Friday, October 03, 2008

Capacity Planning and Management Work Session

Here is my account of the Board work session on capacity issues in the north end which was held on Wednesday, October 1st, 2008. Please note, this is not verbatim.

All the Board members were present as was the Superintendent who did the overview sections of the presentation. Also at the table were Tracy Libros, head of Enrollment, and Kathy Johnson, from Facilities who the Phase I Manager (there are going to be two phases for this process; one started already and Phase II in January).

Here is a link to the district webpage on this subject. Here is the link to the PowerPoint given by staff to the district. No handouts were available for the public but here is a link. (And, they seated the Board members in a u-shape around the screen so it was difficult for the audience to see the screen - the Board had handouts.)

Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson said the goal of the meeting was to get a clear indication from the School Board on what measures to take for the school year 2009-2010 on the issue of lack of capacity in the north end elementaries.

The timeline is as follows:
-Oct 1 - Staff presentation to Board
-Oct 8 - Send draft recommendations to Board Executive Committee and Program Placement Committee
-Oct15 - Introduce at Board meeting draft recommendations to current Assignment Plan (an annual review) and capacity adjustments needing Board approval
-Oct 15-Nov 12 - Public comment (it is not known how this will be carried out; there was no discussion)
-Nov 12 - Board action on recommendations and capacity adjustments needing Board approval
-Dec - Superintendent action on other recommendations

Tracy Libros went over the capacity challenges which have been presented at the community meetings. They include:

-overall decline in K-12 enrollment in the past 10 years by 2280 students
-shortage of seats for 2009-2010
-however, kindergarten is trending up the last 5 years; last year's K was 3,160 and this year's K was even higher (preliminary as final numbers were due on Oct. 1) by another 190 students
-of note, she said that the preliminary numbers show a higher than expected enrollment in Rainier Beach HS, Aki Kurose and Cleveland and it was encouraging to see

There is a chart in the presentation which shows the numbers needed for North, NE, NW and Queen Anne/Magnolia. They range from 12-17 next year for the North to 4-6 in QA/Magnolia.

Kathy Johnson then went over the potential solutions but said "there could be solutions we haven't thought of yet". She stressed that the short-term solutions would be part of a long term plan (this was said repeatedly; they obviously heard parents at the meetings). She said that Sand Point, Old Hay and Magnolia schools were all ideas heard for reusing buildings and that repurposing Jane Addams was yet another idea.

Director Carr asked if they had considered the impact of developments in the north-end and Tracy said yes. (I will say that this question got raised, repeatedly and with great suspicion, because parents in the southend (both southeast and West Seattle) could not believe that with all their developments, especially in public housing, that school enrollments would not go up. I take the impact of developments with a grain of salt given the outcomes in the southend. However, the wild card is what impact a new assignment plan would have if suddenly hundreds of southend kids stayed in the south.)

Kathy explained that the Jane Addams building could hold 823 and the Summit program has 527 students. She said Pinehurst (where AS#1 is) holds 282 and has 160 students. She said the Board could choose to close or relocate one or both programs.

(There is some irony here given that it was suggested in Phase II of Closure and Consolidations that because of these under-capacity programs that AS#1 join Summit at Jane Addams and that was largely rejected. More by AS#1 than Summit but, as we see, the proposal went nowhere.)

Kathy said that Blaine K-8 could be repurposed for a K-5 which would solve their capacity problems in QA/Magnolia but the 6-8 graders would have to go somewhere. She said it would help McClure Middle School to take those students (they are underenrolled) but that McClure did not have the capacity for all these students and that it would eliminate a traditional K-8 in that area.

(Michael asked if Blaine were reconfigured, what that might do to plans to renovate it? Kathy said that would be considered.)

Another proposal was to create new classrooms at Broadview-Thompson, Blaine, Sacajawea and perhaps other schools. She said it would create 10-12 permanent classrooms but that funds would have to redirected from other projects to do so.

Another proposal was to tweak the assignment plan so that out of cluster students could have access to B.F. Day, Green Lake, Olympic Hills and one other (can't read my writing) with transportation.

(This was not of interest to Board members. As well, most parents at the community meeting I attended also had little interest. It is basically putting their child on a bus to a faraway school. Director Martin-Morris asked if the ancient VAX system used for assignments could do this and Tracy said yes.)

Another proposal is to relocate programs. This also has a tepid response probably because people fear any relocation of Special Ed or bilingual programs and because it is vague (what programs moving to what schools?).

Bring on portables. Again, not much interest in terms of creating classroom space because of the fear of them becoming permanent and the cost for high-quality ones (which, again, would take funds from other projects and could impact playgrounds). There was some interest if it was to help a school that is maxed out and have a portable not as a classroom but perhaps as a place for conferences or counseling or volunteers; activities whose space may have gotten pushed aside to create new classrooms for students. Harium expressed concern over using portables to create more classrooms because a school isn't just a classroom but also has other resources that get stressed like the cafeteria and the library.

Then there were some questions.

Steve Sundquist: repurposing/program relocation question - can this be done in the time required? Dr. G-J said it would be tight be could be done.

Director Bass: do these enrollment numbers include southend kids in northend schools? Tracy said yes.

Director DeBell cautioned against calling this enrollment rise a "bubble" because it could be a new demographic. (I told my table at Roosevelt this as well based on anecdotal stories of people who are coming to Roosevelt who were at private schools and the reality that a trending down economy -okay, tanking-may mean fewer people who can afford private schools.)

Michael also said that there is community interest in using Old Hay but it has a program there (the Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center) and Jane Addams but it has Summit there.
Dr. G-J said the Secondary BOC could be a conversation after an on-going audit of the bilingual programs is finished. It was noted that a search for a better place for Secondary BOC has been going on for quite awhile and that money ($14M) that they were to receive for whereever they would be relocated had gone to finish Garfield.

