Tuesday, December 16, 2008

KUOW and School Closures

Well, I got halfway through the KUOW show on school closures and thought "what a snoozefest". I'm sorry but Dr. Goodloe-Johnson repeats everything she's ever said before on a subject and man, can she stay on point.

And, for whatever reason, KUOW has decided more is better and they end up with very little outside voice (via phone or e-mail). They had Michael DeBell (in studio) with Jesse Hagopian (a teacher and activist), Dr. G-J (via phone) and another teacher (forgive me, I didn't get his name) from RBHS.

Michael answered questions about the upcoming enrollment period for students and said although the enrollment placements will be mailed out in early May, previously the district did have them go out in early May and it's not really much later now.

He was asked if the Board is guiding the process and he said, "we don't guide the process."

Steve Scher, the host, touched on the issue of Arbor Heights e-mails that came to light (plus the KUOW interview with PTA members) that indicate that AH felt the need to find a "sacrificial lamb". Michael said it had not been the Board or staff's intention to pit schools against each other.

Jesse said the closure of Viewlands seemed odd given the district's worry over lack of capacity in the North. Michael clarified that the lack of capacity is in the NE and QA/Magnolia.

Dr. Goodloe-Johnson explained that we would save money both on the capital side and operating side. She also mentioned revenues coming from more enrollment (they must be seeing a trend to feel hopeful about this) and also from "e-rate"? some kind of Special Ed that they get money for.

Michael said that in the last round of closures the directive was for 11 and only 7 got closed so "we're trying to finish the process". So does that mean 4?

There was discussion about why RBHS seems to be off the table. Dr. G-J said that the high school option is "extremely complicated" and a new assignment plan with predictability would help. She was asked if Center School might close this year and she said, "Everything is on the table." Michael said that he agrees with Dr. G-J about delaying any decisions on high schools. He said Center School is a good "alternative" school with arts connections and is centrally located which is good for a citywide draw. So Steve Scher asked why that didn't apply to Summit (but maybe because, he said, it is a K-12?). Michael said Summit had been in a difficult location for an all-city draw (as if they had a choice) and that it's a special case and there are "still options" such as co-locating them with RBHS or having them be K-8 at Meany.

Center School is NOT an alternative school and never has been. They are a non-traditional school (and Center asked to be assigned without the distance tiebreakerso they could draw more all-city). But Center is moving more and more towards being an alternative school (albeit using more traditional teaching than Nova).

KUOW managed to get ONE whole phone call in (no e-mails). A Cooper teacher asked, very clearly, how their students, mostly of color and low-income in a program that does better than other schools they may get dispersed to if Cooper closes, are being served by their building closing? You never heard such dancing around a question. (And I hate that no one hosting ever calls them on not answering the question.)

Michael said it was "troubling" that there is so much extra capacity across so many schools. The teacher asked how it was fair that none of the Cooper people went to the work sessions because they weren't on the original list. Dr. G-J's answer was totally in another direction; to wit, that this teacher (and others) could be part of the "design team" that would help manage the move and "duplicate" the good things at Cooper at other schools.

I'm going to stop here and say whaaaat? This teacher wants to know how her students are being better served by going to programs not doing as well as Cooper's and, as well, how their parents can fight back if they didn't even go to the work sessions and Dr. G-J asks the teacher to help design how good ideas from Cooper can migrate elsewhere? Gee, thanks for acknowledging that Cooper is doing pretty well but now, let's take it elsewhere. It almost sounds like the rationale for moving APP around so it gets spread out.

I thought that was took a lot of chutzpah on the part of the Superintendent to (1) not answer the question and (2) make it sound like a good thing to be on a design team for a closing program. (Sorry, but I HATE non-answers. If you think school closures are a good idea, then you need to squarely answer a question. I feel irritated because the CAC used the rationale that students were going to get good or better schools than they were at and I guess that's not the case this time around.)

They barely talked to Dick Lily, former school board member who writes for Crosscut.com who would have been a great person to talk to further.

A big disappointment in terms of getting any good answers or information.

