Thursday, November 19, 2009

I Should Have Known

I ran down to the Board meeting to give my remarks and had to leave right afterwards. (I then went to the Roosevelt PTSA meeting to be the opposition side to Schools First support of the BTA III levy. More on this later as it was interesting and I may need your input.) But, I had set my Tivo to record the meeting. Silly me, the meeting ended at 11 and I only recorded 3 hours of what turned out to be a 5 hour meeting. They didn't get to the Action items until almost 2:45 minutes into the meeting (they did start late though). So I missed the SAP votes. So help me out.

Here's the story from the Times.

About the amendments, here's all that was said:

"The boundaries approved Wednesday reflect small adjustments in the lines around five pairs of elementary schools: Bryant/View Ridge, McDonald/Green Lake, Whittier, West Woodland, Loyal Heights/Adams, and Alki/Lafayette."

So I am thinking the Executive Board's passed, Harium's amendments passed, Mary's didn't and that Steve may have introduced one for Alki/Lafayette. According to the West Seattle Blog, the maps with new boundaries will be out sometime next week.

If you attended (or watched) the whole thing, do weigh in.

As far as the public testimony, there was some differing opinions about the boundary change around Ravenna Creek. Again, for some reason, people seem to think anything in print is concrete. There was unhappiness over these amendments being introduced at the last minute but they did say at the boundaries meetings that it could happen. (I know the district gives out timelines but they likely should say "here's what can happen at each point".)

The president of the West Seattle High PTSA along with Chief Sealth's both were not happy over the boundaries. They are quite worried about the loss of students projected for both Madison and WSHS.

A couple of parents spoke about grandfathering sibs. One offered that they wouldn't mind extra big classes for a couple of years to accommodate all sibs. That's an interesting take. He also said it could take 5 years. I have no idea if the district is thinking a 1-year or 5-year transition. That info has been pretty closely held. Again, if I had to guess, I'd say 1-2 years but frankly, I don't think it depends at all on what parents want. I think the driver is the VAX. If they can migrate off it and everything is working, I would predict a shorter transition period.

One speaker mentioned gathering sibling data now so that they have the best knowledge going forward on the transition plan.

Under next steps (a timeline sheet was available), there is this date, December 18th, as when design teams for opening schools will be established. The intro for the Transition Plan will be Jan. 6th and the final vote January 20th. This will come right on the heels of the start of tours for schools (mid-January) so folks will have to figure out what the transition plan means to them and then get out there and tour.

The Sharples naming of Old Hay brought a bit of family drama to the proceedings. We had a historian and several family members. It seems some family members feel that Old Hay is not an equal trade for a middle school (that was the original use of the name) but others are fine with it. I don't know what the final vote was on this one; I'll have to check with the Board office. I do wonder why they didn't just do the obvious which is to name South Shore for Sharples. South Shore is just a vague place name and putting the Sharples name on that shiny, new K-8 building might have been a good idea.

Dr. Goodloe-Johnson did acknowledge that she is on the NWEA Board but said it was a non-paid position on a non-profit board and that she in not involved in reading or receiving bids. There was a MAP presentation by staff. Harium asked how long, on average, it took to take and he was told 40-50 minutes. Steve asked if we did use multiple assessments so that we were not depending on just one and he was told yes although not all at once. The staffer also said the middle schools were hungry for this data and had the best completion rates. Peter asked about ELL and Special Ed kids taking MAP. He was told that they are trying to accomodate as much as possible. Apparently elementary kids take it using earphones and that those are available to both ELL and Special Ed students. SBOC is not taking MAP at the request of their principal until they can figure out its best use for them.

This was the last Board meeting for both Directors Chow and Bass. Both were acknowledged for their service and both gave remarks. Cheryl was funny saying she was looking forward to her free time and occasionally tuning in to the Board meetings in her PJs.


Stu said...

I just couldn't do it . . . I couldn't go and sit through another meeting. I don't know if it's the rain, or the depressing state of the district, or the . . . wait, it's the depressing state of the district.

What hurts the most at these meetings is the "sit and nod" during "statement time." I hate that you can't ask questions during your 3 minutes so that all the board has to do is sit and smile and, when it's over, they can vote as planned. The staff gets to provide data virtually uncontested and it's all too depressing.

I'll watch the reruns. Or go to the next meeting. They're all pretty much the same.

Were the new board members in attendance?

So did MGJ get her well-deserved raise? Let me know when she hits 300k!


Seattle Parent said...

Thanks, Melissa for the report.

Slight correction, the PTSA Presidents from both West Seattle High School and MADISON testified as to the damage the projected cuts in enrollment will do to those two schools.

These kids will really bear the brunt of possible drastic budget cuts which did NOT have to happen if they would have just balanced the boundary lines a little more equitably between schools.

The problem is with more and more kids wanting to get into Denny & Sealth (it's full now!), this will will lead to further enrollment drops in Madison & WSHS. The possiblity of allowing 20% choice, "dual option" assignment areas on the boundary lines, etc. is "great" for those wanting to get into the popular schools, BUT will further lead to loss of enrollment at the less popular schools, ensuring a downward spiral for the rest of the schools (this will be a district-wide problem). For every positive, there is a resulting negative?

It's also inexcusable that there was only 2 weeks from introduction of the final maps (with big changes for West Seattle) and the final vote. It was a "done deal" out the door, and public input was just for show.

Obviously, an equitable enrollment plan does not apply to ALL schools in our district, with some schools getting alot more support from the district than others. "Excellence For All"?

Maureen said...

Does anyone know how long it takes the Seattle Channel to get the Board Meetings Online?

