Monday, October 20, 2008

Upcoming Assignment Plan Meetings

I'll just be brief on these upcoming meetings (the first this Thursday at Ingraham High School at 6:30). It is my understanding that these are to be informational meetings. There will be some historical overview given as well as our system now and what some of the issues are around how kids get assigned to schools. I stress informational because I doubt any real specifics will be discussed. You can bring them up but I'm not sure any real answers will be forthcoming.

I attended a meeting (by invitation) at the district to talk about the format of these meetings (I believe Charlie attended another one as well). It was a bit confusing because I left not really knowing what the district was trying to get out of these meetings and what parents should leave with.

I may try to attend one of them but if I don't get there, I hope someone else will let us know if they learned anything new from attending.

31 comments:

SolvayGirl1972 said...

Melissa
Do you think it's worth the time of a parent who will have a HS freshman in 2009 (the year BEFORE the new assignment plan is implemented)? Is it your understanding that HS students will be grandfathered at whatever school they are already attending?
I find the District meetings so frustrating to attend that I don't want to waste my time if this is just a lip service PR event.
Advise please?

Melissa Westbrook said...

So you will be enrolling this spring (2009) for fall of 2009? If that's the case (and you have no other children coming up behind), skip it.

It is my understanding that whatever school a student starts at in 2009, of course, will be the school they finish at if that is their choice. And, I believe that the sibling tiebreaker will still apply so if your first child was at a popular school that didn't end up being your reference high school, your second child still might get in under the sibling tiebreaker if there were still room.

Your frustration was heard loud and clear at the meeting I attended. Several participants urged staff to link items of interest to parents to ONE meeting so that parents don't worry about missing information if they miss one meeting. Participants urged linkage so that there is a big picture vision of how all these pieces fit together.

There was a lot of talk about a lot of information being on the website. First, that may be true but you have to really hunt to find it. Not good. Second, we had a parent there who was representing Latino parents. She said they need very simple explanations and an easy way to know where to go when they have problems. A one-stop customer service number so to speak. (The district does have a customer service number but I haven't accessed it so I don't know how well it works.) It was clear that many of those parents don't access the website. I have said this for years - there are enough parents who DO NOT use the web. Yes, they could learn, yes they could go to the library but no, it is not likely to happen. It won't cut it for the district to use the cheap and easy opt-out of "it's on the website" for all parents. And I know this as someone in PTA leadership and it is frustrating to know that some parents might be missing information they could use. But such is the reality of a world where we can't mail everything (the cost and the trees) and a website is the defacto community bulletin board.

Education is complicated. Not so much the teaching if you have a student willing to learn and a competent teacher. But so many factors drive a district (and the first one is money)that many parents just throw up their hands. But the district has to be aware of how the pieces fit together - programs, the teachers union, buildings (their condition and locations), district systems and their conditions - to have a well-run system. It really isn't a parent's job to know all of it but in fairness to the district, staff have to consider the district as a whole to do their jobs well.

Seattle mom said...

I have used the District's customer service number 206-252-0000. It is basically a glorified switchboard. They will tell you which dept can help you, and transfer you or give you the phone number and name of the person whom you should be speaking with. It can be helpful. For instance, when I can't get through to transportation in the morning (their line is busy from 730A-9A or so) I call customer service and they transfer my call to a line that transportation always answers. Customer Service can also answer very basic, general questions, but really they are their to assist you in finding who can best answer your questions.

Syd said...

Melissa,

Were families of children with disabilities represented in these pre-meeting meetings? If so could you reprise the issues they raised or any information on this topic that the district shared?

Children with disabilities have absolutely critical needs in this process including in 2009.

Thank you.

Jo said...

Minority children have absolutely critical needs in 2009 and every year that follows - so do low income children, white children, middle class children, affluent children, children with behavior problems, children from foster family situations, children from Christian families, children from atheist families, children from the south end, children from the north end, children from alternative schools, children from struggling failing schools, children from violent home environments, children with disabilities, etc, etc, etc. In other words ALL children have absolutely critical needs in 2009. Let's advocate for them all! It really irks me when people think their issue is paramountly more critical that everyone else's. Advocating for children with disabilities is just as critical, but no more critical than advocating for every other child in this district.

Melissa Westbrook said...

