Thursday, August 02, 2007

Board Elections Mentioned in PI Column

Ted Van Dyk weighed in on the upcoming elections in this piece. Here's what he had to say about the Board elections:

"Schools: We can begin a turnaround of Seattle Public Schools. The district has had a 30-year dowhill slide as families with options have moved to suburban districts or sent their kids to private school. We are left with a dwindling school population of mostly minority and poor kids in a system plagued by low test scores and unacceptable dropout and truancy rates. As enrollments have fallen, so have state payments to the system based on enrollment.

Middle-income families with kids will not move back to Seattle. They cannot afford housing here. But our schools can be saved, if the agenda can move from debate about fictional "institutional racism" in the system to improvement of teaching and achievement standards in quality neighborhood schools.

Seattle is one of the country's most tolerant and diverse cities. It should be mature enough to recognize that kids of all races and ethnicities do best in schools in their own neighborhoods, staffed by dedicated teachers and administrators, backed by parents or mentors who care. Two School Board members, Cheryl Chow and Michael DeBell, have consistently focused on raising classroom performance. They can gain like-minded allies -- and a constructive board majority -- in November elections. The jury is still out on our new school superintendent. But, thus far, she has said the right things."

I think there has been an over-focus (not over-concern) about institutional racism. But it is not fiction. I am quite surprised he would say that.

Seattle is "mature enough to recognize that kids of all races and ethnicities do best in schools in their own neighborhoods". I'm thinking he means having consistent feeder patterns but that sentence smacks a little of "separate but equal". Careful there, Ted.

He also mentions Cheryl and Michael getting "like-minded allies". I do not want a Board that cannot work together; I want people who have their own ideas, are willing to listen to others' ideas and find compromise and consensus to get to a mutually acceptable place. I don't want a bunch of "like-minded" people who will rubberstamp each others' ideas. We had that and it ended badly. It might seem like a good idea at the time to get people who all think the same way but you'll get no vibrancy and fewer ideas that way.

58 comments:

Charlie Mas said...

Ted Van Dyk does not have an informed opinion about Seattle Public Schools.

Roy Smith said...

Completely Off-Topic (sorry - maybe we can have another open thread?), but I am really curious about this given the discussions we have been having about elementary capacity in the north end.

I have a friend who moved into Wedgewood from out of the district last month. He has a child who is entering kindergarten this fall. He lives 0.9 miles from Wedgewood Elementary, and with absolutely no planning prior to his move, has gotten his child enrolled there - no wait list, no hassle, no working the system, nothing. Ask and you shall receive. I thought the northeast cluster elementary schools were all horrifically overenrolled and this sort of thing couldn't happen. What gives? Anybody know?

Anonymous said...

I believe (may be wrong) if you are attending you reference school, you are guaranteed space. Of course that usually applies to on time enrollment. Is Wedgewood ther reference school?

Anonymous said...

Also, just FYI we live about 1.2 miles from Wedgewood elementary. Our reference school is John Rogers. My next door neighbor applied for Wedgewood, Bryant and View Ridge. She did the on time enrollment, and did not get any of her choices. She was mandatorily assigned to Rogers. I will never figure out the system.

Roy Smith said...

Wedgewood is their reference area school, but I know for a fact that SPS does not guarantee access to reference area schools - this is a major cause of the heartache over the current assignment system.

Anonymous said...

Just called our neighbor who did not get into Wedgwood, Bryant or View Ridge. She says she is still on the WL for Wedgewood. It was her first choice school, back when she did her on time enrollment. How can she be on the WL when another family just got in??

Roy Smith said...

How can she be on the WL when another family just got in??

Beats me. That's why I originally brought this up - it seemed highly unlikely that there was no waitlist for Wedgewood Elementary.

Roy Smith said...

Do the tiebreakers apply when determining who gets moved from the waitlist into the school? If so, that might explain the discrepancy, but this whole thing still seems really odd to me.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Interesting, Roy. Part of the issue of the assignment plan is this "what do we do with people who move here and can't access a school near their house"? (Apparently, the answer should be "welcome to the club" but in this case, I guess not.)

Michael de Bell wants to set aside seats for such a situation under his plan. Are we talking people moving from within the district? the region? the state? Out of state? who get this favor.

I would advocate for every cluster (if we keep that designation) one school (chosen in rotation)be the "set-aside" school for that year in case someone does move to that area. We can't hold endless seats for kids who may or may not move here if there are already kids living in an area who do want to get in certain schools.