And to echo Stu, Did MGJ get her bonus?

emeraldkity said...

I stayed until 11pm ( thanks for correcting me on the start time Melissa)

OMG the more I see of G-J the more I can't stand her.

She is one of the best I have ever seen at saying something without saying anything and without connecting to the people she is speaking to.

I did think Mary's speech was very classy and clear ( Cheryl had some good comments as well, I liked her buttprint quote from her mom) & I think Steve obviously had put a lot of work into the specific concerns and issues with West Seattle- which sound very valid.

I still don't understand how they can change boundaries since the census numbers are apparently too old to use, but there will be another one in 2010, but they only know where current students live, not private school or homeschooled students.

Melissa Westbrook said...

They were only introducing the item about the bonus; that vote is at the next Board meeting. Did it get through? Anybody?

lak367 said...

"A couple of parents spoke about grandfathering sibs. One offered that they wouldn't mind extra big classes for a couple of years to accommodate all sibs."

I'd love to know what school he's talking about. We already have extra-big classes in the NE prior to the new SAP. At what point does this proposal do more harm than good? Is it more important to keep families together than to ensure that the children can actually learn something in a given school year?

I understand the frustration of families faced with young children at two different schools, and I have no idea how the transition plan can be made to work and accommodate all opinions and desires. But putting 30+ kids in a Kindergarten class really doesn't seem like the right way to go. I hope this is a minority view for schools that are already over-enrolled.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Lak367, that's what I thought. I know the Board, when they hear from anyone who says "I speak for a lot of people" or "I know many parents" take it with a huge grain of salt. You need a PTA or someone like that to have some credibility.

It will be interesting to see as we formulate the transition plan if that is a majority view from e-mails and at public meetings.

How strong is that desire for both kids in the school you are already at? Or, if the district said, we'll guarantee you two will be together in a school in your area (not necessarily the one you are in now)? Is it the school or the guarantee of being together?

(I somehow feel like Carrie Bradshaw asking this question. However, I am not sitting at my computer in my underwear smoking.)

blumhagn said...

I left at 11 too. I'd hoped to stay to hear the justification for the bonus, but sleep called me.

I think the people asking for oversize classrooms were from the Bryant school, but I'd have to check my notes at home. I can post it up tomorrow if nobody else has the info.

Here's the amendments from memory:
2a (Executive Committee amendments): passed unanimously, except that the changes to the north boundary of McDonald was only changed on the west side, not the area on the far side of Ravenna Blvd on the northeast side.
That change from the EC amendment was made by Carr.

2b (Bass): Both changes failed on a 6-1 vote. The first was a change to the Stevens area that would have significantly oversubscribed the school. The second was the Madrona change to an option school. Other people can weigh in, but my impression was that Mary did not expect either to pass, but wanted to show the community that she brought them to the Board and got shot down.

2c (Martin-Morris): This passed on a 4-3 vote, decided by DeBell, who voted last. There were significant concerns about this change overcrowding Bryant, especially with the change to 2a above.

2d (Sundquist): This passed easily, and was a change to the Lafayette/Alki boundary at the top of the hill in WS. I don't know that neighborhood, so I couldn't really follow what was going on.

The overall plan passed unanimously. From a time perspective, I would have much rather had Bass make her comments about Madrona and Stevens in her discussion about the final vote, rather than as amendments. Adding them as amendments took a long time, both for discussion and there were some parliamentary procedure issues that had to be hashed out.

I thought all of the Directors had really considered the issues and provided thoughtful commentary.

Chris said...

"A couple of parents spoke about grandfathering sibs. One offered that they wouldn't mind extra big classes for a couple of years to accommodate all sibs."

I have in my notes that the person who said this had a child at Bryant and a child at Eckstein. Her point was that grandfathering in spite of crowding shares the burden across the school community, rather than on the few families that get left out. Which is perfectly valid and a very nice sentiment.

And IF lots of people at Bryant and Eckstein, which are about as crowded as you can get, are OK with growing, any other school ought to be able to. Yes, I'm skeptical. In theory, more portables, sure. There are other logistics issues - taking turns in the lunchroom comes to mind - are they going to add a 4th shift to Eckstein's lunch? Can kindergartners really eat lunch in 15 minutes?

Jaybird said...

I believe the parents were from Bryant, and they were saying that the district should "spread the pain around" by not disproportionately punishing families affected by the new boundaries AND split siblings. They said the entire school community--of which these affected parents are already a part of!--should absorb the burden. I agree with them that it would be the right thing to do, even if it causes short-term pain for all families at the school.

So many parents are going neck-to-neck at each other these days. It's all ME-ME-ME and I'm disgusted by it all. It has already divided neighborhoods and pitted neighbor against neighbor. Who has "legitimacy" in these popular schools? Are grandfathered kids going to have second class status? If you're not faced with the situation yourself, it's easy to say, why don't split sibling families just suck it up and rip their oldest out of school so that both kids can be at the same school. Or, what's so bad about 2 schools?

I do get it with regard to overcrowded classes, though. Some schools like Bryant are quite literally being loved to death. Remember, the School Board voted to put Bryant 19 kids over capacity. They could have easily shrunk Bryant's reference area so that grandfathering would have been easier. Instead, they decided to appease families by making the boundary bigger than it could handle. And now some parents want to BLAME grandfathered kids for making class sizes high?!?!

I would offer up that ALL parents are welcome to move their children to different schools to avoid large class sizes. Hey, I'll bet there will be room at Laurelhurst, Sand Point, McDonald and Jane Addams next fall.

old salt said...

