Wednesday, February 07, 2007

T.T. Minor Pre-K to Be Closed?

I read some disturbing news about the T. T. Minor Pre-K program today. Since I believe there is always more than one side to an issue, I'd love to hear from district staff or insiders who could provide a different perspective on this. What I read (below) sure doesn't sound good.

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Seattle School District Trying to Close Successful Pre-K at T.T. Minor

T.T. Minor has been informed by the Seattle School District that its Pre-K program that has been successfully operating for eight years must be either replaced by a district program or shut down!

�� Our Pre-K program has been funded by the generous contributions of the New School Foundation. That funding ended this school year.

�� Knowing that, Principal Laura Brown went to work to ensure we could keep Pre-K for the 2007-2008 school year.

�� Principal Brown made arrangements with First AME Church to provide half day Head Start modified to align with T.T. Minor’s kindergarten program and the YMCA to provide enrichment for the second half of the day.

�� All of this at NO COST TO THE DISTRICT.

For over a month Principal Brown steadfastly fought to keep our Pre-K program. But in the end, T.T. Minor was given options that don’t benefit the children at all:

1. Allow the District to install a developmental AM/PM Pre-K program. These would be half day classes consisting of 9 students with developmental challenges and 3 students receiving general education.

2. If we don’t choose option #1, then we either must shut down our Pre-K or pay for it with the general fund (which of course barely covers K-5).

This is not just about Pre-K! It’s about protecting our children from a system that clearly doesn’t care about our children’s education!

It’s time to let the Seattle School District know that we’re tired of them making decisions for our kids that end up harming instead of helping!

�� In Spring 2005, T.T. Minor was put on the closure list. This led to a severe drop in enrollment for 2005-2006.

�� In Spring 2006, T.T. Minor was on phase 2 of the closure list.

�� Fall 2006, T.T. Minor must release a teacher because of poor District transition planning.

Now we have 2 overcrowded 2nd/3rd grade split classrooms.

We need everyone to FIGHT NOW because if we’re not protecting our own kids, then we can’t expect anyone else to care!

1. Attend the special parent meeting February 15th 6:30-7:30 concerning this issue
2. Give testimony at the next two School Board meetings (Feb 21st and Mar 7th).
3. Attend the March PTA meeting on March 6th from 6:00pm-7:30pm
4. Spread the word about what’s happening

30 comments:

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, it would be good to get the district's side but per the past, it makes little sense.

I'm a bit confused by TT Minor saying they were part of Phase II. From the Preliminary Recommendations on School Closure and Consolidation (Sep 2006)

"Representatives from T.T. Minor also participated in the site team meeting despite the School Board’s vote on July 26, 2006 that removed from consideration in Phase II any school that was involved in a merger of students in Phase I. While the School Board’s action precluded the closure of T.T. Minor in Phase II we felt that engaging T.T. Minor in the quest for solutions would result in a more complete solution for the entire Central area."

This is very much what I remember the CAC saying which was all the schools in the Central area should be involved in those discussions.

There is no mention of TT Minor in the Superintendent's Final Recommendations.

Anonymous said...

You are right Melissa in terms of the final phase 2 recommendations, but for a while there, T.T. Minor was on the list, which really made it more vulnerable in the eyes of prospective parents--even with the merger.

So even though it wasn't on the final list, the damage was already done.

Anonymous said...

"but for a while there, T.T. Minor was on the list, which really made it more vulnerable in the eyes of prospective parents"

That's not quite right. It was "on the list" in the same way that every school in that area was on the list. The fact that they were the only school actually protected from closure was what made T.T. Minor distinct.

Declining enrollment at T.T. Minor can not be placed only at the feet of SPS. There is declining enrollment in that area and in Seattle.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous #2, you're almost right. In 2005, TT Minor was a full school. When they were caught up in the closure mess then, that September, the enrollment dipped significantly. I'm not saying that's the only reason enrollment dropped, but it was a major one.

