Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Discussing December 9th Recommendations

Since the full presentation and summary are now published on the district website, I wanted to start this thread to discuss all the recommended proposals. I'd like to keep this in one thread if possible.

End of meeting recap: took notes by hand for most of the rest of the meeting; left near the end of the high school discussion. Here's what I can read from my notes:

Maier: concerned about transportation costs in option of moving Summit K-8 to Meany. Maier also asked whether Summit K-12 costs in the 9-12 grades had enrollment priority for getting into high schools. Answer from Tracy Libros was "no", would be enrolled in high school closest to home address on space available basis. Said that only displaced students getting ability to choose spots at any school they want are a handful of T.T. Minor 4th grade students who were also moved (from M.L.K.) during last round of closures.

DeBell: likes the option of Summit K-8 and Nova together because it provides a pathway for students wanting alternative education.

Bass: how will siblings be handled in dispersing Summit and AAA? Tracy Libros: based on geography, so siblings in same grade band will be at same school.

Mary Bass then asked some interesting transportation questions and had a lengthy discussion with the district transportation staffer. I didn't follow all of it (getting tired), but was interested to hear that Summit is part of a pilot with transfer buses, and Lowell is going to be part of a pilot with local school drop-off options, both designed to cut down on transportation time and costs.

For high school options (both presented with neither one "preferred" like in the other cases), took the Cleveland/RBHS merger discussed at last work session off the table. According to Dr. G-J, "putting 2 comprehensive high schools together would exacerbate problems" already facing the high schools. Michael Tolley (Dir. of HS) also said that closing a comprehensive high school would reduce the number of seats to almost exactly functional capacity, which leaves no flexibility or room for adjustment.

DeBell: "Not sure if either of these options is vetted enough...perhpas more time is needed."


7:45 pm: Battery dying. Signing off until I return home.

7:30 pm: Talking about non-preferred recommendation, moving Summit K-8 to Meany and SBOC to Hawthorne.

Sunquist: asking questions about rationale; clarifying that cost and academic achievement are two reasons for Board preferring Summit K-12 closure to moving Summit K-8 to Meany.

Bass: speaking on behalf of Summit K-12, a "long-standing" alternative school program, willing to move but wants K-12 part in place; raising fact that haven't had an alternative school program audit and are limiting options for alternative schools prior to doing this.

Dr. G-J: will have alternative schools audit this spring; but timing does not permit completing that before closure and consolidations are made; staff will also bring data to Board on what impact these recommendations have on number of seats overall; made Rainier Beach recommendation to allow Summit K-12 to keep full program together; but since parents didn't want that option.

7:09 pm
Reviewing Old Hay & Mann recommendation, involving SBOC and Nova and Meany.

Maier: Asking question about Central capacity and room at Washington Middle School.

Sundquist: Asking about signed previous agreements with SBOC and two points: 1) only housing bilingual students and 2) recently rennovated building.

Goodloe-Johnson: Reads section from original Preliminary Recommendation which includes other details of 2006 signed agreement. But says many things have changed since then. Says Board would need to amend or specifically state that changing recommendation made in 2006. Recommendation reflects "best practice" based on bilingual audit, which information was not made prior to the earlier agreement.

Carr: asking about utlization and difference between the two recommendations (preferred and not preferred); raising concern about Nova model and "out of the classroom" time

Staff members talking about access to public transportation and Seattle Central Community College.

DeBell: asking about how the recommendation fits with long-term plan to create an international high school (a high school made up mostly of children speaking languages other than English).

Bass: uncomfortable with Meany students being "displaced" by other programs; highlighting the diversity and inclusion and recent improvement of the Meany program.

6:51 pm
Moving on to Elementary APP slides.

DeBell: raising concern that closing 2 schools in Central cluster takes cluster too close to full capacity, leaving no room for adjustment if more parents return to public schools.

Carr: Montlake does not have hearing scheduled. Shannon: time to schedule hearings for Montlake and any other buildings affected; have mapped this out; similar to 2006 with Rainier View.

Maier: Would Lowell (turned into a neighborhood school by this proposal) have room to grow if 1/2 APP and special education is there as well?

Tracy Libros: depends on what IEPs for special education say

Sundquist: would like to hear more about "design teams" and timeframe for their work; worried that parents will be making decisions with uncertainty

Carla Santorno: first priority is principal selection; talking about building transitions (all-school assembly, structural pieces of program that lead to a cooperative school)

Bass: would like to think about how we might be able to bring in more children from around the neighborhood.

DeBell: with both APP schools in Central Cluster, increases capacity concern; since APP-tested kids are guaranteed seats if they apply on time, creates potential capacity issues for neighborhood kids.

6:42 pm
Dr. G-J continuing with Genesee Hill building.

Sundquist: Asking about the "Given the Board's decision to lift the restrictions of the Student Assignment Plan..." phrase. Said he made a request to examine the possibility, but the Board has not made a decision. Tracy Libros says that is correct, and any vote on the change in Assignment Plan policy would be included in overall vote on recommendation.

Sundquist: Asking about special education students at Cooper and "buddy system" program that is grant-funded.

Dr. G-J: Special education and ELL program placement details will be provided in final recommendations.

Sundquist: Raises desire to look at program options at West Seattle Elementary school to make the school more attractive to families and increase enrollment.

Maier: Asking about "may be included" phrase. Holly says that is because decision has not been made yet.

6:35 pm

Maier: raising question about where AS#1 students will go; raising possibility of not making decision about AS#1 until the following year; possible that some of the Summit K-12 parents would migrate to AS#1; provide breathing room and flexibility; then make decision when drawing assignment areas.

Bass: if that option is going to be offered to AS#1, should offer that option to all the programs slated for closures; give them an option to grow for a year; use this as an incentive to grow, not close; suggests that it is better to wait for assignment plan decisions before making school building closure decisions.

G-J: We are not in a position to give schools this opportunity. Building closures are necessary because of current financial condition, with closures yielding both short-term and long-term savings. We have 5 reports that consistently say we have too many buildings based on the numbers of children we save. "All of us would like not to have this process...we have to move forward collectively to really build a stronger system...to right-size the system and provide stronger programs...if we don't close facilities, we cut people, we cut programs to the point where we don't have quality."

6:25 pm Restarting meeting. Goodloe-Johnson going over Potential Final Recommendations, whether or not they have changed, and is taking Board questions.

DeBell: raising NE capacity issue again; beginning process with 15% over planning capacity already. Dr. G-J has Rachel show NE elementary capacity slide that wasn't available earlier. DeBell raising additional questions related to effect of closing AS#1 and Summit and how that affects capacity.

Harium: asking additional questions; concerned about creating one "uber-alternative school", with 3 schools with different pedagogies; says if these changes happen, Jane Addams will be full and this won't help capacity issues.

G-J: will go back and re-examine recommendation now that have full functional capacity analysis and will bring back update at Dec. 17 meeting.

Maier: proposal would be AS#1 for another year but with cluster-only, not all-city transportaiton.

79 comments:

SE Mom said...

From my perspective, the changes to Washington APP could be positive. I'd like to see the Spectrum program there expanded. According to district data, there was a waitlist of 99 kids for Washington this year. I don't how how many of those were applications to Spectrum in particular. I know that Spectrum currently only has two classes per grade at Washington. Perhaps there would be room to add a third.

adhoc said...

Eckstein also has a large Spectrum wait list every year. With TC taking over Jane Adamms, and Spectrum being against their alternative philosophy, I wonder how the the Spectrum students will be accommodated in the NE?? In addition to Eckstein, Wedgewood and View Ridge get a hefty Spectrum wait list. It is really a shame that kids that have tested into this program can not receive the services.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

Thank you Beth...your dedication to this effort is unsurpassed.

Charlie Mas said...

Hoo-ray! They have come to their senses and now plan to move Pathfinder to Cooper instead of Arbor Heights!

Now if they would only find a central site for Summit, such as Lincoln.

I would like to see the entire middle school APP cohort moved from Washington to Hamilton intact. There is no need to split the program because there is room for them at Hamilton and it would make the school a more attractive option for families of students from Bryant, View Ridge, and Laurelhurst who will find themselves in the Hamilton reference area.

In addition, they will need all of those seats at Washington. Half of the seats isn't enough. With only half of the APP students relocated and the introduction of all of the Central Region students at Meany, Washington's enrollment isn't reduced at all. It leaves the school at full capacity and unable to accept any students coming into the region or out of private schools. We need some wiggle room.

Some time in the future, when they need the seats at Hamilton, they can split the program. At that time they will be free to put the south-end half at Mercer, which is a better choice for a half-city draw. It's close to Beacon Avenue, a very fast arterial that runs from the International District to Henderson, it's close to the freeway, and it's close to the West Seattle Bridge.

Charlie Mas said...

Van Asselt can't begin to fill the AAA building and using it as a K-5 is a dreadful waste of a building designed as a K-8.

The New School should go into the building. That would allow the District to place a new middle school at South Shore - the net change would be that they close Aki Kurose instead of Van Asselt. They would realize more savings from closing the larger building.

Are they now looking to consolidate three schools in the Jane Addams building? Thorton Creek, Summit K-8, and AS#1! How many students is that? Surely they won't all fit! And even if they do, how does that address the capacity problem?

It was pretty clear that the District has no option but to re-open Sand Point and quickly.

It would also be advisable for them to find a central location for Summit. They could put it in the unused space while the rest of the building continues to be used as an interim site.