Anonymous said...

Tie breakers are considered at the time of assignment. They do not come into play once you are on the WL. Once you are on the WL you are in line, and the school must go in numeric order to fill seats if they become available. The only time someone can jump the list is if there is an appeal that is won, and the district has to accomodate a family.

Charlie Mas said...

The family who is on the waitlist should make an immediate appeal. It sounds horrible, but they should have gotten that seat, not the new arrival. An appeal should result in an investigation and a resolution.

Roy Smith said...

Does every elementary school in the northeast cluster have a waitlist? If this is the case, the district may have had no choice but to give them access ahead of people on the waitlist. Students can't be involuntarily assigned to an alternative school, and it would be wrong (and I suspect a violation of SPS policy - can anybody confirm) to involuntarily assign a family to an out-of-cluster school that transportation is not provided to. The children have to be assigned a seat, and the district is obligated to provide transportation or have them close enough to home to walk.

If every school in the cluster is full and has a waitlist, then it makes sense to assign new arrivals to the school they can walk to, regardless of waitlist status. This isn't fair, but it may be that every other option available is even less fair and could cost SPS more money in transportation costs.

Charlie Mas said...

Not every school in the Northeast cluster has a waitlist. I believe that John Rogers is not over-subscribed.

Roy Smith said...

To try to satisfy my curiosity regarding waitlists and status, I just called the north enrollment service center, and they told me they don't have access to waitlist or enrollment information because their computer system is being upgraded, and the upgrade won't be complete until August 13th. The woman I spoke to wasn't sure, but she said she thought that this also meant that the automated waitlist and enrollment info lines don't have any info, and that the waitlists aren't going to move at all until the computer upgrades are completed.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps your friend's child is taking a seat that is set aside for students with disabilities, which is seperate from the gen ed slots.

And the Waitlist is created in order of tie-breaker factors, those with sibs in get first, then distance, then lottery.

Also, a child of an employee has a right to attend the school at which the parent works under state law.

Anonymous said...

John Rogers does have a small waitlist. Not because it was a popular school, as it isn't. The kdis who do not get into Laurelhurst, View Ridge, Wedgewood, AEII, and Bryant wind up with mandatory assignment to Rogers.

Also, we had a freind move into the NE cluster last October, they tried to enroll their MS son at Eckstein and were told it was full with WL. They were told there was space at Aki, Mercer and Meany. They wound up going private. So, the theory of assigning new kids to the neighborhood school doesn't actually wash.

Anonymous said...

By the way our friend who moved to NE Seattle last October was NOT offered transportation to Aki, Mercer or Meany. They were told they had to drive or use Metro.

Anonymous said...

Re: wait listing, we're facing the same thing.

After moving to the Northshore area two years ago, partner and I just accepted jobs in Seattle. The prospect of enrolling so many months after on-time enrollment fills me with dread.

We have a difficult trade off. Do we continue this tedious commute to Seattle, leaving our children in a pretty nice Northshore school, or do we walk into the enrollment office and take what we can get, for now? I don't feel good about the time and separation from our children, especially if there are dangerous road and weather conditions throughout the year. I also don't want to be a parent so burned out at the end of my day that I can't be engaged in what they're doing with their day.

But at this rate, we risk a similar situation if we move to a Seattle school: a school miles away from home, or the prospect of once again having the sibs in different schools. Try negotiating after care when one kid is on the bus for 90 minutes just to meet up with her sister!

We are definitely rental shopping based on school boundaries, and even then, we might be priced out.

The experience that burns most intensely in my memory is my first meeting with Tracy Libro 4 years ago. We attempted on-time enrollment a month before moving into our new Seattle address. We brought all the required documentation. but she told me our new lease looked "fake" and rejected it. I had to get a signed affidavit from our landlord to convince her that we weren't lying about our address just to get into Laurelhurst. I wasn't very happy when I read about an audit that happened a few years later, the one that uncovered the far wealthier parents who lied their way into John Stanford. One of them even rented a spare apartment, just to get their kid into JSIS kindy! I can't play that kind of game again. WenG

ultimate fan said...

I would look at Tracy Libros's challenging WenG's lease document in the same way I view retail clerks' asking for my ID when I use a debit or credit card - with gratitude - though there might have been more diplomatic ways of requesting additional documentation than saying what he'd first provided looked "fake".

I'm glad to know they challenge documentation and do audits to assure compliance - and to be fair, a control system would have to be prohibitively expensive (comprising multiple enrollment centers and their staffs) to catch 100% of the scofflaws.

