Friday, November 28, 2008

Capacity Management Proposal Response

Capacity Management questions, comments and concerns

I believe this list summarizes the current status of my thinking. I would not complain about a decision if I couldn't offer a better one.

1. While the proposal shows evidence of capacity reduction, there is little evidence of capacity management – which would include expanding capacity where needed. Elementary capacity in the northeast is improved and elementary capacity in Queen Anne/Magnolia might be. The proposal does nothing to improve middle school capacity in the northeast or high school capacity for Magnolia, Queen Anne and the Montlake Cut.

2. This process has revealed the dishonest and unfair way that building renovations have been prioritized in the past. It’s obvious that the buildings in the worst condition were passed over for renovation in favor of other buildings in less need. District needs to acknowledge and apologize for that. The District also needs to resolve to follow a fairer process in future.

3. Although building conditions in the 50’s justify closing schools, two schools (NOVA and S.B.O.C.) are getting moved into a building with a condition rating in the 40’s (Meany). Does this move presume that the building will be renovated in the immediate near-term future? If so, then shouldn’t that be explicitly stated? Where will these schools be housed while Meany is being renovated? How about putting NOVA at Horace Mann as an interim site?

4. The plan to close Meany Middle School does not make sufficient allocation for Central Region students now enrolled there. There is no room for them at Washington, so they will have to be bussed out of the Region. How is this acceptable for 200 students at Meany but not acceptable for 55 students at Cooper? The District needs to make room for Central Region middle school students at the only other middle school in their reference area: Washington.

5. To make room at Washington for all of the neighborhood students, the District should move middle school APP – intact – to Hamilton. That would leave plenty of room for all Central Region students at Washington. There will be plenty of room at Hamilton for all of middle school APP when the school moves into their new building. It may require about half of the students from the Southeast region to return to their reference area schools. The presence of APP at Hamilton would the school more attractive to northeast region families and could relieve some of the overcrowding at Eckstein.

A variation on this idea would be to put middle school APP in a new middle school in an 800-student middle school at John Marshall. This would more directly address the need for additional capacity in the Northeast, but all of the empty seats at Hamilton make it a second choice.

In either case, the District should discontinue providing transportation on demand to Hamilton and McClure for Southeast Region students.

6. There is no legitimate reason for closing Lowell. The stated reason – to improve access to elementary APP – isn’t credible. Although the travel times for families in the South and Southeast will be marginally improved, the travel time for families in the North, Northeast, Northwest, Queen Anne/Magnolia, West Seattle-North and West-Seattle South will be increased by at least an offsetting amount.

7. Elementary APP is getting moved from Lowell in part to save two buildings in the Central and South clusters from closure. It is a false rescue. Very few families in the neighborhoods around those buildings will be able to enroll their children in those schools after the APP students and their siblings take up 80% of the available seats.

8. If the District wants to create an A.L.O. at Hawthorne, then they should. There is already one at Thurgood Marshall. These schools don't need APP students in the building for them to form an A.L.O. It's insulting – and vaguely racist – for the District to suggest that they do.

9. The contention that there is no building in the north-end for the north half of elementary APP is false. Space is available at Decatur, Jane Addams, John Marshall, Lincoln, Wilson-Pacific, Sand Point and McDonald. The space is there; the District is choosing not to use it for elementary APP.

10. It would be far better to leave the north-end half of elementary APP at Lowell along with the Special Education programs there, and add a general education program. This might allow the District to close either Leschi or Thurgood Marshall - depending on how many out-of-cluster students enrolled in the general education program. That would create elementary general education capacity in the north end of the cluster where it is needed and eliminate it from the south end of the cluster where it is in excess.

11. The contention that there is no building other than Rainier Beach for Summit is false. Space is available at John Marshall, Lincoln, Wilson-Pacific and – if elementary APP is moved out - Lowell. The space is there; the District is choosing not to use it for Summit.

12. Although the district claims that there is no space right-sized for Summit other than the empty seats at Rainier Beach High School, Lowell is about the right size and in a much better location. It may require some renovation, but it is due for it. The building condition at Lowell should not be an impediment; Lowell has a higher building condition rating than Meany, and the District is moving two schools into Meany. Moving Summit to Lowell would allow the closure of Rainier Beach High School. Surely we would save more money by closing Rainier Beach than we would save from closing Lowell.

13. An even better solution for Summit would be to move it to Lincoln and co-locate a 1,000-seat comprehensive high school at Lincoln. Then move high school APP to Lincoln and close Rainier Beach. This would eliminate high school capacity in the south-end where there is a surplus and add to the high school capacity where it is needed. Although the capacity in the south-end would be reduced, by moving high school APP north, 400 students would be removed from the area high schools as the 400 students from Rainier Beach are added to them. As a result, there would be no overcrowding or loss of flexibility.

14. All city draw programs such as Summit and APP should be placed centrally, but the District is emptying out their central locations. Lincoln, John Marshall, McDonald, T T Minor, Horace Mann, and Lowell – all central locations – will all be vacant while the District claims that they don't have central locations available.

15. Move Pathfinder to Cooper. Keep Arbor Heights open. Add Spectrum to Arbor Heights to take up some of the excess capacity and to improve geographic equity and access – there is no Spectrum in the West Seattle-South cluster. Make Gatewood a dual cluster school to make additional seats available for West Seattle-North students.

99 comments:

concerned said...

Is there a way to find out exactly what the rules are for school closures and moving programs? I have read different things regarding what the District can do on their own and what the board must approve.

Someone mentioned somewhere else that the District can't close Lowell (or any school) without approval, but they can move APP (or any program) at will. Does anyone know if this is true? If so, where can we see the rules? I have been looking at the school board sections of the SPS website, but I can't find anything about this specifically.

Thanks

Lara said...

You didn't mention AS#1! I think a better idea for AS#1 is to keep it open. There is a capacity crunch in the NE cluster, and there's room at Pinehurst to accommodate more students in the area. Yes, the crux of the problem is further south, but Pinehurst is ready to accept new students, and there are bound to be many people looking for placement in an alternative program after Summit's fate is decided. Moving Thornton Creek is unnecessary turmoil for them (why are they messing with so many "strong programs?"), and opens up capacity for the wrong age group! Isn't the capacity problem heavier on the middle school age range? Closing Pinehurst does nothing for capacity except erasing 250 or so seats from the north end. It's close enough to the crunch area to help with some of the run-off - even in the middle school range. The sad thing for AS#1 is that closing the building and discontinuing the program doesn't directly impact any other program, so it's largely forgotten in people's analysis of the proposal.

Nevermind the merits of the program and the many many many reasons it should remain on the scene. I'm just responding to the capacity management side, since that was the topic of your post. I could go on all day about reasons to keep AS#1.

Lara said...

concerned: the board policies are listed here: http://www.seattleschools.org/area/policies/index.dxml

it's really hard to tell what's what, and where things would be. I do know that buildings are treated differently than programs. Funny how that intangible distinction can be convenient at times. The district did need approval to move Summit out of the Jane Adams building from what I could tell...

dan dempsey said...

Charlie,

I really like your thinking. You are looking at not just the surface of capacity management but how to put programs in place for students. The idea that programs need to be improved and supported and that to do that we need appropriate conditions and locations is very apparent in your thinking.

Your ideas are worth supporting for the long haul for they could bring improvement in the district's schools and programs. It seems that in the name of cost savings the district's plan is about disruption and supposed cost savings but little else.

I certainly hope your ideas get great consideration.

North-end Mom said...

If Thornton Creek is to move to the Jane Addams building, with the intention to expand into a "mushroom-model" K-8, with more middle school seats than elementary school seats, then it would not be an appropriate building to house the north/northeast APP students. Also, for capacity reasons alone, it is not an appropriate place to assign AS-1 students. Thornton Creek, by itself, is already an appropriately-sized school from which to expand into a mushroom K-8. The mushroom model K-8, which allows the entrance into middle school of graduates from outside elementary schools, NEEDS to succeed in order to address middle-school capacity needs in NE Seattle, especially those students living in the northern neighborhoods, who do not have access to a neighborhood middle school.

Likewise, the Decatur building is NEEDED to serve the existing and near future capacity needs of the NE Cluster. For this reason, it would NOT be an appropriate site to house an APP cohort.

MacDonald, Sand Point, Pinehurst, Viewlands, John Marshall...all of these could be possible homes for North APP cohorts, but some are not available in this immediate time frame (Pinehurst would be available only if there was a suitable location found for AS-1).

anon said...

It would be helpful to know the cost savings of the recommended changes and where else the district is going to go to meet the deficit.

Charlie Mas said...

I didn't write about AS#1 at Pinehurst because I don't have a better idea.

I think we should definitely question whether it is fair for the District staff to recommend closing Pinehurst, but we should be ready for the possibility that the honest answer is "yes".

The fair way to judge is by the guidelines. They are supposed to filter out for closure the unsuccessful programs that are expensive to operate. We know that small schools are more expensive to operate and buildings in poor condition can also be expensive to maintain (on a cost per student basis).

So we can question why in the world they are thinking of closing Lowell. The program is wildly successful, the building is one of the biggest in the District, and the school's administrative cost per student is almost exactly the district average. In short, Lowell should never have been selected for closure at all.

AS#1 at Pinehurst, in contrast, does not appear successful academically (from the metrics available), is small, underenrolled and expensive to operate. Surely this is exactly the sort of building that they are looking to close. Is it a unique program? Of course it is. Will it deprive the North cluster of an alternative elementary option? Yes, it will. But there are other clusters without alternative elementary options. There is none in Queen Anne/Magnolia nor in West Seattle-South. And the district has mitigated that problem by making the expanded Thorton Creek program at Jane Addams big enough to serve two clusters.

Sorry, Lara, but closing Pinehurst fits the profile perfectly. It's even too small a lot to redevelop into a bigger school.

I didn't mention the Thorton Creek move either because I think making Decatur a neighborhood reference area elementary school was a freakin' brilliant idea. It is exactly what was needed and where. I sure won't be squawking about how they need to re-open Sand Point. And moving Thorton Creek into Jane Addams makes a lot of sense once they come out of Decatur. It creates an alternative program large enough to serve two clusters.

I will also concede that the District doesn't really have to add any middle school capacity to the Northeast. They already have plenty of it - at Hamilton. It's time for them to recognize that there is a problem at Hamilton. Far too few local students are choosing it. So where is the Education Initiative for Hamilton to make it a more popular choice?

This isn't supposed to be easy or enjoyable. The District is in a dreadful budgetary crisis. They need to cut operating expenses and they need to do it deep and fast. Closing schools is overdue. Our last two superintendents either weren't up to the job or couldn't be trusted with it. This superintendent isn't playing favorites (much). She established criteria and, for the most part, is following them. The selection of AS#1 at Pinehurst for closure is consistent with the guidelines and appears to be a good choice for closure.

DKrashin said...

The district seems to be in a similar position to General Motors -- not enough money, too much product that isn't selling and not enough of what people want.

There's a real reluctance to shed the product that isn't selling, and instead convince the consumers (kids and parents) that they should want what the district has lots of -- underenrolled schools in the south side of town. I'm not sure why that is, but I don't think it's a workable strategy, especially at a time when the news is full of scary stories about gang violence.

North-end Mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
North-end Mom said...

Charlie,

An obvious draw for Hamilton is the language-immersion program. Unfortunately, entrance into the program is difficult, due to the shortage of language-immersion elementary schools. Placement of a language-immersion program in the NE reference area, perhaps at the new Decatur Elementary School, could certainly help to direct more NE families towards Hamilton as a middle school choice. Language immersion was a very popular topic back when the the talk was that the Jane Addams building would be repurposed to a traditional K-8.

This idea was brought up briefly by Sherry Carr at the Nov. 25th meeting. I don't know if there is the budget to pursue such a program at this time, but I think it is definitely worth consideration.

TechyMom said...

Some ideas on better APP placements, if we really do want to split APP into north-south groups.

In the North End, place 1-8 APP at Jane Adams with Thornton Creek, or 1-5 APP at Pinehurst and 6-8 APP at Hamilton.

In the South end, several ideas...

First, I don't know anything about Hawthorne. West Seattle might be an ok location, though it is harder to get to than some others. Would it make sense to have 3 APP locations (North, Central or South, and, West?)