President Chow noted that the most immediate need is the the NE/NW rather than QA/Magnolia.

Steve stated that repurposing Jane Addams was a community generated solution and had it been looked at? Dr. G-J said yes.

Harium and Dr. G-J had a bit of an interchange because he asked what it would take to get things done sooner and she said there are 27 parts (!) to the Strategic Plan and this was only one of them and staff could only do so much. Don Kennedy (COO/CFO) added that people working on the VAX migration are also involved in this work so they are stretched thin.

Dr. G-J said staff recommendations are yes to creating new classrooms and minor assignment plan tweaks but no to portables (unless it was to stabilize a school, not add classrooms) and possible relocations.

Dr. G-J again stated staff wanted direction from the Board. (Minor note: I realize that the Board has been following this issue - although how strongly by how many members I don't know - but this is the first time they have seen this stuff in a presentation. I find it odd that the Board is supposed to give direction right away. Most people need to actually process the information first.)

Board Opinions

Steve: in general, the smallest number of moves to get it done

Peter: repurposing of Jane Addams and Pinehurst - he said there is "lots of potential". He said Jane Addams could be a K-8 and that the community could help plan the school. He said perhaps they could start next year with 2 classrooms of K-1 and grow the school.

(What I found disturbing about his comments were not the substance but that he named neither Summit nor AS#1 as the programs in those buildings. As well, he said he needed to find out more about AS#1. Both these programs are in his district; you'd think he would have a little more compassion.)

He also said he was less inclined to repurpose Blaine and lose a K-8. He said the transportation idea was interesting but would not want to bring another long-term cost to the transportation budget. He said he wouldn't rule out portables but that they were not high on his list.

Michael spoke at length. He said portables are a last resort. He said relocation of programs should be for efficiency. He said that he felt the transportation tweak to the assignment plan is against the direction they are trying to go for the assignment plan.

He said that creating new classrooms had to be looked at through the Facilities Master Plan (which is, after all, the plan for facilities). He said he was supportive of repurposing buildings but there had to be a connection between a short-term and long-term plan. He said they needed to engage the communities in those buildings. He said there needed the Jane Addams building for a K-8 because there was no K-8 in that region (which isn't true because AS#1 is a K-8 - he had mentioned other K-8 before, both alternative and traditional so I don't know why this slipped his mind).

He said they could explore a co-location at Old Hay with Secondary BOC and bring some classes of John Hay (with a waitlist) over. He said the old Board had made a commitment to Secondary BOC and that they (the Board) needed to firm that up. He also stated that he wouldn't want to change Blaine from K-8 to K-5 because the architecture of the building was that it was built as a middle school. He expanded on that saying that Old Hay was built as an elementary but was being used as a middle/high school when those students there needed a building for the ages that they are.

Sherry said her views were similar to Steve's and that they needed to be strategic in adding classrooms. She said efficiency evaluations are a good idea. She liked the idea of moving Summit but not so much #AS 1. She did say that she did not want to create a whole new type of school at Summit but build on what they had already been doing. I would assume this means no new math/science based school but K-8 international school or K-8 arts school (a la JSIS or TOPS).

She said that any movement of programs especially Special Ed needed attention.

Mary Bass, as the longest serving Board member, had more visionary remarks. She said that the district doesn't stop at the Montlake cut and reminded Board members that they need to think of the whole district. (She is right on this point; a plan has to take into account the ripple effects, of which there are always, in the district.) She said she needed more time to think about the presentation.

Harium stated he felt two things: one, that Old Hay could have better use to support the growth in that area and two, that Jane Addams needed to be repurposed. But he wanted to see the costs for changing anything.

Cheryl (another person who has been in and around this district for decades) had some visionary remarks as well. She said that because of busing and then because of program placements that a generation of south end students had come north. She said that it is important to not forget that this occurred and that the Board had to think from a district level.

I feel that it was a good presentation with a couple of issues. One, parents at the Roosevelt meeting really wanted to hear about the idea of repurposing Sandpoint. There was not one word here about that except to name it as an idea. Staff is firmly against this one and so there was no discussion.

Also there are many parents throughout the region(s) who stand ready to help and yet there wasn't much discussion of that nor how public comments would be given to these ideas. This presentation was different in many ways from the community meetings on the subject.

It seems clear that Jane Addams will be repurposed but there was no discussion or even ideas of where Summit might go. It seems program placements might help the problem but again, there were no specifics. Most of the Board members seemed to be against portables, assignment plan tweaks or building new classrooms.

42 comments:

Frankie said...

Cheryl chow said "that because of busing and then because of program placements that a generation of south end students had come north."

Does this really apply for elementary and middle school? Families who live within a mile of Bryant and View Ridge can't get in, how could South end kids? And how about middle school? I don't think there are any south end kids at Eckstein as people in Lake City can't even get in.

The other absurd idea is to offer kids placement and busing to (under enrolled?) north cluster schools like BF Day and Greenlake. Why would a family voluntarily give up a high performing NE cluster school to send their kids on a long bus ride to another cluster, where he/she has no friends? Why would anyone do this?

Melissa, thank you very much for reporting on the meeting. I couldn't make it to this meeting and appreciate the information.

Thelma Lynnly said...

I'd like some clarification on the remarks pertaining to special education programs. What gets lost in these interchanges is that programs = children, children in buildings, children with friends, roots, community, children who've achieved (hopefully) a level of familiarity with the building and the people in it. The reason that board members (I think) are bracketing special ed programs is that for students with disabilities continuity of placement is the difference between progress and regression not only with regards to the disability but also educationally. So when people talk about "programs" let's remember that these are peopled with vulnerable children for whom continuity matters much much much than for the non-disabled peer.

