This was in the gym at the Garfield Community Center. They had entertainment before it started which was fine except African drumming in a gym is really loud. Meanwhile, there were about 23 circles of chairs (about 14 per group). No one directed us to get into a group and we got closer and closer to the 7:00 pm start time. Seven comes and goes and the Mayor was there and I asked one of the deputy mayors "tick tock, when do we start?" He said yeah, okay. Then it was 7:15 and it finally starts. You'd think if you start late you (a) would keep the speakers to a minimum and (b) go the total hour and a half. Neither thing happened. So we finally get started about 7:30. The Mayor threw out some sobering stats: 40% of SPS students are F/RL, 53% failed the math WASL, 33% gap in 3rd grade students among different races, 40% of our students miss 10 or more days a year (a stat I had never heard before).
I had an interesting group; I was the only SPS parent. Lots of singles one who questioned why there are no schools or churches in downtown Seattle), a few single parents, the head of Rainier Scholars, some SU staff, our facilitator and our City Year scribe (who just couldn't keep up). Many people had worked with youth in various ways. The challenge was to ask us what we wanted to see in Seattle for youth and families in 5 years.
I think basically our group wanted to see better schools for all students, physical and mental health services for all youth, more family awareness in Seattle, more support for families in Seattle.
The challenges we suggested were money, a plethora of groups sometimes duplicating services/working at cross-purposes, lack of accountability across the board, racism in schools (teachers who work at struggling schools would never send their own kids there), a socioeconomic divide in Seattle and this sad stat: Seattle has the highest number of underage prostitutes in the country (and probably not by choice).
Our top picks for things to work on: lack of access to mental/physical health services for youth, kids not graduating on-time/not going on to high ed because of barriers, no accountability in SPS and violence and youth violence.
- support at the community/neighborhood level for families
- accountability; define what we want as a City for youth and families and hold ourselves accountable for it
- everyone - business, non-profits and other groups - working together to help youth and families
- directory of services coordinated so we know what groups offer what services to avoid duplication or at least coordinated expansion of services and to figure out what is needed and fill that need, data-gathering for this purpose
- helping to support teachers
The gym was full and lively. From what I could see, many groups were talking about education and SPS at least part of the time. I would say from that forum that the Mayor will be hearing about Seattle's public education system.
I feel like it was more for people to vent but there were some solutions offered. I hope that the Mayor and his staff come out with some real trends on what is important and ideas for how to get there. It may look like a very different Families and Education levy this round depending on what they decide is important. I'd be interested to know if they will run it by the Superintendent and Board and who will make the final decision. I know there is a panel that the Mayor chose to decide.