Thursday, December 09, 2010

AS#1 Lives!

At today's board workshop on Integrated Planning, the district has removed its recommendation to close the AS#1 program and repurpose the Pinehurst building into a sped Pre-K. The new proposal is

AS #1
•Keep current program
•Engage and work with the school community to develop an action plan
•Set specific timeline and outcomes for increased enrollment and academic achievement
•Executive Director will monitor

It is possible to get heard - it just takes a monumental effort from parents, staff, and the community. The AS#1 community has had the misfortune of proving this year after year. If your message is true it is possible to be heard. Congratulations to the AS#1 community on another hard fought victory. Thanks to the board for pushing back and getting the staff to change their recommendation.

(my family is no longer at AS#1 but we still value the unique option that the school provides to families in the district)
Why is AS#1 worth saving? Check it out:
http://as1seattle.wordpress.com/

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

hear, hear!

Chris said...

Yayy!

Melissa Westbrook said...

Great job, AS#1 community!

kellie said...

Excellent News!

Central Mom said...

fantastic. way to go, AS1 community! and thank you board and staff.

seattle said...

"Engage and work with the school community to develop an action plan"

Here is an action plan:

A) Don't threaten to close the school every other year.

B) Give the school a long term commitment of sustainment, for instance 8 years (it's a K-8), so new families will feel confident choosing, and committing to, the program.

Maureen said...

Congratulations AS#1! Your hard work and commitment paid off!

SE Mom said...

The AS #1 community rocks! It is a victory for option/alternative schools in Seattle.

Dorothy Neville said...

Wonderful News!

There may also be another bit of good news, but it will take some lobbying. (unless is was discussed tonight as well?)

The board asked the WSS committee for recommendations to fix some WSS problems, with an educated guess of what it would cost.

Well, the group drafted a proposal that would fix the "contact hour" special ed travesty and do a few other tweaks to the system AND fix the K8 travesties. Those include only providing a .5 librarian and a few other things. Plus, especially since we really really need to grow the middle school of the K8s to manage capacity, it included a stabilization for under-enrolled K8s, a guarantee of 2 teachers per grade level. This is crucial because an under-enrolled K8 is facing a chicken or egg conundrum of attracting families without having the resources yet. And, if all goes well and enrollment goes up -- it's a temporary cost.

So moving along, the board was pretty amenable to this draft WSS porposal that had a price tag of $3.2M. Now times are tough, but seriously, restoring and fixing the WSS should be the FIRST priority. And remember, the WSS has seen $10M in cuts while overall district spending has gone up.

Well, the latest version of the draft WSS proposal fleshed out the numbers better and sure enough, it is $3.2M, so the estimate was good. HOWEVER, the breakdown showed that half of that money would go to K8s. At that the board had sticker shock. It seemed as if it was unfair and giving too much to a small portion of the district.

BUT, it is to rectify injustice in the current model and is designed to give a leg up to AS1 and Madrona. So everyone, respectfully but forcefully lobby the board and the district to fulfill that goal in the draft WSS revisions of righting past wrongs to K8s and supporting their 6-8 grades. It is in everyone's best interest that this happen, because we need robust K8 middle school programs to keep traditional middle schools from serious overcrowding.

Confirming the goal of supporting AS1's existence is a great first step.

wsnorth said...

Not so amazing, the Central, NE and NW directors get whatever they want, while the lonely SE and SW areas get nada.

I'm glad they get to keep their school with 100 + odd students in it (really, I am all for any win against these idiots), while our local elementary is more than 100 students over-enrolled.

Sounds fair to me.

Tiki said...

That's good news, but boo to
SPS for putting it on the cutting block in the first place. It's all the jerking around and threats to close that caused the drop in enrollment--2 threats to close in the 4 years my kids were there. It was exhausting and took so much attention away from education.

owlhouse said...

Whoo-hoo! This is great for AS-1, for all of us.

StepJ said...

I don't think that is quite fair WSNorth.

In the NE and other areas of the city there are still schools well beyond the functional capacity from past years or current. Classes being given in the gym or the cafeteria -- tutoring in the halls, art classes in the halls, younger kids and parents being trampled and pushed to the sides of the hallways when the bell rings. No way to have an all school event on the same day and time as there is no space large enough to accommodate everyone at the same time. If this is your reality for this year - the first year - we understand.

There is no special treatment anywhere in the District. In some areas schools are being overcrowded and parents are straining to their maximum to hold together what was a previously thriving school.