They need to find a home for Summit because if they don't they won't have enough capacity in the Northeast for all of the elementary students. Count 'em.

Moving Pathfinder to Cooper was a good change. Now they have to follow it up by placing a Spectrum program at Arbor Heights.

The elementary APP split should have been B. F. Day and Hawthorne. The north-end location should be in the north-end. The south-end location should be in the south-end. They are no improving access (as they claim) for the north-end students by leaving them at Lowell and they are not improving access for the south-end students by leaving them in the Central cluster.

A full-sized general education progam at Lowell could mix students from both the north and the south of the Central cluster.

I will have to ponder the implications of the proposed closure of the Center School and its consolidation with Rainier Beach. It seems like a non-starter to me, but I should consider it.

Likewise the plan to create a 6-12 of Aki Kurose and Rainier Beach. I'm going to have to ponder it. On the good side, it allows the RBHS program to continue, but it doesn't give it room to grow - so what's the point of preserving it as a 400-500 student program? Doesn't that mean that it will never be able to offer the same variety of courses as our other high schools?

North-end Mom said...

Charlie,
Ditto on your concerns about capacity in the NE. The Jane Addams building is NOT a "Magic Mushroom." It's going to explode. It's not fair to do this to Thornton Creek. It's a great program.

You keep suggesting putting Summit in Lincoln, but Hamilton is still in there, right? When will the Hamilton remodel be complete?

B.T. said...

I'm typically a Charlie Mas dittohead, but not when it comes to re-opening Sand Point.

The district is closing buildings, not opening them.

Our PTA auction has been held at Sand Point a couple of times, and the building appears to be in pretty good shape. But it doesn't have sprinklers. Seems like a code waiver would be too high of a mountain to climb.

It's not a trivial issue. There was a fire (during the WASL, no less) in a light fixture outside my daughter's kindergarten classroom a couple of years ago.

When I hear "Sand Point" I want to give you the Obi-wan wave. These aren't the droids you're looking for. Move along.

North-end Mom said...

BT
Sand Point is far from being ready to be opened as an elementary school. There is a long list of items needed to bring it up to code if and when they ever decide to do so. There is also the bit about the lease, and giving notice.

Beth Bakeman said...

B.T., thanks for the comment about being a "Charlie Mas dittohead." It gave me a much needed laugh tonight!

SolvayGirl1972 said...

Charlie...
As for the Center School at RBHS, I don't think the students will go there any more than Summit would have. We were considering Center School for HS next year. Why? After touring at last year's open house here's what we liked:

The principal-Lisa Eskobar (sp?) is terrific. The teachers were dedicated and offered a lot of rigor while making their classes interesting and, it seemed, fun. The expect their students to go on to 4-year colleges, so the bar was high. The students who spoke were bright and articulate; we were impressed.

The academics were challenging and the integration of visual art unique. The partnership with Seattle Rep offered students who wanted to perform a chance to do it on a professional stage. Ditto for the kids who handled the tech roles. The school took advantage of special events happening at The Center—for example, they all went to the Obama rally to experience a political event.

We also liked the late start time (much better for all high schoolers) and the open period at the beginning of the day to work on projects and/or meet with teachers to get help where needed.

We liked the small size; though classes are still at the standard 30, the teachers noted how they got to know all of the students; there was little opportunity to fade into the woodwork.

The commute for our child would be decent. Rather than having to take the No.7 (recently named the most dangerous Metro route) she could take light rail to Westlake Center then a bus to The Center House.

Since our child is a drama kid who loves learning and does well when the bar is high, it seemed like a great option for our southend family. I can't imagine that just picking up the 300 Center School students and depositing them at RBHS will recreate that atmosphere. You'll notice that the program isn't being moved—just the students are.

Why does the District think 300 kids who chose The Center School will happily go to RBHS? Without their staff, teachers and facility; they may as well go closer to home or to private or another District. They weren't all drama students—and they certainly aren't a population that will appreciate having great sports teams as they had none (except Ultimate Frisbee I think) at Center School.

If it will really make a difference to close or repurpose the facility (and great—put out 300 kids so home schoolers can have another location), then just close the school. Don't pretend they'll all just move to RBHS. Now...if they were going to move the whole program (and most if not all of the staff) to RBHS and try and expand this popular, very successful school, then I. and possibly others, would at least consider it.

Beth Bakeman said...

You're welcome, SolvayGirl 1972. And I hope your family stays in Seattle Public Schools.

I believe the Center House closure recommendation is not going to be implemented.

Beth Bakeman said...

After listening to Board members' comments and questions tonight, it was clear that several of the recommendations were not well received. Note I'm not placing any value judgment here about whether they are "good" or "bad" recommendations, just an overall sense I had of recommendations that raised substantial concerns among several Board members.

1) High school relocation option #1, closing the Center School program and assigning students to Rainier Beach. This recommendation did not seem to be supported by any of the Board members. And there was confusion, both among Board members and even in the report, about whether the Center School program was being closed or "moved" and what all of that would mean. The proposal didn't seem well-thought through and Board members picked up on that. In addition, both current Summit proposals get rid of the 9-12 section of the school program, so closing Center School on top of that would leave only one alternative high school, Nova, which is also being moved and co-located.

Beth Bakeman said...

...continued

#2) APP moves raised lots of concerns with Board members, mostly around what they would mean for capacity issues at neighborhood schools in the Central cluster.

#3) Closing Summit K-12 was also badly received by Board members, and again was linked to concern about overall NE and N cluster capacity.

Those were the 3 recommendations that stuck out for me as poorly received and with lots of Board questions/concerns.

Anyone else see it differently?

jd said...

Sources tell me that a staff assessment indicated that the northern B.F. Day option for APP simply did not have the room. It was in play, but not viable.

Stephanie Jones said...

Some things look a little better, some things look a little worse, but has anyone noticed that now the entire Central Cluster is affected (every building except Stevens, McGilvra, Madrona, and Garfield, and that likely means nearly every Central family). Indeed, I'm sure every school will be affected -- Stevens and McGilvra have been getting calls for a couple of weeks from families that want to return from APP. By adding in 3 additional central sites to be affected by the plan, they might as well just pilot a new assignment plan in central and start us all over. It leaves me wondering what we've done to deserve this level of social engineering...
Stephanie

Roy Smith said...

Charlie and North-end Mom, this is slightly astonishing given how often SPS staff gets this kind of thing wrong, but their plan actually does not overload the Jane Addams building. Here is my analysis:

(All numbers from data found here)

Thornton Creek (K-5): 310
AS#1 (K-5, N/NE Clusters Only): 90
Summit (K-5, N/NE Clusters Only): 110

Total K-5: 510

Thornton Creek (current 5th graders who will be 6th next year and presumably stay with the school): approx 50
AS#1 (6-8, N/NE Clusters Only): 38
Summit (6-8, N/NE Clusters Only): 108

Total 6-8: 196

For a grand total of 706 students.

AS#1 and Summit students from outside N/NE clusters are not expected to end up at the Jane Addams building - in any event, they won't be provided transportation by the district.

Also, it looks like no effort is being made to have a mushroom model - the middle school portion can't grow to much more than 300 students, which means we have a stovepipe. I don't think this is a disaster or even something to worry about, but there are a number of people on this blog that disagree with me rather strongly on this point.

What is worrisome is that Thornton Creek is expected to relocate, add a complete 6-8 program, and absorb a significant number of refugees from two alternative programs that are very different from TC, all in the same year. I have heard very good thing about Thornton Creek's principal - I hope he is up to the task of leading through this much change.

Central Mom said...

re: tonight's new APP split suggestion

So...access for the North End APP families isn't being improved. It's just staying put.

Access for South End families isn't really moving south...just a couple miles further away in the Central cluster. A location suggested as "north APP" a week ago.

The Central cluster kids, even those living close to Lowell, have to move to the southern location.

The Lowell location becomes even less diverse with the addition of Montlake students and the removal of Central/South Enders.

Montlake, one of the best neighborhood schools in the district, is no longer a neighborhood school, and the district stands to lose still more market share to families choosing private schools

Montlake and North End APP put the Lowell building dangerously close to overcapacity at the get-go, with no real room for either program to expand (and APP is supposed to be offering guaranteed access to those testing in)

Why are we doing this again?

north seattle mom said...

Roy, you are forgetting about the autism program which needs about 8-10 classrooms. The simple story is that there just isn't enough room for all the folks that are planned to share the space under this proposal. The entire reason the board voted to move the Summit program was because the entire NE cluster was extremely over capacity.

AS1 needs to stay open just because there is simply no room for them anywhere in the NE cluster. Every school is full, full, full.

Melissa 'Liss' Cain said...

Roy: While you have a point and your numbers seem more correct than the numbers that I heard at the workshop tonight, you're missing one thing. The Jane Addams building was re-purposed to help with capacity issues in the NE and N clusters. Adding in all these students there only allows for capacity growth with the Decatur re-purposing, which is not nearly enough to cover what is needed or what was intended. The original K-8 plan at Jane Addams was to create new capacity, not re-house the same students.

none1111 said...

Charlie says:

"The elementary APP split should have been B. F. Day and Hawthorne. The north-end location should be in the north-end. The south-end location should be in the south-end. They are no improving access (as they claim) for the north-end students by leaving them at Lowell and they are not improving access for the south-end students by leaving them in the Central cluster."