APP with Van Asslet at AAA. Van Asslet isn't demographically similar to APP, but it is very successful accademically, and has a well-rounded program. APP might actually have the "improving" effect on Van Asslet that it had at Garfield but not at Madrona. I do like that this school is being rewarded with a good building. This could be K-8 (will Van Asslet become a K-8?), or K-5, leaving the southern half of APP 6-8 at Washington.

APP with Summit at AAA. AAA is a better location for all-city Summit than RB. I actually agree about the performing arts space at RB, and am waiting to see how security for Kindergarteners will be handled before dismissing it out of hand, but AAA would be more central. Summit and APP are both all-city, and could share busses.

APP with Summit at Madrona, close Madrona's program. I'm disappointed that nothing is being done about Madrona. Most of it's students don't live in the neighborhood, so closing its program shouldn't have too much impact on Central crowding. If there were some access for the Summit students to ALOs with the APP students, and for the APP students to take arts electives with Summit students, it could also take some pressure off TOPS, since it would offer both well-roundedness and rigor. That combination might also draw some local families back from the MANY private schools in the Central area.

I'd add that placing APP with an alternative program makes sense socially. Kids at alternative programs are more likely to be accepting of the weird smart kids than a general ed population. APP at a tough, low-acheiving, low-income school with discipline problems just sounds like a recipe for bullying to me.

adhoc said...

Techymom, the NE needs capacity. While Hamilton might work well for a north end APP site or even Pinehurst, Jane Adams will not. The NE cluster needs capacity for NE cluster kids. A multi cluster draw school (north, NW, NE, QA/Magnolia) housed at Jane Adams would be a mistake.

Think about it. If the APP program were housed at Jane Adams, then Thornton Creek would have to remain in the Decatur building. That means no new elementary school at Decatur for the families in the south part of the NE cluster. That means no relief of over crowding for them. In addition the APP program at Jane Adams, would at best, only accomodate 2% of students in the NE. The NE needs much much more capacity at both elementary and middle school. As it stands with TC moving into Jane Adams, and a new elementary school at Decatur, the cluster will still be short capacity.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Concerned, there are state laws about closures as well as Board policies (which are online). However, I believe the district can't move a program without Board approval. Even if they could, the Board might be REALLY unhappy and that could damage the relationship between the Board and Dr. G-J.

Anon, you asked exactly the right question. Staff put forth numbers about possible savings for each type of building (elementary, middle, high school) but the real question is "How much money have we saved from the last round of closures?" Staff knows this answer and the Board should ask it. What staff didn't realize is that beyond the costs to closing down a building, you have costs to protect it.

They didn't do this with Viewlands and vandals broke in and stripped out the copper wiring. Now the City has said they will replace it in exchange for the district allowing rental-free space to artists who, by their presence, will deter vandals.

Mimi56 said...

I hate to be a curmudgeon here, but APP split at the elementary school makes little sense unless it is also split at middle and high school. Don't be surprised if a proposal surfaces that moves half of WMS APP to Aki and half of the GHS APP population to RB. I have no evidence to back this up, only many years watching the district and a keen sense of how it works, especially with this program.

katie said...

I think Summit and APP at the AAA building just might work. They are close enough to the freeway to make all city transporation work. If the idea behind this is to cut costs, then splitting APP in thirds and putting a portion at West Seattle would help.

That said, I hate that so much of this is focused on APP. I thought the point of this exercise was cut costs. Why are we messing around with buildings that are in OK shape that house programs that are doing excellent. It seems that all of the APP moves are really attempts to keep building open that would otherwise be closed.

Maggie Metcalfe said...

There might be a fundamental problem with the planning on closures. Somehow, the important report and advice commissioned by the SPS board on alternative schools in 2005 seems to have been ignored.

It can be found here: http://www.seattleschools.org/area/board/altedfinalreport.pdf
In particular, look at Chapter III, point C; Alternative education as Seattle's answer to Charter schools.

Seattle's alternative education has been a source of educational best practices, an attraction to families for choice of educational philosophies, and a source of access to educational success for many children who may not have found a place to thrive otherwise.

In my opinion, alternative education has always survived in an environment of tension within public school systems. Public school systems by nature seem to need conformity and pressure alternative education to standardize into parts of one conformed whole. Alternative schools by nature are anti-conformist, and must be as they develop new processes, new techniques, and ultimately new best practices which in turn extend into the rest of the system and make it possible to improve the whole system.

The way that the closures and moves are being proposed appear to me to indicate an extreme lack of understanding that Seattle's alternative schools are a treasure. They are not all the same, they are not interchangeable, they are not dispensable.

Each of the alternative schools has a community, one that is invested in it, historically has created it, and tries to speak for it. Most are weary from having to defend their schools from closure threats from the district, because the threats come up every two or three years. Many alt communities have tried to keep their heads down, operate under the radar and tried to survive by not being noticed too much.

The communities of the alternative schools should be valued, listened to and supported. Alternative in Seattle, have been a fantastic hidden gem.

If all of the alternative schools communities (including APP) would recognize their power and move together to help each others school survive, they will, but we need to move on from fighting for survival and establish the right to thrive.

Ben said...

I don't understand your 5 and 6. That is, I don't understand how the presence of a separate AP program within a larger gen ed population makes the school more attractive.

There must be an actual argument there, but all I can come up with is magical thinking: "Maybe Thurgood Marshall's not such a bad school, after all. The weird smart kids go there. Maybe my kids will absorb some of that if they go to Marshall."

(I'm a Lowell parent who really wants to see the APP kids kept together. Preferably at Lowell. Otherwise, in their own school.)

Sahila said...

Thank you Maggie for your comments - it seems that here on this blog, there is lots of talk about saving and tweaking other mainstream and 'elite' programmes/schools, but none at all about saving the two alternative schools/programmes that are threatened with closure.

Instead, there are avaricious eyes lusting after the buildings, that supposedly are not fit for our (alternative) children to inhabit...

These two programmes and schools have living, breathing communities growing our greatest treasure, children, within them...
they're deliberately chosen by the parents of those children as the most nurturing and effective educational environment available within the public school system.

No one here appears to know the history of AS#1, for example, or its educational philosophy, or the fact that since its inception and when Forbes Bottomley was Superintendent, AS#1 has regularly been targeted for closure...

FYI, with thanks to a former AS#1 teacher for the history recap, there was a New School Movement Meeting during the Spring or Winter of 1969 when Sybil MacCapia presented the signed petition, ready to be presented to the school district, to start AS#1.

The school was started by a group of parents, most of them highly educated but with very low incomes, who had been working in low rent private Free Schools, where they were trying to implement Summerhill-type ideas
(http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Free_school)
to bring a fun, child-centered, democratic, open choice, love of learning style of education that would not feed their children into the military-industrial system, but allow them to choose that, if they later so wished.

Joining together in the NSM to help support each other and share ideas, they had realized that as tax-payers, their children had a right to such an education.

And, they figured, there were many other parents and children "out there" that would benefit from their work as well. Being a brilliant, politically savy, creative group of individuals, they decided to design a public school that would do what they were trying to do already. And they did, and so AS#1 was born.

Its something special that a small school has been able to survive more than 35 year's without District support, indeed to survive in the face of determined efforts by the District to annihilate it.

Its a very special phenomenon that despite this lack of support and poor access to resources, AS#1's educational and social philosophy has been rediscovered year after year, and found valuable enough by Seattle parents for them to continue to enrol their children, in the face of such constant and repetitive threats to close down the school.

It seems to me (a newcomer to this country) that the US espouses freedom of choice and welcomes diversity. And the Seattle School Board has as part a self- proclaimed commitment to support alternative education.

AS#1 provides a very real choice in education and supports one of the most diverse and also most disadvantaged school populations in the city.

Its success needs to be judged under criteria appropriate for a school of its nature. It already fulfils the criteria established by the School Board-approved Alternative Education Committee, comprised of alternative parents, staff and students submitted to SPS in June of 2007.

AS#1 and Summit need to be left intact to continue to provide their own very special, particular style of education to the communities who want and need them.

The 'mainstream' gets enough and has sufficient other opportunities without stealing school seats and dollars from those who are already underserved.

Charlie Mas said...

I cannot say enough how much I value the quality and courtesy of discussion on this blog. The openness and thoughtfulness of people who comment here restore my faith in people.

I'm not sure what, if anything, the District can do to make people in the north-end choose Hamilton. I think it may need an Education Initiative like the Southeast one. On the other hand, it may be resolved when each middle school has its own reference area and set of feeder elementaries.

I think it would be wise for the folks who live in the Northeast to look ahead and get a sense of where the boundary lines for these reference areas will be. Start in the northeast corner of the District and add territory one elementary school reference area at a time moving both south and west until you have reached a total of 1,000 middle school students. That's likely to be the Eckstein reference area. I would be amazed if it reached as far south as the school itself.

Not only Laurelhurst, but Bryant and View Ridge families might find themselves in the Hamilton reference area.

That would resolve the capacity shortage in the Northeast.

Techymom suggested the possibility of a third elementary APP site, but there are a lot of challenges to that. There's going to be trouble putting together first and second grade classes at two sites. There's no way they could do it at three. I fear that 150 students per site really does slip below the critical mass necessary for a viable program.

Also, in cases where the APP contingent doesn't have dominant numbers in a building the program gets almost nothing from the building administration. When a building administrator allocates resources, APP comes last. If there aren't enough of them in the building to have the loudest voice, they don't get anything at all. Just look at Washington where APP students make up 40% of the school's population and APP and Spectrum together make up about 60% of the population. Despite these numbers, the students in the advanced learning programs are the last priority in the building.

At Hawthorne, as at Thurgood Marshall, the APP students will be the largest group of students in the building. We can only hope that will help them get some attention from the principal. Moreover, as I have postulated a number of times, if their families enroll their siblings in the schools, APP students and their siblings will constitute about 80% of the schools' populations. the schools each have about 25 teaching stations. APP will take ten or eleven of them. Self-contained special education classes take about three of them at each school. The District promises arts and one of them is a gym, so that's another two teaching stations. By the time we've removed all of the ones with claims on them there will be room for only one class per grade. That's 142 students (23 times 4 plus 25 time two). If there is an APP sibling for every 4 APP students, that's about 60 siblings. There will only be room for 85 neighborhood students in a school of 400. APP families will have 310 students in the buildings - over 75% of the school population.

The District has, essentially, created two Lowells and allowed families to enroll the siblings of their APP students at the school as well. Depending on how things go, there may be very few neighborhood students in the building.

Actually, I don't know how the District is going to work this. APP students are guaranteed enrollment. In the new enrollment plan, reference area students are also guaranteed enrollment. Students already enrolled at the school are guaranteed continued enrollment. In the tie-breaker system, siblings come ahead of reference area students. That's a lot of kids who are guaranteed enrollment at these two schools. They won't all fit - unless the school reference areas are tiny, tiny, tiny. These schools should not have any reference areas at all.

In fact, they already don't fit. In the report they acknowledge that the current enrollment plus the APP students they propose adding exceeds the planning capacity of the buildings.

If they were being honest and fair, they wouldn't propose these changes. There were other ideas that they considered and rejected because it would be too crowded - without exceeding the planning capacity of the buildings. In those cases the District staff contended that the planning capacity is much greater than the actual functional capacity of the building. In these cases they made exactly the opposite argument: that they can exceed the buildings' planning capacity through creative use of PCP spaces.

It is very possible that these two schools, Thurgood Marshall and Hawthorne, will have no reference area at all. They may use the ALOs to call them magnet schools. The District did not have to split up elementary APP. It saves no money - Lowell's costs are the District average. They did it because if they didn't, they would have to close Thurgood Marshall and Hawthorne. It would not have been politically acceptable for them to close the AAA, T T Minor, Meany, Thurgood Marshall and Hawthorne all at the same time. They did it to save those schools and to save the proposal from accusations of racism.

That's why it would be no good to combine elementary APP with any other school or leave half at Lowell or find a space for it in the north-end. None of those would have accomplished the goal of saving one central cluster and one south cluster elementary school from closure. That's the reason they broke up Lowell and that was the goal they had in mind.

Ben, let me explain point number 5. When the District closes Meany, they say that the students there will be re-assigned based on where they live. Although it is famously known that about half of the students at Meany come from outside the Central Region, about half of the students at Meany are from the reference area. That's 275 Central Region students who will need re-assignment when Meany closes. The other middle school in their region is Washington. But the District cannot put another 275 students at Washington. In fact, the District can't put ANY more students at Washington - the school is full.