There was no one there who self-identified as representing families with students with disabilities. I cannot speak for who might have been at the other meeting. There was some discussion about program placement and the need to have some stability in program placement.

But as I say, there were not a lot of specifics discussed. It was a meeting to try to shape the format of the informational meetings.

AutismMom said...

Gee. What a truculent post. Jo, you seem very ignorant on the issues faced by families with disabled children. I'll describe exactly how their situation is drastically different than all those other minority groups you mention.

First: minorities (however you group them) have not been asked to, actually, forced to, change schools over and over, sometimes 4 times in elementary school.. simply because they are minorities. That is, start all over, time after time, because you're a minority. Minorities are not forced out of their schools simply because someone else wants their space. Nobody says, "Hey, we're now popular and crowed, and we don't have room for minorities here." Many disabled students are forced to transition 4 times simply because they're disabled.. and only because somebody else wants their space.

Second: nobody has suggested "relocating minorities" from the NE cluster as they have students with disabilities. NE cluster schools sent home a form letter asking families to "decide" how they want to solve their capacity problem. One idea: move the programs out. Guess what? The programs ARE the disabled kids. The schools are essentially asking people to "vote the disabled students off the island".

Third: minorities are given choice and access to the system that has NOT been given to students with disabilities.

Forth: the school district doesn't say for minority students, "Hey, we have a review, we know it's bad... but we'll just send send all the minority kids to the worst possible schools, no matter where they are, while we figure it out. (hint, maybe we never will)...

Ok. So 4 reasons is enough... but I could go on.

katie said...

I think that Jo is feeling the same frustration that I am where is seems that every thread is highjacked to become a discussion about disabilities. Is this the new advocacy approach from the spec ed ptsa? I have one gen ed student and one spec ed student and I am repeatedly frustrated how all threads on this blog turn into a spec ed conversation.

Autismmom, SPS has repeatedly said that programs under discussion were not spec ed program, they were alternative program. All of the capacity conversations have focused on summit and as1 as programs that could be moved to create capacity. Not everything is a conspiracy to hurt students with disabilities.

AutismMom said...

Hmmm. Just a few posts ago, "tutoring special education students in the hallways"... was an option discussed by principals to reclaim the space used by disabled students in the NE, no elaboration which would be key to meaningful discussion. Notably, this slid by without any pesky comments. BTW. Summit and AS1 are alternative schools, not programs. Nobody's saying it's a conspiracy, but it is an issue we can't ignore. And finally, the NE clusters serves a below average number of disabled students. They will actually need to provide more seats to disabled students, and more programs, not fewer to save space... especially if the district implements its stated plan to have an integrated service delivery model.

Jo said...

Autismmom acknowledged that in the NE the only groups being forced out of their buildings and forced to transition are the children from Summit alternative school and possibly the children from AS1. But she doesn't seem to mind this forced transition and she justifies it by saying they are "alternative schools not programs".

As I said in my earlier post- the education of special ed students is as critical but no more critical than any other child in the district.

And Autismmom says "the school district doesn't say for minority students, "Hey, we have a review, we know it's bad... but we'll just send send all the minority kids to the worst possible schools"

Yes, the district does constantly review and assess minority children's achievement. And yes, they know how bad it is. It's called the achievement gap. Ninety percent of all minority students attend the lowest performing IE "worst possible schools" in the district. Once again I will say the education of special ed students is as critical but no more critical than any other child in the district.

Next autismmom says "nobody has suggested "relocating minorities" from the NE cluster"

Umm, nobody needs to relocate them they're already not there (there are only about 5% minority students in NE cluster schools). There is no excess space for them in any NE cluster school.

I only used minorities as an example because that is the population she chose to use. You could replace minority with behavior issues, low income children, children in foster care, etc etc etc

So, again, I ask autismmom to see the big picture, and realize that there are injustices happening all across the district to many many students, none of which matter one ounce less than her disabled student.

Jo said...

And by the way, my child gets pulled out of his math class and tutored in the hallway twice a week. He is not special ed, just a regular kid who needs some extra help with math. I've never thought twice about it. Why does that option offend autismmom?

old salt said...

The capacity questionnaire that was sent home came from the district, not the NE cluster schools principals or PTSAs.

As I read the responses of parents to that survey, I do not see the concerted interest in moving Spec Ed. Autism Mom, where did you see that information?