The district regions are artificial boundaries. Had they drawn the lines just a few blocks to the north, T.Marshall would be a south cluster school; and in any case is easily far enough south to serve the south end. And it's easily accessible by major highways. Hawthorne looks to be mighty inconvenient for transportation.

While it's true that leaving 1/2 of Lowell where they are doesn't really increase access to north end families, it does do something far more important right now. It draws 250 kids out of an extremely overcrowded north end. That's where the previous plan failed, since most of those families were headed back north again. Or out of SPS. Really, they were. Ask around.

The best solution would still be to keep Lowell in its current configuration and get busy building up the Spectrum and ALO programs in the south end. That would help a lot more kids than the handful more that might join an APP-south. If the district can actually show serious progress on that front, then maybe it would make sense to move 1/2 of APP to T.Marshall.

That wouldn't close an extra building, but let's face it, there wasn't really any savings to speak of closing Lowell anyway. It's large, full, efficient and in reasonable condition. And the capital costs to move or re-create Special Ed facilities would also eat away even more of any purported savings by closing that building.

K said...

Solvaygirl - great analysis of the problems inherent in the proposed closure of The Center School. My son is a Junior at the school and with a few small glitches (which have since been resolved) it has proven to be exactly the kind of small school with rigor and high expectations we were hoping for. If the school were to close, it is highly unlikely our son (or many of his classmates) would move to RBHS. As it is, from our northern location it takes him at least an hour on the metro to get there, RBHS would mean a much further commute. And as you said, for what? Not the program or the teachers or the school culture. He would likely end up at our local HS, Shoreline or even private if we could somehow find a space and figure out how to pay for it. It would be very disruptive to our family, but I also understand that hard choices have to be made. I do think it's too bad that a great program that is really just getting its bearings but already producing great results will be lost to the district. And yes, Lisa Escobar is an amazing principal who oversees an outstanding staff.

katie said...

Roy -- following up on North Seattle and Melissa's comments.

North Seattle and Melissa pointed out two of the three flaws in your analysis.
1) room for special ed -- this has to be a priority as the NE already under-serves special ed.
2) room for the NE -- the NE is already overcrowded by 1,000 students in the K-8 grade levels. Bringing in more students from the North cluster makes this much worse

The third point actually really has a lot to do with the displaced Summit and AS1 families. I don't care how amazing the principal is. It is simply inappropriate for one school to BOTH be a transition school AND a receiving school for displaced students.

Seattle schools has never asked a school to both move and received displaced students. Even with a perfect leader and a welcoming community, it just doesn't work. Per the last round of closure reports, the district reported that it under-served and under-resourced the receiving schools and that in future rounds, they would need to pay more attention to this.

This is no disrespect to TC. I mentioned in a previous post that I toured the school and really liked it. I was waitlisted and couldn't get in. I think I would really like an expanded program where they serve more students.

However, this is much worse than anything that has happened in previous rounds. They want to send displaced students to a brand new school with an untried program. I know that if my student were being displaced, I would want to go to Salmon Bay or TOPS or well any program that has actually educated a middle schooler, rather than a program created out the ether of good intentions.

Thornton Creek is an excellent ELEMENTARY school. They have never had a middle school program. How are they with only a few months notice going to have expeditionary learning available for an 8th grader that has never been at the school. Even more important, where are they going to find an 8th grade teacher that can teach expeditionary learning to this displaced student? And finally why would an 8th grader want to do expeditionary learning for a year right before they then need to transition to High School?

When schools have been converted to a K-8, it has been one year at a time precisely to deal with student learning and staffing issues. It is just not humanely possible to do this in a few short month. The folks that will suffer the most in this transition are the displaced students.

It is hard to get away from the fact that this is just a bad plan, plain and simple. It takes a wonderful high-performing, in-demand school and destroys it with impossible assumptions.

Even as hard as the APP split is going to be on that community, this move is even more challenging. APP is being asked to move as a group, keep the integrity of the program intact and be polite, courteous and welcoming to their new neighbors. We are all acknowledging that this is going to be a very hard task.

Thornton Creek is being asked to do all of that and then provide an excellent educational opportunity for displaced students. I assert that it just can't be done in the best interest of the student. Bad plan.

Beth Bakeman said...

Katie, I agree completely. But, just to be clear and accurate historically, changing from a K-5 to a K-8 in one year is exactly what the district mandated for Pathfinder with promises of later money and help. Our 6-8 students are still in the portables where they were placed in 1999. See our history page for details.

I would recommend that Thornton Creek staff and families talk with the Pathfinder staff and families who went through this abrupt change to learn from their experience. Then the Thornton Creek community can use this information in order to advocate against the proposal and/or learn how to cope with it if it is implemented.

zb said...

I hate characterizing SPS on any conspiracy theory. But, why are they absolutely committed to keeping Ranier open? And, I ask this as a non-rhetorical question.

The Aki Kurose plan suggests the possibility that it is the building -- that they simply don't want to give up the RBS building, and thus, merger with Cleveland is not a viable option.

There's the specter of gang activity and the potential increase with a merger between Cleveland & RBS, a phenomenon I don't really understand, but can see how it would play a role in planning that wouldn't be talked about very loudly. I can understand why this might drive decision making even if we don't want it to -- if the consequence of combining the schools would be children dying in the combined school, it's something we don't want.

There's the athletic program, which I know nothing about, and which I do not believe *should* be driving the decision making.

So? why?

Ms. D. said...

It is true that a new school at Decatur will help tremendously with the majority (but not all) of the elementary over crowding. But what about middle school?

The NE is in the same boat as it was before. Not enough room at Eckstein and no other NEIGHBORHOOD middle school option. And, no school at all for the families living north of 110th.

Hamilton, as is, is not a strong school nor is it in the NE. Families are not going to voluntarily send their kids there. They will go private, they will go to Shoreline, they will try for alternative schools even though they may not necessarily buy in to their philosophies, but they won't go to Hamilton. Not much different than south end famlies that won't send their kids to AKI. The new assignment plan may, as Charlie points out change that? The addition of north end MS APP at Hamilotn (if it happens) may change that? But right now all of this is speculation, fantasy and imagination. Nothing is concrete, so best to work with what we have now.

The new Decatur will help relieve some of the elementary over crowding, but it won't be enough.

The expanded TC will not help in any way reduce either elementary or MS over crowding. It won't even be able to accomodate all of the N/NE children who are current TC students and N/NE refugees from Summit and AS1, once you add in the Autism program.

The TC community does not want to move or expand. They have said this repeatedly. AS1 does not want to close.

We need to leave AS1 open, and fill the excess capacity with Summit refugees. And, we need to work with their community to come up with an acceptable form of alternate assessment, since they are opposed to the WASL. That alone should fulfill the sanctions needed for step 4 of NCLB.

Jane Adamms needs to be a traditional k-8 with a mushroom MS, or a straight traditional MS

Sand point needs to be re-opened.

This is what would work.

Evan said...

Ms. D - why is Hamilton "not a strong school"? Facts, please.

Ms. D. said...

Hamilton's Test scores are well below Eckstein's test scores. They have no music program to speak of, and while they do offer the immersion program, only kids who are native Spanish speakers or who have come up through the JSIS have access to it. Plus it is not in the NE cluster. It is across the freeway in Wallingford.

These are the three main reasons NE families just do not choose Hamilton.

Roy Smith said...

Maybe I understated my position, but I don't think the Thornton Creek plan is a good one at all, precisely because of the combination of move, instant expansion and merger (I did say this was worrisome on my original post - maybe I should have typed in big bold letters "THIS IS A BAD IDEA!").

I did forget about the autism classrooms, so the building will be right at or a little over capacity, depending on how fast the SC autism continuum develops to its full scale of 9 classes. It is not clear to me from either the preliminary recommendations or the discussions I have heard that SPS expects this particular change to happen all in one year; if they start with 6 classrooms for SC autism, everything fits - but just barely, and with no room for anything to grow.

If they maintain an average class size of 25, then the K-5 portion will use 20 rooms, the middle school portion 8 rooms, and then 6 would be left over for the SC autism. This also reinforces my point that the SPS staff is NOT planning for any type of mushroom at Jane Addams.

As an aside, they also had some slides in their presentation which reinforced the point that there is and will be for the foreseeable future (based on their demographic projections, which may or may not be suspect) adequate middle school space in the north end, assuming of course, they can get residents to go to Hamilton. I think part of the reason they included this particular analysis was to deflect the demands that Jane Addams be either a middle school or at least a mushroom style K-8. The staff's contention is that no additional middle school space is either needed or will be needed. They may be wrong, but that is their argument.

Digressing just a bit further, when middle school reference areas are drawn (whenever they get around to the new assignment plan), I think a lot of areas south of 75th that think of Eckstein as their neighborhood middle school are going to be rather disconcerted to find themselves in Hamilton's reference area. Conversely, those families north of 110th who have been screaming about access to middle school will be comfortably in Eckstein's reference area. As Melissa says, the battle over the assignment plan is going to make the current battles look like a tempest in a teapot - there most definitely will be winners and losers as middle school and high school reference areas are drawn.

As several have pointed out, this plan, as currently conceived, directly contradicts the rationale given earlier for evicting Summit from the Jane Addams building. But realistically, when has contradicting previous rationales ever stopped the SPS staff from making whatever recommendations they wanted to?