On the other hand, what's historically happened in our district is that children with disabilities are placed in the schools that are underenrolled and not strong by most education indicators. Families are not choosing these schools, and special ed is a bump to the enrollment. I think this blog has had a lot of postings giving all of this data, but it needs to be out in front of everybody in considering the situation in the northeast cluter (and anywhere) because families of children with disabilities want access to schools that give families with non-disabled children confidence: good educational indicators, cohesive PTA, enrichment programs. Any fix in the cluster or anywhere in our district has to stop placing disabled students in environments that are already showing difficulties educating the children.

I hope this contribution helps to put some context onto the thread author's notes on the matter of changes for 2009 and special ed. Continuity and access - those should be the guiding factors and we hope that matters will be considered first, not last, in any scenario for the cluster.

South Seattle mom said...

So Thelma, which children should go to the under enrolled schools that are not strong by most education indicators?

Do you think that low income children, minority children, and children from families whom English is not their first language should be the only ones to fill the under enrolled schools? Are they somehow less important than your child?

I know we all want to advocate for our own kids, but throwing another population under the bus to save your own is selfish. Think of all of the children in the district, not just your own.

We happen to live in an area where all of the "under enrolled" schools are. Why is it OK for my kid to have to go to one of them, but not yours?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I think Cheryl meant that historically south end kids of all grade levels have gone north. At this point in time, it is likely that there are few, if any, elementary students. There may be some at Eckstein and I know there are a couple of buses of them at Roosevelt because of the bilingual program. I think her point was that again, things have to be considered in a district-wide vision and not just a region or section of the city.

Thelma, join the Special Ed PTA if you haven't already. There's a good place to be united with other parents.

I felt the Board, without prompting, knew the fragility of Special Ed students, have heard the unhappiness of the where these programs are placed and are going to take a hard look at future placements.

Thelma Lynnly said...

South Seattle Mom, I'll just repeat that the point is about equity of access. Currently children with disabilities have no choice as to where they go to school - the district places them. You in the south end may not have what you want in schools but like everybody --except children with disabilities-- you have choice. Families of children with disabilities want choice too. We want the right to take note of which schools are seeming to be more effective in educating their children than others, and some chance of acting on that assessment. Instead, we have no choice and what we're given are placements in the schools that parents have least confidence in (as shown in what they select as first choices).

The situation for children with disabilities in our district is so extreme, however, that even the chief academic officer has compared it to "institutional racism." Equity of access to more popular schools, by the way, is hindered greatly by a culture of discrimination and selectivity that has allowed these schools to "opt out."

Melissa thanks for mentioning about a special ed ptsa. Have you joined? I'd like to suggest that all of your blog authors join.

South Seattle mom said...

Thelma says....."Melissa thanks for mentioning about a special ed ptsa. Have you joined? I'd like to suggest that all of your blog authors join."

Why should Melissa join the special ed PTSA? Why should all of the bog authors join? They already spend an enormous amount of time going to community meetings, district meetings, sitting on committees, and then reporting back to you and I via this blog. I would think their plates are pretty full, and I think it's obnoxious to tell them to take on even more. Thelma I think you should join the special ed PTSA and ask Melissa or Beth if you can be a blog contributor and share the info that YOU find with all of us. Or start a special ed blog yourself.

And by the way, in the south end, I have choice, but it's pitiful choice. We get the "choice" of bad or worse. So, once again I'll say if it's good enough for my kid and all of the kids in my neighborhood then it's good enough for your kid too. And when you think it's not good enough, start advocating for better schools throughout the district, for all kids, instead of just your own.

South Seattle mom said...

Well how about if your special ed child got the choice of Rainier Beach, Cleveland, or Aki Kurose? That's choice. The same choice that I get. Would that be OK with you? Is that equity in access Or do you only want access to a "good" school, like most of us in the south end do? Believe me we want equity of access too. Think globally.

Charlie Mas said...

Re-arranging Special Ed programs in an ad hoc way to address capacity issues would be in direct opposition of the Strategic Plan and the long-range plan for assignment - not to mention good practice.

Just to clarify for south seattle mom and others, no one is being thrown under the bus here.

On one hand we have students who are enrolled at a nearby school with academic challenges and low enrollment because they are - due to geography - unable to enroll in a high performing school. The District has a duty to intervene with that school and take steps to make it a high performing school with attractive programs. The school community will also have to work to improve the school.

That is a whole different issue from a group of students who are enrolled at a nearby school, attending classes there, making connections, feeling familiar, and then being forced out of that school and assigned to an unfamiliar school further from home just so the District can make room for other students in a popular building. The District has historically moved these students simply because they can.

No, it isn't right for any student to be forced to attend a school that doesn't present an appropriate academic opportunity, but to take a student out of a successful placement, manufacture an unnecessary transition, and send the student further from home is a different sort of matter from a lack of good choices in the first place.

AutismMom said...

SE Mom, do you really want all Seattle's disabled students to wind up in your neighborhood? Will that help your schools? You seem to think there's some special school somewhere that's underenrolled, taking in all the sped students. The truth: the special education students are currently shipped to the failing, underenrolled, usually mostly minority schools. Does that seem equitable? Will that improve the achievement gap? Is that fair to those schools, getting all the NE's most challenging students? Let me again get you the 2008 list of programs: Cleveland, Madrona, Leschi, Roxhill, Muir, Summit.

All children should have equitable access to schools and opportunities. And ALL does inlude the disabled students too. There are plenty of disabled kids in the N and NE, and those clusters need to serve disabled students too instead of shipping them out. It isn't an option. Their parents pay taxes too. Lots of people in Seattle seem to think that special education students do not need access to good schools. Crappy schools will work just fine for those disabled kids. And that it's perfectly OK to put them into the worst schools in the district, every time. I can tell you, my child needs access to all the same things every other child needs: high academics, enrichment, and neighborhood peers.