Next year they will have to send Meany's reference area students out of their reference area - to either Hamilton or Mercer, most likely Hamilton. This is not a sustainable plan. Going forward the District will need space at Washington for local area students who will have guaranteed enrollment in the building. The only way they can get that space is to move a lot of kids out - a lot of kids, at least 350. That's the 275 now at Meany plus any that might be attracted by the new character of the school plus a few more to reduce the enrollment to where it really should be. The largest group of students in the building who are not from the area are the 425 APP students there. They are also the only group of students large enough to meet the number the District needs.

Where will they go?

Ideally, they would go into a new middle school at John Marshall along with another 300 middle school students from the northeast. That isn't going to happen. The District absolutely refuses to "open" any "closed" schools. What, then, is the point of having closed schools?

Second choice would be for the APP students - all of them - to go to Hamilton. Hamilton has room for them all and it would be good to keep the cohort intact. That isn't going to happen either. They will make a lot of noises about trying to create middle school capacity in the northeast - not take it up.

More likely they will go half to Hamilton and half to Aki Kurose. Half will go to Hamilton because there's a lot of space there and it would make the assignment to Hamilton more acceptable to northeast families. Hamilton has an enrollment of about 700 and they will be in a building that holds 1,000. Of those 700, 275 come from the southeast region. So there are really fewer than 500 north-end students in Hamilton, which means, from a capacity management perspective, that there are about 500 available seats there. So all of middle school APP would fit, but they need to move about 300 Eckstein kids there, and there isn't room for both.

So just as the District has split elementary APP they will split middle school APP. North-end students at Hamilton - to appease families at Bryant and Laurelhurst in the Hamilton reference area. South-end and West Seattle students at Aki Kurose, to help fill that building, to give some credence to the District's claims of enhanced rigor and challenge in the classes and, frankly, to clear space in Washington. Mercer would be a better choice (in the feeder pattern for Hawthorne and much better travel for West Seattle), but APP can't buy a break, so their worst fears will be realized: Aki Kurose.

jp70 said...

There is no way the district would send View Ridge and Bryant kids to Hamilton when they can walk (and do walk) to Eckstein. How will it look in regards to transportation costs when you bus kids who live right by Eckstein to Wallingford. I think it would be a very bad PC move and economic move for the district.

adhoc said...

I agree with JP, it would be ridiculous to send neighborhood students out their neighborhood for middle school. But that is exactly what the district is doing to kids that live north of 110th st. In fact they have to travel much further to get to Hamilton than kids living close to Eckstein. Is that OK?

I agree that the kids that live closest to Eckstein should get into Eckstein. But there are a finite number of seats and kids throughout this cluster will have to be accommodated.

I think Charlie is right the reference areas for all schools are going to have to be pushed north. Far north, to 145th, and move south. Or the district will have to add MS capacity in the NE, which is what I had hoped they would do with adams.

Maggie Metcalfe said...

Thank you Sahila, for your comments and information on the history of AS#1. I was a parent there for a few years and had not heard that aspect of the beginnings.

I believe all of the alternative schools were started by parents and teachers with the exception of Nova, which was started by students and teachers.

It is tragic that so few people seem to understand the value of alternative schools or even understand what they are.

In our districts rush for centralization and consolidation, the alternative schools may all be doomed ultimately. Although the district did commission the Alternative Education Committee report, it did not act to establish protections for the alternative schools. They continue to be systematically undermined as they have been for years. Refusing to renovate their buildings, refusing to acknowledge their unique value, keeping the communities in a constant state of emergency, all of those things allow the district to eventually point at the programs and claim they are too weak to continue.
The very sad result of alternative school communities trying to fly under the radar for survival, is that many of them have lost their identity. Many alternative school communities don't want the "alternative label" anymore, but without it, they will be consolodated into the whole and loose what little autonomy they had. Many families don't know the history of their schools.

The district has been pitting one community against the others for so long that there are few alliances between alternative schools. There have even been pressures placed on principals and teachers not to fight for their particular programs but to get along with the district in order to protect their careers.

If the families don't value their programs and fight for them, they will be lost. If they are lost, the only way a family will be able to find an educational program that has a degree of autonomy, community control/democratic leadership, real parental involvement, reasonably small environments, and leading edge educational philosophy is to switch to a private school. Nearly half of all Seattle families are already there.

One also has to ask, in a time when the Mayor expects the population of the city to double, when concerns about the cost of fuel and global warming are driving families back out of the suburbs into the city, why are we closing any schools, especially when we can't seem to re-open them when we need them?

If alternative schools want to save their legacy, their communities need to speak to each other and develop a political bloc. Not an easy thing in a time when people are so over worked, but we can't depend on the principals to lead, the families have to do it and do it with concerted effort.

Isabel D'Ambrosia said...

APP families (or Laurelhurst/Bryant families) might find Hamilton to be an adjustment since Hamilton offers no music classes during the school day. All students at Hamilton take Spanish or Japanese language instead of music. Band/orchestra is offered as a free after-school program.

But more seriously -- north end families have trouble choosing Hamilton because the district busses kids from the south end to Hamilton. That's the reason -- no mystery really. Same problem with McClure. Stop the bussing and north end families will come back to Hamilton and McClure.

I guess I could get flamed for stating the obvious about Hamilton and McClure. It's a hard truth. North end families believe the kids from the south bring up a lot of poverty and problems they don't want to be part of.

But denying that this is a problem or saying we "don't know" why north end families don't choose Hamilton/McClure doesn't help deal with the problem.

P.S. Charlie -- great idea about a new high school at Lincoln. Those of us with kids in the language immersion JSIS/Hamilton track would love that idea if the new school included a sophisticated world language department!

adhoc said...

Maggie, I disagree with your theory that Northeast cluster families do not choose Hamilton simply because they bus kids up from the south end. The suggestion that all NE cluster families are racist is offensive??

Instead of blaming race and intolerance as the sole cause of every problem in the district, try looking at things in a practical way and dealing with the real issues. As a NE cluster family I can tell you exactly why many families do not choose Hamilton.

A) ITS NOT IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD.

B) It's a much lower performing school than the school that IS IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD.

C) On a lesser level, but still in important to many families, Hamilton does not have a strong band program. In fact it has no band at all. It only offers band as part of the after school program.

Why would a family that lives in the the neighborhood of an uber high performing school (Eckstein), choose to send their kid to a much lower performing school outside of their neighborhood (Hamilton)? I can't think of one single reason. Not one. Can you?

So deal with the real issue Maggie, instead of blaming racism.

Try to figure out what Hamilton would need to become a high performing school. Because if it becomes a competitive, high performing school, then maybe when NE families are forced (by capacity limitations) to leave their neighborhood they will do so more willingly.

Until Hamilton performs, NE families will resist going there.

adhoc said...

I'm so sorry, I meant the above post to be addressed to Isabel D'Ambrosia, not Maggie Metcalf. My apology

classof75 said...

North end families believe the kids from the south bring up a lot of poverty and problems they don't want to be part of

As an advocate of alternative schools in Seattle for almost 25 years and as a past chair of the Summit parent group I say " what"?

I am really tired of this North/South division. I tried to buy a house off of Yesler that my great uncle had built, it was out of my price range- I ended up just north of the ship canal- in a semi industrial area that according to some is "elite".
But- even though we were now in the " great white north" ( TIC) the neighborhood schools were not places for my kids. Hence Summit & private schools when we couldn't get into Summit.


At Summit the FRL % is about 47%- despite being far north.- this is where my daughter attended middle school ( and part of elementary)

I see that Hamilton students live in the north end & in the south end- not so much central-Since my D was attending Summit- I didn't look at Hamilton- although we would have been interested in a language immersion program.

I understand that some families see all city programs having negative influence regarding where their childrens friends live.

I see it as a small inconvenience, but with positive effect, not only did my daughters best friends live all over the city, but as a result of programs in the high school, which extended to activities outside the school year, she has friends all over the world.

All-city programs should be centrally located to minimize transportation costs, but they should not be reduced.

Incidentally- I re-sent a letter I had written ( and read) to the board a few years ago, when Summit was on the chopping block, to the new board- because I thought I had some good ideas that hadn't been discussed & I wanted to emphasize that although homogeneous schools may be easier to plan for- students don't come one size fits all.

( expanding elementary to include 6th grade where appropriate-middle schools of 7th and 8th-etc- )

Steve Sundquist is the only one who has responded so far-

Isabel D'Ambrosia said...

I knew it! Someone would start talking racism.

But it's NOT racism -- it's more "socio-economism". North end families don't want to send their kids to school with kids who are not "uber-high performing". Which means poor kids.

Eckstein is "uber-high performing" because middle and upper class families flock there. Hamilton is a low performer because poorer kids (many from the south end) go there. And then north end families won't go there because the school is "low performing".

And about the Hamilton band -- the after school program is actually quite good. It's free, and kids get school credit (and grades) for participating. My kid gets the benefit of what is essentially a seven period day!

jp70 said...

adhoc said:
I agree with JP, it would be ridiculous to send neighborhood students out their neighborhood for middle school. But that is exactly what the district is doing to kids that live north of 110th st. In fact they have to travel much further to get to Hamilton than kids living close to Eckstein. Is that OK?

I agree that this is wrong too, but if these families went to Eckstein, they would still be bused or drive. The familes who live in View Ridge and Bryant are walking so you are taking kids who currently walk and putting them on a bus. I wish that you could divide the NE and NW and right size the middle school capacity for those particular areas rather than just calling it a North reference area. If that's not going to be done, you should still not put kids on a bus who can walk to school.

adhoc said...

OK Isabel, replace racism for "socio-economism". Same difference.

If families have a choice between a school in their own neighborhood (Eckstein) and that school is uber high performing, and a school outside of their neighborhood (Hamilton) that is lower performing (due to lower socio economics or anything else for that matter) why would any family choose to bus their kids outside of their neighborhood to the lower performing school?

I said in my earlier post that I can't think of one single reason why a family would choose the out of neighborhood lower performing option. Can you? If so, please share.

adhoc said...

JP70, I get your point, and when you put it that way I have to agree with you. Kids that can walk to Eckstein, should be able to attend Eckstein, they should not be bused to another school.

Maybe the draw could start at 145th and move south until the school fills, but also make sure that kids that live within walking distance to the school get in.

It's a tough decision to say who gets in and who doesn't. Especially when the alternate options are nowhere near as strong as Eckstein.

adhoc said...

One more quick question for Isabel. Do you think Hamilton, because of their higher population of low income children is just doomed to be a low performing school? Are we to believe that low income kids can not achieve as high as other kids? Or, do you think that Hamilton's performance needs to improve?

Also, do you or anybody else have any aggregated test scores for Hamilton?

I would like to see the test scores for kids that have come from the JSIS school that have preference to and enter the immersion program at Hamilton VS. the rest of the students. If the JSIS students are very high performing and the rest of the school is much lower performing that would be very relevant information for NE families to consider, as they would not be joining the immersion program, they would be with "the rest of the school".

classof75 said...

regarding walking and busing.

If my daughter had attended Whitman middle school- she would have walked- although it is 2 miles as the crow flies, it is over two miles to drive.
However, but by attending Summit for middle school, she was able to walk a block or two to the bus stop.

Considering the Seattle weather- which is often not only rainy, but dark, many students would rather spend an hour on the bus, than 40 minutes walking in rainy & dark conditions

Elementary parents- may prefer their children to be bused for similar reasons- safety- weather- comfort- are all considerations why parents may prefer to keep their choice of a school outside walking distance.

Since not all elementary schools have after school care- we still will have busing for students whose reference school is their child care site.


I also know of cases where parents choose to place their kids in schools other than top performing-
Our neighborhood school is West Woodland- why then would I chose Summit?

Because I liked the K-12 and experiential emphasis-
In an attempt to save busing time however- we applied to Salmon Bay for middle school. She did get in- but we decided against it- because of the lack of continuity that was more important than " high achievement" at that time.

Isabel D'Ambrosia said...

This discussion is not about what I believe low income students are able to achieve.

The fact is that right now, in Seattle Public Schools, low income children do not get the high test scores that kids from higher income families do (hence uber-performing Eckstein).