Realistically, I don't expect the SPS staff to change this recommendation. I also don't expect the school board to change it unless the reaction to killing Summit is enough to sway the board's opinion and make them tell the Superintendent to keep Summit in Jane Addams until they come up with something better (and incidentally, that would require the board to reverse itself from an earlier decision, as well). If Summit moves out as planned, I think it is unlikely that all the other arguments marshalled against this bad idea will have much effect. Hopefully I am being cynical and pessimistic again, but that is how I see it.

I personally am going to anticipate that this plan, flawed as it is, is more likely to happen than not, and I will thus be preoccupied with figuring out how to use my time and resources to make the best of a very awkward and less than ideal situation.

Again, I do not support this plan. However, I expect that is something that we will have to live with, one way or another.

jp70 said...

I agree that moving half of APP to Hamilton will improve that school in terms of Academics and other offerings. That and the fact that it will be newly renovated.

Living in View Ridge, even if Hamilton is an excellent school by the time my 2nd grader is in middle school, I still would find it extremely frustrating and it would anger me if the district assigned us to Hamilton when Eckstein is walking distance to our house and we drive by it every single day on the way to most everywhere. This in response to Charlie who seems convinced that View Ridge is going to feed into Hamilton. As it is now, my husband could easily drop off our middle schoolers on the way to work and they would walk home as all the Eckstein kids in our neighborhood currently do. I still find it very hard to believe the district will bus kids walking distance to one school to another school much farther away.

Roy Smith said...

I agree with Charlie that there is a good possibility that View Ridge will feed into Hamilton. I played around with the drawing possible reference areas and came up with what might happen. I am NOT advocating for this particular idea, or any other at present; this is simply a mental exercise to try and guess what the SPS staff might come up, based on what I have been hearing coming out of the district.

Here is my guess for what the middle and high school reference areas will look like:

Middle School Reference Areas

Eckstein: View Ridge, Decatur, Wedgwood, John Rogers, Sacajawea, Olympic View, Olympic Hills
Whitman: Northgate, (Broadview-Thomson), Daniel Bagley, Greenwood, North Beach, Loyal Heights, Whittier, Adams
McClure: West Woodland, Lawton, (Catherine Blaine), Coe, Hay
Hamilton: BF Day, JSIS, Green Lake, Bryant, Laurelhurst

High School Reference Areas

Nathan Hale: View Ridge, Decatur, Wedgwood, John Rogers, Sacajawea
Ingraham: Olympic View, Olympic Hills, Northgate, Broadview Thomson, Daniel Bagley, Greenwood
Ballard: North Beach, Loyal Heights, Whittier, Adams, West Woodland, Lawton, Catherine Blaine
Roosevelt: Coe, Hay, BF Day, JSIS, Green Lake, Bryant, Laurelhurst

Interestingly, Hamilton feeds Roosevelt, and Eckstein feed Nathan Hale. I wonder if anybody will be happy after this is all done?

zb said...

"I think a lot of areas south of 75th that think of Eckstein as their neighborhood middle school are going to be rather disconcerted to find themselves in Hamilton's reference area. Conversely, those families north of 110th who have been screaming about access to middle school will be comfortably in Eckstein's reference area."

"there most definitely will be winners and losers as middle school and high school reference areas are drawn."

I'm in NE, and having my reference area assigned to Hamilton is clearly bad (it's 5 miles away, instead of 1.5 miles away). So, we'd have to go 3X as far to school. But, I can't see that tragedy as being less equitable than making the kid who lives at 110th drive 10 miles to school, while I get to stay close by.

I think the key to minimizing (as much as possible) battles over reference areas is that they have to be done in a data driven way, based on capacity, locations of children, and geography, with little if no lobbying on the part of families.

If the eckstein southern boundary gets drawn at 75th, and excludes us, or gets drawn at 65th, and includes us, I will live with either decision, if it's data driven, and done to minimize the distance for all the children.

North-end Mom said...

Roy,
I'm sorry, did I miss something and you are now working for Tracy Librios and her team? Why do you insist upon "publishing" this kind of stuff? It accomplishes nothing, and only spawns false rumors.

adhoc said...

Before we move any programs like APP into Hamilton we need to fix the over crowding in the NE. We need to see what the new assignment plan brings.

A new assignment plan where Hamilton becomes the reference school for Laurlehurst, View Ridge and Bryant students will see an increase of about 270 students assigned to Hamilton.

The JSIS students take about 55 seats at Hamilton as they get assignment preference to continue their immersion studies.

And then there is the neighborhood immediately around Hamilton. Currently there are about 450 kids attending Hamilton that live in the immediate neighborhood of the school, and I'm sure the school will be there reference school with the new assignment plan too.

That means about 800 seats are taken right off the bat. I know Hamilton houses an ESL program but I don't know the number of students that they serve? They would have to be factored in too. Are there any other programs housed at Hamilton?

If we are to expect Hamilton to help with the NE MS over crowding then I can't see how they could take the APP cohort. Further, are families in south Seattle, SE, and West Seattle going to want to bus their kids that far away? I can see perhaps splitting the program and housing north end students in the north, but the whole program? It just doesn't make sense.

Charlie, how many MS APP students live north of the ship canal?

Beth Bakeman said...

North-end Mom, I don't understand what you object to about Roy's comment. Like many other people on this blog, he seems to be trying to make sense of a rapidly shifting landscape by mulling over potential changes and discussing them with others.

Nothing in Roy's comment suggests that he "knows" anything about these changes, so I'm not sure how his comment would spawn rumors any more than any of the rest of the posts and comments on this blog.

B.T. said...

Ms. D,

Regarding closures/program moves: You assert that SPS must keep AS1 open to absorb Summit refugees. I disagree. The most urgent need in the Northeast is to make sure that Summit finds a really good home to which its population will migrate en masse. If that school is only a K-8, well, not the best, but okay.

Regarding assignment plan: You'll have to get over your disappointment about the lack of a NEIGHBORHOOD (your emphasis) middle school.

I have a fifth grader at Laurelhurst. I don't see the problem if Laurelhurst and Bryant are assigned to Hamilton together -- especially if it has MS APP, and north-of-110th kids are assigned to Eckstein. Suddenly the test score argument goes away. I'd be surprised if the Bryant and Laurelhurst communities will tolerate lack of a music program during the day. Don't expect any sympathy from the rest of the city when you say "But we don't want to drive all the way to Wallingford. It's too harrrrrrd."

Put Sand Point out of your thoughts because it ain't happening. Period.

adhoc said...

B.T. says "I have a fifth grader at Laurelhurst. I don't see the problem if Laurelhurst and Bryant are assigned to Hamilton together -- especially if it has MS APP, and north-of-110th kids are assigned to Eckstein."

How do you propose that APP will fit into Hamilton, along with Bryant, View Ridge, and Laurelhurst families. And, the Hamilton neighborhood families? And the ESL program? I'd like to hear it, because as far as I can tell it's not possible.

I agree that changing boundaries, and adding some affluent communities (Laurelhurst, View Ridge, Bryant) with high achieving students to the Hamilton reference area will impact Hamilton in a very positive way.

And, I also believe that if the NE moves as a cohort to Hamilton, families will not dispute it much. But, that's all moot because they can't all fit under your plan.

And, by the way this is a forum for people to share ideas. No need to get so defensive and nasty. Just state your opinion, and let others do the same. If your has logic then people will get it, No nasty comments necessary.

adhoc said...

No, B.T., AS1 does not need to stay open to house Summit kids. AS1 needs to stay open because the north end can't absorb 250 AS1 kids. And since AS1 is under enrolled it would make sense for AS1 to take some of the Summit students, if indeed the district decides to close Summit as they have proposed.

zb said...

"Put Sand Point out of your thoughts because it ain't happening. Period."

Why? (not a rhetorical question).

I see why reclaiming University Heights or Ravenna is not in the cards (having been in both buildings, they are simply inadequate to be schools in the modern age).

I've been in the building, and read it's review, and don't see why it can't be quickly resourced as an elementary school. There's a lease to north seattle community college? Is that the problem?

I think the other reason SPS is uninterested in that option is that they don't really think there's undercapacity. They think that they'll be able to rearrange the kids (i.e. some southenders will go back south, as the assignment plan changes) eventually resulting in the right capacity in NE.

But, as with the drive to keep RBS open, I'm unclear on why sand point is simply off the table, from the SPS point of view.

zb said...

I also think another aspect of these closures needs to be to phase out sibling preferences that guarantee assignment in schools that would be otherwise denied to the sibling. I actually would consider phasing out for current students as well, but I suspect that's a more difficult sell.

Why do I think this is equitable? Because right now, we plan to move kids in closed programs around willy nilly. If that can be done to them, in order to benefit the system, I think it's reasonable to expect families who have gotten the assignment they want to also share in the sacrifice in order to make the school system more efficient, and for example, to make room for those children who are being moved against their will from their placement.

momster said...

B.T., I agree with your response to Ms D in almost every respect, and also wanted to say to her that it's pretty much understood that "test scores" = demographics, i.e., the reason Eckstein has "good test scores" is because most students in it come from homes with advantages all kids should have - financial stability (if not wealth), parental stability, healthcare, good nutrition, networks of strong adult role models, etc.

"Programs" can help kids around the margins, but they aren't responsible for "test scores" as she implies Hamilton's program is somehow responsible for its "low test scores" (or conversely, Eckstein for its higher ones).

It's ok to posit (as she did), that those beliefs are why NE families don't choose Hamilton (because beliefs don't have to be true and they don't even have to be logical or fact-based - most aren't).