How would the district detect that someone has rented a spare apartment, short of having its own detectives? I think the only way the district knew about that one was through an informer who resented the behavior.

Anonymous said...

"So, the theory of assigning new kids to the neighborhood school doesn't actually wash."

That is an idea that is being PROPOSED with the new plan, no one claims that it is in place now.

"How would the district detect that someone has rented a spare apartment, short of having its own detectives? I think the only way the district knew about that one was through an informer who resented the behavior."

I have a friend at SPS who told me about all of the crazy things people do to falsely claim residency first within the district and then near a school they want.

Most of the time, if they don't catch it at enrollment because of fishy looking documents or a track record of say, using one address for enrollment, but then asking for another to be the address things are mailed to, it ends up being another parent who turns in the people who are lying.

Apparently, Roosevelt waitlist families have gone so far as hire private investigators to find out if people ahead of them actually live where they say they live.

The renting an appartment, or claiming a business address, or the address of a family member or friend to get close to a school (or a program, I hear that lots of people starting claiming apartments in the Rainer Valley to get a spot in Graham Hill's autism program a few years ago) is apparently a rampant problem.

My friend also told me that if they find out mind year that someone may be lying about enrollment, they will invesitgate, sometimes have surrvielnce done.
Crazy.

So, no offense, I am glad Tracy Libros just asked you to bring in more proof.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:46 PM-

I presume your friends rejected Hamilton, Whitman, McClure, Summit, and AS 1 which also had space last October when I enrolled middle schooler?

I love that people like to "horror story" that options of going to a south end middle school while ignoring that there were other options avialable, just not the one that they wanted, Eckstien.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:46 PM-

I presume your friends rejected Hamilton, Whitman, McClure, Summit, and AS 1 which also had space last October when I enrolled middle schooler?

I love that people like to "horror story" that options of going to a south end middle school while ignoring that there were other options avialable, just not the one that they wanted, Eckstien.

Anonymous said...

anon@10:24 am: I don’t object to Tracy Libros acting to keep the enrollment process honest. What I found unfair was her rejection of every piece of documentation I provided, not just the lease. I guess I was na├»ve. This happened on the last day for on-time enrollment, so perhaps she viewed me as an interloper trying to slip through a fast one. Had I known how suspiciously I’d be treated, I would’ve had our signatures notarized in advance.

All of this prevented us from enrolling on time so yes, I’m still a little bitter! And unlike some of the more enterprising parents, I'd never pay to play.

When my husband told another parent why only one of our younger kids what at school X, she said “Oh, the wait list. You know, some parents trade favors for wait list spots.” Was she kidding? How is this even possible?

anon@9:20 am: Sorry, haven’t had time to check the original story, but I think SPS audited JSIS based on tips, either that or a district employee noticed a returned piece of mail.

All of this spells broken enrollment system. I am hopeful that Dr. G-J will take steps to make it better for everyone. WenG

Anonymous said...

"I presume your friends rejected Hamilton, Whitman, McClure, Summit, and AS 1 which also had space last October when I enrolled middle schooler?"

Summit and AS1 are nightmares too, with test scores far below any South end school. Plus they're alternative, and most people do not want alternative schools. As for Whitman and McClure(assuming they had space), they are just as far away from NE Seattle as Aki, Mercer and Meany. And no transportation would have been provided to them either. So no south end horror story, sorry. The whole assignment plan is a horror story. Go chew on that nightmare for awhile.

Anonymous said...

AS #1 and Sumitt have low test scores because almost no one at the those schools takes the WASL. They opt out, as is thier right.

The "I bought a house in the north end, I am entiteled to Eckstien" attidude is what is particularly annoying.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:59 PM: in your excuses as to why your friends left, you fail to account for Hamilton. Pray tell, what made that unacceptable?

Stop with the wacky and just admit that for some families, it is Ecksiten or nothing. No need to defame other school justifiing that position.

Anonymous said...

Why is it so hard for you to acknowledge that it is not reasonable to send your child out of your neighborhood, across town, without transportation. Isn't that a little disturbing, even to you, non elitist. Should a parent really be expected to drive their kids across town to AND from school twice a day??? Or Metro for an 11 year old in middle school????

And since you asked, I called our freind. Hamilton was full. Oh, poof, your elitist theory is blown. Hamilton has had a waitlist since the John stanford school started feeding in. Last year, my freind tells me he would have been 6th on the WL. Not a huge wailtist, but a waitlist non the less.

