- Release of Preliminary Recommendations November 25, 2008
- Building-based Hearings December 15, 16, and 18, 20081
- Release of Final Recommendations January 6, 2009
- Introduction of Closure Motion January 7, 2009
- Final Hearing January 22, 20092
- Action on Closure Motion January 29, 2009 (special meeting)
1 Building-based hearings are public hearings that will be held in any building that is proposed for closure for instructional purposes. The purpose of these hearings is to gather public comment about the specific building recommended for closure. The times and locations of the hearings will be set once any buildings recommended for closure are identified.
2 This is a public hearing held to gather public comment about the entire closure recommendation. The time and location of the hearing will be set once any buildings recommended for closure are identified."
"This timeline requires that the budget, staffing and enrollment processes be delayed. With a School Board vote by the end of January the budget and staffing processes will be delayed by although the timelines for classified and certified staff notifications could still be met. The enrollment process will be delayed and families would be notified of their Fall 2009 assignments by the end of May, 2009."
(The Board is seeking to change a Board policy that required a two-week notification in public newspapers because it would delay this timeline. They are voting to change the policy so that, basically, everything they need to get done will be done and they can close schools by September. That's the bottom line. They state, in the motion, that:
"Specific community engagement was not sought for this amendment. The need for the amendment was discussed during the School Board meeting on October 29, 2008, and at that time the School Board amended Resolution 2008/09-02 to include direction to the Superintendent to develop a new communication provision for Policy H 01.00. This amendment is a response to that direction."
Please note that you have to read to Agenda to access this information. It is STILL not on the district website even though we are talking about closing schools and delaying enrollment notification.
Oh, where to start?
First, the Board is ELECTED. They are voting on a motion to change policy that we ELECTED them to create and enforce. It is funny how they cherry-pick what policies to enforce or not enforce and which ones are of supreme importance. They are changing a policy that affects ENTIRE communities and, indeed the look of the entire district, but still, they feel absolutely no need to ask or even inform parents and others.
Second, Board, why don't you and the staff just go out there and twist that knife a little harder in the backs of these schools? You could:
- make first announcements about who's on the list ...right before Thanksgiving
- then, having the hearings ...right before the Winter Holiday break
- then, announce the final list...a couple of days after we get back from the holiday break
You may remember, I believe this work DOES need to be done. But this breakneck speed? This horrible timing? Talk about tone-deaf.
I had been told (and I know exactly what staff member told me and the rest of the Committee during the last closure and consolidation) that the legal process took a year. I took this person at her word. Well, I looked up the RCW and no, it's a 90-day requirement but as you can see from above there are union issues of notification of teachers, public notification, etc.
When I found out we were going back to doing closures, I told some Board members that it was hard work last time but I would be willing to help again. I was told that the Board was taking this on themselves (and that's to their credit).
I attended the Board meeting of the Seattle Council PTSA last night where this was discussed. Sharon told us that the criteria (or "guideposts" as they are apparently being called) are mostly around, as I suspected all along, building condition and site.
As you may remember, the State Auditor's report said we have too many buildings for too few students. The Auditor's report also said SPS did NOT do enough basic maintenance. I had also reported here that for many years the district has not been funding enough for basic maintenance (we are down to 1% of the General Fund instead of the OSPI suggested 4%). I believe the district is swimming in backlogged maintenance and is looking for a way out of fixing the worst buildings. This would also explain the odd statement by Facilities' Don Gilmore who had stated at a meeting for Denny/Sealth that the district might want the Denny property for a new elementary school to be built after closing 3 unnamed elementaries. It may be that some properties are so bad off, it better to shutter/sell them and build one good new one.
This is me connecting the dots. Neither the Superintendent nor the Board have said this is the reason for the hurry up closures AND building criteria being the most important. But it seems to be a logical explanation.
Also, to note, the closures will happen below the ship canal. I want to point out that in the '80s closures, all the schools closed were in the north end. During the last round of closures, we closed schools everywhere but the northeast/north (because they need the capacity). The Committee also left it to the Board and staff to close a Central area school because we did not feel we had enough information to make the decision. That decision was never made and I believe it will be now. It is likely that they will close between 5-7 schools.
I could go back and look at the building condition reports but I can think of some candidates for closure. One issue, though, is that there are some good programs in bad buildings so that would be interesting if the district felt the need to move a good school because of a bad building.
It's always rush, rush, rush in this district. It's always about money. It's always about moving from one crisis to the next. It is so exhausting to keep up and to keep some sense of perspective.
I'm a bit disgusted by it all.