It's also ok to say "if a school has a high degree of poverty, it might mean that students and families might not care as much about academics as I do - and it might mean there is greater incidence of bullying, violence, and drugs - and I am afraid my child won't be safe - and that's why I'm not enrolling him there".

What isn't ok is to characterize Hamilton as not having a "strong program" - by which she is denigrating administrators, teachers, and staff, in a way that is not fair and is very likely not fact-based.

I wish everyone would stop doing that.

Charlie Mas said...

At the risk of being labeled a Jerimiah, I'm pretty confident that the new assignment plan for middle schools will fill Eckstein with the students north of it.

Those who live in View Ridge will find themselves in the Hamilton reference area. The only other possibility would be for the John Rogers reference area to be in Hamilton's reference area. Now, I know that folks in View Ridge and Bryant think this would make sense ("Those kids are on the bus anyway, they might as well ride it all the way to Hamilton while our kids walk to Eckstein"), but that is not sensible to anybody else. Everybody else, including the planners at the District, find contiguous reference areas the preferred method.

Moreover, this fear of Hamilton is unwarranted. Ms D explained it quite well:

"Hamilton's Test scores are well below Eckstein's test scores."

This will no longer be the case when the school is full of students from Bryant, View Ridge, Laurelhurst, and APP. The test scores reflect the students who come to the building, not what the school does with them.

"They have no music program to speak of"

Again, they will when they have a different set of students in the building. Hamilton, I'm told, does offer music as an after school program - essentially a seventh period class. This, of course, could change if the students and families in the building want to change it. Talk to the "design team". It may not be necessary. In the proposal last night, the District has assured the Board that Hamilton WILL have music programs for the APP students starting in 2009.

"it is not in the NE cluster. It is across the freeway in Wallingford."

This is true but astonishingly provincial and it places way too much importance on an artificial boundary. It's not like the students have to cross the eight lanes of freeway on foot dodging traffic. I don't think it is really a primary objection - I hope it isn't. Lots of students travel much further for school than the four or five miles from View Ridge to Hamilton.

seattle citizen said...

Crossing eight lanes of traffic on foot could be a new PE,Geometry, Physics Interdiscipinary class!(AND it's "expeditionary!")

Charlie Mas said...

When counting up the students who might be at Hamilton, be sure not to double count them. Surely some of the 55 JSIS students are among the 400 from the Northeast Region. As are some students already coming from the Northeast cluster.

The district staff presented very convincing statistical evidence that all 450 APP students could be at Hamilton and the north-end middle schools would still have 500 empty seats.

We have no reason to dispute these figures.

The figures do indicate that the middle school enrollment will grow to come very close to the capacity of the north-end middle schools in about five years. That's if all of the APP students were to move to Hamilton. The solution - at that time - would be to relocate the south-end APP students back to the south-end or to re-open John Marshall.

The northeast elementary numbers make it pretty clear that the District, despite their reluctance, may have to re-open Sand Point to meet capacity needs in about three years. That presumes, of course, that the students now in alternative schools all accept the assignment to Thorton Creek at Jane Addams - a very dubious proposition.

It would be better if the District found a location for Summit that is central to the city but still acceptable to the current community. I'm thinkin' Lincoln.

Because Lincoln is in the North cluster, this would replace the K-8 alternative option that the North cluster loses with the closure of AS#1.

zb said...

The way to come up with non-contiguous reference areas for middle/high schools is to use the feeder school concept and have contiguous elementary school reference areas and use those reference areas to assign kids to middle/high school. I think that idea actually makes sense, and allows for the possibility of non-contiguous reference areas without having to figure out some weird balkanized map in order know what middle/high school you had access to.

I posted before saying that it's OK to minimize distance for all kids, even if that means some have to drive by a school that's closer to them. But, I think the exception has to be made to schools that otherwise fit into a walk zone. And, we should be taking drive/transportation time into account, not just pure distance.

zb said...

Ron -- do the different middle/high schools have different capacity? 'cause otherwise, I'm not getting your assignment plan. I guess the other variable could be the proportion of students who leave the public system for middle v high school.

Charlie Mas said...

If you live really close to Eckstein it is possible that your home, now in the Bryant or View Ridge reference area, could be in the Decatur reference area when the new maps are drawn. In that case, Eckstein would continue to be your reference area school.

The District's resistance to closing Rainier Beach - and they are resistant to the idea - is based in the fact that there are 1,600 students who live closer to Rainier Beach than any other comprehensive high school. If the District evers discovers how to get those kids to enroll at Rainier Beach, the school will be full with a waitlist.

The Southeast Initiative was supposed to do exactly this, but it suffered from mission-creep and lost its focus. They should have started by surveying the community and asking them "What would Rainier Beach need to make you choose it?"

Unfortunately, the District didn't do that, so they are lashing out blindly hoping to somehow randomly hit on the community's hot button. First year? Swing and a miss; strike one. Second year? Swing and a miss; strike two. Third year is coming up.

They are moving forward with the idea of making Rainier Beach a performing arts focused school.

Hmmm. Let me pose a question: of all of the students leaving the southeast area for high school, how many of them traveled all that way for a performing arts program? I'm thinking fewer than 10.

Here's another question: what two career choices present the worst odds for success? Would you guess professional sports and show business? What does Rainier Beach offer students? Athletics and performing arts.

First thing, the Southeast Initiative or the administration at Rainier Beach should have asked what the community wanted. They didn't. Second thing, they should have checked what people were going north for. They didn't. Third thing, if they had to guess, why didn't they guess engineering instead of performing arts? Why didn't they guess liberal arts (humanities) instead of performing arts? Why didn't they guess almost any freakin' thing other than performing arts?

Sorry. End of rant.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

Charlie
I live in the RBHS reference and would love to be asked what I want in a high school.

The first thing would have been academic rigor across all disciplines. Expectations need to be high and the school environment needs to reflect that.

A safe environment would be next. To be candid, I have a hard time imagining my 14-yr-old in a school where two rapes happened on campus in less than 4 months. I doubt if many people could. I question an environment where kids think they can get away with something like that.

As for curriculum. The school has a state-of-the-art performing arts center, so a performing arts focus is a no-brainier. I don't hear you complaining about the performing arts program at Roosevelt. Don't southend students deserve something comparable?

With that said...I agree RBHS has to have more than sports and performing arts. As I have suggested on numerous occasions, I'd like to see the school take advantage of its unique location and offer an environmental science program (this would bring strong math, science and language arts and even visual arts into play). Lake Washington is just across the street. Pritchard Beach Wetlands are right around the corner and The Audubon Center at Seward Park is about 2 miles away (I believe they have already done some programs with the school).

If the school made some major changes like this and it was coupled with a more restricted assignment plan, I think they might be able to fill the school. If it flew, it could end up with huge waitlists.

Roy Smith said...

ZB - there are some pretty signficant differences in the capacities of the various middle and high schools.

The planning capacities for the schools (from the District's web site - I don't have the source immediately at hand, but the link was posted a few days ago) are:

Eckstein 1267
Whitman 1116
Hamilton 950
McClure 686

Roosevelt 1741
Ingraham 1342
Nathan Hale 1420
Ballard 1554

There is plenty of room to argue in these figures (particularly with Eckstein and possibly Roosevelt), but you have to start somewhere, and this or something like it is what I expect the SPS staff will be using.

So, as you can see, the capacities don't work out so that you can track a straight one-for-one feeder between middle schools and high schools. With use of portables and lots of renovations/expansions I suppose such a feeder system could be made to work, but that would incur additional expenses and possibly create additional capacity, and neither of those choices will be attractive to staff who already see that aggregate capacity is sufficient.

Even supposing all the middle schools were close to equal size, and likewise for all the high schools, designating which middle school feeds which high school will be a messy political battle.

Whitman and Ballard are fairly close together, as are Eckstein and Roosevelt. Yet, if we take the supposed "logical" solution of having Whitman feed Ballard and Eckstein feed Roosevelt, then we incur the very illogical result of McClure feeding Ingraham and Hamilton feeding Nathan Hale. On the other hand, if Eckstein goes to Hale, then people who live between Eckstein and Roosevelt (which are only about a mile apart) would be bused out of the area for either middle or high school. As far as I can tell, there is no solution that everybody in the north end will consider reasonable and logical.

I could go on and on about the disparities in sizes and quirks imposed by the geographical arrangement of the schools, but I expect my point has been made already.

I am not at this point advocating for any specific ideas related to the assignment plan, particularly since another major unpredictable variable is what will the final closure plan look like, and what will people do in response to it. The landscape could look totally different a year or two from now.

If we wanted to have truly logical middle and high school reference areas and feeder plans north of downtown, then we would have to:

1) Make Jane Addams a comprehensive middle school.
2) Turn Broadview-Thompson back into a middle school.
3) Open a new comprehensive middle school in Queen Anne/Magnolia.
4) Either close Hamilton (newly renovated) or open Lincoln as a comprehensive high school.

Then we would get:
Eckstein --> Roosevelt
Addams --> Hale
Broadview-Thompson --> Ingraham
Whitman --> Ballard
McClure --> New QA/Magnolia HS
and maybe
Hamilton --> Lincoln

I think this particular idea would be dead-on-arrival though, as the Superintendent appears to be dead set on reducing capacity, in accordance with what the state auditor has recommended. This is also why Sand Point will not be reopened anytime soon; regardless of reality on the ground, the politics simply will not allow it. Also, one of the political elements that isn't usually mentioned here is that the legislature most likely is going to be thoroughly unimpressed with SPS saying we are short on money if the state auditor says we have too many buildings, too many staff, and we continue to have transportation costs close to double that of many other districts.