Why is it entitlement to want to go to school in, or near your neighborhood?

Even a non elitist like yourself, must realize this is abnormal. The rest of the country does.

Anonymous said...

I would gently point out (not taking sides on this debate) but thousands (if not millions) of school-aged children take public transportation every day to get to school (in the US and other countries) and live to tell the tale.

Of course, if you live in Laurelhurst this isn't possible. I say that because Laurelhurst is the only neighborhood that will still get yellow bus service to Roosevelt because of the lack of bus lines going there. It's likely the same for Eckstein.

Anonymous said...

11 year olds riding metro??? Not my 6th grader, sorry.

surreal said...

"The "I bought a house in the north end, I am entiteled to Eckstien" attidude is what is particularly annoyingw"

You mean....I bought a house and want my child to attend our neighborhood school is annoying??? Darn North enders. How greedy they are. How selfish. How elitist. They want their kids to go to their neighborhood school with all of their friends and neighbors. How awful of them. They don't want to ship their kids across town to a school where they won't know anybody and will have no transportation. Greedy, greedy, greedy.

Seattle is sooooooo far left, it has become surreal.

Only city I have ever heard of that you would be called elitist for wanting your kids to go to THEIR neighborhood school. Bizaar.

Anonymous said...

Exxuse me sureal, but aren't there THREE middle schools in noth Seattle?

So, the question is, are you entitled to Eckstiem if it is full and you are also close to Hamilton which has space? I think there is nothing wacking in saying no.

Or perhaps you would like to walk into the school and select the already attending child you would like to kick out?

Roy Smith said...

anonymous 10:11 AM said Tie breakers are considered at the time of assignment. They do not come into play once you are on the WL. Once you are on the WL you are in line, and the school must go in numeric order to fill seats if they become available. The only time someone can jump the list is if there is an appeal that is won, and the district has to accomodate a family.

Anonymous 5:23 PM said And the Waitlist is created in order of tie-breaker factors, those with sibs in get first, then distance, then lottery.

Does anybody have references to support their impression of how the waitlist system works?

Anonymous said...

"Why is it entitlement to want to go to school in, or near your neighborhood?"

This is the fundamental problem: SPS currently is not a neighborhood school system. So yes, so long as this is a system is one in which the first goal is choice, there is a distinct air of entitlement to the idea that your friend would only take Eckstien.

Suzanne said...

Roy-

My info on the waitlist comes from having raised a transfer appeal in prior years. My child was 9 on the wait list, got moved to 3, then back to 4.

The person who handles the appeals explained that the schools are filled in order based on a computer generated list that runs the tiebreakers for all students. This means that the waitlist is in order of tie-break factors.

In my case, one older child got in, but the younger was the one on the waitlist. Once the older child was in, it moved the younger child up based on sibling "linkage."

Then a teacher enrolled her child, which meant that they had to be put at #1 on the waitlist under a special state law that allows teachers to have thier kids in thier buildings, even if they live out of district.

The enrollment staff downtown (Jay Glover, Tracy Libros) can explain this, I can't speak for if the enrollment center staff provide accurate info, I think not so much.

Anonymous said...

tie breakers are used for assignment as well as the creation of the order of the WL. Once the WL is made, then there are no more tie breakers. Kids are assigned to school as space becomes available in numeric order from the list.

Anonymous said...

Roy,

Does your friend's kindergartener have health issues? I know Wedgwood is one of the few schools with a full time nurse, so if the child had something like Diabetes that required a full time nurse, I believe they might have some kind of right ahead of the wait list. I don't know this for a fact, but I do know that there were a couple kids in my daughter's school who lived way out of the reference area, but had diabetes so were able to get preference. I'm not sure if this would apply if you came in after enrollment cut off.

Anonymous said...

Starting with John Stanford's tenure the SPS have managed a huge improvement at the elementary school level. Part of this was the introduction of some predictability in school assignments. With predictability, parents become invested in the schools that they expect their kids to attend.

(The year Stanford was hired, our neighbor in Wedgwood, who lived only 8 blocks from both Wedgwood school and Decatur, had to spend more than a dozen visits trying to change the school assignment so that his 5-year old daughter didn't have to spend an hour on the bus each way to and from school each day. The PIC center did - and still does - signify much of the problem with the SPS.) The decision to generally fix elementary assignments and eliminate such busing was the first step to the current generally healthy situation in Seattle elementary schools.