22 comments:

Keepin'On said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Keepin'On said...

Wrote a too long comment above.

I just have a question -

Did they say anything to address when they are going to make public the reference area boundary changes? I ask because, Whitman parents were told that the proposed new line for the Northern reference area for Ballard high School is 67th st (which is the street boundary for the school itself) I hope this is preliminary, but am concerned that this is the Board and Superintendent's plan to address the capacity issue for Queen Anne and Magnolia - by letting them have Ballard High School, and denying it to Ballard Residents.

I looked on the website but can't find anything. Does anyone have information on this?

Thanks.

Michael Rice said...

Hello

The teacher from Rainier Beach was Mark Epstein.

AutismMom said...

She also mentioned revenues coming from more enrollment (they must be seeing a trend to feel hopeful about this) and also from "e-rate"? some kind of Special Ed that they get money for.

It's not "e-rate"... it's "safety net" special education funding. That is the state's legistlated mechanism to fund the cost of high needs students.

History and data. The district gets a flat rate for special education students, (basic education allocation + special education excess). For expensive students, the district is supposed to
1) use up all the money sent to it for special education students, including their BEA's AND
2) prove the student is expensive, AND
3) apply for and use the state's "safety net".

Seattle went for at least a decade without ever bothering to file for "safety net" funding. It could NOT account for it's special education money, and so never bothered to file or apply. That cost the district millions per year. Instead, they tried not to spend anything. Then, they tried to support a lawsuit against the state by other districts, begging for more special ed funding. (they lost because they weren't using the money already being sent).

So, it's good that they're now at least being accountable and bothering to file for "safety net" special education funding. But, they still seem to be not getting very much.

Lara said...

Why must Maria Goodloe-Johnson be so cold? The cold, distant attitude might be okay if you're making strong, clear choices that are smart and logical. But this enormous and complicated proposal, coupled with the utter disregard for public opinion (public hearings are merely "required by law") just makes her seem downright mean. Is she really this callous?

At least if she was doing it out of warmth and compassion - a sort of "tough love" approach - then we might be willing to put some trust in her. But there's not a word about how this will benefit the kids - only the budget. She claimed at a board meeting that this closure process is not fun. I suspect her job will never be fun if she keeps throwing Seattle's kids around like trash in a dumpster.

Roy Smith said...

I seem to recall that Dr. G-J had a reputation for disregarding public input when she was in Charleston, as well. This was discussed on this blog somewhat when she first came to Seattle.

With regard to the Ballard reference area, it wouldn't surprise me at all if anybody north of Ballard HS finds that they are in the Ingraham HS reference area. I'm not saying that this is the right choice; just that if you sit down with maps and enrollment and demographic data such as can be found here, and attempt to draw reference areas that are right-sized and contiguous, you end up with something that resembles what the Whitman parents were apparently told.

This is purely a guess on my part (I have no inside information), but my guess is that Magnolia ends up in the Ballard HS reference area, Queen Anne ends up in the Roosevelt reference area, and the areas immediately north of those schools find themselves in the reference areas for Ingraham HS and Nathan Hale HS, respectively. I may be wrong, but I've played with this problem on a couple of different occasions, and I couldn't figure out anything else that made sense, unless one does a non-contiguous reference area that puts Magnolia and/or Queen Anne in Ingraham High School's reference area.

I agree completely with the observation Melissa has made several times: the battles over how the reference areas are drawn will make the current disputes over school closures look like a polite and pleasant tea party.

Keepin'On said...

Thank you Roy. I think you may be right, but the last proposed line I saw was drawn on 80th.

kind of the district twisting the knife a little bit further to move the line to the school parking lot don't you think?

I guess the next few months will be pretty ugly. It would be nice if the QA/MAG and Ballard parents could work together proactively to come up with a different solution before all this starts.

beansa said...

Is it true that Dr. G-J said that the public hearings are not for input into the closure process?

What are the hearings then, are they just a legal formality? Is there some other way that we should be inputting our input so that it will be considered?

WS said...