Bryant families are use to big class sizes. Not their preference, but not scary to them either. In the years that View Ridge bought down class size, Bryant had much bigger classes than they have now. So those parents chose Bryant & their big classes over the smaller classes at View Ridge. Only for a few years did Bryant buy down class size & then only K & 1st grade.

I think their interest in "sharing the pain" with those 'split sibling' families is similar to their push to add a kindergarten class when it meant giving up their parent-run science lab.

Current Bryant 1st grade families benefited from that school-wide sacrifice.

leslie said...

I testified last week urging the Board look at the maps and send kids to their closest, neighborhood schools. Wasn't that, after all, the main underlying factor and rationale for the new plan?

Full disclosure: my family benefits from the HMM amendment. However, no matter what zone we were placed in, either Bryant or View Ridge, we'd be attending an oversubscribed school. We live in Bryant - it is under 6 blocks away, within .5 miles and IS our neighborhood school.

I also question the process. I wonder, if I didn't already have a child in school, how would I have learned of any changes affecting me? I canvassed my neighbors and found many did not know of the proposed changes. That helped to gain support, but the outward communication to families was lacking.

lak367 said...

Of course, the ironic thing is that the schools being "loved to death" because of their presumed good quality will be victims of that success. A school doesn't stay a quality school when the classes are too large for effective teaching, or when you have to close the library to create a new classroom, and so on.

The kids at Bryant already get only 15 minutes to eat lunch. My daughter's lunch box comes home barely touched each day because she only has time to eat part of it. She's starving by 3:30PM. Last year in K, we parents contributed to a snack closet in their room because so many kids were hungry and cranky in the afternoon despite having had a so-called lunch period. So it's already not working that well having young kids eat in short shifts.

I'm not trying to pit family against family. I'm completely empathetic to potentially split families. I don't want to see that happen. I'm mad at the district for having failed to recognize capacity issues for the last several years and I'm mad that they don't have any transition plan developed yet. There are no good solutions here for anyone, quite frankly.

But the stark reality is that they can't keep cramming kids into Bryant. Applying some population dynamics tools such as a population pyramid, maybe people can better see the problem that is coming. Stack the population as a pyramid, with youngest kids on the bottom. Bryant has 94 K, 108 1st, 96 2nd, 78 3rd, 77 4th, 84 5th - it is a pyramid right now. As the smaller cohorts leave the school after 5th grade, they are increasingly being replaced by larger cohorts in the upcoming years, who will need an extra teacher at each grade level just to maintain their already-large class sizes. If you keep putting 90-100 kids into each incoming K class, in 3 years, the pyramid loses its shape, and the school literally won't have room for everyone. We've been told that the playground footprint is too small for portables from a legal perspective, so where are all the students going to go? When space and resources are limited, you have to flip that population pyramid around, and put in smaller incoming cohorts as the larger ones move up, but that is not going to happen! I think the future for Bryant is not looking very good right now.

Sorry, I don't mean to hijack the thread to talk about just one school. I wish I knew what the answer was though, I really do.

lak367 said...

old salt, there was a lot of resentment last year when Bryant lost the science lab, especially among parents with older children at the school who were used to having it. Parents did not get together and willingly give up that room. Rather, the district made that decision and there was a lot of anger about it.

And, importantly, the district already went back on its commitment to that cohort. When they put 115 K kids into 5 classes last year, they promised us 5 first grade classes as well, recognizing that they were intentionally creating a bubble. This September, they gave us 4 first grades instead. My daughter's teacher has taught there for many, many years, and she told me that she has never had so many children in a first grade as she has this year.

emeraldkity said...

I still don't understand about some of boundaries.

I would like to see maps that indicate where students live who will walk and where transportation will be offered.
I don't like to see elementary students having to cross major streets- like Aurora.

I don't like large classes in the early grades & I can't believe they are going to reopen McDonald after 25+ years.
I think it is great that some schools have science labs- but I would rather have my elementary child in a smaller classroom

( when I first looked at UCDS- it was housed at McDonald- this was also when University Heights was still open-)

I don't know why I had the impression it was a wood frame building like U heights.
When it was closed it had less than 200 students- do we really need that capacity- and it was so interesting to see that the first principal stayed there until her death 25 years later.

What sort of incentives do we have to see principals and teachers stay at a school as long as families do?

I know several families who had been at Summit K-12 for instance from their first child starting in K, till their last finished high school.- over twenty odd years. Isn't that amazing?

What we lose when we ignore the past.

FHS85 said...

Isn't it strange that opening Sand Point and McDonald may not relieve any of the pressure on Bryant at all?

BryantLynn said...

That is because it seems (no, I don't know numbers) that everyone argued against going to McDonald and SandPoint. It can't relieve pressure if people aren't happy with the boundaries. Case in point with Sherry Carr's amendment. Harium's people would have gone to VR. Another case in point is the southern end of Bryant that was in the projected undercapacity Laurelhurst Elementary. I still think the NW corner of Bryant could have gone to Green Lake (which I think was projected undercapacity.) Make all these changes and you will have a better boundary for capacity.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Emeraldkity, there used be many more principals who would stay longer if they could. There are always some who want to move but many find a home. (I find this very true for principals and staffs in high school.) But the superintendent moves the principals and so they have to go. On the one hand, you move good principals to schools where they are needed but you take that principal from a school that may have been thriving with him/her.

I predict you may see some popular principals at good schools going to shore up the reopened schools (if you want them to succeed).

Maureen said...

It looks like the School Board Meeting is up online now. Who has five hours to spare?! (Not me right now!)

Jaybird said...