But really, the original post had nothing to do with closures. It had to do with the Pre-K being eliminated, on top of everything else, so let's not get lost on this thread.

The District had no business shutting down the Pre-K, especially when it is not offering a viable alternative. That Pre-K served the students well and they all went on (about 50% of them stayed at TT Minor for kindergarten) prepared for kindergarten. Our state just spent a significant number of years working on the "Thrive by Five" program to promote readiness for kindergarten, so what SPS did was just ridiculous. The principal was proactive in finding a solution to the impending loss of funding, and SPS cut her off at the knees--let me correct that, they cut the students off at the knees.

Anonymous said...

The only thing I know about TT Minor is they have a great chess club, with dedicated parents and coaches.
They beat the socks off of more affluent schools.

Anonymous said...

Joanne Hill a former SPS principal is the preschool manager for the district. Perhaps she has an idea of what is in store for TT Minor ( or knowing Joanne- maybe not)

It is vital that children be prepared for learning- good preschool programs assist that. The district is shooting itself in the foot, by pulling this support away from children.

But does this surprise me? No- because I have observed more attention and importance is attached to increasing and stabilizing positions for district employees, than on childrens needs and wants.

Look to Shep Siegel and his (forced) emphasis on increasing vocational education positions at a time when other states have higher academic supports and expectations.( than either Seattle or Wa)

The principal should be commended for finding a work around for a program that supports the children, not punished.

Anonymous said...

Is there an increased demand for space for a special needs preschool and no space in this area of the district? I'm just curious as to the motivation to do this.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the previous poster. I am very interested to hear the district's motivations and reasoning. This sounds like a terrible move, and I am certainly not supporting it. However, it is possible that the district has legitimate concerns about the Pre-K program (for example the year-to-year uncertainty of funding from private, including church-based, sources).

Again, I am not supporting the district in this. I think the principal did a great job keeping a successful program alive. I am just asking if anyone can explain the district's point of view more clearly.

-Gabrielle

Anonymous said...

Beth, you certainly ran into this problem with pre-K funding at Graham Hill, a flourishing program that has run into nothing but trouble from the district. Parents have fundraised like crazy for year after year, and have run into what might be characterized as almost active opposition from those at the district who should be helping. It's unbelievable.

Brita said...

I now chair the board's student learning committee and this is the first I have heard of this. If the principal cannot explain the rationale for the change, you need to go to the ed director for that school. The CAO office will know which ed director to contact.

Anonymous said...

Brita, even though the principal has been working at this, it's clear to me that she knows just about as much re: the District's rationale as we do. Probably because it's not rational at all.

This is yet another example of the central office making decisions that adversely impact students, has no rationale, and stays under cover until all is said and done.

How are we to expect to retain great principals if they are undermined at every turn? Here you have a proactive principal fighting for kids (as opposed to fighting for adult jobs) and she gets the shaft from the District.

I hope we don't lose yet another great school leader because of this nonsense.

Beth Bakeman said...

I called the district office an found out that Patrick Johnson is the Education Director in charge of T.T. Minor. His phone number is 252-0397.

He said Principal Brown's plans doesn't meet district guidelines for a "quality" program. Also said that the district has given Laura Brown several options and that she doesn't like any of them.

At this point, Patrick said the district central office and the program placement committee are going to make the decision. Said Principal Brown has had her chance to give input and that her opinion on this issue isn't "valid" anymore.

Said district is still considering several options, not just the developmental one described in the flyer. Wants to the pre-school program to be an effective feeder into K enrollment.

But then also said he doesn't even know if there will be any PreK program at T.T. Minor next year. Told me I "didn't understand" that it wasn't just a single decision but part of a bunch of interconnected decisions and issues.

Give Patrick a call and see what you think of his explanations!

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see those district guidelines for a 'quality' program.

OK, you have to ask, if all of the "options" that were given to principal Brown were of the caliber of the Developmental program, then no wonder she turned them down.

As a T.T. Minor parent, I have been watching this develop and I smell a rat.