The Individuals with Disablities Education Act, requires students to be educated in the "same school they would have been educated in if they weren't disabled" whereever possible (not whenever convenient) It's called the least restrictive environment (LRE). So, it isn't legal for the N and NE clusters to simply ship all their disabled students out because of a space squeeze. It also isn't legal to fail to provide services because of budget squeeze. Sorry, they'll have to keep looking for space elsewhere.

Charlie Mas said...

Okay, let's have the whole truth. Families in the Southeast Middle School Region can enroll their children at their reference area schools, Aki Kurose or Asa Mercer, or they can enroll them at Meany, Hamilton, or McClure with transportation provided.

Now, I'm not saying that it is wonderful for a student to ride a bus from the Rainier Valley to McClure and back every day, but that option is there, and - so long as Meany, Hamilton, and McClure are under-subscribed - every student who chooses one of those schools is enrolled at their school of choice.

207 of the 482 students at Meany - nearly half - are from outside the Central Region and 136 of them are from the Southeast Region. At Hamilton are 270 students from the Southeast Region (almost as many as the 294 from the Northeast Region - the school's reference area), and another 171 Southeast Region students are at McClure. That's 577 Southeast Region students at these three schools - more than the 479 from the region at Aki Kurose. Not one of them was denied access to these schools and all of them get out-of-reference-area transportation provided.

I don't imagine it is an easy choice to make - to send your child out of the neighborhood for school - but the choice is there.

At the high school level also there are a lot of Southeast Seattle students at Hale, at Ingraham, and at Sealth as well as Franklin. That choice is there.

So let's not say that your choices are Aki Kurose, Cleveland, and Rainier Beach only.

AutismMom said...

The district has a "program" implementation of special education rather than as a service, which is required under IDEA. We have been led to believe that they are moving to a service model, though there is no real evidence and plenty of opposition. But currently, the programs are scattered everywhere, including the NE, serving students from everywhere. If you look at OSPI, you'll see the actual data for rates of disablity service, some of whom (level 3+) are served in programs.

Disability Service Rates:
Seattle Public Schools: 13.2%
NE cluster: 12.02%

NE SCHOOLS:
Bryant 10.00% 51 students
Laurelhurst 5.90% 26 students
John Rogers 14.70% 43 students
Sacajawea 11.30% 36
View Ridge 17.90% 79
Wedgwood 7.20% 30
Thornton Creek 21.00% 66
Eckstein 10.10% 122
Nathan Hale 12.80% 140
Summit 14.40% 85

NE Total:5642
NE Total Sped:678

Charlie Mas said...

A key to making a re-purposing of Jane Addams work is to make this a positive transition for Summit, i.e., a change to a building that better suits the school than Jane Addams.

Summit needs a building that can support their academic program, and, to support their all-city draw, is centrally located with good transportation access. Two buildings leap to mind: Lincoln and John Marshall.

Lincoln has been home to a number of schools as an interim site, most recently Madrona K-8, Garfield, and Hamilton. So it can work for all grade levels. It has the labs that middle school and high school science need, and Summit can fit into a portion of the building while the District continues to use the balance of the building as an interim site. Alternatively, Summit can share the building with another program and the District can use Wilson-Pacific as a north-end interim site. Lincoln is centrally located with good access from either I-5 or Highway 99 from the north and the south. And, of course, no one has to be moved out for Summit to move it.

John Marshall, originally built as a middle school and most recently used as a high school, is the right size for Summit with a planning capacity of about 800. I don't know for certain, but it should have spaces that were used for science labs in the past and could be used that way again. There isn't a playfield, but Greenlake and a huge park are practically across the street.

I know that John Marshall would need some work, but that could be part of the deal - Summit could be at Lincoln (the place is big enough to hold Summit and Hamilton at the same time) until John Marshall can be made ready for them and they could have a strong role in how the building is renovated.

AutismMom said...

And a final note. Though a 1% special education underservice rate in the NE cluster seems like nothing, it's actually a large number. 1% of 5642 total students is 56 students. And that's around 5 programs. That means, the NE cluster actually needs about 5 MORE programs... not fewer programs. To me, it looks like special education programs are needed at Laurelhurst, Wedgewood, and Bryant.

Thelma Lynnly said...

South end Mom, I thought a recent posting of austismmom on the achievement gap thread was helpful, addressing the close inter-relationship of race and disabilities in our district. I'm copying that posting and pasting it in here. Thanks to autismmom. Also if you want to look in your own backyard for a very puffed up version of "diversity" look no further than The New School. This school serves the LEAST number of children with disabilities in the entire district. How did they get to opt out?

Is it obnoxious to suggest that people who do this blog join the special ed ptsa? I don't know too much about that org but it's an odd thought - leave discrimination issues to the people who are discriminated against.
==============================
AutismMom said...
From a special education perspective, there are quite a few obvious things that can be done to reduce the achievement gap. Instead SPS seems to actively pursue policies that will increase the achievement gap, rather than reduce it.

The district should stop stuffing the most severely disabled students into predominantly minority schools which are also underperforming. Program placement of brand new (and exceedingly unpopular) special education programs at Roxhill elementary and Cleveland High School are a prime examples of this isolationist policy. Roxhill is 86% minority, only 10.8% of it's fourth graders pass the WASL, 77% are eligible for free or reduced lunch, 34% are transitional bilingual, and a whopping 30% are already disabled. Now they have a new batch of severely disabled students thanks to the new placement agenda. Cleveland High School is another good example. Like Roxhill, Cleveland already serves the highest percentage of students with disabilities of any high school, nearly 3 times the rate of Garfield. Of that number, none of them passed the math WASL. Doesn't it seem like bad practice to place special education students in schools that clearly can't educate them? Clearly, these are both struggling schools with huge challenges. Adding the most challenging students to the mix is grossly inequitable and a contributor to the acheivement gap. Equitably placing special education programs, and requiring wealthy schools to accept special education students, will be a key to reducing the achievement gap.

