Saturday, November 07, 2009

Meeting on Boundaries at Roosevelt

I attended the informational meeting on boundaries at Roosevelt High on Thursday night. There were about 60+ attendees along with staff. Steve Sundquist, Hairum Martin-Morris, Peter Maier and Sherry Carr attended as well. Dr Enfield was the lead staff person with Tracy Libros giving the presentation.

The handouts included the new map, the SAP, information about map revisions as well as a curious handout about the STEM program (I'll try to get a link for it). The information sheets about the map revisions were very cursory and did not fully flesh out how boundary changes impacted other schools. For example, they noted Roosevelt's changes and Ingraham's changes but not that it made Hale's boundaries much smaller. They said at the Work Session that something like 42 out of 58 elementaries boundaries changed but that was not reflected in the information on the sheet.

Also, Tracy made note of the updating of the FAQs but I could swear that questions I've heard at previous meetings haven't made it to there yet.

Tracy's presentation was what you heard before if you attended a previous boundaries meeting. She did add information about the new maps and their boundaries.

Dr. Enfield again said the "program placement process is changing" but didn't say how. (This comes later.) She also said that teachers were, for the first time, receiving professional development in curriculum. (Really?)

(New to this meeting; little signs on posts. One said "Equitable, understandable, predictable". Another said, "Our new SAP is an important step we must take to ensure that every school is an excellent school." I'm thinking they have gotten some pushback from parents about why they are changing the SAP.)

Questions from the audience:
  1. Will changes be allowed to the maps after this? Tracy said that the Board can introduce amendments at any time before the Nov. 18th vote. She also said there would be NO more changes made to the maps by staff. So basically, you need to lobby the Board AND be able to show that any changes you want won't create a huge ripple out to other areas. I think that is one key point for anything the Board would want to amend - how much change to one area affects other areas?
  2. Grandfathering siblings needs to be part of the transition plan. Tracy said that a couple of PTAs have surveyed their members and contacted her office to say that they thought it would only be small numbers of students impacted. (No I don't know which PTAs and I don't know how the surveys were conducted.)
  3. Did staff consider input from those who liked the first maps? Tracy said yes and they had received a range of responses.
  4. The 10% Open Choice seats seem to be a problem as many people feel that isn't enough and worry over them not truly being "open". Tracy said that the Open Choice seats are being made more complicated than they are. They will truly be open except for the sibling tiebreaker in the case of too many applicants for the number of seats.
  5. How is the program placement process changing? It is changing because now the district is coordinating the work of program placement with student assignment, levies, and capacity management which they haven't done before. She also mentioned having advanced learning in every elementary eventually. She said the program placement would be more coordinated and systemic.
  6. Is the first time we see the Transition Plan at the Dec. 16th Board Work Session? Yes, it will not be ready before then. (I find this hard to believe. They surely have been working on it and I really think a rough outline should be given out sooner. That way when the Board does go to the Work Session, they will have feedback from parents in hand. December 16th is two days before the Holiday break and then the issue literally drops off the radar.)
  7. There is worry about the high (proportional to the other NE elementaries) F/RL number at the new Sand Point. As well the district is going to migrate the ELL program at Bryant over to Sand Point (over the next few years). What will be done to make this program attractive and successful to parents? Superintendent will appoint principals who will start the design teams which will include parents, blah, blah.
  8. Is the district phasing out Spectrum? Tracy answered this one "No" but the answer should have come from Dr. Enfield.
  9. Worry over equity of high school offerings? Dr. Enfield said they are starting with a baseline of offerings and that would include a baseline of AP classes.
Questions at my table (which had Sand Point attendance area parents):
  1. What will Sand Point have in the way of staffing? There are a core staffing standards that you can see on-line. Pat Sanders, who is an elementary school director, said that they have learned from the Jane Addams experience and will apply that knowledge to the newly reopened schools.
  2. One parent said it is better to have more F/RL kids because the school gets more money. (And where is the tipping point for it not being good?)
  3. One parent raised the issue of where the money was coming from for Sand Point's renovation. There is worry over no playground there. Another parent said she heard that they were cannibalizing the BEX money from Ingraham due to their addition work being stalled out. (I have no idea if this is true but it would make sense. I'll check.
  4. Parents who have come together over Sand Point are not creating a PTA and they didn't do it because they were excited about the school. They obviously heard this reported to the Board as if it were a good thing.
Table Reports:
  • too much stress over the worry about siblings. Take it off the table now. "Grandfathering siblings used to be a guarantee and needs to be a guarantee."
  • North Seattle Coalition talked for years about reopening schools and yet it is just happening now.
  • belief that there is a need for more Open Choice seats (this was echoed about 3-4 times). As well, go back to using the concentric circle model for high schools.
  • belief that high school students need more access to the different programs.
  • has the district included the idea of shifts from private to public and vice versa?
  • what about Metro issues for high school students?
  • concern over not knowing if reopened schools will be K-5 or just a few lower grades
  • concern over dividing kids from their friends
  • boundary lines should, when possible, be arterials and not the middle of the street. Should be "fuzzy" boundaries for people who live within a block of a boundary.
  • take high school out of this assignment plan and leave it alone
  • more segregation in the south end with this plan
  • want a distance tie-breaker
  • Friends of McDonald, a neighborhood group, said they supported the grounds and the building that the district largely abandoned. They don't like the boundaries for the school and have worked hard for the building.
My observation is that parents are getting frustrated and feisty, many parents worry over getting access to high school offerings and that I'm not sure that I believe most concerns will be addressed by either staff or the Board.