Hamilton's performance could and should improve, but so should the performance at schools like Aki Kurose. The problems and lack of adeuqate funding to address them are the same at both schools. And even the best school funding won't address the socio-economic factors underlying low achievement.

The point of the discussion is that north end parents are afraid to send their kids to school with kids who under-perform -- and that's why Hamilton and McClure go under-enrolled.

I don't think anyone has suggested that kids who walk to Eckstein should be forced to bus to Hamilton.

The discussion is about why north end families who live relatively close to Hamilton (or McClure) don't choose those schools. If we keep denying that the north end fear of being in school with low-performing kids is part of that, we are just that much farther away from solutions.

I guess people should realize that poverty and the resulting low achievement is not necessarily a contagious disease. Your well-endowed north end kid could do great at Hamilton without "catching" low achievement from the kids who arrive with issues.

I have never seen dis-aggregated scores for the immersion program kids at Hamilton. But kids can't get into the immersion program without being either a native speaker or having attended elementary school in Japanese or Spanish. Kids in Hamilton's immersion program aren't so much given "preference" to get into the program, they're just the kids who have the language skills for those classes.

Charlie Mas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary said...

ad hoc, I'd be interested to hear your definition of "uber", "high", and "low" performing. Is it WASL scores?

Just curious - in what specific ways is Eckstein higher performing than Hamilton?

Isabel, thanks for your comments.

Charlie Mas said...

So there's the problem played out before us. Northeast Region families prefer Eckstein to Hamilton by a wide margin. Some families prefer Eckstein because it is closer to their homes. Some families prefer Eckstein because it is "higher performing". Some families prefer Eckstein for the programs there (music or other).

Take a step back from your own personal narrow self-interest for a moment and look at the situation from an unbiased perspective. We need to draw reference areas for each of the middle schools. To support vertical academic alignment and social continuity we want to create feeder patterns, so the middle school boundaries will run along the same lines as the elementary school boundaries. The reference areas cannot include more students than the school can hold. Every inch of the district has to be in a reference area.

Those are the rules. Now go ahead and draw the reference area for Eckstein. It is the middle school closest to the northeast corner of the district, so wouldn't that corner, the John Rogers reference area, be in the Eckstein reference area? Of course it would. It couldn't be in any other school's reference area. And the same for Olympic Hills, and Sacajawea, Olympic View, Wedgwood, and the new reference area for Decatur. That's six elementary schools feeding Eckstein right there. I doubt there is room for another. If there were, it could as likely be Northgate as View Ridge. There's no way it would be Bryant.

Here's why:
Take a look at this map. This shows the areas of the district closest to each middle school and the number of SPS middle school students who live in each of those areas. There are almost 1,700 who live closest to Eckstein. They can't all fit. Whitman can't hold all of the 1,300 who live closest to that school. There are only about 400 who live closest to Hamilton, so the reference area for Hamilton will have include about 600 students who actually live closer to Eckstein. That's about a third of the students who live closer to Eckstein. It only makes sense for it to be the third who live closest to Hamilton: those in the Laurelhurst, Bryant, and View Ridge reference areas. Remember that the Bryant and View Ridge reference areas will be shifted following the insertion of a new Decatur reference area. The new Bryant reference area may not extend north of 65th Street and the new View Ridge reference area may not reach further west than 45th Avenue.

Tell me, jp70, is there another way to do this that makes more sense?

Now, for those who prefer Eckstein because it is "higher performing". Do the students at Eckstein outscore the students at Hamilton due to something that is happening at Eckstein, or do they outscore the Hamilton students because Eckstein recruits higher scoring students? While each factor plays a role, I have no doubt that the latter plays a larger role. Eckstein has high performing students because high performing students go to Eckstein. If more high performing students - say the students who come out of Bryant, View Ridge, and Laurelhurst - and fewer low performing students went to Hamilton, then Hamilton would be a high performing school.

Right now, according to this data, there are only 294 students from the northeast region at Hamilton. Of these students, only 14% are eligible for Free or Reduced price Lunches (FRL). The school has almost an equal number of students, 270, from the Southeast Region, of whom 70% are FRL.

I'm not going to suggest in any way that students from low-income homes cannot achieve academically as well as students from more affluent homes, but I must acknowledge the fact that the current pattern of outcomes shows lower academic performance for students from low-income homes.

For those who don't know, the District offers every student in the Southeast Region the opportunity to enroll at Hamilton, McClure, or Meany with transportation provided. Any student in that region can be assigned to any of these schools on request with transportation provided. So it's little wonder that 270 of them are at Hamilton. I daresay that it would be significantly fewer if yellow bus transportation were not provided. Significantly fewer. I don't know how much longer the District will continue to offer this out-of-region transportation, but it is not consistant with the Strategic Plan, "Excellence for All", nor is it consistant with the District's stated intention to reduce transportation costs.

So try to imagine a Hamilton that enrolls the bulk of students from Bryant, View Ridge and Laurelhurst, but no longer enrolls over one third of its students from the Southeast Region of whome 70% are FRE. Do you think that it might become a "high performing" school? I think it would.

Finally, the program question. Isabel D'Ambrosia wrote that Hamilton DOES offer music. It is after school but she says that it is for credit. So let's just cross that objection off our list. Hamilton's Spectrum program isn't as big, but maybe it would be if it drew a different set of students. Locating half of middle school APP at Hamilton would certainly give the Spectrum enrollment a boost as well as those "high performing" perceptions. Hamilton will also have a brand new building and all of those wonderful world language opportunities.

In three years, Hamilton will be recognized as a very desirable assignment. I don't think many will be complaining that they are in the Hamilton reference area.

Isabel D'Ambrosia said...

Exactly. Once again spot on, Charlie.

classof75 said...

crossposted with charlie-sorry- this may be repetitive.

but so should the performance at schools like Aki Kurose. The problems and lack of adeuqate funding to address them are the same at both schools

Aki has 434 students( last year- this year more)- Hamilton 670
THis year- 450 students attend Aki from the neighborhood. ( 1,867 live in the neighborhood)
93 students attend Hamilton from the neighborhood ( 407 live in the near area)

Interesting- there are 1650 students in the Eckstein near area- but only 407 re Hamilton. however the Hamilton area, also looks much smaller.

The Aki Kurose near area- also looks very large- how else could they have 1,867 close to the school in an area that apparently has too many seats?

I think they should redraw the maps.

Kurose will be getting more help.

Aki Kurose is one of three schools that will receive millions in extra money over the next three years through the "Southeast Initiative," the district's attempt to boost enrollment and renew community confidence in the area's schools.

The middle school will receive $1.1 million for the next year. The money will pay for four new teachers, including a drama teacher; classes such as computer programming, robotics, cartooning; and extend the school day by one extra period.

adhoc said...

Well, Charlie, of course if Hamilton's demographics change the school performance will change. The addition of Bryant, Laurelhurst, and View Ridge graduates to Hamilton, along with the APP program will make the school high performing. It will have to meet the needs of parents with higher performing kids (It doesn't have to do that right now). And yes, of course once the school is high performing NE families will be much more willing to send their kids there. And a shiny new building will add to the attraction.

But as of now that is only a vision Charlie, the reality is that Hamilton is not a high performing school. It's not in the NE neighborhood. And frankly, not one family I know wants to send their children there.

I hope the new assignment plan does play out as Charlie suggests, I hope Charlie's vision is realized, and Hamilton grows to be a very strong and desirable school. I hope that for every school in Seattle.

But my kid doesn't have 3 years to wait for that to happen. My youngest goes to MS next year. I don't think his needs will be met at Hamilton. I think when 50% of the kids are failing the WASL, then the primary goal of the school is just getting kids to pass the WASL. The bar has to be lowered to accomodate the kids who are not at standard. I don't want that for my child.

And as for the music program don't be so quick to check that off the list. Eckstein has a stellar band program with several teachers, several bands, orchestra and choir. It is at the heart and sole of the school and 45% of Eckstein kids participate. I would hardly compare that to one small after school music class at Hamilton, that some years doesn't even happen due to lack of participation. So, lets keep band on the list for now.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ah the dilemma of middle school placement in the North/NE. I love that argument of "it's not in my neighborhood". Frankly, you'd have to define "neighborhood". Somehow both the middle schools that serve this area are in the south end of the region. That's where we are. Now, by the staff saying AE#2 will be the K-8 at Addams, it makes it an alternative school which doesn't really solve a lot of capacity problem that making it an regular ed K-8 with a special focus (take your pick; language, math/science, etc.) So now, people will STILL want to go to Eckstein.

But Charlie said it and I've said it elsewhere; it may be that the reference areas may be east-west for Hamilton and North-South for Eckstein. Meaning, if you live within walking distance of a school, that's your reference middle school. However, beyond that, the district should say, in the interest of fairness, that every single student will be afforded the shortest bus ride (if they so choose).

Meaning, east-west neighborhoods get Hamilton, and North-south get Eckstein. The people in the far north have no other choice and why should their kids have to travel further on a bus past Eckstein to Hamilton?

I could be wrong on the time factor but I don't think so. I doubt this will occur because the district has already shot its argument of adding capacity to the north end by making Addams an alternative K-8 (albeit likely a good one).

Also, Tracy Libros acknowledged to me (and others) the same issue that was raised about some parents choosing a further away school in order to have their kid out of the house and on a bus for a long period of time(for any number of reasons like not wanting the student to walk in the rain, getting to work knowing your kid is on a bus, etc.) However, doing that costs the district money.

I'm thinking the district is likely to say busing only for clusters, only for alternatives in your region and Special Ed. Otherwise, why redo the assignment plan if you aren't going to save money on busing?

SolvayGirl1972 said...

Ad Hoc wrote: "But my kid doesn't have 3 years to wait for that to happen. My youngest goes to MS next year. I don't think his needs will be met at Hamilton. I think when 50% of the kids are failing the WASL, then the primary goal of the school is just getting kids to pass the WASL. The bar has to be lowered to accomodate the kids who are not at standard. I don't want that for my child."

An therein lies the problem for many of us. Our children need to enroll in a middle school or high school NOW...for 2009-10, For those of us whose reference school is struggling to help a majority of students meet the WASL, our options are bleak. It's not because we don't want our children "around those kids" but as ad hoc notes: the bar gets lowered to accommodate the kids who are not at standard. For those whose children are at or above standard school ends up being boring at best.

I think the only long-term solution is to restrict choice (except for some true all-city alternatives/magnets) while simultaneously beefing up all of the comprehensive middle and high schools' curriculum offerings to some degree of equity in both quality and quantity.

Unfortunately for ad hoc and me, we have to make a decision based on today's reality and not what a school could become in the future.

seattler said...

Regarding earlier comments about south-end kids being bused to McClure and Hamilton:

I'm not sure what the situation is at Hamilton, but I am aware of the reticence of QA residence to send their kids to McClure. My understanding is that it is not SIMPLY the fact that so many kids are being bused in from outside the neighborhood (and, specifically, the south end). I also don't think the "problem" is not SIMPLY the academic performance or ethnicity/race/SES of these bused-in students.

From what I understand, the school is pretty much split along racial lines between its "regular" program and Spectrum classes. This creates tension and resentment among parents, students, and even faculty. Additionally, parents from the neighborhood whose children do not get into the Spectrum program are suddenly in classes with lots and lots of kids they don't know, while the Spectrum classes tend to be made up of mostly QA kids who attended Coe or Hay together.

Schools with these kinds of dynamics are going to have a hard time reaching high academic and social goals. Is there a way to fix this situation?

Isabel D'Ambrosia said...

The academic bar has not been lowered at Hamilton. That is an outright myth.

My son is in honors math, but non-Spectrum Language Arts/Social Studies. The LA/SS class is his hardest class. ALL the 6th grade LA/SS teachers are excellent at Hamilton.

I guess it's a bummer when your kid isn't around all his elementary school friends in every class. But isn't it actually kind of good to make new friends?

Hamilton does have a lot of kids who are struggling academically and at home. But these kids often get double math classes or double LA/SS class. They do not take world language until their scores improve. Again, the academic "bar" in regular classes isn't lowered for anyone.

Great that Eckstein has such a great music program. But way more than 45% of kids take world language at Hamilton. Not so at Eckstein -- so you guys are missing out.

Jeremy said...

I agree with many of your ideas here. Some of them appear to conflict with one another, but I don't think these were intended to be taken as a group.

Sahila said...

