Thursday, October 29, 2009

Who Decides What the Reopening Schools Will Be?

I recently reported that the QA/Magnolia schools group, Successful Schools in Action (SSIA), was having some community meetings (there's one tonight) on the reopening of Old Hay as a K-5 school. The district said they thought a K-5 Montessori school could be an idea. So then there was this in the Seattle PI from the SSIA group:

"With the recently released assignment plan and proposed attendance boundaries, the school district has announced the reopening of several schools, including the Old Hay school located on Boston Street.

This school will be renovated and reopened in 2011 as an option school to help ease the overcrowding in our neighborhood schools. For the 2010-2011 school year, students will be bused and the program will be located in Lincoln High School.

Options schools typically offer unique programs and are all-city draws,
with attendance preference given to a small, local geographic area. The
district has proposed this school become a Montessori K-5 school, but
they are asking for our feedback.

Some of the community proposals so far have been:

1. A Montessori school
2. An international school with language immersion
3. An advanced placement school
4. A regular K-5

Please invite your friends and neighbors to attend a community meeting tonight at Catherine Blaine Elementary, 6:30 pm. This is our opportunity to work together and provide input to the district on our newest neighborhood school."

I think all this is great although on number 3 I'm thinking they mean APP. (I love that idea; AP courses for kindergarteners.)

My only thought is, and I'm probably late on this so don't bite my head off, that so if there are no community groups organized around what McDonald, Viewlands, Rainier View and Sand Point should be, how does the district know what communities there want? Has anyone here that has a child in elementary in any of those areas seen any notices at their school asking what you want the new school in your area to be?

I looked at the Student Assignment Plan area and I didn't see any link for parents to give input for any particular new school.

I applaud the parents of SSIA (the group has been around for awhile so they were organized and ready to go) but I have to think that when you have an organized group, it looks more united on what they want. And, I have to believe that united input will weigh more on the district than a series of random e-mails.

It seems like the district could have had a meeting in the NE, NW and SE for those schools reopening to allow parents to give concentrated input.

I was telling a friend (who has a child at View Ridge but is now drawn into the Sand Point area) that one thing on the upside (she's not happy for a number of reasons) of being in a new school is the ability to help form the school. I have to wonder if maybe I'm a little too hopeful about that. Will the district wait until after enrollment to ask parents what they want? That's seems a little late.

20 comments:

Jan said...

Melissa: I agree it would be great if they would talk to the communities in the assignment areas. I had assumed that ONLY Old Hay was getting meetings because ONLY Old Hay is proposed as an option school (which, I know, begs a number of questions -- but that is the way the District proposed it. I still think ALL montessori and language immersion programs should be optional, and it would be GREAT if somehow some discussion was brought to bear on whether one or more of the other opening schools was either an all-option school, or housed an option program (montessori, lang. immersion or other) along with an attendance area program -- like Graham Hill or Leschi.

dj said...

I have a crazy idea. Perhaps the district could canvass parents in general about what option programs we'd like? I guarantee you that it isn't just parents in Queen Anne who might like a language immersion program.

Megan Mc said...

NE families gave the district plenty of recommendations for the new Jane Addams program but the district rejected their ideas ended up going with the easiest choice (environmental science focus but the curriculum is the same as other schools).

Sherry Carr asked the staff directly about putting in a language immersion since that was the most popular and they said it would take too long to set up and it was hard to find teachers. Where are they going to find the teachers for the Old Hay program?

What about the new school in the SE? Why don't they make that an attendance area language immersion program like JSIS and Beacon Hill?

Doesn't anyone at the district must realize how arbitrary and unfair the special status that Old Hay is receiving looks?

Carolyn said...

I'm in the McDonald area. There's been nothing from SPS asking parents for opinions yet. All that is to come after the board votes, when the "transition" phase begins. Supposedly we'll be asked to organize then, participate on the design team. I'm with you, that seems a little late. No idea why Old Hay gets to be option, and it's not mentioned for the other schools. It's all a mystery what happens once the "transition" time starts. They'll hire a principal, and it goes from there. Not sure how to hire a pricipal first, without knowing what the community wants first.

adhoc said...

Here is how it all happened at Jane Addmas. The district announced that the school would be a K-8 Environmental Science and Math school, then they hired the principals. A design team was created (which consisted of the principal, a few teachers, a couple of community members, and a couple of parents, but there was never any opportunity for community input.

seattle citizen said...