Actually, many families in the U District/University Park neighborhoods are thrilled about McDonald. It took me 5 weeks to get there, but now I am on board, too.

It could be (if families get their way) that McDonald/Hamilton will be the best new international elementary/middle school in the district in a few years. Maybe the tables will turn then, and families in overcrowded Bryant/Eckstein will wonder why they fought so hard about keeping the status quo.

In the meantime, few want to take a chance on a new, unproven school when they're drawn out of a proven success like Bryant.

zb said...

Well, I think all of you who went to the school board meeting should pat yourself on the backs. I count on these reports, since I'd pull my hair out if I actually had to watch a school board meeting.

I think the transition plan should include a proposal for keeping elementary school kids together, either in the assignment area school for their address, or the older siblings school (the districts choice, not the parents, unless there's room, in which case the sibling tie-breaker gets them in anyway). I do not think there should be forced dual assignments for elementary schools (though parents should be allowed to pick them). And, I'd allow this for 2 years at least.

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joanna said...

I am also wanting to see last night's late discussions and wonder how soon the meetings are available on the web. Melissa's remarks were over just as I entered. It is always interesting to hear what she had to say. 3 hours was enough for me, as the outcome was predictable.

While it is too bad that there were not earlier-in-the-year discussions regarding the awkward boundaries in the Central Area which then spill over into the entire central cluster, I am interested to observe how others reacted to any discussion

The issues around Madrona also need to be resolved before several communities can concentrate on the needs of the students. One of the weaknesses of the whole plan is that communities and parents have neither received any reassurance that the schools will transform, nor have they been engaged in plans to transform many of the schools.

Karrie said...

Jaybird said

"It could be (if families get their way) that McDonald/Hamilton will be the best new international elementary/middle school in the district in a few years"

Wait - is McDonald now going to a Language Immersion/International program? What did I miss? As a reference area school? Or is that a wish at this point.

Jaybird said...

Karrie--it's a wish at this point; no where near a guarantee. But the McDonald community has polled families in its attendance area (most want an immersion/international focus) and has already had a meeting with Karen Kodama, SPS's head of Int'l Ed. I'm not saying it WILL happen, but there is momentum building (and so far the district hasn't declared that it absolutely won't happen). The district has said their goal is for 2 international elementary schools to feed into each international middle school. McDonald & JSIS could both feed into Hamilton. And they said it's easiest to start an international school from scratch (rather than place the program onto an existing school). So, it looks promising.

My point was simply that people are fleeing these new schools but in a few years they could, in fact, become the new hot schools of Seattle.

Karrie said...

thank you for the answer - looks like the McDonald community is well organized.

I do have to say I will fight this if McDonald is NOT an option school. How can the district consider opening another immersion school, so close to JSIS, that is an attendance area school? What about all the parents/kids who need/want language immersion and can't get in. They can argue that they have to have JSIS that way because it is already there - but to build an attendance area immersion school from the ground up? Not so much.

Why not make McDonald an option immersion like Old Hay will be option Montessori?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Okay, what about the SE? The WS/SW? N? NW? QA/Mag? If I thought that Kay Smith Blum was going to come in and make this happen, I'd say sure McDonald. But if the directors get the shivers thinking about more north-end schools being on BEX IV than south end schools, what makes you think they wouldn't fear the outcry of putting two language immersion schools right next to each other?

Only way I think they would do it is if they made both Rainier View and Viewlands language immersion.

But get to Kay now and get working on it.

Carolyn said...

Re Why not have McDonald be an option school? I'm in the McDonald area and the main reason I'm hearing for opening McDonald is to bring some of the NE population westward away from Bryant. We've heard that McDonald really needs to be an assignment school. So, if it's assignment, we're trying to make it as good as we can, given it's a start-up.

And, since Hamilton needs a 2nd Int'l Ed feeder, why not try to make it McDonald? It is a lot cheaper and easier to create an int'l ed/immersion school from a newly opening school rather than convert an existing program. No idea whether the district will make it int'l, but 80% of the 150 families who responded to our survey indicated interest in an int'l ed program, so we're trying.

For all of you bemoaning what McDonald parents are trying to create, how would you like your kid starting in the fall when right now you have no kindergarten to visit, an interim site for the first two years, no clue who the principal is, no reputation of the school to rely on, no sense of the teachers yet, no PTA-raised funds for fun stuff, no before and after school care to start thinking about, and all in the context of a school district with a pretty high deficit? We're trying to make something good out of an anxiety-filled time for many of us.

And yes, we are trying to help connect Sand Point parents to some of the resources we've developed, inviting them to meetings, sharing our survey questions, etc.

Thanks to all who contribute to this blog. As an incoming parent with little understanding of SPS, this blog has been tremendously helpful for me to get up to speed quickly. Much appreciated!

Josh Hayes said...

Since I have both my kids in an alternative -- err, I mean, "option" school, I guess I missed the idea that each MS should have two international (immersion, I assume) K-5 schools feeding in. Can anyone identify what these schools are for each of the middle schools?

Just in the north end would be useful enough: what are the two international schools feeding into Whitman, for instance?

I think the resistance I'm detecting here about making MacDonald an international school is that JSIS is nearly visible from the MacDonald building -- the idea that two such schools should be well within a mile from each other seems counter-intuitive to me.

h2o girl said...

Josh, I think they meant two international elementaries feeding into the 'international' middle schools, which currently are Hamilton and Denny, if I recall correctly.

To have McDonald be an assignment area immersion program, right next to JSIS is just flabbergasting to me. So yippee for you if you live in Wallingford, otherwise no dice? If they really want to have two elementaries feeding into Hamilton, it seems a bit more equitable to make Sand Point the immersion program.

dj said...