I know that Michele Corker and Patrick Johnson were both asked to come to our PTA meeting in March. Michele is "unavailable". I don't know if Patrick has responded yet. They can make decisions behind the walls of the Stanford center, but ask them to come explain/defend those decisions and they won't. Can you say passive/aggressive?

Something this major deserves a better response than "you don't understand". What they were counting on is the usual passive and uninformed parent community at T.T. Minor. Those days are gone, we found our voice, so they're going to have to do much better than "part of a bunch of interconnected decisions and issues".

Beth Bakeman said...

I agree completely. My phone conversation with Patrick Johnson completely steamed me up, but I was trying to filter out most of that in my comment post and just literally report what was said.

The tone of the conversation was both aloof and condescending.

I did sense anxiety from him at one point in the conversation when he paused and asked "Are you a parent?" When I said yes, he relaxed and went back into his spiel. I think for a moment he was worried that I might be from the media or someone else important as opposed to just a parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

I would gently point out that a lot of this is happening because the New School Foundation money went away from TT Minor. I think Principal Brown was confident in believing they could carry on well, after getting their program kick-started by the Foundation, and now you see the outcome.

What will New School be like in 5 years when its funding will likely end? Will they be able to keep their Pre-K program, their extra teachers and tutoring that make their program work so well? That's why I would rather see public/private partnerships that kick-start a program, give it legs BUT that is sustainable on its own.

Anonymous said...

Principal Brown is new to T.T. Minor this year--she came from the New School at Southshore where she was the VP.

I point that out because this (planning for the end of the New School Foundation funding) was not her issue. From my interactions with her this school year, she would have dealt with the funding phase out long before the end of the funding.

This is what's so frustrating now because we finally have someone who has both academic and management vision and this is how she's treated.

--T.T. Minor Parent

Anonymous said...

Hmm, wait a second, doesn't Washington law prevent that kind of comingling of religion and public schools?

Anonymous said...

Hmm, wait a second, doesn't Washington law prevent that kind of comingling of religion and public schools?

Anonymous said...

Is there a need for more special education preschools? ABSOLUTELY!!! I have a three year old child who was recently made elligable for special educaiton, and there were virtually no choices at this point in the school year, let alone any where my son would be with any non-disabled students. Given a choice to start a new pre-K (and without the New School funding that would be what this is) or put in a much needed preschool for special education students, the second is the more needed option.

Anonymous said...

TT Minor was specifically exempted from Phase II closure, even though it seemed like everyone agreed that it would be the logical central area closure canidate. The Board shot themselves in the foot by taking it off the table in Phase 1.

Anonymous said...

WOW!

"Allow the District to install a developmental AM/PM Pre-K program. These would be half day classes consisting of 9 students with developmental challenges and 3 students receiving general education. ... This is not just about Pre-K! It’s about protecting our children from a system that clearly doesn’t care about our children’s education!"

What about the education of the most need kids, the special education students? Wait, TT Minor is the school that refused to take MLK's special education program last year. Guess the only children worth protecting are those who do not have special needs.

Anonymous said...

I think the TT Minor parents should be very careful in their communications and how they market this campaign.

As one person already pointed out, the original flier states that this decision
“end(s) up harming instead of helping” kids. That is not entirely true. It just doesn’t help the kids who the program is currently helping, although it does help kids in an even higher risk group.

The flier also calls the program “successful” with no information to back that up. I would be very interested to see the following:
How many kids does the program serve?
How many are from FRE families?
How many kids actually apply to the program? Is it sought after in the community? Is there a waiting list?
What other programs are available in the community?
This program is 8 years old? Is there any tracking of its early graduates? How are the doing in school? On the 4th grade WASL?

Stating that the school district is against you and that you were hurt by being put on a closure list is not going to help you get outside support to your side.