Survey responses to program relocation question found at http://www.seattleschools.org/area/strategicplan/capacitymanagement/capacity_summary_feedback.pdf

Relocate Programs
• Move low-enrollment schools to smaller buildings
• Move LASER to Laurelhurst Community Center/Laurelhurst school cafeteria
• Open Wilson-Pacific as an elementary school. Relocate the programs currently at Wilson-Pacific to John Marshall or to unused portions of Summit.
• Move John Stanford Int’l School to one of the buildings slated for closure or Rogers/Summit. Turn J. Stanford School back to a neighborhood school.
• Reconfigure grades, e.g. Blaine as K-5 (move 6th/7th spectrum to McClure), Lawton 6-8, Ballard 10-12 to accommodate high school capacity needs, Salmon Bay K-9
• Relocate Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center (SBOC) to make Old Hay a
K-5 school
• Relocate pre-K programs
• Relocate under-capacity alternative schools to under-capacity central district then use those buildings to accommodate capacity needs
• Relocate Summit to Sand Point
• Create a new kindergarten school in rented or a closed school (Viewlands or Sand Point)
• Co-house Summit K-12, Salmon Bay, AS#1 or any combination of the alternative schools at Salmon Bay to open another facility for a traditional elementary school
• Create traditional school at Jane Addams building, co-exist with Summit K-12 or move AS#1 to Addams building and open Pinehurst for traditional program
• Move Summit to Lincoln permanently
• Move Summit to John Marshall so there would be space for a K-8 school and it would relieve the pressure in N and NE clusters elementary schools and solve the middle dilemma
• Move Spectrum program to John Rogers
• Move AS#1 to Viewlands
• Combine Thornton Creek (at Decatur building) with Summit and make Decatur building a regular elementary school
• Relocating programs is too disruptive
• Special education kids should not be “shuffled” off to other schools
• Locate new programs in schools less attractive, e.g. gifted, language immersion
• Use before and after school program space

AutismMom said...

Nobody is required to enroll in Summit or AS1. Enrollment at these alternative schools was completely a choice. (except for the new special ed students, they got no choice when forcably enrolled by SPS this summer at Summit.) If Summit/AS1 students are moved, they will be moved as a group. They will NOT be starting over, and that is the difference. They chose the "group", the alternative, and they will get to keep that choice and keep their cohort. Very few people are emotionally invested in an actual "building". Moving is, of course, a pain. And given how few people are choosing those schools, it seems very reasonable, and not too painful. Really, that key difference seems very obvious.

The options Old-Salt lists, which are much more specific than the original list we complained about, seems fine to me.

As I mentioned, but JO skipped over, "minority", was any minority group. Heck, use "affluent". Imagine if the district considered "relocating the affluents".

katie said...

To be technical, Summit and AS1 are not schools, they are programs located in buildings. Nobody every suggested or even hinted at moving spec ed programs. SPS when asked directly about this issue said that they could not move spec ed to make space for gen ed or move gen ed to make space for spec ed. The reason why "new" spec ed programs are not in the NE is because there is really really no space for new program. The only way to make space for new spec ed program is to either make new space (opening a new building) or moving gen ed students out of a building.

The reason why the percentages of spec ed is low is because of all of the over-enrolled gen ed programs. If gen ed programs were enrolled at typical levels or even district average levels, then the percentage of spec ed would be much higher. However, when you cram almost a 1,000 more gen ed students into a cluster more than an equivalent cluster, your percentages will not be statistically significant.

So the only way that it would be possible for there to be proportionate spec ed programs in an overcapacity situation like the NE would be to cram those students into an extremely inappropriate situation. The gen ed students are struggling with the overcrowding and this overcrowding is disproportionately harder on the spec ed students. Adding more spec ed students, doesn't help anyone.

The kids that are hardest hit right now in the NE are the special ed students but not nearly for the reason you outline. Your arguments are disrespectful to the other communities that share a public school. If you want to argue that we need to make space for everyone, you might want to advocate for space for everyone -- gen ed, alternative ed and special ed.

Jo said...

Autismmom is right, nobody was required to attend Summit or AS1, every student at those schools chose them. And, now after they chose them and settled in they will be forced to transition and move across town. And moving the school is only one proposal, the other is to close the school. Then guess what - they will have to "start all over again without a cohort". I understand that the district needs to use the space, and support the choice to move or close Summit, but how insensitive is autismom to think that these children's program/school is expendable while her child's program is not?