Under the Board's own closure guidelines/criteria, its clear that AS#1 @ Pinehurst must stay open because:

1: Geographic & Proximity. Closing AS#1 would destroy the capacity plan that was just passed because closing AS#1 contributes to, rather than eliminates, the over capacity problem in the N, NE and NW.

Closing AS#1 and moving Summit so far south displaces as many as 600 students (200 AS#1 pupils and an estimated 400 Summit students who wont move with the school), plus depriving another 200-300 current students and 2009/10 kindergarteners of an alternative school choice, because there is no room in other central-north non-traditional programmes (Thornton Creek, Salmon Bay, TOPs, Bagley's Montessori, the International School - see 2008/09 waitlist numbers for an indicator of how many children missed out on a non-traditional programme place.)

Closing AS#1 does nothing to increase capacity because the numbers are being double counted: If Jane Addams (32 classrooms) is set up as a mushroom model then there are no rooms available for other, new k-8 classrooms: 12 will already be taken up by TC (K-5), 10 taken up by Autism, 8 taken up by AS#1 (K-8) which only leaves 1 classroom left over for excess NE capacity.

The Decatur and Pinehurst buildings will be available, but at approximately 600-seats, they're insufficient to handle the over capacity - the majority of Summit students, now homeless because they dont want to move south to RBHS and the existing middle school overflow from the rest of the N and NE... Northgate and Olympic Hills cannot take in all of that overflow...

And that's not even counting the spaces needed for the 2009/10 kindergarten influx, which, with the current and continuing surge in population in the north end, will probably outstrip the numbers of children graduating from the elementary and middle school communities...

2: Geographic & Proximity. The new Decatur contemporary K-5 will be filled with NE families on day one. Olympic Hills and Northgate spaces have been promised to NE families for capacity relief.

3: Cost Per Pupil. The AS#1 building/programme excess capacity could be taken up with displaced Summit families who do not want to move out of the area, thereby resolving the cost per pupil issue.

4: Cost per pupil. AS#1 accepts that all city draw transportation would end. Future transportation would be included for N, NE, NW only.

5: Access to Programs. There is high demand for alternative K-8 schools in the north, north east and north west of the city. There would still be no leftover capacity at Salmon Bay and Thornton Creek with the removal of 600+ alternative K-8 seats from the North end (400+ elementary and middle school seats at Summit plus 200+ K-8 at AS#1). This would negatively impact the choices for incoming families.

6: Access to Programs. AS#1 (and Summit) serves an important equity function as evidenced by the higher number of minority and free/reduced school lunch students at the schools.

7: Academic Performance. AS#1 is performing well, under the Alternative Schools check list developed by the district.

AS#1's academic achievement scores are negatively skewed by incomplete and misleading WASL statistics. Many AS#1 parents choose not to have their children take the WASL - which is their legal right - because they believe it is a poor mechanism for measuring educational progress. The new Superintendent of Instruction has signaled his intention to abandon the WASL.

8: Academic Performance:
Under NCLB criteria, AS#1 was classified at Stage 4 without ever having passed through Stages 1, 2 and 3 and being given the opportunity and assistance to address those areas where it was deemed to be performing insufficiently.

Now the programme is being closed whilst it still is only at Stage 4, whereas other programmes in the District already at Stage 5 (mandatory restructuring/closure) are being left intact.

9: Academic Performance:
The District should wait until it has completed an alternative schools audit before making determinations about whether or not to continue the AS#1 program.

10: Consequence - assignment/placement plan failure. 50% of Viewlands families did not go where the district reassigned them last round of school closures. In that entire school closure process, 20% of displaced families didnt enrol where they were assigned, and 10% left SPS altogether.

11: Consequence - forcing families and education funding out of the District. Closing a north building will ensure that Shoreline will get more North End families, which means less money for the district.

12. Consequence - Unnecessary disruption. It becomes a game of musical chairs, where anyone moving into the AS#1 building will displace the current population without giving them anywhere else to go. You will only be switching homeless populations by keeping Pinehurst open but discontinuing AS#1.

adhoc said...

Isabel, I'm really glad that Hamilton is working for your child. I'm glad that you feel he is challenged. We feel the same way about Eckstein and so do many families in the NE. We have a good school in our neighborhood, and we want our kids to have access to it. Eckstein is a true neighborhood school. It's where most of the elementary school students in our cluster go to MS and it's where my sons baseball team mates go and all of the kids on our block go. It's part of our community. And yes of course it's nice to make new friends -and in a school as large as Eckstein there are endless possibilities for that to happen too. I know a neighborhood school is not everyones priority. Some choose schools for the bus service, some for the program, some for high performance, some for diversity, some for an alt approach. There are many many deciding factors in choosing a school that is right for you. None are any more or any less important than the other. For many of us in the NE having access to our neighborhood MS is important to us. And when the boundaries change and Hamilton becomes our neighborhood school, we will embrace it too, and work to improve and build it up. It's what we do here.

So, please understand that I am not dragging Hamilton through the mud, just sharing a very common desire that NE families have, which is to have access to their neighborhood school. We are very proud of Eckstein. We are one of the few communities that embraces their neighborhood MS. That should be celebrated!

Charlie, I will use your own words. Stop looking at things from your own narrow self interest. I know you need to send your kids all over the city to have their needs met. I've never once challenged you or anyone else about your decisions, though they differ drastically from mine. Neighborhood schools don't seem to mean much to you, and that's A OK to me. But they do mean a lot to me and many many others in this city. It's unfortunate that so many schools stink and all families can't have access to a great, neighborhood school. We are lucky. We have a great school. What we have is what the district should be working toward. Consider that when you form your next argument. And next time take your own advice before re-drawing all of the NE boundaries. Take community input.

adhoc said...

And, in case you are wondering, here is my input. The NE cluster needs new MS seats just as much as they do elementary seats. Jane Adams should be used for a new middle school, not a k-8 alternative school. Sand point should be opened as a new elementary school.

Or

Jane Adams should be used for a k-8 ne cluster Spectrum school and north end APP site, thus taking all of the spectrum students from Wedgewood, View Ridge, and Eckstein. There would be no more spectrum waitlisting for years at a time, and there would be much more room for neighborhood kids at all three schools.

Does anyone have the numbers to know if a spectrum/APP school would solve the capacit issues?? How many Spectrum students at WEdgewood, View Ridge and Eckstein? Would they be enough to fill 800 seats at Adams? If not would north end elementary or ms fit in the building with Spectrum? And lets not forget all of the APP qualified families that don't choose to send their kid on a one hour bus ride to lowell everyday, but would go to adams? Wonder how many of them there are? Are their numbers for kids who test in but don't go to Lowell?

North-end Mom said...

adhoc,

Part of the new "neighborhood schools" assignment plan is to have EVERY child's needs met at their neighborhood school (they would be placed first as general ed, then their special needs would be addressed). This means advanced learning, as well as special ed. I don't know if this applies to APP, but it would certainly imply that there would be Spectrum or ALO-like opportunities at every neighborhood school, as well as special ed accomodations. This has been said over and over lately at assignment planning meetings, as well as at Dir. Martin-Morris' coffee hour (Oct), and on other occasions. It sounds like a "plan."

For that reason alone, a Spectrum/APP only school at the Jane Addams building, or anywhere else, would not be appropriate. It would not fit into the new assignment plan ideology of neighborhood schools providing these services at each school.

Roy Smith said...

Sahila,

Some responses to your points regarding AS#1. I offer these not to be argumentative, but to give you the chance to address the weak spots in your arguments when you try to get these recommendations changed by the SPS staff or the school board:

1: Geographic & Proximity. Closing AS#1 would destroy the capacity plan that was just passed because closing AS#1 contributes to, rather than eliminates, the over capacity problem in the N, NE and NW.

This is an argument for keeping the Pinehurst building open with some program in it, but doesn't necessarily support the argument that AS#1 should remain open.

2: Geographic & Proximity. The new Decatur K-5 will be filled with NE families on day one. Olympic Hills and Northgate spaces have been promised to NE families for capacity relief.

It isn't at all clear how this statement relates to either Pinehurst or AS#1.

3: Cost Per Pupil. The AS#1 building/programme excess capacity could be taken up with displaced Summit families who do not want to move out of the area, thereby resolving the cost per pupil issue.

Even if Pinehurst is full, it may still have a higher cost per pupil than most other schools. It is, after all, nearly the smallest building in the district.

Also, this argument rests on the perhaps plausible, but nevertheless untested assumption that Summit families will view AS#1 as a reasonable option. As we in the alternative school system so often say, alternative schools are very different from each other as well as from traditional schools. It may be that Summit families don't want to go to AS#1.

5: Access to Programs. There is high demand for alternative K-8 schools in the north, north east and north west of the city. There would still be no leftover capacity at Salmon Bay and Thornton Creek with the removal of 600+ alternative K-8 seats from the North end (400+ elementary and middle school seats at Summit plus 200+ K-8 at AS#1). This would negatively impact the choices for incoming families.

I'd bring some more rigorous numbers to support this.

Here's what I came up with, using the 2007 enrollment figures (found here in maps and data on SPS website):

2007 Enrollment:
Thornton Creek K-5: 310
Summit K-5: 110
Summit 6-8: 108
AS#1 K-5: 93
AS#1 6-8: 47

For Summit and AS#1 I only included students living in the N or NE clusters, as I don't think that many families will want or be able to make the choice to provide their own transportation. I might be wrong, but the numbers above yield 513 elementary students and 155 middle school students, which means that the demand for alternative education in the N and NE clusters may very well be able to be met with one school in the Jane Addams building.

7: Academic Performance. AS#1 is performing well, under the Alternative Schools check list developed by the district.

Unfortunately, the criteria stated in the Guidelines for Closure document is "Has the school made the expected annual academic progress under the federal No Child Left Behind law?" AS#1 has not done this. As a result, your argument is arguing that the criteria is wrong. I agree that the criteria is wrong, but you should make that point explicitly, and should be prepared that the Board and/or Superintendent might not agree.

8: Academic Performance:
Under NCLB criteria, AS#1 was classified at Stage 4 without ever having passed through Stages 1, 2 and 3 and being given the opportunity and assistance to address those areas where it was deemed to be performing insufficiently.


Actually, AS#1 did pass through stages 1, 2, and 3, but the AS#1 community ignored this fact because 1) we're an alternative school and don't really give a hoot about NCLB, and 2) until this year, we weren't a Title I school, which meant that a piece of our funding wasn't in jeopardy.

Now the programme is being closed whilst it still is only at Stage 4, whereas other programmes in the District already at Stage 5 (mandatory restructuring/closure) are being left intact.

AAA is being closed, so there is only one other school in Stage 5 (Aki Kurose). Aside from that, this is a very valid point and I would make this the centerpiece of your academic performance argument.

10: Consequence - assignment/placement plan failure. 50% of Viewlands families did not go where the district reassigned them last round of school closures. In that entire school closure process, 20% of displaced families didnt enrol where they were assigned, and 10% left SPS altogether.

Where will they plausibly end up? If not at Thornton Creek, this undermines further the "alternatives are overfull" argument that you make in point 5.

11: Consequence - forcing families and education funding out of the District. Closing a north building will ensure that Shoreline will get more North End families, which means less money for the district.

Perhaps a valid point, but as far as I can tell, SPS has a long and glorious history of being completely oblivious to this type of consequence.

12: Consequence - Unnecessary disruption. It becomes a game of musical chairs, where anyone moving into the AS#1 building will displace the current population without giving them anywhere else to go. You will only be switching homeless populations by keeping Pinehurst open but discontinuing AS#1.

The AS#1 population is being given a place to go: Thornton Creek. In order for this point to work, you have to plausibly argue that Thornton Creek is unacceptable to most AS#1 families. If you successfully make that point, you undermine your argument in point 3 which relies on AS#1 being acceptable to Summit families.

adhoc said...

Yes, that makes sense, North end mom.

If every school offers an ALO or Spectrum I guess there would be no need for a school dedicated to those services.

So, then back to plan A. Make Jane Adams a traditional middle school, and open Sandpoint as a new elementary.

Leave Thornton Creek where they are. The building is right sized for their program and they have been happy, successful and able to thrive there.