Next, fixing the racial disproportionality of the district's inclusion programming would definitely benefit minority students receiving special education. Why are there no African American students in inclusion programs? There's a black student or two, but they're always foreigners. Why does the district never recommend those inclusive programs for blacks and other minorities? Why are minority students stuck in the most segregated placements? I suggest people interested in this go look at Arbor Heights, Roxhill, or West Seattle Elementary self contained programs. You'll find very ordinary minority students, definitely not severely disabled, stuck in self-contained programs coloring maps and doing other age inappropriate activites. Their futures are grossly limited.

And finally, where is the district's EBD (emotional/behavior disability) report, completed this summer? They promised to make this available to the public this summer. So far, mum's the word and nothing has been published. EBD programs are where the district places the African American males it doesn't want to educate. It is the most restrictive and limiting placement of all.

I know lots of people don't care about special education. But if you care about the achievement gap, understanding it is vital. AND, minority are hugely over-represtented in special education. The two issues go hand in hand.

8:27 PM

South Seattle mom said...

"Families in the Southeast Middle School Region can enroll their children at their reference area schools, Aki Kurose or Asa Mercer, or they can enroll them at Meany, Hamilton, or McClure with transportation provided."

Charlie you are right, I have access to all of the schools you mention. But, none of these schools are better than AKi, Cleveland or Rainier Beach. All of the schools you listed are under enrolled. Neighborhood families won't go to them, that's why they take kids from the south part. They all have terribly low test scores, and racial tension to boot at some of them. So why would I put my child on a bus to travel across the city for a school that is still not a good school. Same with all of the high schools you mentioned. The only high school from your list that performs well is Hale. Notice Hale has plenty of space while Roosevelt, it's neighbor, has a 206 kid wait list. It's because Hale is technically an alternative school. They don't offer self contained honors or AP classes, don't have a good band, don't have a good drama program, etc. So again, why would I ship my kid clear across the city for a school that is not any better than the crappy schools in our neighborhood. I want schools like Thelma wants. I want high performing schools like Bryant, and View Ridge, and Laurelhurst and Wedgewood, and Eckstein, and Roosevelt and Ballard.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think special ed kids should be forced out of their neighborhood schools if their needs can be met there. I just didn't like Thelma's attitude of why her kids simply can't go to a bad school. Low income and minority kids fill the halls of those "bad" schools. They don't deserve it any more than her kid does. Does she think of them too? Or just her own? No kid by way of geography, income or anything else should have to go to a bad school, but she seems just fine as long it's not kid. Unfortunately, spec ed and low income, minority families have the smallest voices so they will always get the short end of the stick. Unless we don't throw each other under the bus and work together for the district as a whole, and fight for good schools and equitable access for all. Together.

classof75 said...

Why would a family voluntarily give up a high performing NE cluster school to send their kids on a long bus ride to another cluster, where he/she has no friends? Why would anyone do this?

Program
my kids have never attended a school in the neighborhood.
Both attended schools outside neighborhood from preschool-12. Oldest PreK-5 schools in the U district- middle and high schools on Capitol Hill/Central District.
Youngest attended preschool in NE Seattle, then K-2 on Queen Anne , through middle school in NE Seattle, high school in the Central district..

we live in NW Seattle

Kids don't necessarily need to attend the same school as their friend from next door- actually since we have been in this house since 1983, we have known few kids who have even attended a school in the neighborhood. This is a blue collar industrial neighborhood, not Blue Ridge, but many families work to find what they feel is a suitable situation for their child, even if it means going outside a 10 block radius.

Is it obnoxious to suggest that people who do this blog join the special ed ptsa?
Been there, done that.

Frankie said...

Thelma, I don't think it was out of line to suggest you join the spec ed ptsa, or begin a spec ed blog yourself. I was a bit annoyed too at you telling Melissa to join the spec ed PTSA and telling all of the other blog contributors to join too. None of these folks "work" for the district, or "work" for us readers. They are just parents like you and I, who volunteer their time to share information from their areas of expertise with us. Perhaps you could join them, and share with us what you learn at the spec ed ptsa meetings?

How many committees or ptsa are you on that aren't directly connected to your child or your situation? I'd really like to know, since you expect Charlie, Melissa, Beth, Michael Rice, and Maria Ramirez to be on them.

AutismMom said...

Don't get me wrong, I don't think special ed kids should be forced out of their neighborhood schools if their needs can be met there. I just didn't like Thelma's attitude of why her kids simply can't go to a bad school. Low income and minority kids fill the halls of those "bad" schools. They don't deserve it any more than her kid does.

The issue is a little more complicated than this. The needs of nearly all special education students CAN be met in any school, if the school chooses to do so. The issue in special education is proportionality. Each cluster needs to both pull it's weight, and provide opportunitites. About 1/3 of the kids with disabilities are in "programs", often non-local. So, these programs serving non-local kids also need to be equitably spread around. What worries me is that many people think the N/NE don't need to pull their share just because there's a crunch. These disabled kids have become something of a target. About 1/2 of the disabled kids(level 4) at my child's school south of the ship canal, are shipped in from the NE. Yes, Cleveland, Madrona, and Roxhill need to have special education programs and students. But so do, Bryant, Laurelhurst, New School, Eckstein, Garfield, and Roosevelt. Since Cleveland, Madrona, and Roxhill already serve the highest percentages of disabled students, and are already provably unable to do the job, why should more be sent to those places from N Seattle? Increasing the challenges faced in those schools is part of the reason the schools are unattractive in the first place, to people like SSMom.

old salt said...