And while autismom uses the "they chose Summit" excuse for her insensitivity and lack of care about the alternative school children, I hope she remembers the children of regular, traditional schools who were victims of school closure and consolidation a couple of years ago. Those students didn't have a choice. They were dispersed to many schools across the district "starting over with no cohort". So again, I will say that your special ed child is no more and no less important than any other child in this district.

Jo said...

And just FYI, many "affluent" groups do not get what they want either.

Some Laurelhurst families do not get into Eckstein or Roosevelt, both high performing, desirable schools, closest to their home. Instead many have to ship their kids across the ship canal to Meany, or over I-5 to Hamilton or go private.

There is no north end APP program. Families, many affluent, in the north end have to ship their kids to the central area for an APP program, that's where there is space for them. Not much different from the special ed program placements in the south end, huh.

And how about all of the affluent families that live in the Bryant reference area, that couldn't get in to Bryant because of all of the over crowding. Many of them wee forced to send their kids across the cluster to John Rogers. Now the district is proposing offering them space in other clusters that have school with excess space.

So, there you have it autismom. The affluent are also affected by the space and capacity issues in NE Seattle.

When you look at the big picture you will see that this lack of capacity is affecting EVERYONE in the cluster, not just spec ed.

I would advise you to advocate for more space in the cluster for all kids, all programs, all schools. Advocate for a new K-8 at Summit, then there will be more space for those families in Laurelhurst and for your special ed program. Every kid, affluent, minority, disabled....is equally important.

AutismMom said...

Look Jo, I was simply commenting on your truculent response when somebody innocently asked if sped students were considered. Read it again: considered. Perhaps you didn't like Syd (not me) using the term "critical". Perhaps you don't get it. That is no reason to fly off the handle. When a person advocates for or inquires about a particular group... they aren't advocating *against* another, or *against* everyone else. Why should Syd not advocate for a students with disabilities?

Again you're missing the point, and it's extremely simple. You introduced "minority interests". Of course SPS wouldn't do a single thing to a "minority group of affluent" or even consider them a minority. The point. Yes, some affluent people might not get their absolute first choice... but they aren't treated as "group" and systematically, by enrollment policy, shipped around the city.

alternative school parent said...

Quote from autismom "Very few people are emotionally invested in an actual "building". Moving is, of course, a pain. And given how few people are choosing those schools, it seems very reasonable, and not too painful."

Given what a small percent of students are special ed in this district, it seems reasonable, and not too painful to move them around at will to whatever under enrolled school has space.

How does that feel autismom? You have special ed blinders on, and refuse to see that all kids educations matter, not just yours. Throw alternative school kids under the bus and your spec ed kids will certainly follow. Why refuse to advocate for more space in the cluster, so we all have enough room and nobody has to be pushed out. There are buildings vacant or mothballed that are available to use. Why not focus all of your energy in that direction, instead of being so defensive about your one small group. Think globally. Peace.

AutismMom said...

Given what a small percent of students are special ed in this district, it seems reasonable, and not too painful to move them around at will to whatever under enrolled school has space.

How does that feel autismom?


Hey, that has already happened and is current, actual policy. North end sent it's autistic kids this year to Madrona (with absolutely no choice) for 2 years only. In 2 years, by policy, there will be a new set of 2 year programs (for north end students) in whatever is the newest crappy school. (not helping the achievement gap much either) By comparison, moving Summit, as a whole, down the street to Sand Point, or to Lincoln, doesn't seem so bad. Maybe it's not perfect. But if you don't like that move, you'll at least get to choose something else, like your neighborhood school. I support alternative schools and good access to them. I support more space too, for everyone who needs it.

AutismMom said...

btw. This isn't some selfish thing about advocating for "my kid" or
"thinking globally". I don't live in the north end, nor do my kids attend schools there.

alternative school parent said...

Once again Autismom is missing the point.

She suggests that it is reasonable and not too painful to move Summit kids out of their building or close the program since so few choose it, and yet when asked how she would like the same thing done to the special ed students she says "Hey, that has already happened and is current, actual policy. North end sent it's autistic kids this year to Madrona"

Apparently autismom is not happy about this and is obviously bitter about it, and I don't blame her..... but why then would she suggest doing the very same thing to Summit kids? The proposal includes closing Summit or moving it down south to co-house with another (low performing under enrolled) school.