Beansa, I reported that on our site after taking notes during the second half of the show, and that is precisely what she said (I'm a 30-year veteran journalist, if that helps enhance believability). The exact words were, it's not about input, it's about a chance to voice opinion - she likened them to the start of school-board meetings when people get the chance to speak out about whatever. In other words, these hearings are for venting but not for deciding. (And plenty of the former happened at Genesee Hill tonight; I'm working on that report.) Here's my writeup re: that half of the radio show.

WS said...

Rereading that, I should say "input" and "opinion" were her exact words, not the rest of that sentence in my preceding comment, sorry.

Charlie Mas said...

Ah, yes, continuing the long-standing Seattle tradition of public hearings that are neither public nor heard.

Charlie Mas said...

I don't think that you should presume that the detatched tone of the superintendent's voice indicates an absence of feeling.

I have observed her in a number of settings now, and I have seen her stay resolutely on track. She goes into these situations - and, I suspect, every situation - with a well-defined purpose and she focuses very tightly on that purpose. So, for example, if her purpose for the radio show was to deliver a message about the closures then that was what she was going to do. She therefore maintains a rather grim focus on that purpose and pursues it with a single-mindedness that is close to the edge of the human range.

If you go into a meeting with her you can bet that she will have a well-defined purpose for that meeting and that she will pursue that purpose with a rigid discipline. It's a remarkable talent that can, at times, make her resemble an automaton.

She's not unfeeling, just really, really focused on her purpose. She never goes off message, she never takes a step off the straight line path from where she is to what she's trying to accomplish. The goal, ironically, is quite often determined by some very strong feelings. I have the sense, for example, that she is passionate about education, particularly issues of equity, opportunity, and advancement for all students. It seems to me that her passions determine her targets, but she doesn't let her passions interfere with her pursuit of those targets.

This is, of course, only my guess about her perspective and motivations based on my observations and a LOT of conjecture. In communications we work towards empathy to see beyond the other person's words to their true goals and needs. It requires a lot of guesswork and a sort of trial and error process - like checking a stack of puzzle pieces to try to find the one that fits.

This is, for the moment, the most plausible story I can tell. This story is consistent with my observations. If I find later that it doesn't fit after all, I'll try another.

You can make up your own stories about how a person learns to be so disciplined. It reminds me of salesmen who follow the ABC rule: Always Be Closing. You may not always be closing for a sale, maybe it's just for an appointment or to relate a feature, but always know your goal for the communication and work relentlessly towards that goal.

When I next meet with her I will test it out a bit. Early in the meeting I will ask her straight out for her goals for the meeting. I bet she has some, knows them, and that she will be direct about disclosing them. I also believe that if I am willing to address her goals for the meeting directly and efficiently she will be amenable to addressing my goals for the meeting if I list them clearly for her. I will bet that she would be pleased by that style of communication and it would help me get another meeting in the future if I need one.

It's just an idea. I will continue to test this model and refine it or - if it's proven wrong - replace it.

Dorothy said...

WS is exactly correct on the radio message from Dr G-J that the public meetings are for opinion and not input. I noticed that as well.

As for right-sizing High Schools, if Roy is correct and QA gets Roosevelt then Roosevelt is also going to see many kids living south of RHS assigned to Hale (probably will anyway). So Ballard's potential boundary at the parking lot situation is not unique. It's looking like kids directly south of Eckstein may be going to Hamilton.

How about eminent domain and we evict those condos from QA HS? :) :)

Charlie Mas said...

How about we put Summit K-12 and a 1,000 seat comprehensive high school at Lincoln?

Keepin'On said...

Because using Lincoln would make sense, and we can't have that.

Dorothy said...

How about we put Summit K-12 and a 1,000 seat comprehensive high school at Lincoln?

I didn't suggest that smart idea because it's so obvious, but it sure seems like pigs are gonna fly before the district agrees. Figured I would throw in some wacko alternative for a little levity. (get it? levity? Sorry, can't help it, I think I have cabin fever.)

Roy Smith said...

I took a look at this map which shows high school walk zones and high school student populations in different areas and had another fit of busy brain trying to come up with logical reference areas.