Autism mom,

Would a better system of special ed placement be a strict neighborhood school assignment for all children? I mean all levels of special ed, general ed, bilingual, advanced learners?

Or perhaps give a choice of being assigned by the district to a program or attending your assigned neighborhood school. (I believe that currently advanced learners have the choice of joining a program or staying in their local school.)

classof75 said...

Would a better system of special ed placement be a strict neighborhood school assignment for all children? I mean all levels of special ed, general ed, bilingual, advanced learners?

This would push resources to the schools where parents with resources (financial connections- etc), even more so than it is now.

For example- our neighborhood school- when we moved here- was in bad physical shape. A UW study suggested it be closed because of toxic levels of PCBs etc, but it was not because no other place to put the kids.
Eventually it was torn down and rebuilt. No special programs to attract students, although those students with no special concerns do well.
However, when I visited the special education classroom, I was saddened when I saw that the teacher tried to control the children by emotional manipulation i.e. shaming & in reflecting on the incident to me, did not seem to recognize my shock at her methods.
Now, perhaps this was a one time incident, I don't know- but it was not someplace I was willing to send my daughter, although a parent who was not able to visit- or to participate in the classroom- would never know that side of it.

Families who need more resources- with disabilities- low income- ESL- gifted-, should have access to greater resources.

Im not opposed to a student with ( for example) Asperger's who is able to do high school/college work with flexible teaching and support assigned to a high school who recognizes the strengths of these students and is willing to have the supports in place that they need. ( as long as the family has input and can appeal decision- because I also recognize sometimes schools without programs labeled as SPED can better service these students)

I am opposed to a school being picked out of a hat to serve those students, because few students in the neighborhood wish to attend.

Next meeting for Special ed committee
SEAAC will meet again at the John Stanford Center for Educational
Excellence in room 2776 from 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM on 9 October 2008.

Syd said...

Is there a PTSA for minority or bi-lingual students, an APP PTSA? I don't understand why a separate organization is needed for children with disabilities. It's just another way of ghettoizing differently abled learners and their issues.

It seems to be getting lost in this thread that the Chief Academic Officer compared the situation of children with disabilities to "instituional racism." That is an amazing statement. So let's see how the CAO will use program placement to begin dismantling those institutional practices for 2009.

class of 75 what is seaac?

classof75 said...

There is an APP group- I do not believe it is called at PTA, but the SEAAC group that existed a few years ago- was dismantled by the district, in my interpretation & the PTA group was formed in the vacuum.

Garfield has a PTA for the support of African American students, although I do not think there is a district wide one yet.

These things are need driven and PTAs are always looking for more involvement- if you feel there is need and interest to start another group - this is where you can contact the Seattle PTA for more support.

www.seattlecouncilptsa.org/resources.shtml

classof75 said...

SEAAC (Special Education Advocate and
Advisory Council)2004-
2005-

This was a committee that brought information to parents/teachers who were interested in Special education.
It was invaluable IMO, because of privacy issues- families with students in SPED could not be placed on a mailing list or phone tree & unless someone in their school building , made a point to get general information out about programs/ about resource fairs etc, families would never know about it

The special ed PTSA, is interested in getting a rep in each building to pass on information-

AutismMom said...

Old-Salt, without a huge commitment to disabled students on many levels, I don't see the complete "integrated services model" you reference working very well. There is value in economies of scale, to a point of course. Is there the commitment disabled students or equity in general? Maybe, but I don't see much evidence of that commitment. So, SPS should take what works well with the programs, because lots of things work well, and simply address the problems. In order to concentrate service delivery, disabled students have vastly reduced choices and very divergent needs. Therefore, most "programs" should be placed in the most "full service" schools possible.

Programs should be placed in schools that are also free of too a many other challenges. That is, schools should be able to handle the students they receive. Schools which are greatly overburdened (like Roxhill and Cleveland), should not be made to take on lots of new challenges. New programs should NOT be placed in failing schools. Programs should be removed from schools who demonstrate a failure to serve. Programs at highly specialized, non-traditional places, like Summit, should be optional not forced for disabled students like they are for everyone else.

Private monies for public schools must be required to serve ALL students, including students with disabilities. Private money should not cherry-pick their beneficiaries. The private-public arrangements in buildings should mean that those schools will have adequate access and programs for students with disabilities. Currently, SPS essentially allows "disability free zones" for private pay in places like the New School and elsewhere.

Many, many more inclusion programs need to be placed in middle and high schools. Currently, the district's staff (who sit on students's IEP's without any knowledge of the students) make placement recommendations, decisions actually, based on the limited availability of programs in schools rather than student's needs.

Roy Smith said...

Was there any discussion of the possibility that if Summit and/or AS#1 are moved or closed, a sizable number of students (especially at the elementary school level) are likely to move into other schools in the area, thus not doing that much to relieve the population pressure in the NE?

classof75 said...

When we were at Summit- middle school students were often from the surrounding area. Olchefske had Summit add a 6th grade class & families who didn't get into Eckstein/didn't want a huge school had the option of attending Summit just for middle school.

Elementary students, were sometimes from surrounding area, but as I believe John Rogers/Sacajawea had space- were more likely to be from all over the district and interested in an alternative program.

If my daughter hadn't got into Summit- as her older sister did not when she was elementary school age, she would have stayed at her private elementary school.

High school students, are sometimes students who have attended earlier grades, but also students that were new to the district and the PIC centers told them Summit was the only place that had space, as well as students who were misinformed by the PIC centers ( I have seen info from district stating this), that Summit K-12 was a "re-entry" program.