The middle school and high school assignments are nowhere near as predictable as elementary assignments and that uncertainty is unfortunately a major reason for flight to private schools for those few who can afford it.

Anonymous said...

"Exxuse me sureal, but aren't there THREE middle schools in noth Seattle? "

Summit can not and should not be counted as a neighborhood school. It is an all city draw, lottery school. It is a k-12 alternative school. We can not force parents who are not interested in alternative education to accept an alternative school as their neighborhood school. By the way, the alternative schools don't want to see this happen either. They want families who are interested in and support alternative education for their children. Not families who are forced into something they don't really want.

Hamilton is not a nieghborhood school either. It is across the freeway, and now fills with the John Stanford families who get an assignment preference. Kids from S Seattle also get assignment preference and get yellow bus service to get there. Hamilton has had a waitlist for the past 3 or 4 years. IF you apply on time you may get in, but remember the distance tie breaker. NE Seattle students near Eckstein may not get in, as they are much further away than many who apply.

That leaves Eckstein. Eckstein is OUR neighborhood school. Sorry that sounds elitist (Only in Seattle). Most of the kids that go to Eckstein walk because it is in OUR neighborhood. Most of the kids have gone to elementary school together, because it is in OUR neighborhood.

I am truly puzzled as to how wanting your child to go to threir neighborhood school is elitist. A school that they can walk to, with all of their freinds. What is so wrong about this????

Elitism in Seattle......
People are ashamed of being white or middle class, they are ashamed of sending their kids to an APP program, and now.......da da da da....you can be ashamed of wanting your kids to go to their neighborhood school.

Oh and as for QA.... you can be ashamed of even wanting a neighborhood school.

Charlie Mas said...

anonymous at 7:49 will be interested to learn that there are, in fact, THREE comprehensive traditional middle schools in north Seattle. They are Eckstein, Hamilton, and Whitman. Summit is not one of the three.

Anonymous can say that Hamilton is not a neighborhood school, but that would be incorrect.

The statement that it is "across the freeway" reminds me of a joke. A fellow is hiking and comes to a river. He can't find a way across it, but sees someone on the other side. "Hey!" he shouts. "How do I get to the other side of the river?" The man across the river shouts back "You ARE on the other side!"

Yes, Hamilton is on the west side of I-5, but there are a number of streets which go under the freeway, and it really is not an impenetrable wall. People who live on the east side of the freeway can get to the west side without significant difficulty.

Hamilton does not fill with the John Stanford families who get an assignment preference. The school is undersubscribed; it is not filled at all. I am absolutely mystified by the assertion by anonymous at 9:45 who wrote that their friend’s child, living in the NE middle school region, was offered Aki, Mercer, and Meany, but not Hamilton. That simply isn't credible.

Hamilton does not have a waitlist. Not now, not for any of the past 3 or 4 years. If you apply on time you will get in regardless of where you live. If you apply late, you will get in. The school has an enrollment of 724 with a capacity well over 800. That's the reason that 270 south-end students can get in – because there is room for them there. Kids from South Seattle do not get assignment preference there – that statement was factually incorrect – although they do get yellow bus service to the school.

If your friend was told that Hamilton was full, then it goes onto the growing pile of weird disinformation people get from the Enrollment Centers. Or it is, like a lot of stories that "happened to a friend of mine", distorted in the re-telling.

No one was accused of elitism, so it's bizarre to protest the non-existent charge. A sense of entitlement was charged and it has been confirmed. It is an entitlement for your child to go to a school in or near your neighborhood. You are claiming to be entitled to it. You may think the entitlement is reasonable, but let's not pretend you don't feel entitled.

I also don't understand the concern about middle school students riding public transit. When was that suggested? The District generally provides yellow bus transportation for middle school students. The District generally only puts high school students on METRO. Please advise me of specific exceptions to that policy.

The lack of sympathy expressed for the family living in northeast Seattle who wants their child assigned to Eckstein is rooted in two facts. First, we recognize that the space in the school is finite, so the addition of this student requires the subtraction of another student. We put a higher priority on allowing that other student to continue at their assigned school than we put on allowing the new student access to the school closest to them. Second, that's the way the rules are written and those are the rules that we have all been playing by for many years. The rules, of course, can be revised and, in fact, are getting revised, in part to address the concern expressed by the party who is denying elitism where none is charged. So surely they must be pleased that the change is coming.

