Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Lowell Meeting

I am not able to attend the Lowell meeting tonight so if there are attendees, could you let us know how it goes?


North-end Mom said...

Correction: "Lowell Public Hearing"

IF it is run like all the other public hearings that were held for buildings that were put on the closure list, there will be public testimony, and little else. It will not be a "meeting" format. There will not be a discussion time, and the public testimony is supposed to relate to the building that was put on the closure list, in this case, the Lowell building.

dj said...

I am ironically enough unable to attend because the sitter I'd scheduled for the old date couldn't make the new date.

My husband is testifying, however, and I'll report back.

dj said...

Meeting over.

Here is the brief synopsis, second-hand.

The meeting went until 9:00. Six of the seven board members were present. Twenty speakers addressed the board; by the end, speakers were addressing issues other than the Lowell closure/split. The majority of the speakers (all but two) spoke against the proposed closure/split.

From the description of the arguments, they sounded primarily like those raised here (capacity, savings, concern about program design and process).

Robert said...

my math might be a bit different then dj... I heard several more than 2 saying move forward with some plan that divides and puts in with gen students. that said those that were resolute on what works... My goodness what acclimate. You all did such a great job of putting forth the case. I can only anticipate that there are six board members that are having to really consider what the heck has been wrought on elem APP this year and spec ed Lowell students repeatedly. Good job those that presented... some would make great TV!
Oh and I may have missed why... but Mary Bass the Lowell "representative" who was the only confirmed BM was the only missing BM... Goofy?

jason said...

I was at the Lowell meeting and had a different experience than what DJ said - it was more similar with Robert.

There was a total of 40 speakers. There were a few that were sort of off topic (one was WAY off topic speaking about state school funding), but they were about closures in general. I would guess 36 were about Lowell specifically. Of those there were about two that said the split was fine with them. A few others said the split might work BUT it needed to be done with great care and they said that wasn't happening now.

I didn't take specific notes on each speaker, but I'd guess at least 20 were against the split period. A main theme of the speakers was "why?" The initial reason of closing Lowell and not having room for a 500 group cohort died a long time ago. Now that Lowell is staying open why is APP involved anymore? The other main themes were over-capacity at Thurgood Marshall and not much room at Lowell, costs due to replicating the program, not following the audit recommendations, etc.

Mary Bass was the only board member not there. I asked a few people, and no one had heard why she wasn't there. I had heard that she was planning to come.

The board members did hear an earful. I hope they take what we all said into account and that this was just show to fulfill their requirements.

Ben said...

Yes. 40 speakers. The split was fine and dandy for 2 or 3 of them. The split was potentially okay for maybe 12 of them. The split was definitely not okay for 20 or so. And the remaining people were off-topic.

The board got a ton of numbers (and packets to bring home with them), a lot of personal anecdotes, and a few zingers. (I liked the "Ready, fire, aim!" line, about the board's backward way of handling the entire proposal.)

dan dempsey said...

Ready. Fire. Then Aim.
That must be the facilities department motto.

Denny/Sealth a prime example, except it was too late to aim, as too much money had been spent.

dj's spouse said...

I am the source of the information about the meeting she posted above.

As for the number of speakers, the other posters are right about 40; I apologize for miscommunicating that information to dj.

As for the tenor of the meeting, I stand by my original report and think that it is doing a terrible disservice to suggest that the meeting was at all divided.

I was in the room for 36 of the 40 speakers and think it is quite clear that if those speakers were polled they would have been something like 34-2 against the split.

Sure another dozen speakers or so (including me) told the board that they were willing to listen to a well-thought-out, carefully designed alternative plan for advanced learning, but every single one of those speakers told the board that this wasn't such a plan. Moreover, most of us also told the board that we have not yet heard the board identify any educational vision or substantive policy aim that might be served by an alternative plan.

In this soundbite culture, it is easy to ignore data and simply say "Some people think x and some people think y, so I'm going to do what I want." On this issue, we shouldn't give the school board members that out. With trivial exceptions, the entire APP community is opposed to the current plan and we have mustered an overwhelming set of arguments and data to support our position.

If the school board votes for the current proposal, they are imposing a substantial and unwanted burden on APP students and families in the name of policy objectives that are either unrelated to or disserved by the plan.

Maureen said...

Did anyone speak from the perspective of TTMinor (or Montlake) re the gen ed/APP co housing?

Ben said...

A couple spoke on behalf of TT Minor, saying they think the Minor community has been treated shabbily. They don't want to close.

Charlie Mas said...

No one mentioned how the split plan would affect Thurgood Marshall. It would be the end of that school.

