Wednesday, December 03, 2008

December 3rd School Board Meeting

Cheryl Chow: reviewing procedure for testimony sign-up; "taken on first-come, first-served basis", "both phone and e-mail systems can take multiple requests simultaneously." No requests received before 8 am Monday are accepted. Lengthy waitlist tonight. Reminding community about upcoming community "workshops" (Thursday and Saturday) and school building hearings (week of December 15th). In addition, individual schools/programs have arranged meetings that are listed on district website.

Asking for moment of silence: "All of us at Seattle Public Schools are deeply saddened by the deaths of two students...We also lost a great champion and supporter of our children...Lea Mong Wilson (not sure about the name and spelling)...a dynamic force in the community. She volunteered at many schools for decades. She helped the kids and families that didn't have a voice, or sometimes didn't have a meal. She will be deeply missed. Her memorial service will be this Saturday, December 6th, 11 am at the Mt. Zion church."

Testimony starts....pretty much what you would expect so far from Chris Jackins and APP parent; 3 minutes is quite short; lots of bell-ringing by Pamela Oakes; I'd strongly recommend parents practice their timing ahead of time.

One APP grandparent ceding part of time to African American Academy parent who calls her talk "You've Been Punked...Oh The Disrespect...or What's Going On." ...found out the principal of Van Asselt had been at AAA the week before the announcement checking out facilities.

[corrections in next two paragraphs below in italics made 12/4/08]

Arbor Heights co-president of PTSA, Suzette Riley, introducing other proposals for closure/merger. Emphasizing how many kids of school come from reference area. "We are a neighborhood school." #1 Wait until Denny is vacant and move Pathfinder there; #2 Close Roxill and move its students to Arbor Heights, Highland Park, and Gatewood; #3 Move Pathfinder to Cooper; #4 Move Pathfinder to West Seattle. Supporting importance of keeping Pathfinder as an alternative school in the cluster.

Second Arbor Heights parent speaking specifically in support of Cooper as the home for Pathfinder. Emphasizing how few students from neighborhood attend Cooper. Saying assignment policy shouldn't be barrier to this move since it is about to change. Third Arbor Heights parent speaking specifically in support of Roxhill being closed with kids sent to Arbor Heights, Highland Park, and Gatewood. Fourth Arbor Heights parent talking again about Cooper and the issue about where Cooper kids can go.

AS#1 parent talking about the rigidity of the criteria. "All schools are not the same." Using the criteria has resulted in mostly non-traditional programs being closed or moved. Also says Meany and Arbor Heights don't meet the criteria at all. Suggesting giving up "luxury of all-city busing." Fails to meet "equity to access" criteria.

Parent talking for coalition of schools on NE capacity issues. Questioning whether there will be any net gain from the proposal. Says Summit and AS#1 students will take up new seats. Recommends Summit K-12 be moved somewhere centrally. Says AS#1 should not be closed because of capacity issues north of ship canal.

Parent speaking on behalf of children with disabilities. Wants to make sure their needs are considered. Pointed out that these issues were not addressed well at last Tuesday's meeting, and that no one on District is overseeing this area anymore or looking out for these children's needs.

Parent advocating for closing high school in south end. Says Franklin should be closed by district standards (No Child Left Behind Level 5, location close to others, building condition poor). Says similar things about Cleveland and Rainier Beach. Argues that not closing high school results in making poor decisions like APP split, Summit K-12 to Rainier Beach, and closing Arbor Heights program.

Another Lowell APP parent, made brief remarks and then ceded time to T.T. Minor parent. "Need to follow through on previous promises..." Assignment plan is not done, needs of children have not been taken into account, and cost savings not significant enough to make disruption to kids and learning worthwhile. Talks about new principal, chess club, Rainier Scholars, Spectrum-trained teachers. Refers to "knee-jerk closure plan." (Bell ringing didn't stop parent, so Chow ends up interrupting, but parent finishes anyhow.)

PTSA co-president at Lowell speaking about special education and APP. Last night, 450 APP parents come together to hear Bob Vaughn, district staffer talk. Questioning savings and busing costs. "There has to be a better way to save money then breaking up a thriving all-city school community..."

Another Lowell APP parent...and another Lowell APP parent...unlike the Arbor Heights parents, these remarks don't seem coordinated across parents, so there is a lot of repetition of parents. Main point seems to be that program is very successful and shouldn't be broken apart. Also point out that it is crucial to children whose needs aren't met elsewhere and who are sometimes badly treated by other children. Concern around proposed new APP locations and transportation time. (I didn't follow this part as well as others because I was also cooking dinner and feeding my kids. But I think the discussion on this blog over the last few days should give you a good idea of what was said.)