Josh, it seems to me particularly counter-intuitive when you have large areas of the city that have no access to international schools that have been lobbying the district for years for school improvements. And who would love to have more alternative programming. And that might have good reasons for it. The district claims that part of the reason for its current language immersion/international school sites is that they are in neighborhoods with large populations of ESL/immigrant families. How about providing struggling Bailey Gatzert -- which is right there by the International District -- with this sort of programming?

I don't blame the McDonald parents for organizing and asking. I will blame the district if -- rather than fufilling its supposed commitments to ensuring district-wide access to these sorts of programs -- sites two of them side by side.

GreyWatch said...


From my observations (and eavesdropping at soccer games), JSIS sends (at most) 28 Spanish speaking and 28 Japanese speaking 5th graders on to middle school each year. Some of these families choose private schools, some opt for another SPS middle school (although that may be a thing of the past).

Those that continue on to Hamilton may also be spit along Spectrum, APP lines. Then you throw in band and other scheduling considerations, and it becomes difficult to sustain language immersion given the numbers.

I could be wrong, but I think all the middle school does is provide continuation of language, but not language immersion (i.e., instruction of other subjects in the foreign language). Kids are able to opt out of language entirely if they take band instead and don't seek a PE waiver.

It gets more challenging at high school. JSIS parents were advised to send their kids to Ingraham as the language options were more suited to their kids levels. However, they say the word is that they can't get the classes, or they aren't offered at a level that meets their kids needs.

Personally, I think that a language class is all should be offered after elementary school. The other model is too expensive, and elitist, especially if it is a neighborhood based draw. For low-income families, mobility is an issue. If you get into a school and then have to move because your apartment got converted to condos, you don't get to stick with the program unless you can find another reasonable rent w/in the school boundary.

These factors, and the unique nature of the curriculum are why I would also advocate for all of these schools to be option.

When we have schools that are failing kids, I don't think we can justify spending money on things like this. If someone can assure me that it does cost less, I might buy it.

That said, if I lived next to McDonald, I'd be lobbying for this!

kellie said...

I worry about any race to the bottom version of equity, where anything unique is not fair to someone. Is it fair that the two language immersion schools would be side by side. No. However, this is the first school that is opened in 30 years. As the district is at capacity right now and there is growth projected in every corner of the district, there will be up to 10 schools opened in the next decade, in every corner of the district.

I think it is important to understand that whatever happens at Sandpoint and McDonald is going to become the model for all future school openings. I fully support unique programming at new schools because that is the only way it is ever going to happen. It is nearly impossible to convert an already existing school to a new program but it is very very easy to do so with a new building.

Now, I would prefer above all else that international and montessori were treated like the alternative schools they already are but it seems like that ship has sailed. I simply don't understand the district flat refusal to treat international as alternative nor do I understand the lack of willingness to follow demand but there are many thing I don't understand but that doesn't stop me from supporting small victories wherever they are.

Note - none of my children would get the benefit of these programs but I would be thrilled for anyone that did get them.

And BTW, for the first 4 years of the JSIS program it was easy to get in. Folks didn't trust a new program. It is very likely that there would be plenty of space for the folks outside of the attendance area for a few years. Demonstating the demand for these programs.

Stu said...

I don't understand but that doesn't stop me from supporting small victories wherever they are.

I agree with everything you said but . . .

That's it . . . "but." I'm finding it harder and harder to get behind the "small victories" because the district frames them as "their" victories and then plows ahead with misguided plans. It's like the MGJ bonus issue; the district met 6 or 7 out of 20 goals and so they want to reward someone. I'm more of a "the district didn't meet over 70% of their goals, let's fire someone" kind of guy.

Yes, it's great if another international/language school opens but it not only doesn't address the inequity district-wide but actually adds to the problem. It tells me that the district sees the desire and need for a program but only for a small group of people in a small area of the city.


GreyWatch said...

I agree with your race to the bottom point. However, you can't ignore the fact that these programs are considered special and it is a privilege to attend one. Opening one in a neighborhood where a 1/2 million dollar fixer is a bargain is going to rankle many, especially when programs like TT minor and Summit were shuttered.

Opening a new immersion school as a neighborhood school would indeed ensure the option ship sails away, but I'm not convinced we are there yet.

Melissa Westbrook said...

No Kellie, there has never been a building reopened in the district so all the 4 schools being reopened are a first (albeit with difference timelines). However, JA is a new school in a building already in use (as is Old Hay).

Lastly, look at where these reopened buildings are. Sand Point is in the NE, Rainier View to the far SE and Viewlands to the far NW. And, as has been said, McDonald would fulfill the district's wish to have two feeder schools feed into Hamilton.

Open all of them as language immersion. They know the model, they have great experience with Karen Kodama, they have Kay's support for sure and boy would they make these schools popular out the gate.

Problems? Were would RV,SP and Viewlands feed to? I'm not sure it's that important that there is a feeder school. All the middle schools have foreign language and these kids would come out of elementary with a very solid footing. I think the issue for most parents (help me out) is having foreign language while their kids are young and not waiting for middle school.

Where to find the teachers is the biggest issue I see. But if there were the will then the district could find out if it could happen.

adhoc said...

Greywatch, Hamilton MS does offer a Spanish and Japanese immersion program for those students rising up from JSIS and for students whose first language is Spanish or Japanese. All other students are assigned to their "regular", non immersion program, where they get language classes but not language immersion.