Thurgood Marshall is a distinctive school in three ways: the classes are gender segregated, it has one of only two ALO programs south of downtown, and the students wear uniforms. All of these identifying elements were self-generated - they came from the community and were their own decision.

After APP arrives the uniforms are out, the gender segregated classes are out, and the ALO will be re-designed by the District.

There are 251 students at Thurgood Marshall. 56 are in the E.B.O.C. and will be relocated out of the building. That leaves 195. 21 of them are in self-contained special education classes, so there are 174 general education students there. After APP arrives there will only be room for 146 - one class per grade. Even with that reduction the school will still be overcrowded. Let's suppose that 60 of those seats are taken by APP siblings - who come ahead of neighborhood students in the tie-breaker list.

That leaves about 90 seats in the whole school for general education students without ties to APP.

The elements of the Thurgood Marshall community that are there now will be reduced from 251 to 111. There will only be room for about 90 students to choose the school. Even at that, it will be overcrowded.

I don't know how this won't become a divisive situation as APP grows and pushes those few remaining neighborhood kids out of the school.

TechyMom said...

What's the other ALO south of downtown?

Robert said...

Yeah Dj's Spouse, Agreed there was perhaps much more rhetorical support to a split. But if folks are saying they support the split it leaves it open to the listener to hear beyond that... Especially if that is what they really want to hear. Consider the excitement of your dog when you mistakenly say "no you can't go "OUTSIDE." I do believe the SBMs were listening beyond that for the nuances (that I may have missed) in some of the soft supporters' comments... I being an ardent self-contained-keep-it-as-it-is with spec ed and app program guy had the sensation of claws down a chalk board every time anyone said anything supportive.
Boy I hope to heck they get this right.

Ben said...

Marshall no longer has gender-segregated classrooms.

And a couple speakers at last night's Lowell meeting did mention the effects of this plan on Marshall.

And, yes, the split will cause a huge rift. I have already heard that Marshall parents don't want the APP kids moving in. We'll start out divided and suspicious and work our way down from there.

Ben said...

to Robert: I was very surprised to hear my son's teacher get up and say she thought the split was a very good thing.

I was also annoyed at the straw man in the split-supporters' argument: it's not the Lowell BUILDING that makes Lowell special. Well, of course it isn't! The people who oppose the split would happily move the entire program—all in one piece—to another building.

Robert said...

Yeah she has the short stick on rooms. My daughter was with her last year in 104/5 ... I'm pretty sure it flooded twice but it may have been more. I am glad she said what she felt she had to... And that she was comfortable enough to... Unfortunately, my dropping jaw distracted my too much to even say how sound her points were... something about delapated and over crowded... But we knew that going in from our reference school with the nice linoleum... And the inefficient program. Lets hope that Harium, Debell and couple of other reasonable minds deal with this issue in a way that could help us believe in the direction of SPS...

Robert said...

oh and kuow/weekday will have the SBM on taking questions tommorow

another mom said...

Robert-interesting that your child's teacher thought that the split would get her a better classroom or one that does not flood or a building that is not crowded or a program that is the same one she was hired into...

ArchStanton said...

The teacher in question has expressed similar views before (at the first Lowell meeting with Dr. Vaughan following the preliminary proposal, IIRC) and I don't blame her for wanting a better classroom. With the second iteration, she won't get a new building (Marshall), but she'll probably get a better room at Lowell.

Principal J. Briedenbach spoke about her visit to Hawthorne and "how nice it was that all their linoleum matched" - she was clearly taken with the possibility of a new and hopefully less crowded facility. Heck, I'd like a new building, too - but not at the expense of the program.

And Ben is right to point out that too many people tie elementary APP to the Lowell building either intentionally or inadvertently. Few would complain if they moved us intact to a new building or a larger building as long as it was centrally located (say Meany, the TOPS building, I'd even take Marshall in spite of the commute impact to me at this point).

anonymous said...
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amsiegel said...

After the meeting I thought that the 30 or so APP stakeholders who spoke against the split did a wonderful collective job of simultaneously expressing anger and a spirit of cooperation.

Now, after hearing Robert's and Ben's comments, I worry a little bit that those of us who took it as our role to extend an olive branch to the school board might have served as enablers.

We will have to see.

On an unrelated point, I agree with Ben and Robert that we haven't spent enough time being angry about the fact that the school district has had years to construct/aquire/redesign an appropriate building to house one of its most successful programs and has simply dropped the ball, leaving us with only bad options.

Robert said...
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ArchStanton said...
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