Thanks to the West Seattle blog for their coverage of yesterday's public meeting with Director Sundquist. There an important piece of information that needs to be clear because I had stated that I believed they could vote on each school. According to Director Sundquist they will vote for the amendments first (which, if adopted, would obviously change the package vote) and then, vote for the closures in their entirety as outlined in the final recommendations. Thus no school by school vote on Thursday. (It is not clear whether they can't vote school by school or decided not to.)
From the blog:
"But if there are amendments, he noted, “any and all permutations are possible.”
That leaves the door open and now he's the second Director to say this. Either they are trying to look open-minded or there really might be something that they do not agree with in this closure package.
Also from the blog this statement from Director Sundquist:
"(The compressed timeline of the closure process, he reflected, is “particularly tragic” … forced to happen sooner rather than — as originally planned — later, he reiterated, because of the budget crunch; Sundquist lamented that it has to happen before “support” is in place for schools facing challenges that have left them more vulnerable to closure now - “I’m sorry, if i had complete freedom of motion, if i didn’t have the economy crumbling in front of me, if i had the luxury of time, I wouldn’t do it in this order.”)
Can I just say, oh please. Every single freakin' time from the Board and/or staff an excuse as to why they couldn't have a complete process or more community engagement. We are always in a crisis and on a hurry, hurry, hurry schedule. I'm just not buying it for this little amount of savings. Not that there isn't a crumbling economy but sorry, they are not going to realize that much in savings that quickly.
More interesting quotes about APP:
"He repeated something he’s said before, that the program is “politically at risk” because its demographics currently do not match with district demographics in general — a lower percentage of children of color and students from economically challenged families. But, “I like the program, I’d like to see it stay, I’d like to see it serve more kids.” He believes some APP students would have to be moved out of Lowell eventually no matter what, because it’s “pretty darn full” and if anything at all is done to get a more diverse population of children in to grow the program, there isn’t room there anyway. But he acknowledged, “the district’s been remarkably inarticulate in describing what it’s been trying to do with APP.” He believe the board “is supportive of highly capable education … but it’s coming in the heart of an" economic hurricane.”
Well, I missed this. APP is in danger politically? What does that mean? This is not a feel-good program or an arts program; this is a program for kids with special needs. There is a legal federal designation for this program. (UPDATE: I confused federal law which provides funding for gifted ed grants. The state also provides funding for gifted education although neither is a mandated law to create gifted programs.) They could get sued for trying to end this program. I could care less about what Dr. Goodloe-Johnson or any other educator feels about it philosophically. There will always be on-going debates over teaching, curriculum, methods, etc. But what is the recourse, put everyone in the same classroom and differentiate? Let's see that work. It doesn't and it doesn't especially for this group of kids.
Also, as I said to the Board and Dr. Goodloe-Johnson at the public hearing; if there is any fault in why this program is not more diverse, it comes from leadership. Not the Lowell parents, not the Lowell administration or teachers. Top leadership who do NOT follow-thru and make sure that this program is advertised in every single school during its testing and enrollment period. The bad-mouthing of this program or hiding it from parents by principals is why this program is not more diverse. Dr. Vaughn has bent over backwards to do outreach to minority parents but to no avail. I will not deny the possibility that putting half the population in another school further south might get more minority students. But do I think it will solve anything in a big way? No.
Why is the accountability on this issue?
About marketing as a way to get more students (and money) in the district:
"He said he’s canvassed the philanthropic community in search of marketing dollars but they’re not interested - they prefer to give money to test their theories about educational programming."
On the one hand, this echoes what former Board member, Steve Brown, told me once. He said that many philanthropists are more interested in starting a new school based on "new" educational philosophies than helping existing schools. On the other hand, it's a cop-out. There's NEVER any money even remotely given over to marketing. I know parents in marketing who would help, free of charge, but the Board and the staff never ask the parent community. We are wealthy in this district - with parents who come from a wide variety of backgrounds and would love to help but never get asked. Maybe someone should talk to the Alliance for Education.
Again, thanks to the West Seattle Blog for their tenacity on this subject.