21 comments:

dan dempsey said...

""Our new SAP is an important step we must take to ensure that every school is an excellent school."

OK so what are the other steps?

This plan to ensure that every school is an excellent school appears to be largely "PR" spin-talk.

Rainier Beach High School grade 10 students had "0" students at level 4 on the math WASL. ummmm so how is that SE initiative working out?

Again in 10 of 12 sections of the WASL ... Math, Writing, Reading at RBHS, Franklin, Cleveland, and Sealth were lower in 2009 than in 2008.......

Would you buy a used car from these SPS salespersons?

dan dempsey said...

Let us also apply the above data to answer Director DeBell's question about how the 111.5 coaches model is effecting academic achievement.

Clearly decision making in the SPS is not based on evidence. Faith based decision making = it takes a lot of faith and naivete to believe these folks could ensure anything having to do with excellence. Academic Excellence coming from JSCEE DownTown now that is an incredible reach based on the evidence. Any SPS excellence occurs in spite of DownTown not because of. Congratulations to all those teachers managing to make excellence happen.

zb said...

"little signs on posts. One said "Equitable, understandable, predictable". Another said, "Our new SAP is an important step we must take to ensure that every school is an excellent school.""

I'm trying to picture this. Did any of them say "War is peace" or "Ignorance is Strength."

zb said...

Incidentally, do I need to be lobbying my representatives in *support* of the plan. I do think the new SAP is a positive change, and hearing that there are people still campaigning for "concentric circles" makes me worry that I need to do something to keep the bones of the plan intact.

What are the remaining issues that the board will still decide? There's the transition plan, and sibling grandfathering, there's the precise boundaries, though I suspect these won't change unless there's something tantamount to an error discovered. There's the staffing/opening of new schools (though, I understood the blah blah blah in your post).

justamom said...

off topic,

can someone open up a new discussion on the affects of the great principal swap of last year. Things are pretty rough at my kids school.

fyi...new to this format

adhoc said...

I think the new SAP is generally good, and I support it for elementary, middle school,K-8's, and option schools

I do not think it is appropriate for high school. Actually I don't even understand why we would need it for high school? High school kids ride Metro so there is no extra transportation cost involved in allowing choice at the high school level. If the district doesn't have to transport kids why would they care which school they choose to go to?

With limited high school choice, and "all schools great schools" we are going to see more and more standardization. Some standardization is a good thing, a baseline of AP classes is a good thing, making sure every school has a band is a good thing.....but too much standardization can destroy a schools culture and unique focus, and even rob it of the flexibility it may need to meet it's communities unique needs. It can limit a schools ability to offer different options (like Monster Lit at Roosevelt or the mandatory AP LA for 11th and 12th graders at Hale). I'd hate to see us move to cookie cutter high schools where all schools are the same, hum drum, LA 101, 102,103,104.

Why not implement the baseline offerings in each high school but keep choice for high schools?

GreyWatch said...

"Why not implement the baseline offerings in each high school but keep choice for high schools?"

I'm not sure what specific ideas are with regard to keeping choice, but I will say the current system puts a lot of stress on parents (and kids). You don't know where you are going until the letter arrives in April, although some years May.

While some kids may be focused and know what they want to achieve in high school, I'd venture that the majority are happy to go to a decent school close to home.

Does the plan provide that? In my neighborhood, yes. Sadly, not in all neighborhoods ... for now. Will that change over time? I believe that is the intent, but we'll see what transpires.

I do agree that special programs such as IB might be better suited to lottery draw.

SE Mom said...

I agree that many high school kids don't have a focus on what they want to achieve in particular ir have a clear notion of a paticular
vocation.

However, many kids at that age are able to identify academic strenghts and interests and same for elective interests and passions.

My kid talks at different times of being a doctor, a graphic artist, a chef even. She is very clear that she loves science, fine arts and playing the violin.

She can't meet those needs at our reference high school (Franklin).
If families apply to other schools via choice seats, they are still not going to know until May.

It will be interesting to see how many kids apply for choice seats and from what schools. All the high schools are so different in culture and offerings that it is anyone's guess about "swirl" (as Tracy L says) patterns.