I think Summit/As#1 should be counseled to see the strengths of combining their programs into the Addams building.
An alternative school needs parents and educators who are interested in a similar vision of alternative education, not families who are told that this building is the only one that has openings, or educators who just want to get their foot in the door at the district.
Summit/AS#1 already have a history of sharing yellow buses, sharing friday winter programs and similar original philosophy.

I'd be interested to hear where the middle school grads from AS#1 attend high school.

I would also be interested to have the Lincoln build considered- for most of the reasons that Charlie has mentioned- however- as my daughter who graduated from Garfield @ Lincoln last spring pointed out-
Summit has both middle and high school sports teams. Lincoln has no fields, nor a track and made practice for any sports teams for the two years Garfield was at Lincoln very difficult. Having a middle/high school in the Lincoln building there long term, would require rethinking sports practices. ( as well as PE space for elementary students)

Melissa Westbrook said...

No Roy, there was no discussion of what might happen to students in the NE/North area who attend Summit. (AS#1 was not broadly discussed; as well, their building is small and in poor condition so it is unlikely much might happen there.)

Class of '75, I think the Jane Addams building has too many other uses to the Board and the community than being using to combine AS#1/Summit. I think that idea is done. You make good points about the lack of sports facilities at Lincoln. It's interesting because that is what Facilities says anytime there is talk of using Lincoln as something other than an interim site but I have heard several Board members mention using Lincoln as a site for a QA/Magnolia/Wallingford/Fremont high school. That issue would still be there and I wonder how they might overcome it.

Maureen said...

If they decide to move Summit somewhere further south, they should not close/move AS1. I would be willing to bet that a significant number of younger N and NE cluster Summit kids would switch to AS1 rather than sit on a bus for an hour (not all, but many). These alternative school families might prefer AS1 over the N end neighborhood schools. That could improve AS1's numbers and make it more viable (though it might impact their culture).

Frankie said...

First of all, there really has been no talk of closing Summit from anybody of authority. What the board and Super have talked about, and what may likely happen, is relocating Summit. That is VERY different from closing Summit. And, they have not talked of relocating or moving AS1 at all. Where is everyone getting your information (please list your source so rumors don't get started).

But it is true that if Summit is closed many north end families (50% of Summits student body) will either move to AS1 or filer into a neighborhood school. They will likely not want to be bused across the city. So, the N and NE will likely have to absorb many of these kids, which really is defeating the purpose (in the short run anyway).

Frankie said...

excuse me, I said "but it is true that if summit is closed" and what I really meant was "but it is true that if summit is moved further south"

Charlie Mas said...

It is extraordinarily unlikely that Summit would be moved any further south than Lincoln or John Marshall. There are no available buildings south of the Ship Canal and East of the Duwamish that can hold over 500 students of any grade level.

Roy Smith said...

I received a call from AS#1's principal this afternoon; he is forming a steering committee to be prepared in case anything comes up regarding relocating or closing AS#1. He doesn't know of any specific proposals in that vein, but he is apparently as much in the dark as the rest of us as to what the district might be intending, and he is hearing rumors as well.

Unfortunately, I'm not even surprised at this point that communication in SPS is so poor that the administration of individual schools isn't being informed of what is going on, and thus is not in a position to put rumors to rest.

Melissa Westbrook said...

It depends on whether you believe staff is "authority". Are they decision-makers? No but they are where the Superintendent and Board go for primary information. I did provide a link in this thread to the Powerpoint at the Work Session and here's what it says:

"Repurpose Jane Addams and/or Pinehurst to accommodate current and future elementary and middle school enrollment (closing or relocating Summit and/or AS #1)"

Okay kids, so there it is in black and white. It was acknowledged by the Board and there was cursory discussion. The biggest discussion was to repurpose Jane Addams but, of course, that means Summit has to go somewhere.

Frankie said...

Thanks for posting the staff's proposal Melissa, up to this point I had not heard of it being discussed, nor had I seen anything in writing. It is troubling to hear that the board would think about closing Summit or AS1. Relocating, I understand, especially from a transportation perspective, not only financially, but to save kids from very long commutes. But closing these programs is another can of worms. I truly believe that these schools have dwindled in size because the district has scared families who might choose them away. Both of these schools are ALWAYS on the chopping block. They were both on the chopping block for the first round of school closures, and then again for the second round of closures. Now they are on the chopping block yet again. Parents can't confidently choose these programs as they are always in threat of being closed.

Plus the Summit and AS1 students WILL have to be re-accommodated, and most of them will remain in the N and NE cluster where schools are already over full. We're talking at least half of Summits population (250 kids), and about half of AS1's population (130 kids). Where does the district think they will fit? closing these programs just doesn't make sense to me.

Roy Smith said...

One other thought - the current "process" for deciding how to resolve the north end's elementary overcrowding is beginning to have all the earmarks of heading for another planning train wreck of the type that SPS has an unfortunate history of having too many of.

The timeframe seems to be even more compressed than Phase 2 of the school closure/realignment process. The decision making process is even more opaque, with goals and strategy that are even less clearly spelled out, and with opportunities for public input even more fragmented, poorly organized, and poorly advertised than Phase 2 was. I don't see this ending at all well.

Maybe I'm feeling a bit pessimistic at the moment, but since the district is apparently not seriously contemplating actually adding space in the north end (i.e., by reopening closed buildings), here are my predictions for the future:

1) Summit and AS#1 will continue to suffer from lack of support from SPS and the continual threat of closure and/or involuntary, short-fused moves. This uncertainty will contribute to declining enrollment at both schools, and both will be kicked around for a few more years before finally expiring.

2) Most of the students currently at Summit and AS#1 sooner or later will end up in other north end schools.

3) As the economy falls apart, an awful lot of students who are currently in private schools will be enrolled in public schools, and these new to the public school system students will be concentrated in areas that already feature badly overcrowded elementaries.