In other areas the overcrowding is new.

In some areas there are fewer escape routes than previous to flee a failing school.

No one is getting a pass or a wink. We are all under fire to likely bring us all to a state of mediocrity -- poof, acheivement gap abolished.

There is still so much pain in all areas -

A successful AS1 will go further to alleviate overcrowding than a Spec-Ed preschool.

Folks from the NE, NW, Central, QA have been fighting the oversubscribed fight for many years -- maybe, a coalition to learn from each other and fight together?

Just sayin' - as parents we stand with you not against.

joanna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
joanna said...

What I say below is not to say that this is not good that AS1 has been saved. We can all learn from hard work and united action, and it is great news. Forgive me, but the remarks about the Central Area hit a nerve. I am just not sure why anyone would say that Central gets everything they want. Please show me the evidence. We can all be pitted against each other. If our schools are strong and our neighborhoods and students are thriving envy usually does not set in. But, when our schools are closed using different metrics in different parts of the district or our schools seems to be floundering then many efforts that strengthen other areas and their schools can seem unfair, be it the Southeast Initiative, International Programs, Alternative Programs, or saving AS1. In the Central District the District has closed 3 schools, sold one, and leased the other two out. Schools should not be sold and I do not perceive any major effort to stop these actions. One that closed had quite a few more students than AS1 and a wait list for Montessori and was the closest school for 400 students. Go to TT Minor and find another school that is the least bit walkable or accessible for those 400 students and their families. It is also a hot spot for growth in number of students coming up.

The Central District has no International Programs and really no alternative programs. TOPS really isn't even in the Central District. There are a few programs with good reputations, but little investment has been made over the years to strengthen any program here. Politics plays a major role. School Board representatives have power, but others also have influence. All the schools that closed two years ago were in the 37th. The 43rd District Representatives were proud that no schools closed in their district. We all have to hold all of our politicians accountable to what happens to our schools.

lobby the whole board said...

As#1's school director is peter maier who has never supported the programm. It was the out spoken support of Kay SB, Michael DeBell, and Betty Patu that really convinced staff.

I'm sorry that Steve Sundquist has done such a poor job by WS but hopefully this'll show that its worth it to make your case to all the directors.

Congratulations AS#1.

seattle said...

"I'm glad they get to keep their school with 100 + odd students in it"

It's not AS1's fault that they have 150 or so kids. You probably know this already but I'll repeat it just in case. AS1 was a thriving alt school before the district tried to close them not once, but on 4 different occasions. Families are scared to choose the school, and who can blame them? Who wants to put their kid in a school that is fighting to stay open year after year? What the district needs to do at this point, if they really want to give AS1 a fighting chance, is to give them a long term commitment of say, 8 years or more. Then, I believe, the families will come.

As for the NE directors getting anything they want, well, thats just a pile of bologna. The NE is home to the largest middle school in the state of WA., Eckstein, with 1250 kids and growing (larger than most high schools in SPS). With a permanent portable city built on it's playground. And still, it can't house all of the families in the NE. Historically the school got a 200+ kid waitlist. For years families in Lake City were forced into Shoreline schools, or bused an hour each way to Hamilton in Wallingford. A year and a half ago an out of state family with a middle school age child moved in the house next to us, mid school year. There was not one seat for their child in any comprehensive middle school north of the ship canal. She was offered Aki Kurose in SE SEattle without transportation.

My kids elementary school had 550 kids in it. It was bursting at the seems with 31 kids per class in grades 2-5, 3 lunch periods, no all school events, and their science lab was converted into an extra classroom.

If you think WS got the short end of the stick, you need to come look around.

Faltugiri said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa Westbrook said...

WSNorth, I hear you. I beg you please to channel that anger/frustration/sadness and make sure that you and your neighbors find a good candidate in WS and work hard to elect him or her.

Think about it. If West Seattle could find two good, viable candidates AND the disappointment over Steve's performance there is real, you could bump him out in the primary.

Wouldn't that set the tone for the election.

joanna said...

I am hopeful that Kay Smith-Blum will work for good programs in all areas of the city. So far she has spoken against selling schools.

Jan said...

I think Kay will try -- and I also think that we have potential allies for saving good schools and programs in Betty Patu and Michael DeBell. I think that the District staff got a "presumption" of competence when schools were closed 2 years ago -- hugely to the detriment of West Seattle and alts. But the reopening of 5 schools the following year, while never publicly commented on, was at noticed by at least a few Board members (those not drinking the "District always right - offensive to even question them" koolaid).

