Enrique Cerna:
It seems to me that one of the things that's bigger here, and particularly, since we had an incident here in Seattle, the CafÉ Racer, and other incidents that have happened, there's a mental health aspect here that maybe we're missing.

Kristina Anderson:
I completely agree. I'm involved in Washington ceasefire and other organizations. So the mental, the gun aspect is very important. Talk about how to use the weapons. But once you look at what happened, it's more about let's talk about the why. We know the how and it's great to dive into the how because that's an important part of it. But why does someone do this? Aurora was, again, very well like planned, it was an attack, a very violent one. So the mental health issues of what does someone go through before they get to that decision and when they start planning something like that, and how can we help them before hand I think is a bigger issue than the weapons.

Sam Granillo
Absolutely. I mean it is definitely really difficult to have this situation pop up and not talk about gun control. It's a really pressing issue and I think that people just want to put the blame somewhere. And so they look at the most scary part or what they think is the most scary part, which is the gun, but you know, I think it is absolutely more of a mental health issue.

Enrique Cerna:
How have the two of you managed to keep yourselves healthy mentally?

Kristina Anderson:
We laugh.

Sam Granillo
I don't know. I don't know if I am mentally healthy. I mean I have a pretty good head on my shoulders, I think, but I have hard days sometimes, you know.

Kristina Anderson:
Yeah. I think for me it's finding other people like myself. So it's talking to people like Sam about just what happened, and comparing stories, and sharing that. Because it just reminds you that it's still going on. And it's because Virginia tech was five years or ten years ago, that it's still part of the process and it's still part of me. So I think just reaching out and learning about it. And then sleep, you know, taking time off kind of, and just realizing that your day might be a little bit tainted and different just because this event happened, and you have to respect that.

Enrique Cerna:
You live here in Seattle now?

Kristina Anderson:
I do.

Enrique Cerna:
And you actually started a foundation?

Kristina Anderson:
Uh huh.

Enrique Cerna:
Tell me about the foundation.

Kristina Anderson:
Sure. I started the Koshka Foundation after the shooting happened. Because what people did was they sent in money, so that's kind of the way people show support is great. And Koshka means little kitten in Russia. It's a family name, it's a personal tie back to our group. And I started it first to never forget about Virginia tech. I wanted to raise awareness for campus safety. I want to talk to students and say here's what happens to me, here's how you can prevent it from happening to you. And not just school shootings, but just in general, personal safety, the bubble that we live in. And I talk to survivors. Because I think that's a really forgotten group by a lot of people that need representation, and that needs a way to get support. Because I know after aurora happened, I've had friends at Virginia tech that I haven't heard of from years, survivors, e mail me, and they just say, how are you? Dr. Banke, the middle school teacher from Colorado, who stopped the shooter, just emailed me, how are you? There was no hi or hello, it just I know what you're going through and how are you doing? If I can find a way to do that for people, I think more people come out of the woodwork like Sam and say, this is what's going on, we need help.

Enrique Cerna:
We'll have more information online about the Koshka foundation as well as your documentary, Sam, Columbine, Wounded Minds. Thank you both, Kristina, Sam.

Sam Granillo, Kristina Anderson
Thank you.

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