I suppose one workable idea (if SPS staff seemed to have any interest whatsoever in actually retaining Summit, which doesn't appear to be the case) might be to move Summit to the new Hamilton building when it reopens, discontinue Hamilton, and make Addams a comprehensive K-8, which would give the NE two middle schools located fairly close to their two respective high schools. Two objections immediately come to mind (but they may both be relatively minor): one is that it would mean moving the language immersion program, which was established at Hamilton partly because it is very close to JSIS; another is that some pretty extensive modifications have been made to Addams to serve Summit's specific requirements, and the new Hamilton building is most likely designed specifically with a middle school in mind. And since I just thought of this idea, I'm sure there are issues that haven't yet occured to me. But what do people think of it?

DISCLAIMER: This is all speculation and playing with maps and data on my part, and is an attempt to do some thought exercises to figure out reasonable ideas for solutions and reasonable estimates of what might happen, based on what SPS staff and the school board appear to be thinking (much as Charlie likes to do for the Central cluster and APP puzzle). It is not an attempt to say "this will happen" or to spread rumors of any sort.

Thank you.

sps grad and mom said...

Roy -
you've pretty much described the feeder pattern of the 70s, which was dismantled after mandantory busing. For the most part, neighborhoods kept either their middle school or high school. Hale open, Addams closed, Hamilton open, Lincoln closed, McClure open, QA closed - see the pattern? The strange geographical patterns we are now stuck with didn't matter, because if you were in your neighborhood for middle school you would be bussed across town for high school and vice versa.

Just shows that it's awfully hard to plan ahead.

adhoc said...

I don't know the entire city well enough to comment on Roy's suggestions, but I do know that in the NE it would make total sense to have Adamms become a traditional middle school and feed into Hale, and have Eckstein feed into Roosevelt.

Hamilton could be discontinued, and Summit could go into Hamilton. Summit which really does not have a pronounced or cohesive alternative philosophy could remain alternative but take on an international/global focus. This would give the JSIS students some continuity in their international studies. They could stay at Summit all the way through 12th grade or they could go to Summit for MS and then go to the IB program at Ingraham for HS. The international focus at Summit would also be a prefect fit for the ESL program currently housed at Hamilton.

Good suggestion Roy. I think you should post this on Harium's blog!!

TechyMom said...

I'm intrigued by the Montlake to Lowell move. From what I've heard, Montlake has a strong program with the sort of well-rounded curriculum I'm looking for. I've also heard good things about the principal.

Would the general ed program at Lowell be bigger than the one currently at Montlake, giving more seats in a "good" central program? If it would, then I think that many in Central would welcome this change, even if the Montlake neighborhood would not.
Would the distance tie-breaker for this year be based on distance to Lowell or to Montlake? I live closer to Lowell.

A school that would allow for my daughter to test into APP and not have to move after K is very appealing to me, though I think that if I live near enough to Lowell to get into its general ed program, she would be assigned to T. Marshall rather than Lowell. 4 or 5 years from now, T. Marshall's K program might be as good as Montlake/Lowell's, but I don't expect that it will be this year. Maybe it would make sense to assign Central families to the APP site closer to their house, rather than all to the same one?

As an aside, I totally understand the Montlake neighborhod's frustration. I wish my small, intimate, rapidly improving neighborhood school with a great principal (MLK) hadn't been closed either. But, the district doesn't really want neighborhood schools that serve what most Seattlites think of as neighborhoods (Montlake, Madison Valley, Madison Park, Miller Park, Judkins Park, etc). It wants large schools that serve several neighborhoods, and should really stop calling them neighborhood schools.

Central Mom said...

Tech Mom...I just posted this under the Specifics from Last Night thread at the front of this blog, where much of this this thread's discussion is moving forward...

As a Central Area parent, I can't help but agree w/ Mary Bass that the current proposed recommendations are hitting the Central District hard, and without much (any??) upside for families actually living in this cluster. If we're going to upset the apple cart, there must be a way to provide more benefits for families.

If Montlake closes (er, "moves"), that's the loss of a fantastic program and no matter what the district says, many in the community aren't going to buy a move to Lowell. That's going to leave the Central cluster with yet another (perceived) mediocre school choice and will cause a loss of more families in a district that can ill-afford it.

So...Here's another proposal that tips the apple cart even farther than what staff has been thinking so far. But it has some great benefits that I'm not seeing addressed in current plans. Get out your pencils, please. :-)

Tipping the Apple Cart:
Move the John Stanford International bilingual program from Latona, which is directly on the other side of the U Bridge from the Central District, into Lowell. Grandfather all current attendees, of course.

Benefit: Allows another quality program into the central district instead of a "leftover neighborhood kids" gen ed program at Lowell that no one here wants.

Benefit: The district walks the walk about improving access to programs. Right now, JSIS is a neighborhood school with enrollment largely limited to neighbors. If a bilingual program isn't alternative, what is? This is a perpetual nomenclature problem. Call the spade a spade...make it more accessible and give it room to grow, which the Lowell building would allow.

Benefit: Special needs kids stay in Lowell and now have access to a general ed program. In addition, this allows Lowell to be a much more socio-economically diverse school than what Montlake/North End APP would be.

Close Montlake due to its structural condition.

Making the Best of It Benefit: Keep the Montlake program intact (and keep families in the District) by putting it in a geographical reference school that makes a whole lot more sense than Lowell: Latona. Redraw the Central Cluster to include the Latona building. It's just as much as central location as a NW Cluster location and it's right over the U Bridge from the Montlake neighborhood. All Montlakians go to Latona as a fantastic and intact program. There will still be room for new families located near Latona, because the current JSIS students will all be grandfathered in.

This gives the district room to watch how a Montlake move and other Central changes might send some South Central Montlake attendees to JSIS at Lowell or Leschi or Thurgood Marshall, etc. and to see how neighborhood enrollment in Latona numbers change after the move. Staff can then have the breathing room to readdress enrollment boundaries and capacity by moving Green Lake and BF Day boundaries around during the new assignment planning phase. Both schools have capacity and they border the Latona district.

Continue w/ the planned SBOC move, and put APP North families into Old Hay. Instead of an East Central location, the cohort gets a West Central location. There's room for the program at Old Hay, plus enough room for it to grow and/or allow more neighborhood kids into a general ed program if demographics dictate it. The Old Hay building was a conditional closure anyhow, so I don't believe the district is losing much planned-on savings.

Commence your discussion!

Beth Bakeman said...

Wow, Central Mom! I'm not sure what I think of the ideas you suggest yet, but I'm impressed by your willingness to think broadly and creatively. In my opinion, this kind of thinking, whether it starts at the right place or not, gets us to better answers in the end.

reader said...

Lots of "threats". This (or that) will cause loads of people to go private. Ohhhh. So scary!


SolvayGirl:
they may as well go closer to home or to private or another District.

Central Mom:
the district stands to lose still more market share to families choosing private schools

K:
He would likely end up at our local HS, Shoreline or even private

Ms. D:
Hamilton, as is, is not a strong school nor is it in the NE. Families are not going to voluntarily send their kids there. They will go private.


I'm just wondering why people think the private schools are going to accept all their kids???? This is ridiculous. Private schools are already filled to the brim... with long waiting lists. Whatever SPS does, the private schools are not going to suddenly have some huge surge in capacity. There may be some shift in who get into to private school, and who does not... but the waiting lists and the enrollment are not going to change. There will be no extra room at private schools created by SPS policy. It might be a problem in the long run... when many new private schools may, possibly spring up. But for now, a private school exodus is nothing but an idle threat.

adhoc said...

Yes, Reader private schools are full......full of SPS families that is. Thirty five percent of Seattle families. And after we fill up the private schools we (myself included) fill up Shoreline Schools, and Mercer Island schools. If that doesn't work we move to the burbs and fill up their schools. Or, we home school. We are pretty creative when it comes to avoiding SPS.

Citizens are right to be concerned that with the districts continual chaos, and budget woes, even more families will leave the district. It's a pretty hefty chunk of market share that SPS just gives up.

momster said...

You're right, reader - there isn't infinite capacity in private school (or Shoreline or MI) - some will leave, but many actually come back when the reality of tuition and REALLY paying for everything hits.

When the district closed several schools in the 80's, there was a big dip in enrollment that was almost fully recovered in the following year.

See page 3 of 2010 Master Plan Exec Smry (circa 1989)

SolvayGirl1972 said...

Reader
We already left SPS for an excellent middle school. We bit the bullet, tightened our belts, and with help from grandparents and some financial aid took the plunge. We were planning to return to SPS next year for high school, but we'll have to wait and see what our options will be once this all plays out. We live in the southend so we don't have a lot of great choices to pick from. We'll do what it takes to get our child an education that will prepare her for a 4-year college and foster a life-long love of learning.

With this move, SPS has insured that many families will be committing to private schools since they won't know their public assignment until long after they have to sign a contract and plunk down a deposit.