I also want to advocate for the type of program that the district is proposing because there have been some comments about its “caliber.” Perhaps TT Minor is not the right place for this program, and I hate to see a successful Pre-K program shut down. However these types of integrated classrooms are usually very beneficial to all students. I haven’t seen a program run by Seattle Schools, but I saw a similar program in Pierce County, and it was really great for everyone. Please don’t simply reject the idea because it’s not what you currently have.

With all that said, if the Pre-K program really is successful and is needed in the community, you should fight for it with everything you have.

-Gabrielle

Anonymous said...

We are not speaking out against developmentally delayed kids. Not at all. In fact we have a very good special ed program, of which my child is enrolled.

What we're saying is we have had a program for 8 years that has been successful, and we want to keep it going, and we know that we need to find the funds to do it, and we did.

If the district wants to do a developmental program, then they should find a school that doesn't have a Pre-K at all and put it there.

It's a pretty simple concept.

--T.T. Minor Parent

Anonymous said...

One of the anonymous posters said "Hmm, wait a second, doesn't Washington law prevent that kind of comingling of religion and public schools?"

Actually First AME owns one of the contracts for Head Start for Seattle. It's not a religious program. It's Head Start just like every other Head Start program in the Nation.

If you want to complain about First AME having the contract, then take that up with George Bush and his Faith Based program.

Anonymous said...

You, personally, may not be saying speaking out against developmentally delayed kids, but when posters talk about the "caliber" of the proposed program, it certainly doesn't sound supportive.

So, rather than focusing on that, why isn't anyone posting on why the current program is so successful? Why didn't the flyer include that information? This is what the district is going to respond to.

Remember, the current program is going to change no matter what. It has to because of the funding situation. Think about the most important aspects to keep. It sounds like that would include serving a greater number of mainstream students. If that is the case, and that is what you want to fight for, you could be successful.

-Gabrielle

Anonymous said...

"What we're saying is we have had a program for 8 years that has been successful, and we want to keep it going."

But you are not going to have the same program. What is being proposed is a new program. If the choice is betweem a new program whose quality is in question, and a developmental preschool that is much needed, why not embrace the that? First AME will have a Head Start regardless.

Anonymous said...

Somebody told me to look at this post re: T.T. Minor.

So let me get this straight, those of you who seem to be against T.T. Minor fighting to keep their Pre-K, wouldn't do the same if the district took away a program that was successful for your students?

Just because T.T. Minor parents aren't references mountains of data in their flyer doesn't mean they have a right to call their Pre-K successful?

Wow. I hope when you all have to fight for something you have every single duck in a row and every single speck of data before you ask for support. Geez.

Anonymous said...

I think the place to start is not having blatant incorrect information in the fyler. For example, TT Minor was not listed for closure at all, it was specifically exempted from it, even though it was the logical choice in the central area.

Then, the second place would be to acknowledge that you are not fighting to keep a successful program, but that you want that opportunity to try to start a new program.

I also think that the smarter thing would be to not to set yourself up in a position where it looks like you are exempting special education students from the student's whose education is important.

Anonymous said...

To the poster who said:

“Wow. I hope when you all have to fight for something you have every single duck in a row and every single speck of data before you ask for support. Geez.”

If you are referring to me, you have missed my point. This blog is a place for people to share ideas, not just get support. You have a lot of very successful activists here, and rather than just be peeved that they don’t immediately rally to your cause, you should listen to what they are saying.

I do not think that it was an effective flyer. People will simply not believe you if you just call something “successful.” You need to back it up with something. With anything.

And rather than come here stating that “Just because T.T. Minor parents aren't references mountains of data in their flyer doesn't mean they have a right to call their Pre-K successful?” just find some data and offer it up now. I still haven’t seen any additional information at all. Instead, I see you alienating a bunch of people who could help you.

-Gabrielle

Anonymous said...

Well how about this for a data point?

In 2006, the students who attend T.T. Minor Pre-K scored 51% higher on the kindergarten DIBLS test than kids who were new to the school. That's up from 48% in 2005.

T.T. Minor is 79% free and reduced lunch.