Friday, June 23, 2017

Friday Open Thread

Two director community meetings tomorrow:

Director Blanford - Douglass-Truth Library from 10 am to noon
Director Patu - Raconteur from 10 am to 11:30 am

The Seattle Youth Commission is looking for new members.
The Seattle Youth Commission is a group of 15 Seattle teens from all over the city who are appointed by the Mayor and City Council to connect youth to local elected officials, advise on City policies, and discuss issues that youth in Seattle are facing. There is a Youth Commissioner representing each of the seven City Council Districts, as well as eight at-large commissioners. 

Youth Commissioners must be between the ages of 13 - 19.
Applications must be received by July 17, 2017 at 5pm.
Betsy DeVos Watch:

New York Times opinion writer Gail Collins had a quiz - Who's the Worst Cabinet Member and guess who won?  Yup, DeVos.
“It’s hard to be worse than Sessions or Pruitt. But DeVos deals with … children,” wrote a Michigan reader.

DeVos really hates public schools — something you don’t find often in a secretary of education. Her goal seems to be replacing them with charter schools, none of which will need much oversight because, you know, the choice thing.

Many readers noted that our secretary of education does not seem to be … all that bright. (“DeVos is a solid choice based on irony alone.”)
Amazing that anyone could beat Jeff Sessions (Attorney General) or Scott Pruitt (EPA) but DeVos pulled it off. 

Oh, and in case you have some ideas for the Department of Ed, they're looking for them. 
The Department of Education (Department) is seeking input on regulations that may be appropriate for repeal, replacement, or modification.
One of their guidelines for elimination of regulations - impose costs that exceed benefits - might be a tough one to measure but I'm sure many will try.

What's on your mind?

State Budget Update: Nothing Happening Here (with Dire Consequences Coming)

These tweets say it all:

17h17 hours ago
McCleary Crime Scene Retweeted Crosscut
Great & their enabler get to hold the 4th of July hostage, as the political brinkmanship over continues.

If the can't pass a budget by June 30, the state's 125 parks will be closed for Fourth of July.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Stevens Elementary Trying to Fight Cuts

From Stevens parents worried about their school.  Understand that if the Board does not act on policies that are broken/bent/ignored, then YOUR school community could be next.  

I can see what the district is doing - clearly, if they got Madrona's enrollment up near building capacity, they are trying to fill schools.  But it is just wrong to then leave other schools twisting in the wind.  (I think staff believes that more people will eventually move near Stevens and it, too, will fill back up but meanwhile they are ridiculously below their capacity.  And, I think the district is triaging schools by student population.  Again, that might be okay except that the policy doesn't state that.) 

We've been asking the District to move the Stevens waitlist to no avail.  The big picture includes:
  • Stevens is being targeted for reduction while all the other schools in our area are growing or maintaining their enrollment.  (Comparing building capacity and 2020 projections, Lowell is expected to be at 125% of building capacity while Madrona is at 96% of building capacity and Stevens is at 57% of building capacity.)
  • Stevens had 16 classroom teachers 2 years ago (in 2014-15).  Next year it is slated to have 11.  Three years from now (in the fall of 2020) it is expected to have 8 (and that number may be optimistic).  Cutting a school's enrollment and teaching staff in half over six years is a recipe for disaster and the district needs to ACT NOW and MOVE THE STEVENS WAITLIST in order to slow this train wreck.
The Superintendent told our PTA in email that the District is artificially limiting choice assignments to Stevens in order to increase enrollment at surrounding schools.  That violation of Board policy makes zero sense in light of the enrollment projections above.

From PTA letter:

Where Should New Schools Be Built?

A group of parents are forming a grass-roots campaign to have the Fort Lawton re-development project in Magnolia become a new STEAM (science and environment, technology, engineering, arts, math) middle school or a magnet STEAM high school instead of building homes for the homeless. This new plan would serve the entire city with an attendance area drawing from students in the Magnolia/Queen Anne cluster. 

The property already has all the modern updated classroom-ready facilities, gym, cafeteria, conference rooms, vault, huge parking areas and multiple outbuildings for specialty education. Education staff conference lounge, counseling areas, library and other functions of a fully operational school are all in place. Five separate parking lots provide ample room for staff and student parking.
The buildings can be transferred to the school district at no cost. The city’s scoping period for this re-development project ends at 5:00 PM on June 26th so the timing is imminent.