It actually wasn't as hard as I thought to make something that seems to work.

It would be easier to describe in a picture, but as I don't have one I can post anywhere, I will do so with words. If one looks at the map while reading this description it should be reasonably clear.

Hypothetical reference areas:
1) Ingraham: All of Ingraham's walk zone and the No-walk zone between Ingraham and Ballard.
Total Students: 1072
Planning Capacity: 1342

2) Ballard: All of Ballard's walk zone, excluding the portions which are also in Roosevelt's walk zone, plus the sliver of Wallingford that is a No-walk zone closest to Ballard.
Total Students: 1505
Planning Capacity: 1554

3) Nathan Hale: All of Nathan Hale's walk zone excluding the portions in Ingraham's walk zone, and the No-walk areas encompassing Sand Point and Laurelhurst.
Total Students: 1375
Planning Capacity: 1420

4) Roosevelt: All of Roosevelt's walk zone excluding the portions that are in Nathan Hale's walk zone, plus Queen Anne and Magnolia.
Total Students: 1641
Planning Capacity: 1741

5) Garfield: The No-walk zone nearest Garfield, the Garfield walk zone designated "Nearest Garfield (644 can walk to Garfield)", and about the northern 2/3 of the Garfield walk zone designated "Nearest Garfield (536 can walk to Garfield or Franklin)".
Total Students: 1248
Planning Capacity: 1650
This leaves about 400 seats for APP.

6) Franklin: All of the remaining areas in the Franklin walk zone that are not assigned to Garfield above or in the Cleveland walk zone.
Total Students: 1708
Planning Capacity: 1708

7) Rainier Beach: All of the Rainier Beach walk zone, plus about the southern 3/4 of the No-walk area nearest Rainier Beach.
Total Students: 1350
Planning Capacity: 1350

8) Cleveland: All of the Cleveland walk zone, the No-walk areas closest to Cleveland and Sealth, and the northern 1/4 of the No-walk area nearest Rainier Beach.
Total Students: 1004
Planning Capacity: 1000

9) Sealth: All of the Sealth walk zone excluding the areas in the West Seattle walk zone.
Total Students: 1426
Planning Capacity: 1397

10) West Seattle: All of the remaining areas of west Seattle not included in the Sealth reference area.
Total Students: 598
Planning Capacity: 1417

Odd Spots, Potential Controversies, Questions, and Random Observations:
1) Queen Anne and Magnolia don't get Ballard. I don't know if Roosevelt would be acceptable to them instead, or not.

2) Areas fairly close to (northwest of) Nathan Hale end up at Ingraham, and areas fairly close to (north of) Roosevelt end up at Hale. This may cause some heartache. Sand Point and Laurelhurst almost certainly won't care for being in Hale's reference area.

3) Is 400 about the right number for high school APP?

4) Does anybody know why the walk zones for Cleveland and Rainier Beach are 1 mile, and not 2.5 miles, like they are for the other schools?

5) The only schools with any appreciable spare capacity would be West Seattle and Ingraham.

6) This works assuming a static population distribution. Since this is actually not the case because we are studying a dynamic population distribution, the Roosevelt reference area is most likely problematic looking forward. As families either move into the reference area to take advantage of a guaranteed seat, or decide to go reenter the public system from private, the Roosevelt reference area likely will be overloaded, and will need to be redrawn smaller. As a result, Magnolia and possibly Queen Anne would end up getting left out in the cold, again.

7) West Seattle High School ends up less than half full.

8) If a plan like this were adopted, and everybody attended their reference area high school, SPS would need to provide transportation (i.e., metro passes, which, as far as I know, SPS does still have to pay for) for less than 25% of high school students. If the Cleveland and Rainier Beach walk zones were 2.5 miles, it would take that number down to less than 15%.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Roy, that Roosevelt number is one I have NEVER seen before until the last work session (I had wondered why DeBell was saying Roosevelt wasn't overenrolled.) But look, when a school is rebuilt they write down, "being renovated for a capacity of X", well, X for Roosevelt was 1600. Is that a fire marshall number? I don't know. What I do know is that we were at about 1740 last year and could not handle it. We are down to 1680 and I think RHS should be between 1640-50, tops. You just lose too much if you stuff kids in. So, I'd be wary of these numbers that are getting thrown around by the district.