A Meany parent..."at Meany every teacher knows every child, and every child knows every teacher." Talking about "superstar" teachers, ability to connect with kids...personal attention. Mentioning Jaguar Arts festival as a example of this. "One of the most diverse schools in the Seattle community." Mentions that Peter Maier is coming to Meany to talk with parents on Friday. Invites rest of Board to come also.

An another Arbor Heights parent...had been signed up with "Pathfinder" as topic, so clarified that before starting. Focusing on district's "core beliefs" being violated by this proposal. Repeats points from previous Arbor Heights parent about being a "community school." Is teacher on Mercer Island who chooses Arbor Heights over Mercer Island schools for her kids...talks about lack of plan for where Arbor Heights kids will go.

Summit K-12 parent ceding time to African American Academy parent. K-5 scholars have always been succesful. 6-8 students struggle in math, but so does rest of the district. Why does Aki (Step 5 school) get Southeast Initiative money but AAA (also Step 5 school) gets closed? "Disband the academy when you close the African American achievement gap."

Summit K-12 parent says current proposal is not without merit (keeping K-12 together, having performing arts space, opportunities for social justice work), but argues for central location because of travel time and already existing access capacity for K-5 and 6-8 in southeast. Working with potential partner schools to develop a consensus-based alternative proposal.

Taking one wait-list parent since one person earlier on list was a no-show...physical therapist-assistant at Lowell in special education. "Arguing over crumbs...forfeiting the future of our children"...talking about illegal wars, financial bailout of Wall Street...arguing for income tax so rich can pay their fair share.

******

Taking a 6-minute break to set up next presentation by Superintendent on Recommendations for Closure.

******

Full slide deck of Superintendent's presentation which is coming next is already posted here. See details in next blog post.

****
Kennedy talking about budget first. Immediate hiring freeze at district. Other budget reductions. Didn't follow much else since I was busy reading slide deck of Superintendent's presentation.

Sundquist making a point of how "unprecedented" budget problems are right now. Inviting community to attend Finance Committee meeting as well as Board meetings.

Kennedy talking about "stuctural" problems with budget, created by way schools are funded and overcapacity problems in district.

****

Missed a bunch of the meeting while getting kids to bed.

****
Board elections

- Sundquist and DeBell nominated for President; DeBell elected (only Chow, Sunquist and Carr wanted Sunquist)

- Sundquist nominated for Vice President; Sundquist elected

- Carr nominated for Member-at-Large for Executive Committee; Carr elected

Dr. Goodloe-Johnson presented flowers to Cheryl Chow to thank her for time as Board president.



18 comments:

jamie said...

I really appreciate the liveblogging, thank you!

Ms. Brown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ms. Brown said...

What are the Lowell parents saying? You said there was repetition, but do they have a main point beyond just not wanting to see their school closed? Thank you very much for doing this!

Roy Smith said...

Did the NE coalition representative say anything regarding the recommendation to move Thornton Creek to Jane Addams and re-purpose Decatur as a reference area elementary?

Roy Smith said...

We have received substantial feedback that a majority of the Summit students will not travel to the Rainier Beach building, which will continue the excess capacity problem. This may result in a final recommendation to discontinue the Summit K-12 program.

Poison pill working as predicted - staff presented Rainier Beach as the new Summit location, and when people pointed out that that proposal is probably infeasible, staff responds with "well, then we'll just close Summit entirely".

I wish I could say this particular chain of events was a surprise, but it isn't.

Roy Smith said...

At the work session on November 25 the School Board indicated that the option of altering the Student Assignment Plan to permit the location of Pathfinder at Cooper should be evaluated. Staff are evaluating this option.

Cooper fought off this very proposal two years ago. How has the school been doing since? Does it seem likely that they can fight it off again?

anon said...

Here's the text of the presentation on Special Education.

December 3, 2008


Members of the Seattle School Board,


Thank you for this opportunity to speak with you. As a parent of a child with a disability, I attended the board’s November 25th work session with a particular interest in how students receiving special education services will be impacted by the superintendent’s preliminary recommendation for capacity management. At that meeting I observed a lengthy exchange of questions and comments between members of the board, the Superintendent, and other district staff. I am here this evening, motivated not by what I heard at that meeting, but rather by what I did not hear.

Forgive me if I’m wrong, but other than Director Bass’s questioning about the dislocation of disabled students from Meany Middle School, there were no other questions from the board specific to special ed, even when recommendations that will directly impact students with disabilities were being presented.

