Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Reports on Public Hearings from Tuesday

Open thread for people to post on their experiences at any of the three public hearings on Tuesday: Genesee Hill, Mann and Old Hay.

4 comments:

Maureen said...

I went to a meeting at Montlake last night. As far as I could see, this was the only hearing they will get. The only District rep was Montlake's education director (Patrick Johnson I believe), and he had to ask people to write most of their questions on cards to take to the capacity people. He had a standard powerpoint and was tasked with breaking the group down into small groups and collecting their comments (that didn't happen though).

Will the meeting at Lowell on Thursday be the real meeting for Montlake since Lowell is potentially off the table and replaced by Montlake (splitting programs doesn't rate a meeting)? Are Montlake people signed up to testify at that meeting or just APP people?

I won't report on the meeting because I was there more as an observer and moral support--I don't have kids at Montlake.

Roy Smith said...

I don't think the Montlake meeting last night could be considered a "public hearing" for purposes of fulfilling SPS's obligation under state law to provide a public hearing for a building closure - it certainly hasn't been advertised as such, so I'd be a little surprised if SPS tried to rely on it to say they fulfilled their obligations. If they did, I would expect litigation.

Beth Bakeman said...

Two things are happening simultaneously this week: 1) public hearings at buildings slated for closure (required by state law) and program meetings, being held at buildings where programs are proposed for closure.

The district website says that after final recommendations on January 6th, any buildings proposed for closure that didn't get a public hearing in December will get one scheduled in January. That could apply to Montlake or Aki Kurose or others discussed in the latest round of suggestions from the district.

Moose said...

I can post a report on the meeting held at Old Hay (SBOC).

Directors DeBell and Maier were present. There were maybe 15-18 speakers for the evening -- some were teachers at the SBOC, some were volunteers at the school, two represented non-profits working with displaced or refugee communities, and a few were parents of kids in the QA/Magnolia cluster.

Every single speaker -- every single one -- spoke to the need of SPS to honor the commitments made to SBOC in 2006. A previous school board committed $10 million for a new building which would be more centrally located for the student population. There was also to be an audit of the program to ensure that the program is properly meeting the needs of the student population.

To date, the audit has not been completed, though I understand that a preliminary recommendation was made to not co-locate the program. Further, the school obviously has remained in Queen Anne, despite promises to move it closer to where the majority of these students reside.

Every speaker articulated the same point -- keep SBOC at Old Hay until the audit is complete, and do not co-locate the program with another school. These kids are some of the most vulnerable in our school system; the point was made over and over (in a variety of ways) that these children are not just learning English, but are also learning to negotiate a culture. It was reported by teachers that co-location might be both distracting and damaging to the safe haven that this program tries to provide. Further, the argument was made that it doesn't make sense to move a program before the audit is complete; the District should make sure they know what direction the program needs to go in (if any) before they displace this group of students. There were many pleas not to shove bi-lingual kids into a corner (again).

I want to also add (a bit off topic) that QA and Magnolia elementary schools are bursting at the seams. There simply will not be enough seats in the cluster to accommodate the number of kids coming in to the system and it is very likely that some families will be assigned to schools out of the neighborhood. However (and pardon me for bragging here a bit), there has never been an attempt by this cluster to throw this or any school "under the bus". The parents from QA/Magnolia who spoke last night said, "We need a new elementary school in this cluster, but the capacity issue cannot be solved at the expense of these vulnerable kids."

The cohesion and consistency of the message was moving. But sadly, I am not sure that it will change the outcome for SBOC. I spoke with Director Maier after the meeting officially broke up, and he said that shuttering a school saves a whole lot of money -- even if it remains closed for only one year.