Sunday, December 14, 2008

Central & QA/Magnolia Closures and Consolidation

The amount of change being proposed for the Central cluster is mind-boggling. By my count, 8 schools in the cluster are affected by the current proposal. And, on top of that, the proposed changes to the APP program, which affect students from all over the city, is part of the mix. Add in the couple of proposed changes to the Queen Anne/Magnolia cluster and the whole thing is messy.

Out of the whole thing, I think the proposed closure of the Center School is the worst idea. With Summit either being closed or reduced to a K-8, the closure of the Center School would leave only Nova as an alternative school option for 9-12 graders. Not all students who want/need an alternative high school learning environment will do well in Nova's program. The Center School differs greatly from Nova and provides some students the small 9-12 alternative option they need.

I don't know enough about all the other schools and programs (T.T. Minor, Bailey-Gazert, Thurgood Marshall, Montlake, Lowell, Meany and Washington Middle School) to have a clear idea of what makes sense for them. I do that the Central Cluster has been problematic for a long time in terms of assignment plan debates and building conditions.

Harium writes the following on his blog:
"The main problem that [I] see with the Montlake Lowell APP merger is that what is the school then. Is it a cluster draw or a reference area school? I am not convinced that either program will be able to grow in that situation."

So we have some idea of how he feels about this piece of the proposal. Any word from other Board members about their thoughts on the current proposal in terms of how it affects the Central and Queen Anne/Magnolia clusters?

22 comments:

uxolo said...

Center School enrollment 2008-2009
41 seniors
56 juniors
2006 46 seniors
2007 44 seniors
2008 53 seniors

Very low enrollment.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Mary Bass has signaled her unhappiness with what is happening in the Central area. I suspect she will continue in this pattern. The other Directors may be too confused to even express an opinion.

The CAC didn't make a choice in this area precisely because it was so complex and now staff can't even manage it smoothly. The facilities issue is clouding this whole thing. That's the problem.

I think that the whole APP thing should be put on hold for a year. Don't move Montlake and then change the assignment plan. I think the Montlake building does need to be closed but this feels rushed and not thought-out.

And who thought up the "dissolve Center School and move those students to RBHS"? No way. It makes no rational sense. Maybe move it intact but even that doesn't work.

BUT Center School is a small (but good) boutique high school that was created for one reason and has evolved into something else. That would be great except (1) their space is leased and the district loses a lot of credibility about "no money, gotta close buildings" while leasing space and (2) they believe their school can exist nowhere else. Neither of those two things help them. Well, they might want to help themselves and find another idea because I do not believe they will last much longer at the Center House. The district is likely to open a QA/Magnolia/Fremont/Wallingford high school at Lincoln after Hamilton moves out. Maybe Center could move there and be a small "school within a school" a la Gates' idea.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

Because of the Center School's curriculum (they have a unique humanities program and require 22 credits for graduation), they cannot take in transfers after the 10th grade. I have been told that students transfer out when they find out it's not an "easy artsy-fartsy" school. I attended last year's open house and was very impressed by the principal, faculty and staff. It is our first choice for HS. We will be devastated if the program is axed.

I will especially be upset if The Center School is dissolved and their space is given to a new Homeschool Resource Center. Will that really save the District any money? Where will the Center School students go? I don't many will make the move to RBHS without their program. I assume most will try for Roosevelt, Garfield, NOVA or Hale.

Only NOVA would be an accessible option for us, and my child would not do well in its self-directed environment. Our default would be Franklin—though it does not offer much that we are interested in at all.

loowa said...

TT Minor is an excellent school. it is a very unique and close-knit community. it is broadly diverse in ethnicity, culture, economic and family structure. has an excellent academic program and an amazing montessori program. alot of bright kids are here from all different backgrounds. tt minor should be a model for other schools and leave it where its at and bring in spectrum or app to fill up the space

anon said...

I am a little confused about the central cluster situation. What if Montlake and Leschi were to merge? A strong program and a trying to beceom strong program? No one seems to be talking about Leschi or Madrona or Stevens or McGilvra - just the big four (or five including TOPS): Lowell, Meany, TTMinor, and TM.

another mom said...

How committed is the district to APP if the HC Grant is cut or eliminated in the next state budget? This grant has been mentioned as a potential target for the budget ax. The grant pays for the staff in Advanced Learning including the manager.

