Thursday, February 15, 2007

John Marshall Alternative School Closing Delayed

John Marshall Alternative School will remain open for the 2007/2008 school year.

Last year during the school closure and consolidation process, Carla Santorno promised that a review of programs at John Marshall would be completed no later than December 2006 and that she was hiring a consultant to perform the work.

Today's Seattle Times article, Seattle district delays closing alternative school for a year, tells a different story. "The district's chief academic officer, Carla Santorno, said the postponement gives the district time to complete a comprehensive review of programs for students who are at risk of dropping out. John Marshall enrolls about 185 students in grades 6-12."

And today's PI article, A year's reprieve for John Marshall Alternative School, adds additional details. "Already, district officials plan to move two programs: The GRAD program for teens who are pregnant or parents will move to South Lake Alternative High School, and the evening school will be moved to an as-yet-unnamed traditional high school, Santorno said. The alternative middle school will be discontinued, and the handful of students enrolled eventually will be dispersed to other middle schools. The other programs at Marshall aren't in any danger of closing, Santorno said, but there are also no guarantees they'll move together to a new location."

The lack of plans for the students at John Marshall has concerned me through the school closure and consolidation process, so I'm glad the closure is being postponed. However, it bothers me that the review of programs was not completed as promised by the end of 2006. I'm also concerned about some of the problems identified in an earlier Seattle Times report continuing unchanged for another year.

For more information on John Marshall Alternative School and its treatment during the school closure and consolidation process see:


Melissa Westbrook said...

The Enrollment Guide said that Marshall would be closing at the end of this year but now it's not. Because of the specialized nature of their programs, I don't think they will lose that many students because of the confusion but it can't help.

The closure and consolidation process has really exposed many gaps and flaws in the district, its thinking and planning. For example, you'd think if you were closing the daycare at a re-entry high school (Marshall) and telling students to go to the other re-entry high school (South Lake)for that service, that it would actually exist. But you see, there isn't enough money in the South Lake rebuild to have a daycare (something I pointed out previously). It's in the plans as a separate attachment to the building and the principal told me she's "hopeful" the district will find the money but right now it's not. The South Lake project gets a very small $15M for their rebuild. They need that childcare (even if it is very expensive) for those teen parents and that money should be there.

It's hard to take the district seriously when they can't get their act together.

Charlie Mas said...

The Teen Parent program cannot go to South Lake.

In the Superintendent's Final Report on Closures, in the paragraph where he provides the rationale for closing Marshall, he specifically states that all of the programs absolutely must be relocated north of the Ship Canal.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie is right except that in the South Lake School Design Team minutes, facilities staff state that all the Marshall students could fit into South Lake's new building. The principal disagrees with that belief and for $15M you have to wonder how big the building might be.

I'm not sure the academic side and the facilities side are communicating clearly.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me the Superintendent's Final Report could be interpreted differently. The paragraph to which Charlie refers simply states the programs "should" be located in the north end. The only program the report states "needs" to be located there is the alternative/re-entry middle and high-school program.

Other locations are TBD pending review of specific programs affected, and, more significantly, a comprehensive service model review of how the district as a whole serves this population of students.

There seems to be no mention of a December 2006 deadline in the document. Was this a verbal promise made by Ms. Santorno at a community meeting?

Beth Bakeman said...

The mention of the December 2006 deadline was made at a School Board meeting.(I think it was in September, but I'd have to check.)

Carla made the promise during questioning by School Board members who wanted assurance that John Marshall families would know early enough about the placement of the various programs to make their choices for the following year.

Anonymous said...

Superintendent's Final Report does not say "all of the programs absolutely must be relocated north of the Ship Canal." Any way, the Superintendent's Final Report is a recomendation. The only thing that is binding is the board action, which said nothing about where the Marshall programs would go, unlike the relocation of everything else other than Viewlands, which was later addressed by another Board action.

Charlie Mas said...

There is a significant difference between Marshall and the other schools closed in Phase I. The Board votes on school closures and the Board sets the assignment policy. So they voted on the closure of all of those other schools and the new reference area map.

The only part of Marshall that is a school is the alternative/re-entry secondary school. The rest of the students there are in programs. The Board does not (usually) have any say in program placement. So the Superintendent could have nearly closed Marshall all on his own simply by finding new sites for all of the programs - no Board action required or possible.

While the Superintendent's report says that the programs "should" be relocated north of the Ship Canal, when you add that to the promise that the students will be better served in their new location, that adds up to a "must".

Anonymous said...

I guess I don't see how it adds up to a "must" when there hasn't been a specific review of the programs affected.

Couldn't a thorough review determine that students would be better served if the programs were located somewhere else?

What would be the point of a review if the results didn't factor into the decision?

Anonymous said...

From School Beat e-mailed to district staff today:

Santorno recommends relocation delay of Marshall programs

District to conduct comprehensive review of all programs serving at-risk youth

Chief Academic Officer Carla Santorno announced Feb. 14 that she is recommending that the relocation of the John Marshall programs be delayed for one year, to the 2008-09 academic year. Santorno said that after conducting a review, school officials determined that more time and information was needed to ensure that students could continue with Marshall’s non-traditional programs at other locations.