Can't you see what 4 or 5 posters on this thread are trying to tell you? You appear to think that only special ed students have needs and every other population has it better or can deal with it. That is simply a selfish way to think.

AutismMom said...

Moving the alternative schools isn't the same thing at all, as moving disabled students anywhere, every 2 years. Why not? The proposed solutions for underenrolled alternative schools will:

1) be to the same basic area/cluster, and
2) move a whole school as a community, and
3) be a one shot exception to policy.

Because these 3 crucial elements are in effect, it mitigates the negative effect of the one problem, moving which will be inevitable for some people. I have no axe to grind here... I'm just pointing out the obvious. Most people are a lot less sympathetic to moving, or even closing, those alternative schools than I am.

Btw, as an aside, (new topic) I looked up demographics from OSPI in NE schools, since Jo claims it's < 5%. It's a lot more than 5%.

These are some interesting statistics from OSPI. I'm not advocating anything here, no axe... just presenting findings.


Wedgewood: 60% white, 40% minority
Laurelhurst: 75% white, 25% minority
Sacagawea: 63% white, 37% minority
J. Rogers: 55% white, 45% minority
Bryant: 70% white, 30% minority
AE2: 80% white, 20% minority
Summit: 52% white, 48% minority
Eckstein: 65% white, 35% minority
Nathan Hale: 63% white, 27% minority

Looks like an eclectic group.

adhoc said...

Autismmom, where did you see that Summit was to be moved "right down the road" to a new location in the NE cluster, or to Sandpoint? I have been keeping a fairly close eye on the situation and I have not seen any such proposal anywhere. The option that the district has proposed is for the Summit to either be closed, or relocated to co-house with another under enrolled school. And since there are no under enrolled schools in the NE cluster, it would certainly not be a school "down the road". The district has also said, pretty clearly, that they have no plans for opening any mothballed or closed buildings in the NE, at least for the 2009/10 school year - that would of course include Sandpoint.

Here is the link to the district PDF for your reference
http://www.seattleschools.org/area/board/08-09agendas/101508agenda/attachmentb.pdf

If you have information that shows that Summit is being relocated to Sandpoint or elsewhere within the NE cluster it would be helpful to also list your source.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

According to Melissa's most recent post, the District is considering moving Summit to co-house with Rainier Beach, AAA or Aki Kurose--all in the Southend. if they do that, then I assume Cleveland will be expected to take most of the southend high schoolers (under the new stay close to home assignment plan).
I would imagine that few northend families now at Summit would like their children to have a long bus ride down to RB or Aki. I'm not sure how long Summit's program would last under those conditions.

Roy Smith said...

It is worth pointing out that even though AS1 and Summit are all-city draws, most parents, particularly elementary school parents, do not send their students to a school that is too far away. A heavy majority of students at AS1 (and I think Summit as well, though I am not as familiar with it) live north of the ship canal, mostly in the N and NE clusters.

If AS1 and Summit are moved out of the area, I would predict that many families would try to enroll their children at other local schools rather than put their kids on a long bus ride to a new location. I'm not saying this to be judgemental one way or the other, but merely to point out that there are likely to be unintended consequences of any decision to relocate schools, and one of them is that even if AS1 and Summit are moved out of the overcrowded part of the district, a lot of the students may very well remain.

nacmom said...

Hey, I have an idea. Let's stop beating up on each other and re-direct all of this frustration where is belongs - at the district.

We're only in this mess b/c they opted not to act on information many years ago about this demographic shift. No it's not a surprise as they are claiming now.

Their negligence in not having space to accommodate this predicted increase is lawsuit-worthy in my opinion and so blatantly short-sighted (maybe if we just ignore it, it will go away?)!

I just watched the last board meeting last night and am beside myself that Tracey Libros would like another year of data before making any predictions!! Are they actually that out of touch? RIGHT NOW, TODAY, YESTERDAY and TOMORROW thousands of children, families, teachers, etc are suffering and their educations compromised due to inadequate planning? Seriously?

