The staff had a very elaborate presentation (the paper they used was a very heavy paper with deep color photos of the Powerpoint presentation - how much could this cost to do?) for the Board.
They first explained how both projects came about; Denny is quite old in all areas and Sealth's boiler/HVAC system is at the end of its life (and replacing it requires demolition and if they are going to do that drastic of work, they should spiff up the place). Interestingly, they say that the condition between the two high schools in West Seattle is so great that they need to remodel.
Then they gave an "academic rationale" which was somewhat laughable because all they did was print the Seattle School Board mission, their theory of action, the district's academic vision, some cherry-picked research on 6-12 schools, academic benefits of "span" schools (from the research) and finally how the remodeling supports it.
Among these benefits were technology upgrades equal to (not similar but equal) to Madison or Roosevelt. (Why those two I don't know except Madison is the only middle school to be rebuilt.) It seems that the Denny/Sealth focus is to include pre-engineering and sports medicine along with the IB at Sealth (it is possible to have middle school IB but that was not mentioned).
I'll quote the complete summary because many questions arose out of it:
"The Denny-Sealth 6-12 configuration offers a prime opportunity for two schools to create:
- a strong,aligned, comprehensive educational program
- a smooth 6-12 transition that reduces student isolation and achievement gaps
- a unified professional learning community composed of a 6-12 faculty and administration
- an opportunity for students and staff to experience the benefits of an updated campus while preserving the integrity of each school on a shared campus"
Michael asked Carla about the research about span schools - She said were most unified but not co-located. All the ones she saw had been created as one school and families and staff knew this going in. (This is obviously not true for this case.) She had no research on co-location. She didn't know the real meaning of span school versus dual-schools.
Steve asked about the communication on this to voters and stakeholders. The reply was that so much focus was on school closures that not as much communication occurred.
Then there was info on the bond measure and what was presented to the voters. The problem is they showed language from some pamphlet the district mailed to 45,000 households. I didn't see the actual pamphlet but I'm assuming from that number it was to parents. The actual language in the voters' pamphlet is a lot more vague.
Harium again ask, "Is this what voters voted on?" He was told the explanation of the pamphlet and Peter Maier said that they were not legally obligated to do anything in the voters' guide (basically voters were voting on a pot of money) but hastened to say that it wasn't necessarily true in this case just that he was pointing it out.
Steve, whose daughter attend Sealth, said that Sealth library is newish and one of the largest in the district and under this plan would get broken up.
Michael said that he is trying to understand the perception that he gets from e-mails and testimony about Sealth giving up space and that they are not benefiting as much academically from what is proposed.
This plan would get rid of all their portables always a good thing.
There was a lot of talk about the long galleria which would join the buildings on the lower floor (with one bridge on the next floor). It is one long Commons which could be separated with a partition for lunch or other events.
It was also noted that the only Music facilities will be located in Sealth's area and the Denny kids would have to walk through Denny, upstairs to the far end of Sealth to access the Music area.
So then we looked at the floor plans and the staff presented three options. They said that the current BEX investment had been almost $2M on this project and that they had various permits filed to the City. Construction should begin in July 2008 and be finished by Sep 2011. (I just want to point out that this means Hale, Hamilton, South Shore and Denny/Sealth will all be underway at the same point at the same time. Facilities has never done this before and I can't believe the challenges because of it.)
So they explained Option 1 as the existing plan with a few additions (oddly, one was partial ADA upgrade - I didn't even think an ADA upgrade could be optional or partial).
Option 2 is the same thing but with a - surprise! - budget increase to "enhance"Sealth. It would add a new gym floor and bleachers and gym plumbing (hope it's better than Roosevelt's which is rippled and they are going to dry it out this summer and hope it straightens itself out - no kidding), full ADA upgrade, auditorium upgrades, new doors and windows and a new library roof. This would cost $5-10M extra but it wasn't explained where the money would come from. Option 3 is redo the plan for two separate buildings. Sealth would only get a basic improvement package (which is barebones) and Denny would get a basic redo and they would share an existing new performing arts hall. They say this would cost $125+ with Denny costing $100M. (How this could be with Garfield coming in at $100M for a high school?)
Harium asked about the space at Sealth given the loss of the portables. Staff was forced to count out the rooms gone or repurposed to get a true accounting of space at Sealth.
At least 2 Board members asked for costs for all three options. Staff demurred but other Board members said they would like to see them as well.
Michael de Bell thoughtfully laid out his concerns. He said it felt that the speed of the development left the community uncertain and that many did not understand this plan. He said they need community buy-in both from the outside and the inside. He said that Sealth would be out of their building for 2 years and come back with their spaces reconfigured while Denny would stay put in their own building and then move into a brand new building. He said he could see where Sealth would feel slighted. He also said he was concerned with a new assignment plan that people might feel they are being asked to join a 6-12 school rather than just choosing a middle and high school and that it might disrupt the momentum at both schools as they improve.
Sherry Carr said academic concerns are key to a staff buy-in for the plan.
Cheryl said she was not comfortable with an "us" versus "them" idea and that they "were all the same kids". I didn't follow that idea as they aren't the same; they are middle and they are high school kids. Cheryl said she was elected to make decisions and that she didn't need 100% buy-in. She said she would be comfortable listening and answering questions but moving on.
Mary Bass said she felt they needed to make sure that the community had enough opportunities to weigh-in before the election. There was talk throughout the session about hurrying because of money constraints and escalation of costs.
Dr. Goodloe-Johnson said the next steps are to talk with both staffs, discuss the academic benefits and do more outreach and engagement. Don Kennedy, the new COO/CFO, tried to discourage the idea of option 3 but several Board members said they wanted to see costs on all 3. That ended the meeting.
Clearly, there are at least of couple of Board members that do not believe the communities, within and outside, clearly understood this idea. I'm not sure I get what it is they are doing on the academic side. It seems like option 2 would be hush money to get Sealth to go along with the plan (which a speaker during the Board meeting said was not what they wanted). I don't think that Sealth believes they are getting much either facility-wise or on the academic side.
There was also no talk about security. I think that galleria sounds like a situation where you will have any person who wants to able to get into one school and move to another. Roosevelt is just now working on its security because virtually nothing was put in. Cleveland has the same issues. (I spoke with Michael Tolley about this after the meeting and it's a concern of his as well.) I asked Mr. Tolley to follow up on this as it hadn't occurred at Roosevelt or Cleveland and if they building two buildings to be attached it was even more vital because of the numbers of students involved.
It's disturbing because Cheryl clearly wants to forge ahead but I can see that some Board members are just not going to roll on this one (I believe, in the end, they will all agree to it because that's the way it always plays out but not quickly.)