If the district follows North end moms advice, and every school provides all of the services that families need right in their own neighborhoods, then there will be no need for bus service from the south end to Hamilton. South end students will go to their neighborhood schools. And since there are not enough kids that live in the Hamilton neighborhood to fill the school (only 400 or so) then Hamilton should be able to take all of the AS1 kids.

classof75 said...

that sounds ideal- but to be blunt- we do not have enough effective principals in the district to expect that each cluster could be equally attractive to teaching staff and families.
For that matter- we don't have enough talented teachers- for the courses that need to be taught.

For example- even at Garfield- with a strong teaching staff and parent group not to mention principal, my daughter was only able to essentially take two years of a language- instead of the four years that she had planned- because her junior year, her class was taught by substitutes, who do not need to be certified in high school language & this did not get her to the level to take AP language in senior year.

Imagine what a spectrum or APP class would be at a middle school headed by someone who thought that siphoning off " gifted" children, was elitist and divisive?

adhoc said...

I agree classof75, it will be very difficult to offer Spectrum or ALO services at every single school. It would be ideal, and I would love to see it happen, but in reality I doubt that it will. And if the district mandates it, how will they regulate the quality of the services?? AlO's can be very very strong or they can be shams. Even Spectrum, a very structured program can be ineffective (Leschi where 50% of Spectrum students fail the WASL) if not administered well. ALO's will be all over the boards.

Sahila said...

Thanks for the input Roy - the conclusions/perspectives we arrive at during our small meeting yesterday were not just about AS#1, obviously, but were also addressing the capacity management proposal as a whole.

I appreciate the points you raise and the figures you give... we as a group are working on fine-tuning our position for Wednesday's meeting and subsequent ones, and your perspective is helpful in that process...

If you have more information and/or other perspectives, we'd love it if you would help - what do you think?...

Rose M said...

It sounds like Eckstein currently suits its constituency and Hamilton suits its constituency. So if we exchange the student populations, will the characters of the schools switch?

The big band boosters from Eckstein will certainly push for a daily program at Hamilton for their younger children. (Are the orchestras at Hamilton after school too?

The supporters of the language program at Hamilton will push for that at Eckstein.


If the strong band /orchestra programs at Eckstein feed into Hale, and the weaker(?) band & orchestra programs at Hamilton feed into Roosevelt, that will be interesting.

We talk about a school changing to fit its population. But that was not demonstrated at Madrona. Why do we think it would happen at Hamilton & Eckstein?


Does Hamilton offer Int 1,2, & 3? That was at the top of our list when choosing middle schools for our first child. I imagine that it will be for our younger one too.

adhoc said...

Personally I believe change at Madrona didn't happen because it was a small group of families (10-15 maybe??) entering kindergarten.

If the district were to re-draw the boundaries as Charlie suggested with Hamilton's draw including Laurelhurst, Bryant, View Ridge, and north of the ship canal APP. That would be a majority of the school. It would certainly drive change. There be enough families to create a strong band program, int I II and II, etc, if they desired it. Hamilton would in essence be the new mini Eckstein.

Eckstein, according to Charlie's new boundaries would then draw from Northgate, Olympic Hills, John Rogers and Wedgewood elementaries. While Wedgewood is a middle class neighborhood, Lake City, Cedar Park, Olympic Hills and the area around Northgate elementary is lower income. The demographics at Eckstein would change drastically and my guess is so would the program and offerings. Parental involvement would be lower, fund raising would be lower. It would not be the same school.

There is a lot to consider when changing around boundaries.

bird lover said...

Whitman MS never fills. Discontinue busing south end kids north to Hamilton, and send the 300 or so kids in the Hamilton neighborhood to Whitman. Close Hamilton. Make Jane Adams a traditional middle school. Open Sandpoint as a traditional elementary school. The cost savings from closing Hamilton should negate the opening of Sandpoint, right??

Melissa Westbrook said...

1) the closure plan calls for the new elementary at Decataur to have a Spectrum program.
2)I'm not as keen on Thorton Creek at Addams because there are a lot of "ifs" to filling that building and the biggest one is can their program, expanded to K-8 fill the building? They are leaving one of Summit's programs there and if most of Thorton Creek's kids go there, will another alternative program fill that building? I know folks want K-8 but it's quite the bet to say it will fill.
3)Bird Lover, I don't know if you heard but a new building - an expensive new building - is being built for Hamilton. What would you do with that new building if you closed Hamilton?

Evan said...

where ya been, bird lover? should they wait until they finish the multi-year, multi-million-dollar construction project, or just close it now?

katie said...

Bird lover,

For the 07 school year, there were 400 students from N at Hamilton. The number was much higher for 08 but can't find it. The bulk of kids from the South that attend Hamilton are from the Aki Kurose area. Under the SE Initiative, Aki's enrollment shot up this year and therefore decreased the number of South end kids at Hamilton. The shift at Hamilton is happening every year. As Aki gets stronger, Hamilton gets fewer students from the South.

Which is a good thing because all of those seats are going to be very much needed in the next few years.

north seattle mom said...

What if the North end APP site were only 3-5. Some Spectrum schools did this. Would there be space in the north for this anywhere?

Melissa Westbrook said...

My thought would be to move half of APP to the new K-5 at Decatur. I know the building isn't big enough for that plus another half of regular ed kids but looking back to 3 years ago, staff recommended adding portables to several NE schools including Decatur. They could do that now and then put Decatur on BEX IV for a rebuild (which would make sense given how large their site is).

Roy Smith said...

There is actually not a shortage of middle school space on the north end. What there is is a shortage of space at Eckstein to satisfy every family who wants their student(s) to attend there.

According to this map (based on 2006 enrollment, so the numbers may be somewhat out of date, but I will postulate that they are at least close), there are a total of 3,475 middle school students in SPS who live north of the ship canal.

The current populations of comprehensive middle schools in that area are:
Whitman: 974
Hamilton: 724
Eckstein: 1247

For a total of 2,945. As far as I can tell from the district web site, the Hamilton and Eckstain buildings are close to the same size (capacity-wise, at least), so it probably would be reasonable for all three middle schools to enroll about 950 students. That would give a total of 2,850, meaning that we need to find places for 625 students.

Other middle school programs north of the ship canal, and enrollment:
Broadview-Thomson: about 300
Salmon Bay: about 360

That's room for 660 students, which is enough all by itself and does not count either Summit or AS#1. Assuming the capacity management plan goes ahead, there would be room for at least 265 middle school students at Thornton Creek (possibly more, if the mushroom model is used).

So, even using slightly pessimistic enrollment numbers, there is not an overall capacity problem:
Eckstein: 950 (overcrowding relieved)
Whitman: 950
Hamilton: 725
Broadview-Thomson: 300
Salmon Bay: 350
Thornton Creek: 250

For a total of 3,525 seats, which is more than the total number of middle schoolers north of the ship canal.

Now what we do NOT have is enough space at Eckstein for every student east of I-5 and north of the ship canal to attend Eckstein. Some areas east of I-5 and north of the ship canal are going to end up with either Whitman or Hamilton as their reference area middle school.

We also do not have enough room to continue allowing south end middle schools to be failing to attract local families, thus creating a situation where north end schools are seen as the only places to actually get an education.

Roy Smith said...

Put all of north APP K-5 (250-300 students) at Pinehurst. It is just the right size, and the demographic surge we are dealing with is only just getting going, so we should be continuing to use the Pinehurst building.

I also expect that in order to accomodate the demographic surge over the next few years, we are going to have to revisit reopening Viewlands and Sandpoint elementaries. If it is going to take 2-3 years to get them open, it would be best to start now.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Roy, you are only off on one point (well, the population numbers are a bit high -I know Eckstein and Whitman are less than stated but okay), which is that Salmon Bay is alternative and there are no mandatory assignments to alternatives. So you can count the seats but you can't say absolutely that they will be chosen (although in Salmon Bay's case that is very likely).

I agree; whether it's Decatur or Pinehurst; there should be a north end APP. But Dr. G-J does not like the idea of these students not being in a general ed population so Pinehurst is probably out.

SaraD said...

Re: 7. "...Very few families in the neighborhoods around [Thurgood Marshall and Hawthorne] will be able to enroll their children in those schools after the APP students and their siblings take up 80% of the available seats."

Currently around 20% of Thurgood Marshall's students come from within the reference area (and it was first choice for ONE student). Over 28% of students are bussed in from outside the Central Cluster! Students living in the reference area are scattered among 28 different schools. Thurgood Marshall is hardly a neighborhood school as it is. (Statistics gleaned from seattleschools.org.)

Charlie Mas said...

When the Hamilton renovation is complete, the school will have a capacity of 1,000. Also left out of the analysis are the seats at McClure. When speaking about the north-end it is better to use "north of downtown" instead of "north of the Ship Canal" to include Queen Anne and Magnolia in the count.

Roy Smith said...

According to the 2006 numbers, 568 students lived closest to McClure, and that included all of Queen Anne and Magnolia, and the school enrolled 694 last year, so including McClure in the analysis just amplifies my point that overall, there is adequate middle school capacity north of downtown.

Melissa, to the point about alternatives and voluntary enrollment, the 350 at Salmon Bay is based on what they actually have, and I am going to be optimistic and assume that they can at least maintain that level. Also, I am going to be optimistic that Thornton Creek will succesfully fill its 6-8 portion. Since both these schools have a pretty consistent history of having waitlists, I don't think these are unreasonable assumptions.

Again, the only actual capacity problem in middle schools in the north part of town is that there is entirely too big an area that views Eckstein as the middle school they should be able to send their middle schoolers to. Having defined middle school reference areas will help to alleviate that, and making Hamilton more attractive to NE families would also help, though on that point I am pessimistic that the school district will take effective action.

Roy Smith said...

There has been some discussion here about Thornton Creek at Jane Addams having the "mushroom model" - i.e., significantly more children per grade in the middle school grades than in the elementary school grades. This originally came up in the first proposal to make Jane Addams a traditional K-8; a traditional K-8 would have traditional K-5s to feed into the middle school portion. (Interestingly, none of the existing traditional K-8s use the mushroom model either; the only schools in SPS that actually use it are Salmon Bay, which is a special case - see the next paragraph, and Summit, which may have tried to use a mushroom structure, but isn't very successful at actually making one.)

However, I am not sure this makes sense in the case of alternative schools. Why would there be more demand for alternative education at the middle school level than at the elementary level? In the case of Salmon Bay, which is the only alternative school that really uses the mushroom model, it must be remembered that the current Thornton Creek (which is currently the only alternative K-5) is essentially a feeder into Salmon Bay's middle school program. If you consider Thornton Creek (enrollment 310) and Salmon Bay (K-5 enrollment 244 and 6-8 enrollment 367) as one population, you get 92 children per grade for K-5 and 122 children per grade at 6-8. This is not a very pronounced mushroom, and may very well be explained by families seeking to avoid perceived or actual problems at the comprehensive middle schools than actual increased demand for alternative education at the middle school level.

None of the other K-8 alternative schools in Seattle use the mushroom model, and I think that this works because the demand for alternative education is basically consistent throughout different grades levels, and because none of the other K-8 alternatives have K-5 alternatives as feeders. It makes sense to me that a family who wants a traditional K-5 school is not likely to suddenly want an alternative middle school, at least not in numbers sufficient for the mushroom model to generally make sense for alternative schools.

As a result of looking at these numbers, I think the case should be made that Thornton Creek at Jane Addams should not use the mushroom model, and since Thornton Creek will no longer be feeding Salmon Bay's middle school, we may need to be prepared for Salmon Bay's middle school portion to shrink so that it is either not a mushroom, or at least not a very pronounced one. It would be better to make these changes intentionally and proactively plan for them than to have those changes happen by circumstance and all adjustments to the changes to be on a reactive basis.

adhoc said...

Roy, your numbers are correct but you are not figuring in some important data.

NE families do not get any transportation to Whitman. So Whitman is not a viable option for NE cluster families.

Hamilton is now the new refernce school for the Meany neighborhood (250 kids) according to Harium's recent blog posting, and Hamilton takes about 400 students that live in Hamilton's immediate neighborhood. That means Hamilton is full too. No space for NE cluster families.

Thornton Creek will be full with it's current 350 families, plus all of the AS1 families that have been guaranteed assignment preference, plus all of the displaced North end Summit families. It will be full on day one. So this is not a viable option for NE families either. Plus it is an alternative school as is Salmon Bay, and you can't really count alternative school seats because you can't assign students there who don't choose the program.

