I am part of a newly formed High School Leaders group and we had a meeting last night where we had as our guest, Michael Tolley. He is the new high school director brought in by Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson from Charleston.
I have only met him this one time so I probably should reserve judgment but for me, what a breath of fresh air and reality. He listened, had informed things to say (how did he learn this district and OSPI so quickly?) and seemed on point.
He was quite diplomatic in trying to assess the district as compared to Charleston. He said, twice, it's "different". He made the point that Charleston has had an exit exam for 10 years and the WASL still isn't on-line yet completely. (And that's another topic; all is not what it seems for the math WASL.) We talked about security. He said he was a little taken aback at the security at the high schools. He said Charleston high schools generally have only one open entrance, sometimes with metal detectors and teachers generally kept classroom doors locked during class. Naturally this was met with some surprise. And, 9th graders in particular can't go off campus. (That's true here but I don't know a high school that does (or can) enforce it.)
We all talked about the culture in our high schools and how many students and parents would not accept this level of closed campuses even for safety. Ballard did a survey and out of about 100 parents, only 5 thought a closed campus a good idea.
I chimed in that the layout of the buildings isn't helping. For example, Roosevelt's main entry was designed with an almost completely closed off foyer. Meaning, there is no way for anyone in the library or office (right there by the foyer) to see who enters the building. We don't have security cameras there (and I don't think it even got wired for it - I asked) and basically, you can come in undetected. I worry about this.
The point is that we have a very open culture at our high schools (and likely at many other schools) and it may take an incident to make us reassess it. I'm glad it's on his radar.
The breath of fresh air for me was that he had been a principal (well, actually he majored in marine biology and had studied turtles - go figure) at a magnetic school for what he called "gifted and talented". No apologies, no concern about saying that out loud (clearly he doesn't know Seattle that well yet). It was not discussed in any kind of detail but just mentioned in passing.
This is yet the 3rd person in senior leadership (the others being Dr. G-J and Carla Santorno) who have openly spoken about gifted students. This has never happened in any real way before. I feel this new outlook coming for our district, people with new eyes looking at what is happening (or not) and may affect real concrete change. (And I mean this for the whole district, not just for highly capable programs.) I note that Director de Bell, out of character for him, complained at the last Board meeting that things move at a "glacial"rate in our district and it frustrated him. Well, I get the feeling that this may change.
I mention highly capable students because of this post from another thread:
"My issue is that my children, like many others in this district, are not low income or under served student. Quite the opposite, they are high achievers. I find that high achievers have very very little available to them in this district. If they don't test into Spectrum or APP, they all to often become under served, though not in the sense that Maria advocates for. The board hyper focuses on minorities, institutionalized racism, the achievement gap. Nobody is looking to better the opportunities for all. Only for the under served. "
This person is correct. There's isn't much discussion, hasn't been and it's always been like a secret club. Why? I can't say except that district leadership has never championed or seemed to care about high achieving students (we got rid of Honor Roll at most schools for crying out loud). As I said before, these new people have thoughts on this issue and are starting to make it part of their vision.
I almost didn't put in this post from the other thread because first of all I believe that most of the Board thinks about all kids a lot. This person seems to not get that in every single minority group there are high achieving kids and, in fact, they are not being found and helped. I don't think the Board has "hyper" focused on these issues but that they have found their way into the press who has said the Board did. And, the Board sometimes did not keep focus on the big picture and allowed a few loud voices to dominate the conversation.
I feel hopeful but a bit wistful. None of this will happen in time for my child. Oh well, I'm in this for a long-term better district but I can't help but wish it was happening sooner.