I can tell how upsetting this has been, and I fully support your right to be upset and express it. It must, indeed, seem surreal that no one is sympathizing with the absurd situation your friend has been subjected to. I assure you that we do understand and that is why we support the effort to change the student assignment policy. You and your friend will, under the new policy, be able to know with perfect confidence that if they live in the Eckstein reference area they will be entitled to enroll their child at Eckstein. The reference area may not be exactly where you suspect it should be, but there will be one and those within it will have secured the entitlement that you feel they should have.

If you are getting pushback on the story, it is because the reasons for not getting and accepting an assignment to Hamilton ring false. They may be true, but if so, it is due to yet another mysterious error by the Enrollment Center and not due to District policy.

Anonymous said...

Just for curiosity. Why is Hamilton so under subscribed, and eckstein so over subscribed, if they are so close to each other?

Is the Hamilton program inferior? Poor leadership? Does it not offer the programs that Eckstein offers? No advanced math or Spectrum? Low test scores?

How could this happen?

cynical about parents said...

Why is Hamilton so under subscribed, and eckstein so over subscribed, if they are so close to each other?

Is the Hamilton program inferior? Poor leadership? Does it not offer the programs that Eckstein offers? No advanced math or Spectrum? Low test scores?


Does anybody really know why any school in SPS is over or undersubscribed? In a very few cases, there seem to be specific failures that can be pointed at, but in general, I think the single largest factor that drives school popularity is parents perceptions, and comments on this blog provide ample evidence that parents perceptions are not necessarily reliable reflections of the ground-truth realities in schools.

In this case, if anybody were to really dig into the difference in popularity, I suspect a big piece of the answer would be: "everybody 'knows' that Eckstein is high quality school, and Hamilton is an underperformer". Conventional wisdom isn't necessarily wise.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Cynical, very good.

Hamilton has had a medicore reputation. In the past (like 3+ years ago)I had heard from several teachers there who said they wouldn't put their own kids at Hamilton. But the school has made steady gains, has a pretty solid parent group and, as the feeder school for John Stanford, has a program that many parents want. And, they will eventually have a new building (which I think will be a plus for them).

I think Cynical has it right and that's what the district forgets (at its own peril) - that a lot of information/talk is over the fence, backdoor and at the grocery store talk. It feeds perceptions and distorts reality. Some people believe Eckstein and Roosevelt ARE the only schools in their area and are just unwilling to consider any other. That's their prerogative but, as Charlie says, you can't get mad if someone points that out to them.

At the end of the day, you can surprise yourself/justify your beliefs if you just go to their websites, visit the schools, talk to the principal and talk to parents there and then make a decision.

Anonymous said...

What Melissa says is correct in terms of word of mouth, etc. etc., but when one is in walking distance of Eckstein and Roosevelt, someone will consider that their neighborhood school and not accept being assigned to another school that they would have to take a bus to. That is not elitist, it is wanting their child to go to the school they can walk to with the kids in their neighborhood.

The only negative impressions I've gotten about Hamilton have been on this blog. I did speak to a parent at my child's elementary school who had a 6th grader at Hamilton this past year. She didn't say anything negative about the school except how ridiculous it was that her daughter had to walk half the distance from her house to Eckstein to catch a bus to Hamilton an hour early (already a tough adjustment to switch to middle school start time from Elementary, but then add another hour) when her daughter could easily walk to Eckstein. Luckily, she got in for 7th grade.

Anonymous said...

I toured Hamilton and Eckstein, and I have to say I was not impressed with Hamilton. It had nothing to do with hallway and grocery store talk either. It had to do with what I saw. I don't particularly think Terry Acenas is a strong leader, and I think the academic program was weak. I saw kids in 6th and 7th grade doing the same type of work that my kids did in 4th and 5th. There are no honors, spectrum or advanced classes either. Eckstein offers Spectrum, honors math and up to integrated III math (10th grade math). None of this at Hamilton.

I did not think the teachers were as high a quality as the ones that I met at Eckstein, and the student body seemed kind of "rough" to me. Alot of kids from S and SE Seattle make the school diverse, which is a nice thing, but they are also a rough group of kids. My shy kid would not have done well there at all. I did like the small school environment though.

Charlie Mas said...

This is a funny thing. As a parent of students in APP I have to defend myself against charges of elitism all the time. I am, however, actually accused of elitism on a fairly regular basis. Here we have someone denying that they are elitist (over and over again) when no one has suggested that they are.

You can consider any school you want as your neighborhood school no matter how close or far you live from the building. Under the current student assignment rules, what you consider your neighborhood school doesn't count for squat. It simply isn't a factor.