It seems a bit weird to me that TT Minor students will be dispersed and Montlake gets to move as a group.Maybe I am wrong?

Design teams really need to be defined. Just what will be their charge? To whom will they report? When do they begin and when are they dissolved?

CS said...

uxolo,

Sure, the enrollment numbers are small at Center School. But you need to look further than numbers and data. They've added enrollment at the 9th grade level and I believe they are requiring all Center School students to take some of the core classes even if they go to Running Start. The school serves a segment of the population that for various reasons, don't do well in a traditional high school setting. They become thriving, contributing members of the community rather than joining the dropout statistics.

Center School has an excellent principal who has been taking the successful program and making it even better. The school puts ALL the students on a rigorous academic track that produces articulate, artistic, creative, and advanced thinkers. As the parent of one of last years graduates I was surprised to find the large number of college admissions staff who were quite familiar and impressed with the school and it's students.

It may be unavoidable to have to move the school but SPS should support this program and keep it in a central location. They should stay in their current location until the lease is up but start working NOW with the school on options as to where to relocate the program. The decision should be long-term AND sustainable. The idea of moving Center School students to Rainier Beach is just an easier way of suggesting that the program be discontinued.

Charlie Mas said...

In the preliminary proposal the District wanted to reduce the reference area capacity of the Central cluster by T T Minor plus 250 seats (half of elementary APP taking up seats at Thurgood Marshall).

If the District stays with the current idea of making about 200 general education seats at Lowell, that leaves them with 450 seats to eliminate. Closing Montlake won't do it.

I propose that instead of closing Montlake they re-purpose Thurgood Marshall as the new home of the AAA cut down to a K-5. That will right-size the cluster with minimal impacts.

Montlake, McGilvra, Gatzert and Madrona just have their reference areas redrawn as they would be redrawn anyway with the new assignment plan. The Stevens reference area is also redrawn but with a cut out for Lowell. This will push it south into the TT Minor space. Leschi gets the Montessori from T T Minor, Most of the T. Marshall reference area and gives up the Spectrum program - maybe to Stevens.

The cluster is right-sized with minimal impact on students. Most of the TT Minor students are moved as a community to Lowell. Thurgood Marshall students can remain in the building as AAA scholars to move to Leschi.

zb said...

Aren't they closing AAA?

Charlie Mas said...

The current plan is to close the AAA, but, as we have seen, the plan is subject to change.

TechyMom said...

Charlie,
I haven't heard anyone fighting for AAA. I expected this closure to cause a lot of backlash, but it hasn't. Have you heard something I haven't?

I agree that T. Marshall is a good location for an all city draw. But why AAA rather than Summit? Summit needs to find a central home in order to pull those 500 kids out of the north end and make room for the baby boom up there.

Madrona and T. Marshall both have programs pretty similar to AAA, and Central parents have stayed away in droves. What would make AAA do better here? Or, are you thinking that the students who want that sort of program would go to AAA at T. Marshall, filling that building and making it politically easier to change Madrona later? If not, what is gained by this proposal?

Charlie Mas said...

TechyMom, your questions always delight me.

Honestly, like you, I haven't heard anyone fighting for AAA - at least not effectively. I discount the exaggerated melodramatic statements made at the last Board meeting. It sometimes feels a little weird and inappropriate for me to feel like I'm out in front for this school.

"I agree that T. Marshall is a good location for an all city draw. But why AAA rather than Summit?"

Thurgood Marshall is too small for Summit and not the right configuration. It has a capacity of about 425 and it is designed and built as a K-5. Middle school and high school students need labs.

"Summit needs to find a central home in order to pull those 500 kids out of the north end and make room for the baby boom up there."

I agree. Let's put Summit at Lincoln.

"Madrona and T. Marshall both have programs pretty similar to AAA, and Central parents have stayed away in droves. What would make AAA do better here?"

I think enrollment will benefit from having a bigger market to recruit from (all city draw) and different competition (South cluster and Southeast cluster).

"Or, are you thinking that the students who want that sort of program would go to AAA at T. Marshall, filling that building and making it politically easier to change Madrona later?"

I hadn't thought that. Madrona is a neighborhood reference area school and as such should be responsive to the needs of its community. If Madrona chooses not to be responsive to its community I don't think the relative location of the AAA will change based on .

"If not, what is gained by this proposal?"