Since Charlie, and Roy want to include McClure in the "north of downtown" MS figures, then you should remember that there is no transportation provided from the NE cluster to McClure. So check McClure off of the list of schools that NE families can choose from too Roy.

What does that leave us with???
You guessed it.....Eckstein. And only Eckstein.

adhoc said...

Also, Roy, only about 1/3 of TC graduates go on to Salmon Bay. The rest split pretty evenly between private school and Eckstein. So we are talking about 18-20 students that move on to Salmon Bay from Thornton Creek. Salmon Bay has 120 open seats for 6th grade. About 55 of those seats are filled with their graduates and about 18-20 are filled with TC graduates. The rest of the 45 remaining are filled by the greater community. Salmon Bay generally gets a 100+ kid wait list for 6th grade. I would hardly try to do away with their mushroom configuration. You have to get all of the facts and figures before you start rearranging and dismantling programs.

Roy Smith said...

We need to have defined middle school reference areas/feeder system for elemntary to middle school. Here is what I propose as feeder elementaries for the middle schools north of downtown:

Eckstein: John Rogers, Olympic Hills, Olympic View, Sacajawea, Wedgwood, Decatur

Whitman: Northgate, Daniel Bagley, Greenwood, North Beach, Loyal Heights, Whittier

Hamilton: Bryant, View Ridge, Laurelhurst, Green Lake, JSIS, BF Day

McClure: West Woodland, Adams, Lawton, Coe, Hay

Roy Smith said...

Here is my current thinking, summarized, on the current School Closures proposal (cross-posted from Harium's blog:

1) I support closing AS#1 - the program is struggling, and there are other alternative programs that are very vibrant; it doesn't make sense to continue the struggle in these circumstances.

2) The students at AS#1 should get assignment preference to Thornton Creek (if they live in the N or NE cluster) or to one of the other alternative schools if they live in other clusters.

3) The Pinehurst building should remain open. It would be an ideal location for north K-5 APP. It is about the right size, and may draw APP eligible students from the area whose families are put-off by the long bus ride to Lowell.

4) Either close Summit, or else move it to a central location - not RBHS. If the only choices are move it to RBHS or close it, then it should be closed. If it is closed, then accomodation will need to be made in the form of assignment preferences for the displaced Summit families.

5) I support moving Thornton Creek to Jane Addams and expanding it into a K-8. It should NOT be a mushroom model - the demand for alternative education isn't greater at the 6-8 level than it is at the K-5 level, so why provide more space at the 6-8 level? Also, anticipate that demand for Salmon Bay at the 6-8 level may drop off somewhat as Thornton Creek will no longer be feeding Salmon Bay's middle school program.

6) There is adequate middle school capacity north of downtown, so we do not need to consider making Jane Addams a traditional K-8 or a comprehensive middle school, as has been suggested. What we do not have is adequate space at Eckstein for every family north of the ship canal and east of I-5 to send their children to Eckstein. Defined reference areas should be established for the 4 northern comprehensive middle schools (see my previous comment for a proposal for this), and transportation patterns suitably adjusted.

7) We very clearly need more elementary school capacity in the south part of the NE cluster. Opening Decatur as a reference area K-5 directly addresses this in a way that can effectively and quickly accomplish the goal. No other proposal will do that. This is another reason I support moving Thornton Creek to Jane Adams.

8) Demand for language immersion way outstrips supply. The new Decatur elementary program should be a language immersion program. That will quickly draw families into the new school.

9) The demographic surge in the north part of the district will be ongoing for at least the next several years, so further planning will be required. If it will take 2-3 years to reopen Sandpoint and/or Viewlands, then we must get started now, so that they will be available when needed, because they will be needed. Robust planning for additional capacity will be absolutely essential if we are to get out of crisis management mode in the following years.

adhoc said...

"What we do not have is adequate space at Eckstein for every family north of the ship canal and east of I-5 to send their children to Eckstein."

I don't have the numbers Roy, but as you know students who live north of NE 110th ST all the way up to 145th ave NE do not get into Eckstein. Nor do the kids that live in Cedar Park or Olympic Hills or Northgate. All of these areas are north of the ship canal and east of I-5. And as this new larger cohort moves to 6th grade in a couple of years the area where families will get into Eckstein will be even smaller.

Charlie Mas said...

Let's be very clear on two points.

Roy is counting middle school seats and middle school capacity for all of the north-end. Yes, he knows that the District does not provide transportation to Whitman or McClure for students in the Northeast; he never suggested that they do.

I wrote exclusively about the Northeast where the capacity in the two comprehensive middle schools is easily more than the total number of middle school students - even if none of them went out-of-region, to APP, or to an alternative school.

There is already plenty of middle school capacity in the Northeast, but half of it is at Hamilton. This is not a capacity problem. It is a different sort of problem in which too many people regard Eckstein as their one and only neighborhood middle school or regard Eckstein as the one and only acceptable choice.

Finally, the students that will be shifted from the Central Region to Hamilton is not only a one-time thing, it is a terrible mistake. The District definitely SHOULD NOT DO IT. It would be much better for them to put the 425 middle school APP students into Hamilton (and allow the Central Region students to enroll at Washington) than to mandatorily assign Central Region students out of their Region.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Roy, your assignments for middle schools looks pretty good but will it fly? If you want to see mad people (even if it makes sense, allows for almost equal length bus rides and will help Hamilton become a stronger school), then try telling people who live in Laurelhurst and View Ridge that Eckstein isn't their middle school. There is this almost ownership of Eckstein (and by extension, Roosevelt) by some neighborhoods that I just don't get.

But the times they are a changin' so maybe it will come to pass.

Roy Smith said...

My suggestions are contingent on abandoning the distance tiebreaker (which, due to the geography of the north end, strands everybody north of 110th, as is so often stated) and moving to a reference area/feeder model.

It is also contingent on telling basically everybody south of Eckstein that their reference are middle school is Hamilton, not Eckstein. I am fully aware that that suggestion will not be popular (i.e., lots of people will be furious), and many of the families that would be pushed into Hamilton want a middle school at Jane Addams precisely so they can avoid that fate (this is directly analogous to people who want mass transit built so that others will ride it and congestion for their single-occupancy vehicles on the freeway will be eliminated). I don't have much sympathy for the view that we should build more (excess) capacity simply because it will be a bit inconvenient to use the capacity that we already have, but which is inconveniently arranged.

I also would like to see the elementary capacity problem in the south end of the NE cluster solved, and (perhaps I am a bit biased on this one) I am delighted about the idea of strengthening the alternative program in the NE that is working well and moving away from the ones that are struggling.

For all these reasons, I think making Jane Addams into a traditional K-8 or comprehensive middle school would be a mistake, and think moving Thornton Creek there is a good proposal.

I also agree wholeheartedly with Charlie that moving a bunch of central cluster students into Hamilton would make the existing middle school mess worse, and should be avoided at all costs. We should be reducing the number of students bused north to Hamilton, not increasing it.

katie said...

Many Laurelhurst families already go to Hamilton because they are also too far from Eckstein.

North-end Mom said...

Katie,

I've heard that about Laurelhurst families going to Hamilton. The district hasn't posted the most current data, but here's the 2006 enrollment data of where students live who attend Hamilton:
http://www.seattleschools.org/area/newassign/maps/hamilton.pdf

I think "many" is an over-statement, unless there was a dramatic increase in enrollment of Laurelhurst grads at Hamilton in 2007-08 and 2008-09.

adhoc said...

"Finally, the students that will be shifted from the Central Region to Hamilton is not only a one-time thing, it is a terrible mistake. The District definitely SHOULD NOT DO IT. It would be much better for them to put the 425 middle school APP students into Hamilton"

Ok Charlie I guess I'm just not getting it.

If Meany kids are just being assigned to Hamilton as a one time thing, where will the kids that live closest to Meany go in coming years? You yourself have said there is no room for them elsewhere. Washington the other school in their region is full. And, has the board specified that this is a one time only deal?

The other question I have is how can APP go into Hamilton if you are counting on Hamilton to take the NE cluster kids? Your numbers state that there are 425 APP students. In an earlier post you said about 400 kids currently attending Hamilton live closer to Hamilton than any other school. That's 825 studens. That only leaves 175 seats for families in the NE cluster.

So, again, I guess I'm just not getting it. If Hamilton houses Meany kids or APP kids, where is there room for NE cluster kids. If they can't get into Hamilton and Eckstein can't hold them all, and TC is full with alternative school families, then where do NE cluster kids go to MS. They already can't fit into Eckstein today. When the super big cohort of elementary kids enters 6th grade where will they go?

I already have to consider sending my kid to Shoreline elementary school for 6th grade. TC will be full. We live to far from Eckstein to get in (110th st), and Hamilton will fill with Meany students next year. So where does my kid get to go to MS???? Sorry to be so narrow minded, but I have to enroll my kid in a couple a few weeks and have no idea where there will be room for him except in Shoreline.

adhoc said...

"I don't have much sympathy for the view that we should build more (excess) capacity simply because it will be a bit inconvenient to use the capacity that we already have"

Excuse me Roy.

North end families don't want to send their kids to Hamilton because the school does not perform well, not because it is slightly inconvenient for us. Further, the school is known for it's racial tension (north vs south kids) and violence. How come nobody ever rags on south end families who don't want to send their kids to AKI or Cleveland or RBHS? We don't want our kids at an under performing, under enrolled school either. And yes Roy, we do use the WASL, the only tool available to us to help us judge that. I really resent your comments.

Now, if Hamilton's boundaries change, and include a large portion of the northeast cluster then we will be much more accepting of an assignment there. We will have a cohort so to speak and we can advocate for a program that meets our kids needs. As is, Northeast cluster families are a minority and could not affect any change. The school is nowhere near as appealing academically as Eckstein is, and it's out of our neighborhood. Would you want to send your kid there?

So please, Roy, stop trying to make Northeast families sound like a bunch of whining, spoiled, north end parents. We want the same thing everyone else wants. We want the same thing south end families want. A strong school for our kids. If Hamilton becomes a strong school we will embrace it. If it doesn't we will not it's really as simple as that.

Charlie Mas said...

adhoc, you've got it!

Hamilton will become a strong school when it is the default middle school assignment for students from View Ridge, Bryant, and Laurelhurst. Then families from those elementary school reference areas will be happy with the assignment.

And the students from the Southeast Region won't be there. And the students from the Central Region won't be there. But the APP students might be there.

Hamilton will be academically strong.

The Southeast Region students won't be there for three reasons:

1) Aki Kurose and Mercer will be stronger schools and people in the Southeast Region will choose them

2) The District should end the guaranteed transportation to Hamilton and McClure from the Southeast Region

3) There won't be room for them

The Central Region students - the Meany students - will go to Washington. They will fit into the building as soon as the APP students are moved out.

The APP students will go to Hamilton. It will be tight, but they will fit. There are about 2,000 middle school students in the Northeast Region. Add to them the 425 middle school APP students. BUT 121 of the middle school APP students are from the Northeast Region. We don't want to count them twice, so we should only add the 300 APP students who are coming in from outside the Region. So that's 2,300 students who need seats. There are 1,100 at Eckstein and 1,000 at Hamilton, so it will work if 200 or more of them choose alternative schools such as Thorton Creek at Jane Addams or - let's hope - Summit.

While this would be an ideal, it is much more likely that the District will put half of the middle school APP students at Mercer or Aki Kurose, so Hamilton will only have to take about 225, 121 of whom are from within the Region. In that case they will fit with no trouble.

Stephanie Jones said...

I can only say that I am consistently frustrated with all this "chess play" with people's lives. Yes, we need to realign capacity, but telling us where we fit doesn't, as adhoc points out, make us "fit" in the sense of belonging to the school or neighborhood community. Apparently my Meany-bound kid will now be theoretically assigned to Hamilton? Hmmm, I guess it doesn't matter, since they're both technically "less popular" schools. Except it does matter - to him and to me. I think we need to be very careful about our presumptions of good and bad. Fears and reputations are not what drive our children's learning, as much as they seem to direct parental choices in the north and south AND central.

Stephanie

Stephanie Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
North-end Mom said...

Adhoc,
I know several families with kids at Hamilton who actually LIKE the school (though they would be happier if it was closer to home). It's a matter of personal preference, and some are actually willing to overlook less than perfect test scores in favor of more diversity, strong mathematics, and language classes. These are families from NE Seattle... Shocking!
I live north of 110th too, and would consider Hamilton as a good choice for my kids, if not for the long bus ride combined with the early start time.