Here's what we know. currently we're over 700 children over in NE elementary schools and more to come next year. anybody counting? that's two elementary schools worth of kids! Not one, two. Obviously, once this group hits middle school, that's another middle school.

as far as summit goes, I do feel they were not involved as stakeholders although this plan did come up suddenly due to public pressure for teh district to get serious about their negligence. No surprise as district in reactive mode with back against wall. that being said, I don't know the best solution, but no capacity can sit unused while the rest of the schools are beyond maxed out. why is co-location not an option? summit and new school?

adhoc said...

Roy is right, if Summit is moved, many students who live in the N and NE cluster will not move with the program.

If you look at the numbers you will find that about 50% of the 380 children attending Summit live in the North or NE clusters. And of those 190 students about 50% of them (95 students) live int the NE cluster, and the other 50% (95 students) live in the North cluster. So 95 students will have to be absorbed by NE cluster schools, and 95 students will have to be absorbed by North cluster schools.

But.......now we have a new k-8 school that will be housed in the Jane Addams building which can hold 811 students. So even with the 95 students that the NE cluster has to absorb, there would still be 716 new seats open to NE cluster children!!!!

Melissa Westbrook said...

Here's my only reservation about a K-8 in Addams (well, and where to put Summit) - I worry about what happens if there is a new assignment plan that assigns kids to middle school there. Meaning, I believe that people want another school (some people at least) so that people who are going outside their reference area (as is currently possible) would no longer be able to access those schools. Bryant would be populated with almost all Bryant reference area, Laurelhurst, Viewridge, etc.

So the new K-8 school would be populated with...who? Olympic Hills and Northgate are underpopulated (I believe) so would the K-8 take students from them (or John Rodgers). What about people who just don't want to put their child in a K-8? There will be a certain population of those BUT because the assignment plan will reference a middle school, I assume that people who did not opt for the K-8 school for elementary might still be put into it for 6-8 (so that the numbers at Hamilton will be about 900 and Eckstein about 1000).

Now if the K-8 has a strong focus that appeals to people like foreign language, you probably would have many people who want to get in. However, if the district were to open Sandpoint (yes, I know, they don't want to but again, I'd like to think they are thinking long-term vision and not being reactive) and then Jane Addams became another middle school (with its own focus), that might be more useful.

Just thinking outloud.

adhoc said...

I think a k-8 at Jane Addams would have to be an all cluster draw and not a neighborhood school. Melissa is right, some families won't want a K-8.....but some will. If the new school had a unique focus it would be able to attract families from all of the NE cluster elementary schools and from Eckstein too. Olympic Hills and Northgate are in the north cluster, so unless the school has a multi cluster draw (which I doubt it will be as it is being created to add capacity to the NE cluster) it would not draw from either of those schools.

I do agree with Melissa though, it should not be a reference school, and not mandatory assignment. And I also agree with Melissa that the best scenario would be to open Sandpoint as a new elementary, and Jane Addams as a 6-8.

Charlie Mas said...

I agree.

1) Summit K-12 to John Marshall.

2) Jane Addams as an all-cluster draw K-8 with a signature program.

3) Re-open Sand Point as a K-5.

If it will take three years to fix up John Marshall and get it ready for Summit, then we better get started on that job right away. Renovating Marshall to Summit's specifications will be the sugar needed to do the deal and is a good investment anyway. There's no point to owning a building that can't be used.

If it will take three years to fix up Sand Point and get it ready to re-open, then we better get started on that job right away. Sand Point, if attractively renovated, would be an excellent draw. Again, the District should do this anyway.There is no point to owning a building that can't be used.

The New Jane Addams program can start with as a K-1 in the available space and add a grade each year until Summit's new location is ready. The signature program - whether it be international or math/science or whatever - should make the school an attractive draw for students in all parts of the cluster. This isn't the place to discuss whether the District should be doing this any way.

nacmom said...

Bravo charlie mas!

Start now, since it wasn't started 3 years ago.

Co-locate new, growing program at JA

and I would add: SPS needs to let parents know what it's actaully going to do. not what the process is, but the solutions: WHAT and WHEN?

Anecdotally, I know several NE families using this decision/indecision as their stay/go signal regarding the district.

Seriously, if they won't open sand point when they could fill it 3 times over next year with the 'extra' kids from just the neighboring schools? if they don't do that, they don't deserve the parents respect, trust or children.