I propose a non-chartered Community School for the John Marshall building. Using new program policy and policy C54.00 alt policy, this new school will be a commnity center, community supported, with all sorts of activities 6am-11pm.
District policy on curriculum might have to be revised to allow any curriculum so long as standards...state EALRs? are taught.
Assessments will be mutually developed by district, school and community.
The school will be all-city draw, recognizing its proximity to the 48 and to the city jewel, Green Lake. It will be a true watershed-ed focus, with interdisciplinary studies revolving around the themes:
What goes in within the borders of a watershed? Science, math, literature, history, social, political, economic, transpo, housing...

There will be rigor...socratic rigor. There will be discipline...self-discipline. There will be resepect...of one's world...

Funding will come from regular sources. Staffing will come from regular sources, and must agree to the pedagogy. Staff will be given ample PD to learn the methods of the school.

ELS, SpEd and Safety Net will join with APP, Montessori and other stakeholders to come to mutually agreeable terms on lessons and curriculum that respect the incredible uniqueness of those and other and all students, with the focus on "unique", "special", literate in many ways of expression, including languages and arts...

Children will dance. Adults will model activism within academic community. Some won't make it, and we will with them well, anyway. Others will flourish.

Working Together said...

as hopefully people who live in sand point and mcdonald reference areas may have heard, SP and McD each have a yahoo group that discussions are occurring within. i don't know the links off top of my head but search around on yahoo or ask a friend if your area.

Charlie Mas said...

Here is a link to the McDonald school Yahoo Group: LINK

I don't have one for Sand Point, but maybe there is a link to it on the NE Seattle Moms group.

SeattleMom said...

I am in the McDonald area as well, and yes there is a yahoo group and even a blog for this school (though with not very many postings). The problem with the new attendance area schools or at least with McDonald, I believe, is that half of the families or so assigned to that school have older siblings (including us) at other schools and are still hoping and fighting for some kind of sibling grandfathering. So, it is hard to get very involved in a new school at the same time. It is actually quite a lot that the district might be putting these families through: split up their siblings and ask them to give their energy to building a new school (in an interim site!) that they may or may not wanted. Just think: no PTSA, events, fund raisers, and established traditions and programs at first, no after school program, no after school activities etc. Is that fair?? Some people are also still hoping that the attendance area of McDonald will change because of it's weird extension into the Bryant area beyond 25th Ave NE. And no one knows whether the board will actually approve the opening of McDonald School because of the costs. How are people supposed to get together at this point and voice an unified opinion or vision? I think in terms of an option school like Old Hay that is much easier. And it does make me feel like the district is following some kind of divide and conquer strategy.

Dorothy said...

The yahoo group for Sandpoint is called SandpointParents. Yes, there are some parents ready to work hard, but the issues seems similar to the above comment from SeattleMom. The ones with the most energy and time appear to be parents who don't already have kids in elementary. (There hasn't been discussion of siblings on the yahoogroup though.) I think it's great that some are willing to roll up their sleeves and start PTSAs and help create the school, but it would be doubly hard without seasoned veteran elementary school parents working with them.

Starting a new school could be really great and exciting, but oh so much work! And so many things to anticipate and plan for. Hard without guidance of experienced parents and doubly hard when the staff will all be new to the building and new as a group. I just saw on Nina Shapiro's article in the Weekly that the expense of closing schools included "team building" exercises for relocated staff. I sure hope there are plans for new Team Building Exercises to include parents and staff (and neighbors! and businesses!) for newly opened buildings.

Sandpoint is scheduled to open in 10 months and so far, no word as to whether there will even be all six grades at first. So much unknown.

NE Parent said...

Yes, there is a Sand Point parents group & many of the people on that mailing list have older children in other nearby schools (primarily View Ridge and Bryant). I agree with SeattleMom that it's hard to imagine putting the energy into the new school that could make it great while still participating in another school. Once the boundaries are finalized, there may be more action, particularly by the families without kids in elementary. But for people with children already in school, the sibling grandfathering issue will not be decided until the transition planning, which will likely be another couple months.

I have heard from one school board director that Sand Point likely will open as a K-1, though that is not certain yet.