Greywatch said "Personally, I think that a language class is all should be offered after elementary school. The other model is too expensive, and elitist, especially if it is a neighborhood based draw"

Did you know that JSIS was ranked one of the top schools in the nation? Are you suggesting that instead of replicating such a fantastic program and offering it to more students, we should dismantle it, and replace it with a regular, non descript school, that offers ordinary language classes?

I agree that immersion schools should be all city draw, or at least multi region draw schools, available to all by lottery. And, we should relentlessly advocate for this. But to say we should just get rid of them because they are "elitist" is not only counter productive, it's self defeating.

Karrie said...

I'm not arguing against McDonald's right to lobby for what will may be best for your school - go for it. But expect others who can only dream of getting their child into an immersion program to argue for it to be an option school so they can have a chance get in.

There seems to be so much demand for immersion - open all 5 of them (including Old Hay) as language immersion OPTION schools with a small geographic boundary presence. If the demand is there, students will come.

Old Hay - who asked for Montessori? Why Montessori? At the two QA/Mag community meetings regarding Old Hay, the majority of attendees preferred an Immersion OPTION over proposed Montessori OPTION. But we were told off the record that Old Hay is too close to JSIS to be politically tenable. Guess not...

Fun times.

dj said...

Kellie, it's not a race to the bottom argument. More language immersion schools, yes. More excellent opportunities, yes. But intentional planning about where to put them and to increase access to them, particularly for students in the city who already are underserved.

Adhoc, I didn't read Greywatch's post as advocating getting rid of language immersion programs; I read it as advocating making language immersion programs option schools (certainly I could be wrong).

dj said...

And Karrie -- I think if these schools were all opened as language immersion option schools, hooray (although -- transportation issues with how the district right now is conceptualizing option services). But I imagine the problem is that there are capacity issues and that these programs will not draw as well from the areas that have those issues (with all of the posts on here clamoring forcefully for Bryant access, I'm imagining that no option program could peel families off of that school). Of course, if the projections that are being thrown around about the McDonald area, Laurelhurst underenrollment, etc., are correct, then the option school model with a small geographic zone around the school would suddenly seem pretty sensible, I would think.

GreyWatch said...


I was referring to continuing immersion in the middle school as being expensive, and that language only should be offered after elementary school. I said nothing about dismantling the immersion elementaries.

How many kids are in the immersion classes at Hamilton? My assumption based on the #s coming out of JSIS is that it would have to be less than 28 which is where I'm getting my unsubstantiated impressions about high costs.

The difficulty of immersion in middle and high school is challenged by numbers (kids going off to different schools, interests) and finding quality teachers. I think McDonald is on the right track in this regard, as they could provide the numbers fix (in 6 years). I still think most parents with kids in these age groups would be delighted with a quality language class -- something the JSIS grads now in high school aren't all getting.

I think immersion programs are great (and not for everyone), and yes, I'm well aware how successful JSIS is on many levels. I'm also aware how much money the parents there are able to generate (as likely would be those at McDonald) to help make the school successful.

Does anyone know how this program is working at Beacon and Concord? I know Beacon has been more aggressive on the fundraising front than in years past. When my kids were there, the annual fundraising goal was $20 per family. My friends at JSIS were shooting for $1000.

Would love to see a cost/benefit analysis on these types of programs, both here and in other parts of the country. My perception that they cost more could be entirely wrong. I can certainly see the benefit, as can anyone who has had their child on a waiting list for one of these schools.

adhoc said...

If the district opened Viewlands, Rainier View, Old Hay, MacDonald, and Sandpoint, as immersion schools they'd have one immersion school in every area of the city except West Seattle (I'm assuming Central Seattle would use Old Hay?). Rainier View serve SE and WS until WS could get it's own immersion school up and running (which I'm guessing is in the near future with Denny/Sealth there). Each region would have it's own all region draw school. That would not add a huge cost for transportation, and it would give much more equitable access to families all across the district.

Then once there is an immersion school in each region begin to look at next most popular options like Montessori, environmental science, etc.

WenG said...

GreyWatch: I disagree with your comment on language immersion being elitist. In many countries, it's standard for children to start learning more than one language beginning in kindy. This is key toward educating children for a world where being multilingual will become standard, if not required. We have ELL; we also need to offer 2nd languages for everyone, starting as early as possible. Unless a student is highly motivated, middle school is a more challenging place to start, with fluency less likely to occur.

I'd like to see both MacDonald and Sand Point schools start out with language immersion offerings, or at least a daily world language class. We've got to do this in every school, so I'm in total agreement with K B-S on this one. I'm hoping she can make headway without creating a boondoggle that fails to produce results like so many other schemes we've seen.

kellie said...

Mel, as usual, I agree with you completely. My preference would be that all new schools are opened as option schools. I think it was completely inappropriate to draw boundaries for schools that don't actually exist.

I would further argue that all new schools have this international programming or other programming with demonstrated demand. This would improve access, equity and excellence. I argued for this during the boundary process and was told multiple times that this is not on the table. Charlie argued multiple times that a full option school is the same number of seats but the district is going only for boundaries and attendance area. I do not agree with that all all.

However, if they are not going to bend on the option portion, at least get the language immersion in place while there is that opportunity and continue to fight for the equity and access.

It seems to me that this administration is 100% against access to special programs. I don't agree with that but it think the greater problem would be to stop going to excellence when there is the opportunity. This "problem" is going to come up again. Every cluster is full. How this capacity problem gets solved will effect everyone.

gavroche said...

Blogger Stu said... So did MGJ get her well-deserved raise? Let me know when she hits 300k!