And yes...the current number of independent slots is somewhat finite, but they will fill to the max with waitlists and, as Adhoc noted, so will out-of-district slots in Shoreline, Mercer Island and possibly even Renton. Many of us can't just sit back and let our child get a subpar education because the District isn't willing or able to create quality offerings all over the city. With this plan and the chaos surrounding it, the District just may need that additional homeschool resource center.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"I'd be surprised if the Bryant and Laurelhurst communities will tolerate lack of a music program during the day."

Tolerate? I'd bet there are a lot of parents in this district that wish they could use that word and believe it would have any impact. And what exactly would these parents do?

Roy, you are turning into Charlie Junior. Another busy brain. I get what you mean about Addams being a traditional middle school and having Eckstein in the south. That is a key problem; that both the middle schools are in the southern end of the district.

Closing Hamilton? A bit problematic if only because it functions well as a middle school. It's not failing or anywhere near it.

I had suggested - way back - that Summit move to Lincoln (and co-house with someone, I'd thought a k-8 APP, call me crazy). Summit had said they might be interested in being the international high school. Thus you would have created the trifecta of JSIS, Hamilton and Summit all together and about to collectively create a strong program.

Also, JSIS is a reference school for the area which is a complete oddity because yes, they are alternative and yes, it's a program many people would like access to but it fills from the neighborhood.

old salt said...

I was under the impression, mistaken evidently, that one of the main reasons for redesigning the assignment plan was to decrease transportation costs. I have heard discussions of smaller clusters, less choice, fewer all-city draws.

If we end up busing more kids who live in walk zones, then it can only increase transportation costs. So then what is the point of limiting choice?

I am also confused about feeder middle schools. Will it be based on current elementary school assignment or the elementary reference area in which you live? Considering that current assignments are based on a more vigorous system of choice, feeding from elementary assignments will cost transportation dollars.

Will the new assignment plan cost us more than the old one? Why is that a good thing? I would rather see those dollars in classrooms.

Roy Smith said...

Old salt, I think I can safely say that almost everything that we know about the new assignment plan is speculation and nothing else. The answers to your questions are anybody's guess. I've made a few guesses myself, but that's all they are.

The district published some guidelines for the direction the new assignment plan would move in, but as I recall, that document raised more questions than provided few answers.

Central Mom said...

Beth, thanks for the encouragement to think creatively. Here are some nitty gritty numbers for those who care to continue down this path of thinking w/ me:

SBOC is in an elementary building w/ a planning capacity of 483. Enrollment 229. You could pretty much move the whole APP

elementary cohort there and keep it together if the District wasn't bound and determined to make the split. But I digress. 1/2 the cohort could easily fit in the building w/ 1/2 the space still left for gen ed if/when needed. Aurora moves traffic just as well as I-5 does, maybe better. With APP at Old Hay, the temporary cross-cluster transportation to BF Day for QA/Mag can go away. As the parents have said many times, this was never a preferred excess capacity solution for their neighborhoods.

Suddenly, Lowell opens up again for a large gen ed program. The central cluster doesn't need another large gen ed program. Who

is going to buy into a new school there when Montlake folks are furious that their building is closed, Stevens folks don't want

to be moved, Eastlake rejects the idea that it as a "neighborhood" building and the TT Minor population wouldn't fill it and is

undersubscribing their current program as it is.

The planning capacity at Lowell is 484. The enrollment in the dual language immersion program at Latona is about 336 this year.

There are also about 30 special ed students there (I think). Put those 336 JSIS program folks at Lowell, give the current

Lowell medically fragile kids access to that gen ed program, and you can still grow one of the most popular grade school

options in the District by almost 100 kids. Does that not fit the District criteria of building on successful programs and

increasing both access to and diversity in those programs? It will fill up in a heartbeat. Moving it into true alternative

status will also save the District grief when they redraw the assignment boundaries. It simply can't keep calling JSIS at Latona a reference school vs. alternative w/ any credibility with an Alt School audit on the way and new reference school boundaries about to be drawn. Frankly, I've always thought the JSIS status is another legal grievance waiting to happen.

Latona's planning capacity is 355. Current Montlake enrollment is 237. Add back in the 30 special ed kids at Latona and at 267 kids in Latona, there's still room for Wallingford placement at Latona in 2009-10, even w/ the whole Montlake reference area pointed that direction. That's because most of the JSIS folks will choose to move to Lowell, not stay w/ their facility.

As the reference lines are redrawn, the 160 vacant seats at BF Day could be filled by the west side of the Latona area. There

are 60 open at Green Lake for the north side of the Latona reference area. That accounts for 220 of the 237 seats

taken by the Montlake move. Now go back to the Central cluster and slightly (instead of radically) shift boundary assignments

south. Give Lowell the same treatment as TOPS...alternative w/ 20 - 30 % incoming kindergarten seats reserved for closest

families by distance, and the District now has full capacity programs across the board...and good ones to boot.

Who would least-like this idea? The folks right around Latona, of course, but they get an excellent neighborhood program at

Latona and would not lose access to the JSIS program. It doesn't rip apart any existing cohorts (beyond the APP split that the District is pushing) keeps the medically fragile kids at Lowell if they wish to be there, and it is of benefit to multiple neighborhoods and undersubscribed programs. And if the District could make a special OK to put QA/Mag students cross cluster at BF Day, it can make a special amendment to have the Montlake/Latona reference area happen too.

TechyMom said...

Central Mom, I like it. I'd love to see JSIS in a more central location, and Central desperately needs a program that's exciting enough to parents to pull them from McGilvra and Stevens and TOPS. Some Montlake families would move to Latona with the school, some would likely choose the new JSIS.

The clusters were drawn 30 years ago based on the demographics of the times. I hope and expect that they will change with the new assignment plan. We need to get past thinking of those as immutable.

On the other hand, I actually think that the current plan of Montlake at Lowell will fill. Some Montlake families will go private. However, if the staff from Montlake moves intact, with its great principal and art and language classes, some Capitol Hill and Madison Valley families will choose it over private, or will list it as a 3rd or 4th choice and accept it as an assignment where they would not have accepted Madrona.

As to the "threats" of going private... Private schools have actually done a much better job than SPS of anticipating the current baby boom and adding capacity to meet that demand. Why is SPS closing schools when the number of children in the city is growing? It's not a capacity problem, it's a market share problem. It's marketing in the sense of bringing a product that the market wants, not just trying to sell the product you have. SPS is selling Fords. Seattle families want to buy Smarts. Bush is interested in buying the MLK building. If Bush thinks it can fill it, why couldn't SPS?

It's true that the most popular private schools will always have long waiting lists, as (right or wrong) the perception of exclusivity is part of their branding. But, there are many wonderful, smaller, less-known private schools that do have room. New ones are opening every day, and even some of the "name brand" schools are growing. I know a family who opted out of TT Minor at the last minute, and found a private school with a seat at 8am on the first day of school. My current favorite private school does admissions first-come-first-served, costs less than I'm currently paying for pre-K, and had several free seats for K last year. The privates in the north end may be full (or there may be similar small schools there that aren't), but there's room in private schools in other parts of the city and on the East Side, and private schools don't care where you live.

In addition, when you start talking about APP and Spectrum students leaving the district, these students will be admitted to any private school they apply to. Private schools are not squemish about recruiting gifted kids, or about serving their needs.

I don't consider the fact that I'm looking at both public and private to be a threat, just a statement of fact as a not-fully-satisfied customer who is aware of competing offers.

Dorothy said...

The test scores reflect the students who come to the building, not what the school does with them.


Truer words were never spoken.

adhoc said...

momster and Reader......doesn't 35% of SPS families in private school concern you? Private schools are full with wait lists while SPS is closing under enrolled schools. Doesn't that tell you something? A private company that loses 35% of it's market share works hard to win it back, but SPS just keeps on keepin on. They don't do exit interviews, they don't ask families what they would need to come back (or stay in) SPS, they let bad schools get worse, and good schools get so full you can't get in.

And on top of it all they are in constant turmoil and chaos. I have to sign one of my children up to middle school this year and one to high school. I live in the NE. My head is spinning. So many schools and communities are affected. I already have a son in a Shoreline school because there was no space in our local middle school (Eckstein), and the commute to Salmon Bay was outrageous.

SPS should be working hard to try to figure out why people leave the district, and find ways to attract them back. Seattle is second to only San Francisco in least amount of families with children living in the city. Should we let this get worse? Or try to attract families? We can start by working to improve our schools and their reputation?

I think we are moving in the right direction. I think this change has been long coming and I think that MGJ is the person to finally get the job done. But, she has a lot of ground to cover. Superintendents of the past let things go, and did nothing......for years and years. And, now it's happening...all at once.

I hope that in a few years after schools are closed, and the new assignment plan is in effect, things will finally calm, and the dust will settle. My eldest will be on his way out of SPS, but my youngest will be going to HS. I hope that we can have a few years of peace.

Syd said...

So, how do we split the baby (the APP programs)? Does Washington keep the music program and Hamilton get the Integrated 3 Math? Does Lowell keep the arts program? What happens to the Chess program?

I am completely demoralized by the public/private funding of schools. How is it going to be possible for 1/2 of the South End APP and the current Hawthorne population to raise the amount of money that Montlake/NE APP will be able to garner. Lowell will necessarily get all the PTA funded programs. The same goes for splitting the Middle School Program.

