So next week's calendar has a couple of important meetings on district issues.
One is the district's meeting at the Chief Sealth High School library on Monday, the 4th, at 6:30, to discuss the plan for the co-joined Denny/Sealth building. They scheduled their meeting after the local community group, the Westwood Neighborhood Council, had announced their meeting on the issue on Tuesday, the 5th. (This upset a number of people and the Council has rescheduled for Tuesday, the 12th at 7 pm in the Sealth High Commons. They will have a 5-person panel to discuss issues about both the co-joined building and co-joined programs. They will have as moderator, Enrique Cerna from KCTS and Steve Sundquist, Board director for the region, will be one of the panelists.)
Both meetings should be quite interesting as they will cover some of the same ground but not all. The district's meeting won't be talking about the academic benefits or what the academic plan is. Oh, that's right - there is no plan yet, according to Carla Santorno. That's an interesting idea to create a 6-12 school without creating the program first.
This is one of the first big challenges to both the Superintendent and the Board. The Superintendent, at the presentation of the project by staff to the Board, seem to be set on the project as is. President Chow took pains to say she didn't need "100% buy-in". (I had to roll my eyes at that one as it seemed silly. Of course, no one can expect 100% buy-in. It seemed something of an intimidation tactic to the other Board members to me.) I personally believe after all the shoutin' is over, the Board will vote for the project to be a co-joined building. (Oh heck, Mary Bass might just be the cheese who stands alone but even she might want to look like one of the gang.)
But there are an awful lot of hurdles to get past (or overlook or rationalize as the case may be). One is simply that voters got different information from the district. Why would the district do that? Why tell 45,000 households one thing and not put it in the voters pamphlet which reaches all voters? I've heard many people say they toss most campaign literature and read only the voters pamphlet. After all, it is the official election guide. (And, as an aside, what was Peter Maier's role in this? He was head of Schools First which likely had some voice in what was printed.) Doesn't it trouble any Board member that shrugging this off might bode ill for future votes?
Two, did anyone ask the parent community if they wanted a 6-12 school? It's a pretty key issue for any parent especially if the district changes the assignment plan and it becomes more difficult to access other schools. It's also problematic in that the district has no real plan to explain to these parents.
Three, if they go with a co-joined building, that means a couple of things. Work done on Sealth under BEX II and BTA in the last 5 years will either be destroyed (tennis courts/softball field) or altered (Commons and library). The district is saying that delaying the project is costing money; well, they are going to have cost taxpayers money for work done that will now be changed. Also, there will be tremendous security issues for a 2100 student community complete with two staffs. There have to be video cameras and quick/secure ways to lock down the building and separate the two communities. The district hasn't shown itself to be very good at addressing these issues, even post-Columbine and post-V-Tech. Roosevelt and Cleveland are good examples. Also, there is less flexibility in a co-joined building. What if the 6-12 program doesn't work or isn't accepted by families? What then? Whether you rebuild Denny on-site or move it next to Sealth, two buildings provide more flexibility.
Also, what about the teachers (especially at Sealth)? If most of went to work and were told that our physical workplace would be altered again (after already being partially remodelled) but this time to co-join with another building so that our company would co-join with another company and no one asked us our opinion or thoughts on how to make it work, wouldn't we feel unhappy? I haven't heard Sealth teachers say no but rather than they are deeply troubled over not having any real understanding of how it will work.
Also, the Facilities staff is offering a second option that would throw $5-10M more at the Sealth project (a buy-off?). I say $5-10M because at the Board presentation it was $5-10M but at the BEX Oversight Committee it was $5M. Interesting that staff would say different things at different meetings. More to the point, where would this money come from? According to staff, construction costs are going up daily and yet they can find this extra money? Sure but it'll likely come out of some other project's budget. Raise your hand if you're Hale, Hamilton or New School.
Why should you care? Well, you should care if you are either a Seattle taxpayer or voter. You paid for work at Sealth that now will be changing less than 5 years after it was put in. You were not told, clearly, what you were voting for in the official voting guide and yet the district thought it important enough to give some voters a clearer picture. If the district can come in and make a huge decision like co-joining two schools without any input from the community, the parents, the students or the teachers, we should all worry. We could be next. And, as I mentioned, if they are trying to make the Sealth project more expansive, then finding $5-10M isn't like finding change in the sofa cushions.
The other interesting meeting is not actually a meeting but a Board Workshop next Wednesday, the 6th, from 4-8 pm (yikes!) on the Student Assignment Plan. This, folks, should be interesting and, of course, important to parents. This is where we might actually hear some nitty-gritty or see preliminary boundaries for schools.