Stu, fyi... (reposted from the Supt. Bonus thread)

According to Nina Shapiro at Seattle Weekly, the proposal was introduced at the board meeting and will be voted on Dec. 9.

I'm envisioning a protest with signs reading: "What $5,280 could buy for our kids' schools: [fill in the blank]"

Check out the tortured logic DeBell and Sundquist give for the bonus:

"School Board Proposes Yet More Money for Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson",

By Nina Shapiro in Education
Thursday, Nov. 19 2009 @ 12:38PM

(Goodloe-Johnson, shown here accepting a gift at a Seattle Goodwill breakfast, has been much less visible during the controversy over the district's neighborhood schools plan)

As the Seattle Public School Board approved a landmark new assignment plan last night, it also introduced a proposal to give Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson a $5,000 performance bonus. One might think that the superintendent already makes enough money in recession times, having received a 10 percent raise last year, bringing her salary up to $264,000--more than that of the governor.

"Are you out of your mind?" asked parent, schools blogger and onetime SW contributor Sue Peters in an e-mail to Boardmember Steve Sundquist, who introduced the proposal. The timing of the bonus is also questionable given that the superintendent has done little to publicly sell or explain the assignment plan that for the time in decades assigns students to schools based on where they live.

The superintendent attended few of the community engagement meetings that took place across the city over the last month. Instead, she left that task to board members and Enrollment Manager Tracy Libros, who showed up night after night to answer questions from parents, many of whom voiced concern about mandating neighborhood schools in light of the fact that some neighborhoods have better schools than others. Libros, rather than Goodloe-Johnson, also briefed the press and, often, the board.

How different from former Superintendent and onetime Army General John Stanford, a master at rallying public support, or even from Goodloe-Johnson's predecessor, Raj Manhas, who personally handled announcements of school closures and other big district decisions.

"Raj owned those tough decisions," School Board president Michael DeBell acknowledges. "He carried the weight. He got out in public." Regarding the contrast with Goodloe-Johnson, he says, "I'm not sure what to say about that," but adds that she has a "different style. She delegates quite a bit to those she considers her key and trusted managers." Goodloe-Johnson has not yet responded to a request for comment.

In any case, the bonus is based on an evaluation that does not take such things into account. Instead, Sundquist explains, it looks at the district's performance on 17 measures, most of them related to WASL scores. The district met improvement goals on four of those measures, thus allowing the superintendent a proportional share of the $26,000 in bonus money she is eligible for.

The district committed to performance-based bonuses when it hired Goodloe-Johnson, DeBell and Sundquist note. They say the board would eventually like to institute performance pay throughout the system--an idea the Obama administration has been championing--and are starting at the top. "The one employee we have control over is the superintendent," DeBell says. The board will vote on the bonus on Dec. 9.

Whether the public will approve of the bonus is another matter, especially if its interaction with the superintendent is limited during tumultuous times.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Kellie, agreed.

Jan said...

This is a truly bizarre bonus system. If I understand Steve Sundquist's argument, the district could have done significantly, materially WORSE in all 17 areas -- and it would be fine! Just great! The Superintendant would still have "earned" her $264,000 and everyone would be happy. ANY bump above that entitles her to more, but no failures or missed goals, or bungled cost saving efforts have any negative effect. This is a classic "have your cake and eat it too" system. She gets the benefit of a huge salary package that is not subject to any hits for failure to perform -- AND an incentive system that rewards ANY pittance of improvement.

IF they want to do an incentive pay system like this -- they need to knock down basic compensation to something MUCH lower ($60 to $70thousand) and then build in a really strong incentive system for the 17 benchmarks. It appears to me that each improvments achieved currently carries about a $1300 bonus -- which is not much incentive when you start at $264,000. If you started at $60K, (built your incentives right -- so it included things like community engagement, expansion of programs with demand, etc.) and each incentive that you hit resulted in an additional $10,000 or more, maybe the board would be seeing different-- and better-- results.

GreyWatch said...

WenG - "elitist" was probably a poor choice of words. I think the more language the better. My concern is about access and perceptions of privilege (right or wrong).

If the programs are neighborhoods schools, they are available only to those who live in the area -- an elite few with elite being defined as those who have access to something others don't. Having these programs in affluent neighborhoods perpetuates the sense of elitism.

I couldn't agree more wholeheartedly, that the US is behind the curve in terms of language. I would love for all schools to have language programs, not necessarily immersion, that are more effective and enriching than the often very weak one or two day a week programs that a few schools consider themselves lucky to have.

I also think we need a lot more PE.

lak367 said...

"The one employee we have control over is the superintendent," DeBell says.

Wait, was this a story in the Onion? The board thinks they have control over her? I don't know whether to laugh or cry right now.

WenG said...

@lak367: I read it that way as well. That's creative spin; I'll give that much.

@GreyWatch: I understand your context: it looks elitist when you consider the location and restrictions on attendance. For all the money blown on the testing industry, and now the coaching and consulting class, we could've provided at least one world language at every school by now. Covered, not enrichment funded by only certain PTAs at certain schools. Especially with K-3 kids, I think multiple language offerings boost learning across the board. It doesn't have to be enrichment for the few.

Melissa Westbrook said...

lak367, Michael said the one employee they have control over is the Superintendent? Very funny. They don't control her, they don't manage her, they don't pressure her - they go along with her.

I had someone tell me recently that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, one-on-one can be intimidating. I believe it but I also believe that she's been to Superintendent Charm School (read: Broad training) to use methods to strong-arm off any opposition or challenge. It seems to work but there is a tipping point.

Maybe the BTA Levy is it.

dj said...