Based on the region where you live, the District believes that you have TWO reference area middle schools. If you live in the Northeast Region - any part of the Northeast Region - those two schools are Eckstein and Hamilton. They are each your reference area schools equally. Neither one more so than the other.

You will be pleased to know that the District will soon identify a reference area for individual middle schools as they now have elementary reference areas.

Again, the school YOU consider your neighborhood school will not be a factor in how they draw the borders of the reference areas. It may be that the school you consider your neighborhood school will not turn out to be your reference area school. You may have trouble accepting this, but in the end it is what is best for all of the students and families in the District.

So be of good cheer, our anonymous friend. Things are moving in the direction you desire. Please recognize, however, that they may not reach the specific point that you think will serve you best personally.

As much as you may scorn the opportunity to enroll your child at Hamilton from within the Northeast Region, and decry the long and arduos journey there, remember that there are 270 students who take a long bus ride from the Southeast region for the opportunity to attend Hamilton. When the new assignment plan with a stronger neighborhood element comes, many similar students are likely to miss out on that opportunity.

Anonymous said...

First of all Charlie, their are two anonymous posters that you are responding to. Both using the word elitist. I am one of them.

Eckstein is my neighborhood school. I don't really care what the district calls my neighborhood school. Eckstein is in my neighborhood, Wedgewood. It is therefore my neighborhood school. I don't consider the QFC in Wallingford my neighborhood grocery store, since it's not in my neighborhood. Why would I do it for a school. Now, I'm not arguing that the district doesn't designate Eckstein as my only neighborhood school. I am well aware that they consider Hamilton as our school too. Does that clarify for you? When I say my neighborhood school, I am merely saying "the school in my neighborhood". Wallingford is not my neighborhood. Wedgewood is. So Eckstein is my neighborhood school.

I am glad the tides are turning with the new enrollment plan. If it happens that the boundaries are such that Hamilton is our school, I will go with it without a fight. That means that all of my kids freinds will go there. They will ride the bus together. It will be a neighborhood school. As they fill the school, and the SE Seattle folks are pushed out (as you say), the environment at the school will change too. I would obviously prefere Eckstein, a few blocks from home, but if it turns out the Hamilton is my school, so be it.

Melissa Westbrook said...

From Hamilton's website:

"The Spectrum program for highly capable students is offered in language arts and social studies. Honors classes are offered in math. HIMS has classrooms for English Language Learners (ELL) and offers both inclusion and self-contained special education classes."

I was pretty sure they had Spectrum and they do have Honors math.

Anonymous said...

Hamilton's reputation as second rate isn't recent. My oldest child was there in 1994-1995, during the tenure of Alan Nakano. If Acena is a weak leader, I can only shudder to think of how she stacks up next to him.

My son began attending a few weeks after a female student was raped by two other male students, on the playground, during school hours. His first day at Hamilton coincided with a school assembly, convened to discuss the incident. I sat in the auditorium and heard Nakano refuse questions from three female students who asked about their safety at *their* school. His arrogance did not alter a bit in the times I watched and heard him speak to students.

Hamilton was second rate then, and I haven't heard anything to contradict that perception from friends with students who have attended or toured in recent years. If Eckstein, as big as it is, has witnessed sexual assaults on their campus, I haven't heard about it.

The Joe Drake story should be indicative of the downside to a powerful union. A union should advocate strongly for its members. It should not protect deadbeats waiting out the clock until they can achieve full retirement while their school figuratively burns to the ground.

I wouldn't call Hamilton the dumping ground that Marshall is, but it's only a few degrees removed. Really, there's nothing *there* there except a second rate school. I haven't checked it's offerings over the last year, but I doubt it can stack up to the offerings of Eckstein. And that's not an elitist statement. I think a deadbeat principal is the true elitist, collecting a check while doing nothing to help the students in their care. WenG

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:12 "Eckstein is in my neighborhood." Bully for you, but right now SPS does not have a neighborhood school system. Until that happens, the rally cry of "Eckstein is in my neighborhood" goes no where.

Terry Acena retired. Give the new Hamilton principal, Katie Cryon (sp?) a chance, I hear she is quite fabulous.

Gina said...

There is a reason that Hamilton does not share the positive reputation that Eckstein does. It is a lower achieving school, with poor test scores, and low academic expectations. I am shocked to hear that they have Spectrum and honors, as they did not as of a couple of years ago. It must be a new addition to their offerings. Perhaps the John Stanford families have pushed for that?