Roy Smith said...

Melissa, I agree with your point on the Roosevelt numbers, but I was attempting to use a consistent data set. Ironically, even though I took the 1741 number at face value, you will notice that my proposal actual only puts 1641 in the building, so even if we adjust the capacity number in that case, it still basically works. For those who are interested, the capacity numbers come from Appendix 3 of this report. The same caveat probably regarding capacity numbers probably applies to some of the other schools, not just Roosevelt.

My intention when I do that sort of exercise is not to come up with a perfect answer, it is to try and come up with plausible ideas of what the reference areas might end up looking like, and perhaps stimulate some discussion that might actually create useful ideas, or at least realistically define what the problem areas are likely to be.

In this particular case, I think the most glaring problem area is still Queen Anne/Magnolia (no surprise there, I think), for the long term reasons I mentioned in my previous comment, but given that the district has about 900 excess high school seats across the district, those who are calling for a new comprehensive high school to be established in Lincoln really have their work cut out for them with regards to persuading SPS that it makes sense.

Maureen said...

Roy, for purely SELFISH reasons, I LOVE this analysis and I want you to ship it off to Tracy Libros immediately!

Ok, back to public-spirited-maureen: what about the (undefined)% set asides for choice seats? For Roosevelt if 20% of the seats were open for choice, something like 320 seats are off the table. But how does this work in practice? What if ALL of the RHS ref kids want to stay at RHS and 100% of the RBHS ref kids want to go somewhere else?

You couldn't pay me enough to do Tracy Libros' job!

SolvayGirl1972 said...

As someone who lives about 2 miles from RBHS, I would consider sending me daughter there under two conditions:

1. A change of the administrative staff. Though the principal has proven to be great in bringing the kids that are there up top standard, he has done little to reduce the safety issues at the school. I doubt if any parent would be thrilled to send their child to a school where there were two rapes on campus (one in June, one the following September) plus numerous fights.

AND

2. Choice was restricted enough that I could be confident that hundreds of my neighbors would be attending the school as well. As we have all discussed on this blog, it takes a critical mass to make a difference in a school. If I knew that all of the kids who are at other middle schools and high schools other than RBHS and Aki would end up at RBHS, I'd be there with them.

If the new assignment plan is, to quote Captin Jack Sparrow, "just guidelines" then why bother? Right-size the reference areas. Keep some alternatives for those who need to learn outside the box. Eliminate grandfathering and sibling preference. Insure that all schools offer an equitable degree of course offerings and rigor, And, to make all of this happen, do away with site-based management.

I think PTAs can add in benefits and that school communities can lobby for additional and/or after/before school offerings. If all schools are full and reflect their neighborhoods, most will have a diverse population to help them achieve these things. For the few neighborhoods who might still find themselves with overly high FRL populations, partner them with schools like McGilvra which will undoubtedly have a very low FRL.

Pipe dreams I know...but "if you don't have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?"

Charlie Mas said...

Roy, the walk zones for Cleveland and Rainier Beach were reduced as part of the Southeast Initiative - to give more students transportation to the schools. This reduction in the walk zones, however, was done temporarily and its continuation is strictly contingent on a 10% increase in enrollment from the new transportation area. Last year they didn't get that increase and should have ended the exception, but instead they decided to pretend that it only started this year (as with the rest of the Southeast Initiative and all of the accountability associated with it).

Please remember that the student count includes ALL SPS high school students, not just the ones at the ten comprehensive high schools. These counts do not include the students at NOVA, The Center School, Summit, or any of the 12% of Seattle's high school students who attend safety-net alternatives.

That means that even without NOVA, Summit and The Center School, Roy's plan will leave over 10% of the space available for choice - presuming we continue to have 12% of our students at John Marshall, South Lake, Interagency, or the Middle Colleges.