An interesting slog. It was a packed house with many Cooper and Summit parents, a smattering of TT Minor and AAA (although vocal) and APP parents (Lowell and Washington). Director Martin-Morris was not there and there was no reason given for him not being (although I know that every director did not attend every public hearing so he probably had a conflict in schedule).
This meeting, combined with listening to the KUOW interview with Dick Lily, Michael De Bell and Mary Bass yesterday, has really turned some of my thinking. I do believe that I agree with Dick Lily; the district needs to table this for at least a year. It has gotten so convoluted.
Phase II did not go through so this could happen but I believe it would damage the relationship between the Board and Dr. Goodloe-Johnson so they will continue on. However, after listening to the KUOW interview, I think there will be some changes to the final list (although no new schools added).
Highlights from the interview
Michael De Bell
- Board members can submit amendments to the final closure plan by Tuesday at noon. He said they would be available for viewing on the district by Wednesday. Very significant - he said that some Board members had some creative ideas and that "sound changes are floating out there with my colleagues and I expect that there would be some changes."
-I was quite surprised to hear De Bell say that the closures were about demographics, better choices for students and equity and access. This is not what was initially presented. I think this morphing of rationales is confusing. It allows the district to close one school for one reason and yet close another school for a totally different reason. It ends up sounding like "because we said so". Or as Dick Lily said "it stirs the pot without education vision".
-He said they wanted to give students better choices. Is that really true for Summit or Cooper? Not really or, at least for Summit, they are not going to get real choices that they can truly access?
-She said that south end kids had been coming up north for years, shoring up north end schools. I'm a little confused by this statement because I don't know if she was referencing busing in the '70s or the choices made by south end parents currently. Hamilton would certainly be underenrolled if they didn't have south end students, for example.
-She was thoughtful in her reasoning over saving TT Minor but for some reason this seems to fall on deaf ears to the rest of the Board.
-Lincoln should be a high school in the near future (neither Board member chimed in here).
-No pluses, only minuses to this plan (I would agree).
Practically the only schools/people to get something out of this are Pathfinder (and what a heavy burden to bear) and NE parents who get a new K-8 (but it leaves the NE without any alternative programs). What does the Central district get? What does the SE get (Van Asselt gets a new building but if you read the public hearing minutes, there's not a lot of understanding/enthusiasm there for the move)? What does the SW/WS get?
What the district gets are a few closed buildings and a WHOLE lot of work to be done.
Public Hearing highlights:
-Maria Ramirez (a blogger here) explaining why SBOC doesn't want to move (and nothing against Nova) but best practices do NOT say non-English speakers do better in a school with English speakers. The group, Friends of SBOC, is not for this move. (It was also referenced by another speaker that SBOC had been co-located before and it didn't work. I didn't know this myself.)
-There were a few threats to vote the Board members out and/or recall them.
-There were also a number of speakers who referenced legal issues around the closures. There were several RCWs cited and I hope to research this issue. There was one around the proper newspaper notifications being placed, that citizens can appeal Board votes to close schools and most interesting, that the district can, in times of financial problems, access the interest on capital funds (at this point roughly $22M) for the operating fund. The district does have a lot of interest on the capital funds largely because they did a bond measure last BEX which gave them the money in full rather than a levy that doles it out.
-A couple of children spoke and were articulate and moving in their remarks and love for their schools.
-It was referenced that there was a middle school in Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's former district in S.C. that was going to be closed but got reinvented and is now a very popular school.
-A couple of the Cooper parents played the race and income card as well as TT Minor parents. It got a little strident at times with a lot of "have mores versus have nots". I think a better argument was made for TT Minor that Montlake and McGilvra have smaller numbers, about the same size buildings (but TT Minor has no portables) and yet TT Minor is the one being closed. One speaker apologized for throwing Montlake and McGilvra under the bus but said that several Board members told them to come up with better ideas (read: schools) and that was this speaker's answer.
-There were a couple of Washington APP parents who were worried about the music program. I agree it's a great program but in the face of what other schools are losing - namely, their entire school - it sounded a little hollow.
-Several speakers did a good job in saying how Meany has worked hard and now has kids from all over its region trying to get in.
-One great line "This (process) is like Survivor meets the Stanford prisoner experiment."
-Summit and TT Minor scored points in pointing out that their WASL scores have risen steadily over the last two years and virtually no other schools can make this claim.
-Charlie and I both advocated for Van Asselt to not move to AAA and make better use of the space. Also, putting 4 elementaries just a mile or so apart (Van Asselt, Wing Luke, Dunlap and New School) seems very wrong. We both agree that Aki should be closed and moved to either the new South Shore building or AAA and reinvented. If it's good for Denny and Sealth to work together, it should be great for RBHS and Aki. (I did get cornered and called out for "throwing AAA under the bus" by its former principal. I did explain that this was one decision I did not believe the Board would change and I was advocating for the best use of a K-8 building. All I can say is AAA's program never filled its new building, lacked community support even as it sat within the community it was built for and lacked academic progress.)
-According to one speaker, the district has committed to no less than 11 design teams (versus 1 in the last round of closures) and yet the dollars allotted for this effort this time has only increased marginally from last time.
-Another thing I didn't know; Cooper, after its rebuild, had 400 students and then their reference area was redrawn. So they did have some good numbers at one time.
I stayed for 36 speakers (they had moved on to the waitlist by then) before I left.
From Michael De Bell's statement about the amendments and my own gut feeling that they won't walk away from this effort, I do believe that next Thursday some schools will close but that someone is going to get a reprieve. If I had to venture a guess, I would say it will be Lowell but only because their school's recommendation is so complex. That may also signal a reprieve for TT Minor (or not if they choose to close and disperse the regular ed population).