StepJ said...

Would someone educate me on FRL monies.

Is it a sliding scale - in that 'x' percent allots you a proportionate percent of funds? Or, is it all or nothing? If your school population is over 'x' percent you receive additional funding, and under 'x' percent zero additional funding?

zb said...

"High school kids ride Metro so there is no extra transportation cost involved in allowing choice at the high school level."

The Metro is not free. Moving people around always costs money and resources. I also don't believe that the new system has substantially decreased real (versus theoretical choice), including for high school.

ArchStanton said...

zb said: I'm trying to picture this. Did any of them say "War is peace" or "Ignorance is Strength."

I LOLed.

We need to close schools. We've always been planning to close schools.

It is vital that we open schools. We've always planned to open schools.

h2o girl said...

zb, thank you for the 1984 references. Highly entertaining, and tragic at the same time.

"Our new SAP is an important step we must take to ensure that every school is an excellent school."

It seems the plan is to force people to attend failing schools and have those kids and parents magically fix them. Voila - excellence achieved!

adhoc said...

"I also don't believe that the new system has substantially decreased real (versus theoretical choice), including for high school."

Well, we'll just have to wait and see about that. I used to believe this too, until the district announced the 10% lottery seats at each school, with the possibility of sib preference.

That's 40 freshman seats at Roosevelt, and some of those would go to sibs. Kids from all over the district are going to be applying for those seats, what do you think your chances will be?

I understand your support of the new SAP, at the high school level, from the perspective of a parent who lives in a neighborhood that has an acceptable school. That is true for me. I like the schools that my kids will be assigned to (Eckstein and Hale). And it is hugely comforting for me to know that they can go to both of these great schools. But think about the many families that find themselves in a neighborhood where their school is unacceptable. How can we force people into those schools?

My bet is we will see many many families who live within the boundaries of a "good" school, send their kids to that good school. Great, happy day! But we will also see many many families that live within the boundaries of an unacceptable school trying their hardest to find a way out... they're going to apply for the very limited lottery seats at better schools, go private, out of district, or home school. People are not going to just settle. They won't simply put their kid in a school that is a bad fit for them and their family for the good of the whole. And it's not fair to ask them to.

The district needs to make all schools attractive BEFORE they force a high school assignment plan.

The good news is the district is finally, really, working on improving schools, especially in the south end (SE initiative, Cleveland STEM, adding AP courses, baseline of HS class offerings). The bad news is none of it, to date, is really working. I still hold out hope though, and am very eager to see how Cleveland STEM turns out. There is an opportunity there for a truly great school.

zb said...

"How can we force people into those schools? "

We already do force them into those schools. The school district has a responsibility to make all the schools adequate or acceptable (and, unfortunately, I realize that they all are not yet). But, the old assignment plan did nothing to remedy the forcing of students into inadequate high schools. The only difference I see with this new plan is that it might "force" a slightly different group of people into those schools.

If we were comparing the new SAP to a system of all open choice seats in high school (w/ no distance tie breaker), we might be talking about a different set of equities. But, although a few here have suggested it, it's clearly a complete non-starter. Randomly assigning students to schools that are located is clearly unworkable when schools are 20+ miles apart through the center of a busy city.

yumpears said...

The boundaries are still being discussed in West Seattle. See http://westseattleblog.com/blog/?p=22224#comments

It seems some parents are still trying to get changes. I wonder if it isn't too late at this point.

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adhoc said...

ZB said "the old assignment plan did nothing to remedy the forcing of students into inadequate high schools. "

What??

Many many south end kids bused to to Ingraham in North Seattle. And, Hale always had space for south end kids too, and as long as they applied during open enrollment, and listed it as their first choice school they got in. Franklin, West Seattle and Chief Sealth were wide open too. If none of those schools were appealing to a family they could also try for NOVA and Center school (with pretty good odds of getting in). And then there is APP. If a SE student was in APP they were able to choose Garfield too. So so many options. Actually, I would say all of the HS's in the entire district were open to SE families with the exception of Garfield (for non APP kids), Roosevelt and Ballard. Now, I agree, it's not fair and hugely inconvenient to make kids bus far away from their homes to access a "good" school. But to say that they were forced into "bad" schools is just not true. It's not what happened.

Can you name a family that lived in SE Seattle, that enrolled on time during open enrollment, and listed several high schools outside of their neighborhood on their application (NOVA, Center, Sealth, WS, Ingraham, Franklin, Hale) on their application, but didn't get in to one of them? And got mandatory assignment to Cleveland or RBHS?

Kids were not forced into RBHS, and Cleveland. A handful actually chose the schools. But the fact is the majority of the kids assigned to those schools got assigned there because they failed to participate in open enrollment. When they finally got around to enrolling (after open enrollment was finished) they had to take what was "left over" which of course are the unpopular, undesirable schools.

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