The right-sizing of the Central Cluster. That's the goal of capacity management, right?

There are other things that could go into Thurgood Marshall, such as the SBOC or NOVA. While those programs are the right size, they are secondary programs and should not go into a building configured as an elementary school (although they are both in that situation right now). Meany is a better choice for them - both by location and by configuration.

dj said...

Charlie -- I do like (and have advocated for) the idea of moving T.T. Minor into Lowell. I think that in terms of giving both the AP and T.T. Minor programs room to grow, that makes more sense (part of the problem with putting Montlake in there in my view is that assuming people stay, it starts out packed). Is there a reason for moving the Montessori program to Leschi instead of with the other T.T. Minor folks to Lowell? At least when we were there, there were several families who had kids in both the Montessori and general-ed programs there (the Montessori is not currently K-5, although I know they'd like to be -- moving from MLK to T.T. Minor a few years ago stopped their momentum to some extent, and I think the program has just within the past year started becoming attractive to people. When we put our daughter into it, we did so a few weeks before school started and there were several spots to spare; now, they have a waitlist).

Beth Bakeman said...

Any report from the T.T. Minor hearing tonight?

dj said...

I was not at the T.T. Minor hearing. The second-hand information I have is that the first 5-7 speakers asked the district to save money in ways other than school closings, and that a student read a poem explaining why he is enjoying his experience at the school.

Hopefully someone who has first-hand information can offer more than I have here.

TechyMom said...

Charlie,
Thank you, we aim to delight...

I guess I should have said "what does this proposal gain over putting APP in T. Marshall? Or closing it?" The only argument I can see for keeping AAA is to make it explicit that the math-and-reading focus, uniforms and discipline style of education is an alternative program, available to those who want it, and not a general ed program.

I think it would work better to put half of APP at T. Marshall as planned, moving the other half to Old Hay or John Hay. Then merge Montlake and TT Minor at Lowell, under Montlake's principal, and bring the Spectrum program from Leschi, bascially trading Spectrum for Montessori at Leschi.

Charlie Mas said...
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Charlie Mas said...

But TechyMom, that doesn't remove the right number of seats. It leaves the cluster still over-capacity by about 200 seats.

The District's original seat reduction goal, you will recall, was to remove the seats at TT Minor plus 250 more (taken by APP students at T. Marshall).

Your idea does that - exactly - and then it also removes the capacity at Montlake and adds the capacity at Lowell for a net difference of about +200 seats.

The close Montlake/open Lowell scheme leaves the Central cluster with 200 more seats than the district wants there.

If we open half of Lowell and leave Montlake open, then we are about 425 seats over the target. Putting the AAA at T. Marshall puts us back on target by removing 425 neighborhood seats.

Central Mom said...

I'm hearing the idea of Summit as a K-8 moved to Meany as one option (via the KUOW school closure program right now). Charlie's idea about Lincoln sounds much better. Why put another K-8 right next to Madrona, which already has capacity, and in the same cluster as TOPS, which is already a multi-cluster draw. Odd proposal.

TechyMom said...

OK, that's fair.

But... Those seats will fill. They will fill with the kids who are waitlisted at TOPS and Montlake and Stevens and McGilvra. They will fill with the kids who are now assigned to Madrona or TT Minor, and leave SPS.

The problem in Central is not that there are too many seats. The problem is that there are too few seats in the sorts of programs the residents want.

What Central needs is not fewer seats, but a bigger Montlake. A new, big, diverse, well-rounded school with Spectrum will fill. It may take a few kids from Madrona and Leschi, but for the most part it will bring new kids into the system.

I think I need some data to back up that argument... Does anyone know of data on students who go through choice and school assignment, and leave SPS after they are given an assignment to a particular school? This would be an ideal measure of whether a school is a flight school.

Charlie Mas said...

TechyMom, That is a great number to ask for. It gives us some hint to understandng motivations.

The District has, to date, been very shy about looking into motivations. Instead, they make some very wild suppositions about people's motivations, none of which are supported by evidence.

uxolo said...

Are schools permitted to fundraise for building improvement? Couldn't the Montlake community raise dollars to start the renovation process or build another floor? They could go to MLK while the repairs are underway. Seems like they could form a foundation, borrow the dollars guaranteed by generous alumni, continue to fundraise, and make loan payments over the years to come that payoff the renovation.