I heard from another director that the District staff say McDonald is a key piece of the puzzle & that it must open; the director made it sound pretty likely it would open and remain on the map when the revised maps come out next week.

Certainly the Sand Point--and McDonald, Rainier View, and Viewlands--families would like to have input into the new school. Many people have sent mail to the district about this, but it would be wonderful to have the District solicit our feedback and hold community meetings in the respective areas.

G said...

Remember just last May when the great principal relocation happened? TOPS received, without ANY community input, the displaced principal from Leschi. Why would anyone think, after last year's chaos, that the district is going to suddenly start to listen to families and school communities?

Melissa Westbrook said...

NE, who was the director who said it was a key piece? Because at the BTA Work Session, Sherry Carr pushed back on it and I saw some nods from other directors. I'm not advocating one way or another but I'd like to know who is convinced it has to open.

And none of them will answer the question of what they will do should the BTA levy fail. You don't just find $50M under the mattress.

I think this issue of opening new schools may be the district's but building communities is the Seattle Council PTSA. There's a wealth of information/experience there and parents should tap them for help.

SeattleMom said...

If McDonald School does not open all the boundaries for schools around Green Lake and in the NE have to be redrawn since McDonald is supposed to compensate for the overcrowding in the NE. E.g. Green Lake School boundary was shifted north by 10 blocks and extends into Wedgewood now. I do not see how they could redo all those boundaries within the given time frame (i.e. by next Tuesday!). So, McDonald School has to either be opened or they have to wait with the new SAP for another year to put more time and thought into the plans of reopening the proposed schools (and see whether the levy passes).

Ravenna Jen said...

I agree completely with SeattleMom regarding parents being reluctant to get involved in planning a new school when they're still reeling from the proposed boundary lines splitting up their kids. I, too, am in the McDonald area, but right now I'm focusing on getting my youngest grandfathered to her sister's school.

Everything is so up in the air. I don't want to put much more mental energy into this issue until I see the revised boundary lines next week. It very well could be that I've been stressing out for nothing, if they draw the boundaries differently.

Or, perhaps the Board will approve sibling grandfathering, and I can continue focusing on our current school.

Or, perhaps the levy will fail and this plan will be put off for a little longer.

Or, perhaps there will be enough room at my oldest's school to allow some siblings in, and perhaps we'll win the lottery and get in.

There are too many contingencies. Since my worst case scenario is that the district will still force us to put our youngest at McDonald (or "choose" an option school), I truly cannot get excited or engaged about building a McDonald School community at this time.

From an outside perspective, I can see how one could be excited about forming a new school. That is not my choice, however. If my oldest child wasn't going to enter school for a few more years, this might be possible.

Dorothy said...

"From an outside perspective, I can see how one could be excited about forming a new school. That is not my choice, however. If my oldest child wasn't going to enter school for a few more years, this might be possible."

Now that's interesting. I can totally sympathize with the up-in-the-air quality and the older sibling issue. But on the other end, what about parents who won't have a kindergartener for several years? That's where you might find some real energy and strength. If there were any way to work together with the preschool parent contingent, that might be something really positive.

NE Parent said...

Melissa, the director (Sundquist) said staff see McDonald as key, not that he did. He acknowledged the same type of issue Carr raised. But I really got the sense that McDonald will open.

Central Mom said...

Here's what makes me crazy:...How, within the same walls of John Stanford, can there be this continuum:

1) At one extreme: A program placement committee that rarely (ever?) responds to citizen input/requests

2) In the middle: Administrators lukewarm (at best) about the care and feeding of alternative programs

3) At the other extreme: Throwing open the doors to QA and with no apparent process saying "Hey, we're going to give you an option school. What do you want?"

Shouldn't there be a more systematic way...a way that's embraced by central staff and well explained to the (WHOLE)community...for siting new programs and revising tired ones?

Maureen said...

Central Mom I wonder how much of this goes back to the fact that there is no Education Director for Alternative Schools. Ruth Metsger is left to supervise most of them (because she does MSs and K-8s) but seems to have zero, zip, nada, no interest in alternative education. I even wonder how many of the principals do? There is no advocate for alternative schools on the District level.

Megan Mc said...

Maureen,

I totally agree with you that there is no advocate for alternative schools at the district level. Ruth has worked hard to standardize the alt schools under her jurisdiction. Her ideal school is Madrona and she would love to see all the K-8's following their model.