They do not offer music or band of any kind, and have only a 5 period day.

The kids are tough, and not supervised very well. Shocking to witness passing classes, and hear the cursing and inapropriate behavior.

It just doesn't stack up to Eckstein any way you slice it. That's why Eckstein is over subscribed even with it's 120 students, and Hamilton can't fill it's tiny 800 kid program. Parent perception has merit and foundation. There is a reason that parents shun the school. It is in a reasonable middle class and affluent neighborhood with a lot of children. Dig deep, and find out why schools are not popular, and then FIX THEM. Don't force parents into them. It just doesn't work.

Anonymous said...

I like to use the "When, then" strategy. When Hamilton starts performing better, then I will look at the school for my kid. When Katie Cryon proves herself, then I may look at the school for my kid. When Hamilton offers band, then I will look at the school for my kid.

I wouldn't even come close to considering it in the state that it is in right now. I do think it has potential though. My kids just don't have the time to wait. If it becomes my neighborhood guarantee school with the new assignment plan, I will simply get a scholorship at a private school or put my kid in a (proven) Shoreline school (they have plenty of space).

That's just me. Entitled and elitist, and proud of it!!!! elitist that I am.

Anonymous said...

Note: I made an error and referred to Terry Acena as "she." Mr. Acena has been a long-time teacher and principal with SPS, and for that I applaud him, but this doesn't change my opinion of HMS. WenG

classof75 said...

I am surprised to hear these comments about Hamilton. My D attended Summit for middle school, (although she was also admitted to Salmon Bay- she chose not to move), but her traditional school choices would have been Hamilton or Whitman- and I prefered Hamilton for size alone.

I also know a community educator ( also a former school board member)whose daughter attended Hamilton during his tenure on the board & I never heard him say anything negative about it.

( I also don't understand the infatuation with Roosevelt-I don't feel comfortable in either the new Ballard or Roosevelt buildings and my daughter felt the same way)

Anonymous said...

classof75: I understand that word of mouth can speak volumes. If we don't hear anything bad, it's probably ok. HMS was bad for my son. He was harassed on a daily basis because he was white and his hair was green. We came from another city with diverse schools and neighborhoods, but he didn't know how to handle this kind of treatment. Neither did his principal. This is where I first saw the total disconnect between staff.

In one office, a counselor started a program for students that a counselor in another office deemed worthless.

The principal painted my son as a troublemaker. He ignored the threats my son received and instead, falsely accused him of vandalism. I had to request a written apology when he admitted my son wasn’t guilty. In another office, Mr. Jensen, the assistant principal, did everything he could to help my son. After weeks of harassment and threats, he told me my son wasn’t safe at Hamilton.

Overnight, Mr. Jensen moved my son up the Summit wait list and he was immediately transferred.

In the intervening years, I haven't heard anything that tells me Hamilton has changed in substance. This surprises me because on paper, the international focus and language classes would seem to be an attractive draw for lots of families, including mine.

Japanese immersion would be enough to get my daughter on the bus or in a car pool for 2-3 hours a day, she's that keen on learning another language and culture. So I’m genuinely curious: why aren’t the families who prefer Eckstein choosing HMS as their first choice? WenG

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I should add that even in 1994, when I agreed to transfer my son to Summit, a person at the enrollment center laughed and said "Why? We have a spot at Eckstein for him. Why do you want him to go there?" I think traditions die hard. WenG

Charlie Mas said...

Please note:

Middle school students will not be admitted to the Japanese Immersion Program at Hamilton unless they are coming out of an elementary Japanese Immersion Program (JSIS) or can demonstrate fluency in Japanese.

The same is true for the Spanish Immersion Program. No admittance unless coming from a dual language program or demonstrating fluency in Spanish.

Your daughter can't walk into it cold. She can, of course, enroll at Hamilton and take Japanese there, but there are a number of Seattle middle schools that offer Japanese.

Anonymous said...

Charlie: Thank you for the clarification on immersion programs. After I wrote that, I checked the Hamilton, Washington and Eckstein websites for their language offerings. My biggest wish for SPS would be more immersion programs. WenG

Frankie said...

Yes, it is pretty sad isn't it?? If you don't live in the Wallingford neighborhood or get a golden ticket you have lost your shot at an immersion program for the rest of your SPS life. Too bad.

All these failing, unpopular schools, why not try to replicate this program, and feed the kids into Hamilton. That would fill the building.