I observed testimonies by directors of the district’s APP and Bi-lingual programs, while there were no similar presentations by special education staff, discounting one clarification from the district’s lawyer on Seattle’s compliance to the IDEA. Regrettably the board neither questioned the absence of a special ed spokesperson, nor acknowledged that this recommendation is being vetted at a time when special education is without a district-level director who’s sole focus is special education.

As this process goes forward, the board must question how this recommendation will affect students with disabilities. I, for one, would like to know:
• What will the economic impact be as neighborhood schools accommodate the accessibility and therapeutic needs of this population group, and as the district hires more specialists (such as speech language pathologists, occupational and physical therapists) to attend to a more scattered population of disabled students?
• What is the plan for displacing students from Meany and Lowell? Will their relocation be driven by the singular goal of placing them into their neighborhood school as soon as possible, or will there be a more measured tracking towards inclusion that involves an interim plan, with the likelihood of imposing yet another transition on these students in the future when full inclusion becomes the dominate goal?
• How will the district assure us that by next Fall all of our relocated children will be welcomed into their new schools, because currently it is not uncommon for us to hear some parents, school staff and administrators state that our children are not welcomed into their classrooms.
• And most importantly, what will the academic, social and emotional impacts be on individual students as they loose their cohorts and trusted staff?

It is always our hope that as we work on behalf of our children, we settle for nothing less our best efforts. To more fully prepare for the changes that will result from this recommendation, more questions must be asked with the expectation of direct, informed and well-considered answers.

Please do not infer that my comments imply a criticism of the work already done by the district while designing their recommendation. I am only sharing with you my expectation of this board that you include in your considerations the particular implications of this recommendation as it applies to students with disabilities. And, that this scrutiny occurs with the same fair and deliberate efforts that are done for all other affected district students. Thank you.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Beth, you blogging fool! Here I sit down thinking about how much I have to write and voila! here it is.

Anyway to fill in a couple of gaps:

- One guy talked about why they should be closing a high school (both for excess capacity and cost savings). He said Franklin (?) was at Level 5 under NCLB. I hadn't heard this and I'm not sure that's right. He claimed that the cost per student at RBHS is $1900 a student.

-there were two APP parents who ceded their time to other schools (one AAA and one TT Minor)

-the co-president at Lowell said that the fragile Special Ed kids at Lowell needed to be considered first. She said there were 10 other buildings worse than Lowell, they spent $1.6M on roof and windows and are still closing the building, there are costs to duplicating the program and busing costs, she said that the Spectrum programs and ALOs are not uniform now so how did they expect to keep the integrity of the APP program

-one parent ceded time so a Meany parent could speak

Those were the highlights I noted from the speakers.

I'll blog elsewhere on the presentations.

Beth Bakeman said...

Mel,

As I look back on what I wrote, I'm not sure the live blogging "stream of consciousness" write up is the most effective way to report on a meeting. But it kept me very focused on what was said. :-)

Looking forward to thoughtful reflection/write-up from you and others on their thoughts on the meeting.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

I still say it's all cart before horse. How much more time do they need to come up with an assignment plan?

These new recommendations concerning RBHS, etc. make no sense if next year they try to force southend kids into southend schools. Remember there are over 1,600 high school students for whom RBHS is their closest school. The capacity is here! Give us something worthwhile and we'll go there. But the District can't just add in some AP classes and expect us to believe that "now RBHS is just like Roosevelt/Garfield/Ballard." It's going to take more than that for sure, but it's worth shooting for since there are plenty of students in the area...and I see nothing but babies and strollers all over my neighborhood.

This District is going to keep bleeding money and students until it figures out a way to create quality schools all over the city so they can stop allowing so much choice (= yellow bus or metro costs).

seattle citizen said...

Beth! (and Melissa!)
Thank you soooo much for all the time you put into these communications! An invaluable service...

Speakers who ceded time to other schools, so more different voices could be heard! Yea! Bravo! A wonderful and warming show of grace and respect.

Keep up the communication, keep up the sharing of effort and voice. If everyone works together, perhaps a reconfiguration can come out of this is, in fact, best for all the students (or at least the most possible, given these horrific economic times...has anyone been organizing to present arguments in support of public schools down there in Olympia? Or at the city hall? Why is Seattle proposing more street cars as we close schools...I don't get it.)

Kirsten Wild said...

Following is the coordinated Lowell PTA message that was conveyed at Wednesday's Board Meeting. I know it doesn't represent the views of everyone at Lowell, but there was a lot of parent discussion that led to this point.

"First a word about Special Ed. Our Special education cohort, families of 40 children, needs to be respected, consulted, and informed. These are our most highly vulnerable children and they have not even been told where they will end up next year. That needs to change.