The elitest "we must have our Eckstein and keep it pure" thread is getting very old. There are larger issues to tackle.

Charlie, I don't know where you are getting your data from, but cramming ANY program into Hamilton would be a huge mistake! We will need every middle school seat available north of the ship canal. Call it a train wreck or a tsunami, but it's going to hit, and hit hard in a few years. I don't think anyone will be concerned with which school is "higher performing" or has band at that point.

anon said...

What comes across and elitest and very old, and distracting from the bigger picture of things is this Lowell APP community insisting that it should stay together at the expense of practically everything else. The Mt Baker Yahoo list serve posted this morning that the Lowell parents decided, surprise, that they don't want school closures to affect their niche, they want to stay together as a cohort. And the Montlake lobby has a similar "we're great we need to stay put" mentality although practically speaking it would be great to see them co-locate at Lowell with the special ed communities and grow from there. Closures and consolidations should hit the well performing schools, in my opinion, so that they can take that energy, money, vision, and track record, to where it is needed in this district. In the Central Cluster that would be, what, a mile or less extra in a commute. Come on, folks, let's inject some sense of responsibility for one another into this process. Everyone is looking out for their own little niche.

Charlie Mas said...

Of course everyone is looking out for their little niche. Anon, you look out for your little niche too. It's okay. The trick is to look for solutions that serve other niches as well and solutions that serve your niche without harming others.

If North-end Mom is right, and there is a tsunami of middle school students rising in the Northeast Region due to hit in a few years - more than Eckstein and Hamilton can handle - then the only reasonable solution would be to re-open John Marshall. That is the solution I proposed in my original post.

Right now, with the 2,000 or so students now in the area, there is no problem accomodating 300 APP students from outside the region at Hamilton. That is, provided that the District isn't committed to keeping 300 other students from outside the region at Hamilton as well.

I have no doubt that the long-term solution is to re-open John Marshall as a middle school, and that would be my preferred solution, but I just don't see it on the menu right now. APP at Hamilton is a second-choice.

Let me be really clear: Right now, today, there are enough seats at Eckstein and Hamilton for every middle school student in the Northeast Region. Right now, today, there are NOT enough seats at Washington for every middle school student in the Central Region. For all of the talk about inadequate middle school capacity in the Northeast, the greater lack and the more urgent need is in the Central Region. I would like those narrowly focused on the Northeast Region to see that. Your problem is not as dire nor as urgent as the problem of where to assign the 200 Central Region students at Meany for the coming fall.

And, for reference, North-end Mom, I'm getting my data from the District. What data do you have that is different? What is your count of middle school students in the Northeast Region and your count of the middle school capacity there? Maybe your data is more accurate. As I often say, I don't know the truth, I only know what the District tells me.

If you're going to disparage my data, I think you need to explain why it isn't valid. It would also be nice if you had better data to provide.

Also, for reference, let me disclose my "niche". I have one kid in the 9th grade at NOVA (a program that is being relocated out of a much-beloved and long-term home) and one kid in 7th grade APP at Washington - the program that I'm saying should be moved to Hamilton to make room for Central Region students. I live on Beacon Hill in the South-end. Washington is VERY convenient for us. A move to Hamilton would be a transition for my child to a school that is farther away for her and my family. It does not serve us personally. I suggest it as a solution because I think it is a higher priority that Central Region students go to school in their neighborhood than keeping APP at Washington undisturbed. That's not noble; it's just rational.

old salt said...

Melissa,

This is how a middle school becomes ‘your school’ before you ever send a child there.

The neighbor children all attend there. Your neighbors teach at that school. You participate in their fundraisers, go to their science fairs, plays & concerts. Your 7 year old tells you, “When I’m in the jazz band, I’m going to play trumpet like Jack”, then asks for lessons. Your children’s soccer team practices on the school playfield & has all their games there. Their basketball team practices in the gym. The jazz band comes to your elementary school every year to help with a fundraiser. Drama club members from that school volunteer to help with your elementary school play. Your elementary orchestra has concerts with the middle school orchestra. The volunteer math coaches prepare your child for integrated 1 and introduce your child to the integrated 1 teacher, because their children all did that. Older siblings of your child’s friends entertain them with scary ‘when you get to my school’ stories.


Compare it to a school where you have never set foot on the grounds, met any of the teachers, know no children who attend there.

I am not saying that we should do assignment based on this. But I completely understand how it happens that people feel that a school is theirs. It's a community thing.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I get that Old Salt. I know, from Roosevelt, many people who's parents went to Roosevelt, they went to Roosevelt, their kids are at Roosevelt. It's how deep ties are formed.

BUT, because there are fewer middle and high schools (and particularly because in the north-east both the middle schools are in the south part of the region), the district gets to decide what is a "neighborhood" school. Eckstein, under assignment rules, would just as much be the "neighborhood" school for someone from John Rodgers as it would be for someone from View Ridge. There's a fairness issue that trumps legacy.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ack! I put "who's" instead of "whose". Sorry.

Roy Smith said...

One of the ideas that is regularly floated around on this blog is that SPS should make an "Eckstein 2" in Jane Addams. Since we already have adequate middle school capacity in the NE, but the demand is unevenly distributed, why not work for the goal of making Hamilton the "Eckstein 2"?

A lot of the opposition to considering Hamilton as a reasonable alternative to Eckstein seems to be predicated on the assumption that Hamilton cannot be or will not be changed to meet the needs of families that may get displaced into that school. I think that assumption is wrong, and we should be working on changing Hamilton to better meet community needs rather than just accepting the school as it is and fighting over who gets access to Eckstein.

North-end Mom said...

Charlie,
The data I've seen is from the District, as well. The difference is that I am looking a few years ahead. I don't see the sense in placing a large program, like APP, at Hamilton, if it will have to be moved in two-three years' time? If it isn't moved, what happens when potentially 100s of NE families can't get assignments at either Hamilton or Eckstein?

Projections show that unless there are more seats provided at the middle school level for students north of the ship canal, particularly for NE students, we will be well over capacity at both Eckstein and Hamilton (for just NE middle school students) by 2013-14. If this happens, there will not be room for students coming in from other areas, or room for accomodating large program cohorts.

I am gravely concerned about the proposals involving the Central area, and NOT just because it may affect life "up north." I don't pretend to have all the answers. My concern is that ALL students in Seattle are served by a middle school, comprehensive or otherwise.

Yes, of course the John Marshall building should be utilized. I hope it happens, but until then, we have to plan with the space we have available.

Roy Smith said...

This is getting off-topic, but one of the challenges I see as the new assignment plan is developed is that if reference areas are developed for the middle schools and high schools, the geography of the north end makes it non-sensical for each middle school to directly feed one high school. So, enrollment at Eckstein may not guarantee access to Roosevelt. This may cause some heartache.

Charlie Mas said...

North-end Mom is absolutely right - the number of northeast middle school students will outgrow the current capacity in a few years' time. She and I both acknowledge the obvious solution: re-open John Marshall.

So perhaps we can agree on an extended plan of action.

1) Right now, while the District is closing schools and we have an immediate need to find seats for Central Region students at Washington, let's move APP to Hamilton.

2) Also right now, let's begin work on renovating John Marshall for use as a comprehensive middle school.

3) In a couple years' time, when the tsunami hits and the construction is done, we can re-open John Marshall as a neighborhood middle school.

Let's act to meet today's need today and let's plan to meet tomorrow's need tomorrow. We can address the future capacity needs of northeast middle school students without putting their future needs ahead of the immediate needs of central region middle school students.

The choice is easy - either APP comes to Hamilton and the Central Region students go to Washington, or the Central Region students come to Hamilton and the APP students stay at Washington. Either way, 200-300 students are coming to Hamilton from outside the region.

North-end Mom said...

Charlie,
Perhaps you should discuss this with Tracy Librios. Projections show that capacity at Hamilton and Eckstein will be very tight up until 2013-14. That is when the EXTREME demand for seats starts.

Yes, if they close Meany, they are making it tight in the Central District. I'm not denying that. I'm just hesitant to suggest moving programs without thinking through the consequences.

Utilization of the Marshall Building would definitely help, but I'm not seeing any willingness to open a building in this budgetary climate, much less the BEX funds available in the time necessary for a complete remodel of the Marshall building before the middle school crunch. How do you propose to make that happen?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, the district has gotten themselves in quite the spot with their poor maintenance of buildings.
Let's see:

-changed the amount they spend on basic maintenance from 2% to 1% (and not even reaching what OSPI says at 4% of the General Fund)
-spend BTA levy money and then turn around and destroy or don't use what you fixed (i.e. fields at Denny, roof/windows at Columbia building and possibly the work done at Lowell).
-Under the BEX, start renovating buildings NOT in the worst condition and then, a couple of years later, say you have to close the worst ones because...they are so bad off.
-over spend your budget on Garfield by almost $24M; I'm pretty sure when the State Auditor's audit of BEX comes out, this will be high on the list

Folks, the people in Facilities have plans for all these buildings (but naturally, you won't find this in the Facilities Master Plan). John Marshall? Worth a lot of money and I suspect they want to sell it off. Folly of course because of its prime location. And as Charlie pointed out, they seem to be piling up with vacant buildings in the Central/NE area. Also, as Charlie has pointed out, if we need capacity space start doing something about it NOW.

But for some odd reason, parents and the Board seem to think that people in Facilities are these experts and there's no doubting what they say. As long as this continues, you will continue to have frustration over the condition of the buildings.

Ben said...

"What comes across and elitest and very old, and distracting from the bigger picture of things is this Lowell APP community insisting that it should stay together at the expense of practically everything else. The Mt Baker Yahoo list serve posted this morning that the Lowell parents decided, surprise, that they don't want school closures to affect their niche, they want to stay together as a cohort."

There are reasons beyond elitism and convenience why Lowell parents want the entire APP cohort to stay together. At the meetings I've attended, parents have expressed a willingness to be inconvenienced. But many believe keeping a large-enough APP cohort together is important for the integrity and effectiveness of the program.

Roy Smith said...

I suspect many people (myself included) haven't paid a lot of attention to what Chris Jackins is continually talking about with capital funding and expenditures, and building maintenance. This, I suspect, is because property management isn't really something that appeals to most education activists. We want to be able to leave that to the experts so that we can concentrate on the stuff that actually engages our interest.

That being said, every other thing that happens in education in Seattle seems to get clobbered by the fact that, in this case, leaving property management "to the experts" has destroyed budgets, planning, and flexibility in every other area.

No criticism of the efforts of everybody who has been trying to not get to involved in the dry details of property management is intended here, I am just pointing out that we may all have to bite the bullet and figure out how to hold the district's feet to the fire on property management issues, so that eventually we can get back to the stuff we really care about and not have to worry about facilities staff coming in and wrecking everything.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Roy, if anyone wants to join me in this lonely cause of facilities I'd love it. It's really just me and Chris (and I certainly got my hand slapped for even speaking up about the BEX IV list). But you are right; until more parents press the Board on this issue, nothing will happen. I think it's akin to closures. Many people are so grateful for anything done to their building that they don't want to complain about other buildings for fear they look pushy.

There's nothing pushy about asking where the money has gone. It's our money, it's taxpayer money. Just a reminder, Seattle, after San Francisco, have the smallest kid population of a major U.S. city. Therefore, we are dependent on our fellow citizens who don't have kids in public schools to keep voting in our levies and bonds. Watching out for the money is the best way to keep that voting happening.

Garfield and its massive cost overruns is the next thing on my list.

Corn said...

adhoc:

I chose a lower-performing school outside of my own neighborhood because the higher-performing schools in my neighborhood have too high a percentage of white children and/or do not prioritize art/music/social issues as much as I do. For me, those values are more important than getting the best academics. My daughter is now in second grade, and she has friends in our neighborhood who go to "higher performing" schools - and those kids are slightly ahead of my daughter's class in reading and math, but my daughter knows more than they do about different cultures, as well as social, political, and environmental issues.

My ideal school would have offered all of those things, but in the absence of "my ideal school," I am perfectly content to compromise (not sacrifice, but compromise) academics for other values that are of equal importance to me. If my daughter's class was a whole grade level behind in reading or math, I might reconsider, but it's not.