Adhoc, Central wouldn't have a language immersion school (at least as the option clusters currently are configured). If Central were given transportation rights to one of the newly opening schools (Hay seems to me most logical) I would think that would fix the problem; I don't think there literally needs to be an imeersion school in every service area, but I think every service area should have transportation to (and a proportionately fair shot at accessing) an immersion school.

gavroche said...

Blogger Melissa Westbrook said...
lak367, Michael said the one employee they have control over is the Superintendent? Very funny. They don't control her, they don't manage her, they don't pressure her - they go along with her.
I had someone tell me recently that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, one-on-one can be intimidating. I believe it but I also believe that she's been to Superintendent Charm School (read: Broad training) to use methods to strong-arm off any opposition or challenge. It seems to work but there is a tipping point.

Maybe the BTA Levy is it.

Hmm, maybe the levy is it. This School Board and Supt would certainly look bad -- has Seattle ever voted down an education levy before? But there are dangers to letting MGJ & co declare another "financial crisis" -- it's their catch-all excuse for imposing anything they want.

I also know of at least one parent who was threatened at work by MGJ when this parent voiced dissent over the closures; a teacher who spoke out publicly against MGJ, who then showed up in this teacher's classroom the next day (this teacher was among the RIFs, btw -- coincidence?);a vocal parent who has been critical of MGJ suddenly without explanation lost his/her job at a company that has ties to MGJ; a former principal was warned by a current principal not to speak out publicly against the closures "if you ever want to work for the District again."

A reporter told me that s/he has never had so much trouble getting district staff to talk to him/her until MGJ came here.

Director Martin-Morris promised to provide an official District response to parent concerns about the influence of the pro-privatizing Broad Foundation (on whose board MGJ sits) on SPS back in the summer. He has yet to produce this report. Did someone put the kibosh on it?

We know that two Special Ed teachers were suspended earlier this year by MGJ for following the parents' wishes. (

We know that MGJ sent layoff notices to teachers on Teacher Appreciation Week

We know that MGJ RIFed 165 teachers and counselors, only to call back many of them because enrollment numbers are up. The question still remains: Why dd she do it in the first place? Financial considerations -- or intimidation?

We know that MGJ (illegally) sent a letter to all 3000 district teachers threatening to end their contract.

What is going on here?

Has any other superintendent in the Seattle history relied on such Mafioso tactics?

Such methods lead me to believe that MGJ & Co know that their clandestine (corporate "reformist") agenda would not be embraced by the community if they were upfront with all of us about what they are really up to.

And/or she's simply a bully, plain and simple. (Maybe we should send her copies of the "anti-bullying" rules & creeds from our kids' schools.)

None of which is good.

Come back, Raj, all is forgiven!

Melissa Westbrook said...

Gavroche,yes the district has lost levies. They had various ones in the early '90s that lost for various reasons. The fact that it hasn't happened in a long time AND that it would happen on MGJ's watch would not be good for her or the district's management.

Reporters have told me the same thing about getting info (see my other thread today).

Joseph Olchefske was quite a piece of work but no, even he wasn't as bad publicly. (But as a finance guy, which he was, he left this district in financial tatters.) Raj, no, Stanford (the gold standard for public interaction) and Kenndrick (he was okay).

Your last line made me laugh outloud.

emeraldkity said...

Perhaps you have some heartfelt advice for the superintendent in her next job. Mine would be for her to try to be more down-to-earth, more receptive to criticism, and more ready to admit mistakes.

THat was some advice for G-J from Charleston a few years ago, doya think she listened?

Becca said...

Does anyone know what will happen to the boundary maps if the Levy is not approved, and Viewlands (which is the most expensive school to reopen, I understand, due to the vandalism) cannot be reopened? What if there isn't enough money to reopen any of the other three schools, for that matter? Isn't it putting the cart before the horse to approve a plan that isn't funded?

Josh Hayes said...

adhoc, your plan (IS in each area of town) is startlingly sensible, and therefore the district will never go for it. Oh well. (And Viewlands COULD feed into Whitman, which I understand has very good language courses, if not immersion. I don't have a kid there, so I may be wrong, but that's what other parents have reported to me.)

Melissa Westbrook said...

Becca, that's a good question. First, if the levy fails, the district would need to retool their message (or do something to show good faith to the voters) and could bring it back in a month, two months. Anytime in the calendar year.

Viewlands isn't the most expensive; that would be McDonald at almost $15M. They would likely open Sand Point and divert other capital funds to its opening. (Ingraham's addition is tied up in appeals over the grove of trees issue. They could take that money and use it. Is it fair? Probably not but they would need to get Sand Point done. Money gets diverted all the time.) Viewlands and Rainier View aren't as problematic at the this point in terms of reopening for capacity.

Is it the cart before the horse? Somewhat but a levy hasn't failed in almost 20 years. However, there are a number of issues lining up to make this one in some doubt. I'm sure they have a contingency plan which is not a happy thought for the district but it probably exists.

emeraldkity said...

I have a question- re: property taxes and levies- my property was reassessed- without my prompting, and my assessment went down over $100,000.

I think it is good for me- but I am wondering if the levies will be taking that into consideration?

'm sure they have a contingency plan which is not a happy thought for the district but it probably exists.

I expect their backup plan is just to resubmit the levy- isn't that what they have done in the past?

(In 1996 it was the B & O levy- didn't get the supermajority)

Melissa Westbrook said...

They haven't lost a levy in a long time. I'd find it hard to believe they would think it was a fluke and just try it again without some kind of thought as to why it failed. I also think district leadership would hear from various powers that be who would not be happy to see this happen.