So I'm checking the Seattle Public Schools website and I click on information about capacity issues in the north end. They've updated it since the last Board meeting where, apparently, COO Don Kennedy presented an assessment of the different options. And boy, is it through. My head is spinning with the possibilities (and I'm still not sure what their recommendation is). I mean they give conclusions for differing scenarios but what they really think isn't clear (however, there is some spin to their rationales).
And they also ran through a number of things to carry-over to the assignment plan that had been one year deals. I don't really have a problem with this (and is unclear to me if all of them passed but I suspect so). But a couple really stand out.
One is the end date for waitlists. Instead of end of October, it may be moved to end of September. That's just about 3 weeks after school starts which is a pretty short time. The way the waitlists currently work once the waitlist is dissolved, you have no chance of getting into a school unless you are a new applicant to Seattle Public Schools and there is room at that school. Waitlists do move but 3 weeks seems awful fast. Maybe it won't matter as much under a new assignment plan but until we know how that will work, it seems a bit premature to do this.
Two is Center School which they were voting to drop the distance tiebreaker and just have the tiebreakers be sibling and lottery. I know this was the wish of the student body but I have to point out that Center School was originally created to serve QA/Magnolia which had no high school. It hasn't really worked out because (1) it isn't a comprehensive high school and (2) it's very small and can't serve a lot of students. So by changing the tiebreakers that apply to Center School it seems to me a signal that the Board/district staff have plans for another high school for QA/Magnolia.
Great but when? Where? And how, with budget problems and capacity problems do we justify keeping Center School at the Seattle Center? We spent $5M to fix up the area in Seattle Center and we are paying for a lease on the area. When the Seattle Center gets rebuilt, the Center School will have to move out for awhile and the district will likely be paying for upgrades/costs to whatever the new building will look like. Is this the vision for the district?
I bring this up because it seems to me the district is NOT presenting a comprehensive vision for the district. This got brought up at the assignment plan meeting I attended. People don't want to attend endless meetings on various topics but want to see how it all fits together.
When I see things like the idea that we may have a new high school somewhere and that we haven't reviewed how alternative schools are part of the vision of this district (and are all of them are meeting their mission given their above-average transportation costs, something we must consider in frugal times) AND I see different district staff saying widely varying things, I have to wonder about a coherent message.
So what do I mean about different staff saying varying things? Well, it is clear in this document that staff believe we have too many buildings for too few students; in effect, concurring with the recent State Auditor's report. (And, they find the the 3-year old Ming report as well as other documents is plenty good enough for their opinions and yet we are still paying Ming for a brand-new Facilities report for the BTA levy. Interesting.)
Then we have the BEX Manager, Don Gilmore, telling folks over in West Seattle that the district may want to reserve the Denny site for a new elementary school in the future (after closing three unnamed elementaries). Fascinating. This district would close not one, not two, but three buildings and then build a new one? (I'm sure the folks up in the NE/NW would appreciate the irony of lack of capacity in their area but the district is already thinking of building elsewhere.) I'm sure there's some reasoning in there somewhere but again, it's staff saying seemingly off the wall things at one meeting with no coherent central vision to give it legs.
I know we will have to close more schools. There has to be some political courage on this issue. But if we move programs around like pieces on a chess board (seemingly because "there's room") without a clear and concise vision, then we will have many more problems down the road.
What is our district's vision for the assignment plan, our facilities and where programs are located? Inquiring minds want to know (and know soon).