Please submit public comment asking for a school to be added as an alternative development plan for Fort Lawton and that it be added to the Environmental Impact Statement.

Please sign and share the petition, write to your city council member, Seattle Public School officials and Board Members and indicate that a school option should be added to the Environmental Impact Statement-- see emails below! 

Action Items:
• Please sign this petition…
• Please email the office of housing, city council members, and school board members

To learn more about the scope of the redevelopment plan and ideas, please follow these links:…
There seems to be some confusion over whether the site could be used for housing the homeless but I think the overall point is why use BEX V dollars for a new downtown high school if there are more important uses for those funds.

I'm not seeing a real vision from Capital Facilities about school locations and it's worrisome. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Supporting SPS Families in Need

In a remarkably short amount of time, SPS families from several different NE schools, via Soup for Teacher's heroic, Liza Rankin, have organized family gift bags for every family that lives at the Sand Point Housing campus of Solid Ground, Brettler Family Place.  That is where Charleena Lyles, a pregnant mother of four,  was gunned down on Sunday by SPD officers responding to her call about a burglary. 

There is a GoFundme page for Ms Lyles' family.  The page has raised over $80,000 so far.

Here's one message at the Soup for Teachers Facebook page:

Thanks for taking this on, Liza Rankin, and for all of the volunteers and those who have contributed. We thank you with all of our hearts! -Karen Stukovsky, SPE PTA co-President

I just want to gently point out the irony of this huge effort by people from several different NE schools in contrast to the image put forth by the recent KUOW story on several NE schools.  

No group is monolithic and casting doubt - on any one group of people, whether by race or region - is really not fair and, of course, very likely to be untrue.

We need to rise up to believe in each other and lift all boats.  Just as this remarkable group of people is doing.

Image may contain: 7 people, people smiling, people sitting, table and indoor

Wednesday Open Thread

I've interviewed 7 of the top 8 mayoral candidates.  Who is up and who is down seems to vary.  I just heard on KUOW that a survey puts former mayor Mike McGinn at the top, following by Jenny Durkan and Bob Hasegawa.  At last night's 43rd Dems endorsement meeting, Jessyn Farrell came out on top (by a wide margin) and Jenny Durkan is tops in fund-raising.

I'll be publishing their answers and my thoughts on the race from the perspective of public education but I thought I'd throw out a couple of questions to survey my readership.

Who is the mayoral candidate that I didn't interview?

Which candidates do you think are the most likely to lean towards more mayoral control of SPS?

From, what you know on your own, which candidates do you think would be the best for public education in Seattle?

The Legislature is rapidly moving towards a third session. If a budget is not done by June 30th, the state will likely go into a partial shutdown.  That may mean things like your reservation at a state park gets canceled as parks will be the easiest state areas to shut down.   Meanwhile it's projected the state will be bringing in many more hundreds of millions as the economy booms and unemployment has dropped to a record low of 4.5%. 

From SPS Twitter:

Congratulations to Teacher of the Year Award Winner Kirsten Jewett from View Ridge Elementary, nominated by her student Quinn!

What's on your mind?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

SPD Shooting of Mother Sparks Loss for SPS Communities

I was away this weekend and so am just coming to learning about the terrible shooting of a black pregnant mother of three, Charleena Lyles, at transitional housing for people coming out of homelessness.  Her children - two in Seattle schools - may have been present at the shooting.

I heard the audio tape of the incident and it's hard to grasp how quickly the police apparently felt threatened by what is to be a small woman with mental health issues.  And especially since the police knew she had mental health issues.  I'm sure I am not alone in believing that had Ms Lyles been white, she would be alive today.

SEA will have a rally at 5 pm followed by a press conference/vigil tonight at 6 pm at Brettler (the re-settlement site at Magnuson).  Teachers are being encouraged to wear their Black Lives Matter t-shirts today.

But to the point of affecting Seattle Schools communities comes this from Director Geary via Facebook:

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Thought-Provoking Article on KUOW on "White Liberal Racism" in SPS

 I don't have time to write a full thread on this article but it certainly seems written to be incendiary (including that headline which seems to me, a non-journalist, not the most objective headline they could have used).

Some of Blanford's and Geary's comments also seem a little-less-than-nuanced.

Is this just Laurelhurt or symtomatic of the district?  Are parents not entitled to opinions about what happens at school (particularly if there was no advance notification on an event and support for what to tell your child)?