Santorno said they also concluded that the District needed to review programs at other non-traditional schools, including Interagency Academy, South Lake Alternative High School, and Middle College. District staff expects to complete the reviews by October.

In July last year, the School Board recommended closing the Marshall building, as well as school buildings at Viewlands, M. L. King, Hughes, Fairmount Park, Whitworth, Columbia, and Rainier View. The Board also recommended the merger of Viewlands with Broadview-Thomson. Unlike the situation involving other building closures, a specific new location or site was not identified for the programs in the John Marshall building.

“I look forward to working with teachers, principals, students, families, and the greater community to identify the services — both academic and social — that will benefit our students and will lead them to a high school experience that truly prepares them for college and work,” Santorno said.

Anonymous said...

Here is a link to a news release on the district's website. The release includes information about the district wide review of non-traditional programs (South Lake, Interagency, Middle College and Marshall). It also explains the status of Marshall programs.

Anonymous said...

The report WAS completed by end of 2006. It was from that report that Carla decided that more information and time is needed. The District made the right call here. It would have been idiotic to forge ahead.

The constant need to find smoking guns by some people is so tiresome. If you really wanted to find some smoking guns, why wouldn't you ask why Bridget Chandler, a woman who has her own elementary aged daughter in PRIVATE school in Seattle, was hired as Director of Communications? Disgusting. She's the person who carries the message that public school is fine for OUR kids, but it's not okay for hers.

Or why doesn't anyone ask why Ron English is the "Environmental Officer" and also the "Property Manager"? Sounds like the wolf guarding the flock to me.

Let's address the real issues here. The John Stanford Center is bloated with too many people who do too little. At least the schools we build are for our kids to use. Spending millions each year on inefficient staff or PEOPLE WHO DON'T BELIEVE IN PUBLIC ED is the big problem. We should demand an audit of the personnel at the Stanford Center. Some people do yeoman's work while others suck from the public teet and no nothing... or worse. Use your collective energy to do something there!

Beth Bakeman said...

Anonymous who made the previous comment, sounds like you are a district staffer. Is that true?

We could certainly benefit from some inside perspective and knowledge.

Anonymous said...

Only if the person who is on the inside has perspective and not a personal grude. Ron English is one of the District's lawyers for goodness sake. Figure out who the people are at lease before you start your tirades.

Anonymous said...

Not a district staffer, just someone who pays attention. My info on Ronald English comes from looking at the SEPA brochure for Hamilton and checking out some meeting notes. (I don't go off on a tirade without knowing what it is I speak of... too much of that already on here.) Being a District lawyer is Mr. English's third hat. If you've ever been involved with local soccer, you know his fourth hat is being a generally unpleasant guy

Bridget has held jobs in lots of places around the city. I just heard from a friend who is a district staffer that she was made Director of Communications (or Public Affairs- whatever they are calling the department that is a black hole) and that she's being paid more than any other person who has held that job at SPS.

I spent a lot of years in local civic positions which is why I am "in the know" on a lot. I've seen how things go wrong in public agencies when they put the wolf out to tend the flock. Ill-conceived hires (Art Jarvis has exactly HOW much financial experience!?!?!) and bloat in the mid-ranks is a much bigger problem than a lot of the things argued on this blog.

I have two kids in public schools. One goes north to Hamilton and the other is closer to home in elementary. It was only recently that I started paying attention to the internal workings of the district because of the proposed work at Hamilton. The more I poke around, the more I see problems at the Stanford Center.

Sorry to plug-in as anonymous.


Anonymous said...

Good questions here. How tone deaf do you need to be to hire a communications person for public schools who does not place her own children in public schools? Why do lawyers have so much influence in SPS?

Anonymous said...

I am confident based on my knowledge of Bridget Chandler's past work that she cares passionately about kids and that communication at the district level will improve with her on board.

Let's leave Ms. Chandler's personal decisions about her child out of this debate.

Laura Staley

Marcie said...


Like the above poster who knows Ms. Chandler, I know Ron English. His primary job is being a District lawyer. He wears the other hats to ensure that the fox is not watching the hen house. He does not work for or report to the facilities director who oversees construction projects, so he can be truly independent as the EO. As the property manager, he deals with leases and sales, not construction.

Petty attacks on individual people do nothing but make you look petty. I am sure that there are people out there who would love to critize your personality or parenting choices. If you are going to publically slam people, I suggest you do a little more research beyond "he is mean at soccer." Or maybe he was reffing and asked you to play by the rules. See, petty isn't productive, now is it?

Anonymous said...

I think the question about why Ms. Chandler chose private school for her own child is a legitimate one, particularly when Seattle has such a high rate of private school enrollment. I am sure she had excellent reasons for making that choice; I would be curious to hear what they are.

I am not questioning her ablility or commitment to children at all.

If I saw the CEO of Coca-Cola quaffing Pepsi all day long, I would want to know why that was so.