4) Since little or no actual new space will have been added, the overcrowding in NE elementaries (and Eckstein and Roosevelt) will be even worse than it is now, parental distrust of the district will be even more prevalent, and several more years will be wasted.

For me, I guess the bottom line is why isn't reopening closed buildings a lot higher up the priority list? And why on earth was closing Viewlands ever considered a good idea? (it's like the decision to close Queen Anne High School all over again . . .)

And for our dose of irony, the State Auditor told SPS a few weeks ago that we should still be studying school closures . . .

classof75 said...

For me, I guess the bottom line is why isn't reopening closed buildings a lot higher up the priority list?

From what I have read- security is apparently lax & some buildings have had copper wiring etc. stripped/vandalized even though some have been closed for a very short time.

Who knows how long and how much money it would take to get them in habitable condition.

Facilities?

TwinMom2003 said...

I have been following the updates from the NE Cluster Coalition (NECC), and watched the latest board meeting on tv (home watching the kids.)

It did seem very encouraging that the board basically demanded more substantial action from the district - such as starting a new neighborhood school on the same campus with Summit - vs. the all very lame (in my view) proposals from facilities.

However, from reading the posts here I'm doubting the optimistic outlook from the NECC.

Is any optimism warranted? And, if not - how do so many of you maintain the energy year after year to fight to be heard as a parent -- the person who truly knows what is best for their child?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Just speaking for myself, one reason, frankly, is because it stopped being about just my child. I went to Board meetings and heard testimony and realized that many, many parents have issues that were not being addressed. My view grew to be district-sized.

Also, I found that being an education wonk fit me. It's interesting and I like many other activists.

I also have an understanding husband who knew how much this mattered to me. There are a lot of meetings to go to and many evenings not being at home.

But this is not for everyone. In terms of helping your child, it's finding a school that fits your child. That helps. It's doing research (yes, it takes time) to back up what you feel is important. It's showing that what you are advocating might be good for more than just your child but their class, the school, etc.

I honestly find renewal in other people who care about education, in knowing that reporting on a meeting that I know others care to hear about helps, and in sometimes just walking away from the subject for awhile.

Charlie Mas said...

I'm such an idealist that I still experience fresh outrage everytime the District does things horribly wrong. I've been doing this for over seven years and I'm not experiencing any sort of outrage fatigue.

Once I thought I would put it all behind me, but as I was filling a box with documents, handouts, and notes, I found a letter full of unfulfilled promises from Superintendent Manhas that just set me off again.

The original issue that first brought me to testify before the Board still has not been resolved.

Melissa Westbrook said...

One important thing TwinMom (and boy, there's a job)that I forgot to say. Please do not give all your energy and time to elementary school. It is really exciting when you first put your children in school and, of course, you want to help in the classroom and to help sustain your school. (Indeed, many schools sustain their physical structure because the district cannot. Bless them for their efforts.)

But it is easy to get burned out in 6 years. And, once you take on the mantle as someone who will step up, you get tagged that way. Say no sometimes and allow others to step up. Many people leave elementary school totally exhausted.

But, you see, you are still needed in middle and high school. No, it's not the same thing as elementary school but you are needed. Just as an elementary school cannot be consider good without a solid parent base behind it, neither can a middle or high school. But many perceive middle school as such a short time that they hold back getting involved. Pick one thing and do it - tours, staff appreciation, first day activities, etc. It will be appreciated.

Go to your child's middle or high school teachers if you think you have a special talent or knowledge. They are usually so busy they don't think to ask but are grateful for someone to come in to talk to students to help expand a discussion.

I know it sounds like a lot but your child's education is a huge part of their life and no matter what they say as sometimes sullen teens, they need you.

TwinMom2003 said...

Thank you Melissa and Charlie. I really do so much appreciate your insight and willingness to devine the often unknowable intent of SPS. I have been reading the blog for several months now just to try and figure out what is going on -- there does not seem to be an answer housed on the SPS website, or available from an SPS employee.

In addition to the twins that will soon start Kindergarten, there is also a two year old brother in the house -- so seems like a long slog ahead. I was one of those 80-85% of people who raised my hand at the Roosevelt meeting.

This is my first experience with a "big city" district. Coming from a rural area, the schools are part of the community. Where a parents participation is courted, and welcomed. And, ultimately the source for the direction of the district.

I really am not sure if I'm up for it. I'm already pretty tired out just from the normal day to day. The "outrage" that Charlie mentions, would for me, be even more of an energy drain vs. an energizer.

I do want to be involved with my childs education -- both with them personally and as an active participant at their school. It just seems like as a parent within the SPS boundaries you need to have an owl like swivel on your focus -- be involved with your children and school, and also be vigilant against any "odd, non-thinking, damaging" threats to your childs education put forth by the district. I just don't know if I'm up for it.

I truly do not understand why the primary and driving force is not on providing a wonderful education for all of our children. Truly, scrap the social engineering bent. I want the school district to provide an education -- not to try and be a substitute parent.

Well, it is late in the day. Maybe after October 15 when the district puts forth their proposals for enrollment practices and how they will address overcrowding in the North my parent windsock will pick up the true direction of the SPS prevailing winds. As a parent, I really do need to know the long-term direction. If things will double back, or swerve without notice every single year...

Thank you again Melissa and Charlie. I really, really do appreciate all of your efforts and vigilence. Just the bit I try to do to keep informed and involved is a big dent in the day. I know what you do is so much more.

hschinske said...

Twinmom2003, I was in much the same boat as you some years back -- twins going into kindergarten, a one-year-old at home. I tell people that part of the reason I wanted the twins in the same class for kindergarten is that I was so sleep-deprived, I doubted my ability to remember two different teachers' names :-) I didn't really volunteer for a while, either. It does get easier.

Helen Schinske