I sat through this 4+ meeting. I also served, during the last round of closures, on the Closure and Consolidation Committee. And, I get that we have too many buildings for too few students. But there is a lot to disagree with on this list and once again, staff, not the Board, is making the calls. To their credit, the Board is asking hard questions but the staff is manipulating data to get what they want. The Board should not fall for it nor stand for it.
-Thornton Creek would make a fine K-8 so that move isn't bad. However, they were promised if they moved they wouldn't displace another alternative program which they are (Summit). Creating a new and exciting elementary at Thornton Creek's old site will likely help with capacity issues in the NE.
-a building needed to be closed in the Central area and TT Minor is a building that is not in good shape.
-there will be more room at Salmon Bay K-8 because Thornton Creek students would not get preference there anymore because TC would become a K-8. A win-win situation for this one.
-Leaving APP students at Washington Middle School and Garfield High School. Only problem, it is not likely that Washington can continue to fit all these students.
-requiring people to have to call to sign in to speak at the upcoming public hearings for each school that is closing. A simple pre-sign in before the meeting should be enough.
-NO handouts for the public trying to follow the thread of discussions at this meeting. ALL this information should be on the district website pronto. UPDATE: here's link - all documents are under November 25th meeting
- Dr. Goodloe-Johnson seemed to draw a line in the sand with saving Summit. She said, repeatedly, that staff's choice was to close it but they did co-house it with Rainier Beach High School. They did that not to save Summit but to save RBHS which would have stuck out like a sore thumb with its underenrolled building. Director DeBell honed in on this issue of not closing a high school which would save a lot more money than an elementary or middle school. He was not satisfied with the explanation nor was Director Carr. There are other places to put Summit (John Marshall and Lincoln come to mind). As well, staff, when asked about other locations such as these for Summit, ALWAYS says, those locations don't have a playground. Well, neither does RBHS. Additionally, that move of Summit to RBHS would mean 2 high schools, 3 elementaries, 2 middle schools all in just over a 1 mile area (Summit K-12, RBHS, Van Asselt, New School K-8 and Dunlap elementary). Too much competition in one small area.
-There is capital money attached to the Secondary Bilingual program. That better go into making Meany a good building for Nova and SBOC. Directors also made this point.
-Staff cherrypicked data for their own ends. Director DeBell, once again, honed in on this. For example, apparently only AS#1's number of first choices was listed and no other school's. Why was this Director DeBell wondered? Oh, just an "interesting" fact was the reply. They also cherrypicked NCLB status. There are two Level 5 schools in Seattle (this is the most serious stage of No Children Left Behind) but only African-American Academy is being closed and not Aki Kurose. They again used AS#1's Level 4 status to close them. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson alluded that Aki was at Level 5 but said "more work had to be done". If it's a bad enough reason to close two schools, then it's enough for Aki to close as well.
-The district has had the APP program co-housed at Lowell with a Special Ed program for YEARS. Now, suddenly,those kids HAVE to be part of a general ed population. They did try this experiment, many years ago when Madrona was a K-5 and guess what? It didn't work. If they need to split Lowell, there should be half in the north end and half in the south end. And what do not one but two schools think about co-housing with another program? Are there going to be two principals at each school? Who knows?
-Dr. Goodloe-Johnson seemed to try to blame "choice" for our situation. That may be part of it but the real problem lies, based on their own criteria, on lack of basic maintenance. Plain and simple, and noted in the State Auditor's recent report, this district has NOT kept up on basic maintenance. We are drowning in backlogged maintenance and the district simply has to close buildings to get them out of the way (and likely sell some of them).
-Moving Pathfinder to Arbor Heights is dumb. First, again, staff said over and over last night what each building's condition score was and 80 was their cut-off for a "good" building. Arbor Heights is at 70 so yes, it's better than the Genesee Hill building that Pathfinder is currently in but not good enough by their own numbers. Arbor Heights has had repeated mold problems. It would need work to make it work for a middle school population. And most of all, Arbor Heights is a neighborhood school.
-staff showed numbers for cost savings for elementary, middle and high school but neglected to tell the Board how much savings has been realized since the last closures (but no one asked). It's an easy question to answer.
-Director DeBell again asked the hard questions. Did they do a walk-thru of all the high schools to determine capacity? No, was the answer from Dr. G-J.
-interesting that the staff used the Meng Analysis for building conditions for this process but insist on doing a new one for the upcoming BTA levy in Feb. 2010. We are paying for a new analysis at a fairly high cost even though their 2006 report is being used here.
-there were repeated comments by staff that displaced students could be assigned to certain schools and then the named schools were alternatives. There are no mandatory assignments to alternative schools so that statement is puzzling.
-A LOT of movement of Special Ed which is especially hard on this group of students.
-The question was asked why not move Center School to co-house with RBHS? We are paying around $100,000 a year to lease it at Seattle Center (about $80,000 to lease plus utilities/cleaning). Dr. G-J said we probably couldn't break our lease but I doubt the City would hold us to it. That is a better pairing than with Summit and would allow growth for both programs. Why, if we are in such financial straits, are we paying to lease space?
-Staff named the "worst" buildings in the district but guess what? When the BEX capital building list came out a couple of years back, none of them were on that list. Why? Because staff wants to do what they want to do and they knew that the Horace Mann building AND the Genesee buildings were the worst in the district but they didn't want to rebuild them. Again, cherry-picking the data for their own purposes and not for the good of the people in those buildings.
-70% of Summit's population is from the north end and they move them to the far south end and then say, "Oh, the population changes every year." Not that much, it doesn't. This move of Summit to RBHS is flawed and will not help either program live on. Plus the transportation costs of busing all those north end students who supposedly will follow to RBHS will be HUGE. I thought we were trying to save money here.
-Question: Was AS#1 helped by an education director when it was apparent that it was not succeeding academically? Answer: Carla Santorno, Chief Academic Officer, no, we could have given it more support to do better.
-Dr. G-J seemed to imply that RBHS and Cleveland couldn't be co-house because of the gang issue (even though that would make sense to close the excess high school capacity).
-Cooper would be a better choice for Pathfinder as its population is decreasing (and I wonder why staff didn't put its first choice number down). Last time around at closures, staff recommended putting Pathfinder at Cooper but somehow now, that doesn't work.
The Board needs to continue to ask hard questions and not go along to get along. They need to not accept staff numbers on face value. They need to protect populations. We have other buildings to move some of these populations into and staff's picks can't be the end of the discussion.