TO: Seattle School Board members
FROM: Board of Directors, Community & Parents for Public Schools of Seattle
Date: January 23, 2009
RE: The Superintendent's Final Recommendations to the Seattle School Board
Thank you for your community service and willingness to lead as board members during very difficult times. We appreciate that your decisions impact the lives of thousands of children and parents. Now that Seattle Public Schools’ closure/consolidation process is in your hands, parents and community members are relying on you to make tough decisions that will provide for financial stability in our school system, and sensitive decisions that will enable our communities to improve and thrive in the wake of change.
Two months ago, in a Seattle Post-Intelligencer opinion column, Community & Parents for Public Schools of Seattle (CPPS) emphasized our need for a closure plan that is more than a money-saving strategy. We called on district leadership to make direct connections to a larger plan for student achievement, attention to quality across the district, and a policy on neighborhood schools that would reassure families about their access to quality teachers and appropriate curricula.
While some rhetoric has been directed at the idea of “quality schools,” our requests have not been addressed. In fact, where the plan is surest to bring about family and community disruption, it offers only vaguely defined promises of future school or program success in return.
CPPS believes that district leaders have confused community input with community engagement. While the district has solicited input in a variety of ways, too often the input process has pitted neighbors and school communities against each other rather than encourage the kinds of problem-solving that creates community-wide buy-in.
Community buy-in is key to successful educational programs and a vital benefit to leaders who seek to build high functioning schools. Without consideration of community dynamics alongside measures of building capacity or quality, and without identifying and planning improvements for displaced families, you should not be surprised to experience enrollment losses, unanticipated shifts in choice patterns and declines in support for public schools.
CPPS exhorts you to make decisions that will restore community confidence in our school system. It is unconscionable for our district leaders to destabilize programs and derail community efforts without the context of well-defined plans for student assignment, program development, demographic changes, educational restructuring or community buy-in.
We want you to lead. We need your smart and sensitive leadership to honor our communities by advocating for thoughtful, appropriate solutions to capacity and quality needs rather than crisis-motivated impulses. As you deliberate the plan in front of you, we ask you to approve closures that can be defended by, and connected to, a plan for quality schools and programs and is not simply a fiscal exercise.
We ask you to have the courage to defer those decisions that require more study, more community input and that will not yield community improvements or have not been fully developed. We have heard you say that you want to plan for the long-term; we believe long-term planning requires more parent and community involvement – more time and investment in community buy-in – than this process has allowed. We want your leadership to make the tough choices in the right time.