(FYI, I did draw Cheryl Chow aside and tell her about concerns about lack of books at RBHS. She said she hadn't heard anything but was glad to know about it. I did talk with the principal and still have a few more phone calls to make before I can say how we might help the situation. It's a little unclear about what the situation is and why it is the way it is. More on this next week.)
So the theme here seemed to be that people felt the district had been really trying with this plan and they appreciated the effort. But as one person who read for their group said, "We preface all our statements with "if the plan is done correctly".
But I did learn a couple of new things. Here's what came out here:
- Everyone gets an attendance area assigned; we all know that, right? So if you choose a different school, you keep your attendance area assignment UNTIL your different choice comes thru. Meaning, if you choose an Option school and are on the waitlist, you don't lose your attendance seat until you get assigned to the Option school. In the case of APP 8th graders, their attendance seat will be at Garfield UNLESS they register differently. So they don't hold a seat at their attendance area high school and at Garfield.
- On that subject, if your child is currently at high school A that is a non-attendance school and you want your child in your new attendance area high school B, they would have to apply for the Open Choice seat during the transition period.
- I asked about the "informational" meetings coming up and couldn't they be feedback meetings since the maps will change by Nov. 3rd. The answer was yes, all the meetings (except the Work Sessions) are for feedback and comments.
- Tracy actually said something a little different about the high school Open Choice seats. She said that they intend for the 10% to eventually come from the overall population of the school but in the transition period, it might only be 10% of the freshman class. That's a little more clear then.
- There was also a question on the same subject about whether APP sibs might take a lot of the Open Choice seats at Garfield. Tracy said high school enrollment can be fluid so it might be less than the questioner thinks but yes, any sibs of enrolled students would get in first under Open Choice tiebreakers. I'll say it again, I think Open Choice seats should ALL be lottery. The need to keep sibs together at the high school level is nowhere near as great as in the lower grades and it just seems unfair.
- There were a lot of questions about transferring out of a school not meeting AYP under NCLB. It seems that you get a list of schools to transfer to when the AYP comes out in August and your school is on it. However, if you only put 1-2 down from the list, the district could still assign you to one of the others. If you rank order all of them, you would likely at least get a little more control over the process. Tracy also said something I hadn't heard before which was that low-income, low-performing students get letters first before other students at the school.
- Tracy was saying she thought that the STEM program at Cleveland would be very popular in a couple of years and would have a waitlist. There's a lot of things that would have to happen for that to be true and I don't think this district can make it happen. But if they do, it would be great.
- Timeline for ALOs? It seems they will start, during the transition period, with those areas of the district that have little or no access to advanced learning programs.
- Some people were worried that open-concept schools like Maple and Beacon Hill might lose those if they were underenrolled and the district wanted to move to a more traditional model.
- There was worry about alternatives/Options changing because of the narrowing of the draw of their area. One woman was worried about TOPS and their social justice focus. I understand that the schools demographics might change but I'm not sure why it would change the focus of the school. I think the district would say that they can't afford transportation anymore.
- More mapping concerns; John Muir area, Green Lake, Delridge
- Inequity issues
- Sibling grandfathering. Someone had a pretty funny idea which was to put portables in at all those schools until the sibling tail ends. Funny because not all schools have room for portables and how would we pay for all these portables? Not really workable.
- This was the only meeting where the levy failure was not brought up (oddly, despite the low number of attendees, they managed to miss my question on that issue).
They had a feedback sheet on the meetings which I hadn't seen before. A woman at our meeting asked, since we were such a small group, could we just do a Q&A? No, that wouldn't be fair to the other meetings. So why bother filling out a form asking our opinion about the meeting format when they won't budge at all anyway?
Lastly, there was some discussion about South Shore being an Option school. The issues were (1) that they were created to serve the low-income kids in the Rainier Beach community and (2) their program revolves around lower class sizes. The concern was that by them becoming an Option School that more kids outside of Rainier Beach would get in, those kids might be from "rich white families" and that they would have to enlarge their class sizes.
The MOU (memorandum of understanding) between the district and the New School Foundation does have language about enrollment. It is somewhat vague but says that New School should get some input over the enrollment of students at South Shore. This was not acknowledged at the meeting (even though lead legal counsel, Gary Ideka, was there).
I appreciate that South Shore wants to serve a low-income demographic AND that they try to keep class sizes low for their program to work better. However, there's a couple of other issues like:
- they have a brand-new building and they got it ahead of other buildings in far, far worse condition (and Laura don't even bother challenging me on this point, okay?)
- their program gets funded an extra $1M per year via New School Foundation
- they have smaller class sizes than most elementaries and K-8s
Wouldn't we all? TOPS is going to have a very different demographic under this plan. Will the district change the plan for them? Nope.
The question came up so why not make South Shore an attendance area school so that the district wouldn't have to open Rainier View (because Dunlap in SS's backyard isn't full either)? Answer, no, Rainier View is too far away. But wouldn't it be worth busing some kids so that we don't have to spend the money on Rainier View?
I know some of you will think I'm being hard on South Shore. I understand it when they say they are trying to demonstrate to the Legislature what fully funding education would look like and how much it helps. I'd like to know how often the district or Board use South Shore as an example to legislators. But a lot has been given to South Shore and I don't see how their program deserves anything extra out of this enrollment plan that any other school doesn't deserve as well. Are they part of the district? Yes, well, then here's the enrollment plan...for every school.