I'll tell you why South End parents don't want to go to school down here, and choose instead to bus to the NE. It is the disparity in funding. Beacon Hill, when we there 2000 -2003, could hope for maybe 15,000 to 20,000 in fundraising per year. It is similar now for Graham Hill where our kindergartner is attending. That really does not pay for a lot of extras. The information I get from parents with children in Magnolia and Montlake and a few others is that they raise in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. That pays for extra teachers, music and art, and a whole host of opportunities in the North End schools.

I can afford to give more than many of my neighbors, but one or even a handful of families is not enough to make up for the fact that most of the families who attend school in the SE do not have that money. It is not that they don't care; they just don't have the money. This lack of funding, leads to lack of programs, leads to many parents not choosing SE schools. How do we get out of this cycle?

We don't really have a Seattle public school system. We have a privately funded NE school district, and a public SE district.

momster said...

adhoc - 35% doesn't concern me because it's never been 35% - where are you getting that number?

momster said...

Syd - ask Charlie about compensatory funding (which dwarfs anything almost any PTA could raise)

in 2006, the Rainier View principal told one of the Superintendent's blue ribbon committee making district finance recommendations that it wasn't money she needed - it was parent involvement.

Which is probably still true - with different cultural expectations about how parents should interact with school; single parent and extended families; high poverty; etc - and it can't be made up by the many social service organizations that contribute mightily to the south end, including Powerful Schools and more.

You should check out $ per student spending by school from all sources - I don't have a recent cite but the Seattle PI has had some and so has the city-level PTA.

zb said...

"Syd - ask Charlie about compensatory funding (which dwarfs anything almost any PTA could raise)"

Compensatory funding is compensatory. I'm going to say this every single time, because equating the fund- raising funding of "rich" schools with the Title 1 funding of the socioeconomically disadvantaged schools is equating needs and extras.

And, I agree with Syd that we're in real danger of developing a private system within a public system. As a taxpayer, I'm happy to contribute to education, but not to subsidizing private education (and that applies to vouchers as well as schools that do substantial fundraising). It's also unusual, to allow schools to do private fundraising and then keep all the money within a public system.

zb said...

And I see the "market share" argument as an extension of the same thing -- people trying to build their own private system within the public system (give me everything I want and I'll stay).

The private schools in Seattle (the popular ones) cost around 20K per year (including tuition & recommended donations). SPS spends something like 12K. Private schools sell you more, and people pay for it. The public, taxpayer funded system isn't going to offer the same level of service as the more expensive private system. That means some people who can afford to pay are going to go.

The taxpayer supported endeavor should be to provide a solid education to all the students in SPS, not a private school for the subset of families that might leave for the private system otherwise.

hschinske said...

The funding disparity is very much on APP parents' minds, and several creative solutions have been proposed to keep the two programs/two schools at parity. I think they'll make it work okay.

Helen Schinske

Syd said...

What are those ideas to keep parity between split APP programs?

I have to agree that Title One in no way creates parity of programs with private funding of wealthier public schools.

Melissa Westbrook said...

And it's even worse when schools are allowed to use school property to make a profit for their PTA (renting school grounds for people to park on). I thought this issue had been resolved (and I had asked - long ago - if schools were allowed to do this and I was told no) and yet I see from one of the schools on the closure list that it still occurs.

TechyMom said...

I've heard the 35% number many times, but I'm not sure of the source. I do know that when MLK was writing the program placement form for the Montessori program, they sited a district number that 67% (or was it 69%?) of students in its reference area were in private school. 10-15% is typical in most districts. The fact that it is so high tells me we're *doing it wrong*.

Market share is a measure of success. Comparing our market share to that of districts with similar size and demographics seems like a very good piece of data, as does looking at trends in that market share.

Oh, and very few of the private schools are that expensive. 12-14K is much more typical. There are about as many above 14K as there are below 12K. 10-12K is about what daycare costs for a preschooler, so for families with kids entering K (who don't have a stay-at-home parent), this is a continuation of an expense they've been paying for several years.

Here's the part that I'm having a hard time with... Why wouldn't you want kids who can't afford private school to have at least a somewhat comparable curriculum and set of pedagogical choices? Why should finding a good fit be an option only open to those with money? How is that fair? I honestly can't beleive that science in every grade is considered to be "extra" by this district. Science! In this technology-driven town. How is it fair that only families with money get science before middle school? Or language at the optimal time in brain development for learning it? It's not "give me everything I want". It's "give me a basic eduction, which includes art, music, language as young as possible, science in every grade, acceration for those who need it and remediation for those who need that, and fund it for every kid." How is that building a private system within the public? What other measure of success should we be using besides market share? I'm not being argumentative here (though I probably sound like it), I just really don't understand the argument. zb, can you help me out here?

Roy Smith said...

The 35% figure for number of students in private schools may be accurate in some neighborhoods, but for the district as a whole, the numbers I have heard were in the 15-25% range.

That is still high, but what is worse is that my feeling is that SPS doesn't really have an accurate idea of what the real number really is. It's hard to fight for market share if you don't even understand what the market is . . .

hschinske said...

How many *non-religious* private schools are there that are anything like $12,000 a year? And how many are that little ("little" being a relative term -- I certainly couldn't afford that) at the high school level?

Incidentally, I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of people turn out to have been financing private school by taking equity out of their houses ... and you can imagine how that's going to end up in this economic climate.

Helen Schinske

momster said...

Roy - I believe the only time the district can accurately calculate SPS enrollment vs total K-12 population by reference area (which is what it would take to get data that were really worthwhile) is at census time (i.e., once/decade).

Even then, to analyze that snapshot and/or forecast between census dates would require district admin staff - something everyone always seems to want to cut.

Ditto any marketing analysis, public relations work, etc.

Central Mom/ad hoc - a market share analysis by reference area was just posted by Beth and Melissa on this blog. Unfortunately it doesn't have a total for the district or by cluster, but it's easy to see that the weighted avg is not 35% - so best not to use that number for the district as a whole.

adhoc said...

I didn't see that post Momster, what was the weighted average?

I have heard some clusters are as low as 10-15% private, but others like NE Seattle and parts of the Central cluster as high as 65% private.

And on top of those private school families you have.....

Home school families (numbers are rising rapidly).

Families that go out of district to Shoreline, Renton and Mercer Island.

Families that choose online course work for High school, or other alternate learning sources.

And you can't even count the number of families who simply move to the burbs, or neighbor districts, for better schools when they have kids.

All together it's a big chunk of families that opt out of SPS, and it's a shame.

All I'm saying is we should find out why. Take a survey. Do exit interviews. Ask families what they want or need to stay in SPS.

This "don't let the door hit you in the a** on your way out" mentality is just plain wrong. We should be working hard to be a world class district, that is attractive to families, not one that people run from.

Tamara said...

I'm a parent at JSIS and Hamilton. I think establishing APP at Hamilton could be great. We live at the very south end of Maple Leaf, and looked at Eckstein, Hamilton and Washington APP for middle school. We decided that the language component and international focus was most important to us and enrolled our son at Hamilton.

I understand why some people might not like the idea of splitting the APP program into 2 programs, but I think that offering that option in more than one location will be great for the city. I know that we were not the only JSIS family nor the only Northend family that chose not to go to Washington APP although our student qualified. So when calculating who might attend the Hamilton APP, we need to think about people for whom location made a difference, not just those who are currently enrolled. My understanding is that the district knows who is currently enrolled in APP, and who qualified last year, but not who qualified 2 years or more before but did not enroll in APP.

Hamilton's new building will be ready September 2010, and many of us who watched JSIS' growth (more neighborhood students, fewer free and reduced lunch students, fewer kids of color) are anticipating a similar shift in the make-up of the Hamilton population. Even without APP, I think the swanky new building is going to be of interest to families at Greenlake, Bagley and other nearby schools that have more often chosen Eckstein. If APP is also part of the program, I'd anticipate that to be a draw as well.

My concern is that integrating APP and the International Program in one building at Hamilton is done well. We at Hamilton feel that the language component (both immersion and traditional) are important, and so is the international focus. I think that the international focus can be integrated into APP curriculum without too much trouble.

We at Hamilton would love to have music during the day, but when we didn't have the funding ($150k/year?) we couldn't continue the 8 period day. We had already chosen language, so the music program had to become an afterschool activity. We do have an activity bus, but there are days at the start and end of each quarter when the bus is not provided.

I have spoken to some APP parents who have said that for APP students who aren't interested in music, the program doesn't offer as many electives as they'd like. I'm hopeful that language would be of interest to those students. A friend of mine suggested that it would be great if the programs were APP Music and APP Language, instead of North and South, but that wouldn't solve the transportation problem.

I think Hamilton would expect that in adding APP to the school that our current program wouldn't be exactly the same, and that we'd need to keep in mind the core principles that are important to International Education, and be willing to imagine some changes or compromises. I'm hoping that APP would come to the table with a similarly flexible and positive attitude.

The other concern I have is for our current 6th and 7th graders who don't live in the immediate area. I hope that they and their transportation are grandfathered in for the next 2 years.

Tamara said...

adhoc said...

"The JSIS students take about 55 seats at Hamilton as they get assignment preference to continue their immersion studies."

JSIS students can get assigned to Hamilton to continue immersion studies, but in the past 4 years it's something like 35 kids who go to Hamilton from JSIS, for a variety of different reasons.

Also, some of those kids qualify for APP, and a most of them are from the area, so there would be some overlap in categories. I agree that Hamilton could accommodate the north half of the APP program, but not the whole thing. I also think that bringing in the whole program would make it much more difficult to integrate with Hamilton.