Another one of those things that make you go, hmmm - a lot to unpack here.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Friday Open Thread

City  Council Member Tim Burgess is taking a (non-scientific) survey about your thoughts on an income tax for wealthy Seattle families.  I put this up because, in the end, if passed, that tax may play a part in funding for the district.

FYI if you have a child in Special Education:

As previously mentioned, I will post all available opportunities to hear/meet the candidates for Seattle School Board.  This came from Alec Cooper, candidate for District V.  He will be at Broadcast Coffee, 1918 E Yesler, on Saturday from 10 am-noon.

There are no director community meetings this Saturday because of all the graduations they are attending.

What's on your mind?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

2017-2018 Bell Times

From SPS Communications:

SEATTLE – Seattle Public Schools today expressed their appreciation for $2.3 million in one-time funding that allows the district to implement a two-tier school schedule for the 2017-18 school year:

“The City Council voted yesterday to approve one-time funds to move us to this new two-tier bus schedule. We are grateful to Mayor Murray for bringing this issue forward  as a city priority and the City Council for finding a thoughtful funding solution. Changing to a two-tier bell schedule will eliminate the latest or third tier of school start and end times, which has been a hardship on many of our families. 

We also want to thank and recognize the many families who shared their perspectives and concerns about the bell time schedule with us. The final schedule reflects the varied needs and perspectives of our families, students, staff and partners.”

The final bell schedule for Seattle Public Schools is posted online here. The 2017-18 school calendar is also posted online.

End of communication

I'm a bit baffled.  There are about 8 elementaries that will start at 8:55 am rather than 7:55 am.  I get Loyal Heights because they are at John Marshall interim but I'm not clear on the rest.

Most of the K-8s will start at 8:55 except Broadview-Thomson and South Shore. 

All the middle schools will start at 8:55 except for Denny (presumably because they are next to Sealth and have to start at a different time).

The high schools start at either 8:45 or 8:55 am (presumably depending on access to an athletic field).

Congrats to all the Grads of 2017!

Such a happy and exciting time for our seniors and their families. 

I see six (!) graduations for Monday, four for Tuesday and Wednesday and two for Thursday.

Best wishes for a wonderful time (and dry weather). 

One missive from the Superintendent about post-graduation opportunities:
South Seattle College is helping us prepare young people as they transition to college or career. Their 13th Year Promise Scholarship is helping more Seattle Public Schools students pursue the dream of higher education. The scholarship offers recipients from three high schools one year tuition, an innovative student orientation, and robust ongoing support. The expansion of the scholarship program to West Seattle High School next year is helping prepare even more young people for career, college, and life. 

Read more about our partnership with South Seattle College.

Seattle School Board Elections 2017 - District V

Editor's Note: please see this thread for my process for vetting candidates.

District V

The candidates who filed for this position are/were:
  • Omar Vasquez
  • Andre Helmstetter
  • Candace Vaivadas
  • Zachary Pullin DeWolf
  • Alec Cooper
  • Michelle Sarju Withdrawn
For District V, I recommend (in no particular order) Andre Helmstetter and Alec Cooper.  I do think Zachary DeWolf has an excellent background in public service but probably doesn't know the district well enough.  Cooper and Helmstetter do.  Again, my concern is the learning curve it takes to be a director. 

I confess I find it hard to pick as all three each have different strengths.  I look forward to hearing them speak at forums between now and the primary. 

Cooper is a straight-ahead, blunt candidate who wants to get things done.  Personally, I find that very appealing.  He would an analytical skill set to the Board.  He is an SPS parent.

Helmstetter has an inviting demeanor and warmth and is a good listener.  His skill set includes being a trained facilitator as well as his job working with groups/companies to sharpen/clean-up their operations and policies.  He is an SPS parent.

Zachary DeWolf is the most soft-spoken but with a drive to serve and help better communities as he has done for  years.  His work at the Seattle Housing Authority means that he knows issues around housing problems for low-income families.  This is knowledge and understanding that would be worthwhile to bring to the Board. 

Helmstetter, DeWolf, Cooper and Vasquez have filed with the PDC; only DeWolf has contributions.  

I interviewed all the candidates in person for this race except Vaivadas, who I do not believe is qualified for the position based on her 36th Dems interview, and Vasquez, who despite claiming he did want to interview with me, has suddenly gone silent and not answered queries.  More on him below but upfront I will say he is the last person I would want to see come out of the primary.