Last night, 450 of our APP parents came together to listen to Dr. Bob Vaughan, manager of the Advanced Learning Program. We’ve spoken to the district. Let’s look at the real costs.

Let’s look at financial costs.
1. 10 buildings with lower condition scores than ours will remain open. Most of the major needed improvements recommended by that 2006 report have already been made to Lowell in the last 18 months, with 1.6M$ spent to replace roof, water and windows.
2. Lowell’s maintenance backlog is $11 thousand per pupil. 21 schools have a higher backlog per pupil. Because our building is large and full, overhead costs go further.
3. There are costs to duplicating APP in two sites.
4. And, as half of parents live north of the ship canal bridge, and schools are moving south, bus costs will rise.

Let’s look at program integrity costs:
1. Two splits have been proposed to the APP program over the past 5 years, and for the past FIVE years, APP parents have been asking for an articulated curriculum, and a plan for how the split would be accomplished to really make it work. We have never gotten that plan in five years. The district again asks us to accept a split and work out the details later. If they haven’t been able provide a vision, leadership and details when there was more money and time, why do they think they can do that now?

The district says it can make multiple advanced learning sites equitable and consistent. But looking at spectrum and ALO sites around the city, they vary widely in curriculum and strength.

Let’s look at bussing and the cost to children:
1. Last night I heard about a 7 year old who gets on the bus at 802am every morning to make the 9am bell. Does this student live in the far reaches of north seattle? Meadowbrook perhaps or ballard? No, they live in Wallingford, just a few miles from Lowell. The average bus ride increase to families north of Lowell is estimated at 20 minutes each way. Hour and 20 minute bus rides are not fair to young children

2. Parents who live farthest from the proposed southern schools may choose not to sign onto the long commute. But they will find their home schools in the north are too full to attend and spectrum classes are full, so their children will be in a classroom that is neither in their neighborhood, nor serving their academic needs.

We believe the proposal for Lowell APP and Special Education will not achieve the district’s stated goals of furthering educational excellence , equity, and access. It is not the best way to save costs. Therefore we ask:

Please respect our Special Education families by consulting and planning with them where their children will go to school next year.

Please, we need to keep APP together as a single cohort at the Lowell building.

There has to be a better way to save money than breaking up a thriving all-city school community of 530 families"

Central District Parent said...

kirsten - which schools scored lower than lowell on building condition? I am interested in why Montlake isn't being closed, moveed to Lowell. I agree with the APP split but I would like to see the real costs for retrofitting schools to accommodate the children with disabilities, whether they'll be dumped into the lowest performing schools in the district as has been the history of special ed placement in this district, and also whether changes to their education could be made without leaving the building.

Kirsten Wild said...

See the attached link, Chapter 8. for detailed information about building scores. Montlake does score lower than Lowell.
http://www.seattleschools.org/area/board/031208agenda/2020fmp.pdf

Kirsten Wild said...

Hmm.. let me try that again.

http://www.seattleschools.org/
area/board/031208agenda
/2020fmp.pdf

Charlie Mas said...

Let's see, we have a lot of excess capacity. We want to eliminate about 9,000 empty seats.

One of the District's high schools has 900 empty seats - 10% of our closure goal. We need to leave that school alone.

One of the District's three largest elementary schools is totally full, so that's one we need to close for sure.

anonymous said...

Charlie,

We have heard that the highest concentration of children in the Seattle area is in the Rainier Valley. Do you know of this? So while the capacity issues are incredible north of the ship canal I'd like to know of the district's projects for south of the ship canal. I am also with Director Bass in asking what specifically is being done to make the schools in the south part of the cluster better. Thank you.

adhoc said...

Kirsten, I feel your pain when it comes to ridiculously long bus commutes for kids.

I don't let my younger son ride the bus to school because he has to be at the bus stop at 8:03 to get to school for the 9:15 bell. And get this, he goes to a neighborhood school in our cluster. He is expected to be on a bus for over an hour each way, every day. That's 10 hours a week on a bus. 40 hours a month. His childhood is to short to waste on a bus, especially when it only takes me 7 minutes each way to drive him.

If we are going to neighborhood schools then maybe we can add some extra buses to routes to keep commutes reasonable, say a half an hour or under. Is that reasonable for schools in your neighborhood, that are only a couple of miles from your home?

Most adults I know would not choose a job an hour away from our homes, because we don't want to sit in a car two hours a day. So why do we allow our children to do just this?

We are all so busy trying to claw our way into a reasonably "good" school or a school that meets our kids needs, that we are over looking the huge impact sitting on buses for hours a day has on our kids.

I for one look forward to the day when Seattle has good schools throughout the city and we don't have to send our kids all over creation for a decent education.