I say -- hurray for the AS #1 decision -- and since MGJ (and others at headquarters) clearly have NO love for the program, let's continue to make sure that this decision is followed up by real support that will grow the program!
ALL the other problems of the District -- including West Seattle's issues -- need our continued support. One thing that would be helpful would be for specific suggestions as to what would help. Some bells are not going to be unrung (closing Cooper), but other things COULD be done. As I don't live in WS, I don't have a good feel for the right priority list. What is the single biggest problem, what are the two or three things that could be done to fix it, and what are the primary stumbling blocks (money? reversal of stated District positions (such as not to change boundaries until 2015? etc.)

One thing that helped AS 1 is that there was a specific community (and a broader group of Alt supporters) with a specific, doable "ask." What is the most pressing, but still doable, "ask" for West Seattle?

Charlie Mas said...

I would say that the most pressing problem in West Seattle is the overcrowding of the four elementary schools in the Madison Service Area.

The solution would be the re-opening of Fairmount Park.

This would also help to balance the division between feeder patterns as it would add a fifth elementary school to the Madison/West Seattle secondary school attendance area.

After that, the District needs to add a second elementary language immersion program to feed the middle school one at Denny.

Although the language immersion students would feed up to Denny, I think the elementary program should be in the Madison Service Area (at Fairmount Park) to provide more equitable access. It would also jump-start the enrollment at Fairmount Park.

There are other program placement issues that should be addressed. There is no Option school in the Denny Service Area, there is only one ALO in all of West Seattle (West Seattle Elementary), and there is no traditional K-8 in West Seattle. Equitable access to programs and services, my ass.

Jan said...

So, Charlie and wsnorth:

Assuming we can't fix everything in any area, including West Seattle, at once -- is this the right "ask" for the community to get behind? Reopening Fairmount Park, and siting a language immersion program there?

If so, here are detail questions:

1. Do we want to go for the "big fix" to the option program problem, and ask them to make the Fairmount LI an OPTION school (with a geo boundary that helps the WS crowding problem), or does that defeat the purpose of trying to prevent crowding in the Madison Service Area (I keep thinking -- if we could get just ONE LI school in as an option, maybe we could start the process of getting them ALL there!)

2. Is the whole school LI, or does the LI program run parallel with a "regular" program (in which case, presumably the regular program is a neighborhood attendance area program, and the trick will be -- can we get the LI portion qualified as an option program).

To the extent LI is involved, we are presumably conceding that this particular "ask" helps elementary overcrowding, but does nothing to solve any imbalances between Denny and Madison (and ultimately between Sealth and WSHS) -- I would be ok with that -- not ok with the long term problem, but ok with the idea that this one, first idea isn't going to solve everything. Sometimes, "perfect" is the enemy of "good."

Finally, wsnorth -- to move the needle at the District (since they seem content to conclude that WS has no problems worth going after -- is this one thing something that West Seattle parents could really rally around? It is harder, I think, to pull together an "impassioned community" around a non-existent school that you want in the future -- but if you can get 1. parents at the overcrowded schools, plus 2. WS parents who really want access to LI, you might be able to make enough noise to make the BOARD notice and think about it -- and they might then ask the Staff to respond.

But everybody has to be on the same page, with one coherent, workable suggestion -- or it just gets diffused into the general clamor of school programs in disarray or under stress (GHS, Eckstein, RBHS, etc. etc.), and it will be ignored.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I believe some of this AS#1 decision is about the building itself.

Along with the unfair treatment of AS#1 and its long legacy in the district is that when people told the district how much money would have to go to fix up Pinehurst for a pre-school center, that really helped turn the corner. (I believe it did.)

Charlie keeps saying that they need to open Fairmount Park.

They don't want to open Fairmount Park because of the money it will take. They can't keep reopening these very poor condition buildings. Nothing will be left for maintenance and it will start eating into BEX which really is for currently used old buildings.

Jan said...

Melissa: you are right. I had thought of the fact that AS1 is already open -- and thus, there is not a big expense hit to keeping it open (especially given the crowding in the Northend). Fairmount is not, and so it is expensive (it also leaves lots of egg on the faces of those who closed capacity in WS 2 years ago, when the community warned them that it wouldn't work). Is it your opinion that any solution to Madison Area overcrowding would require reopening a building -- and reopening a building is just NOT going to happen (since it wasn't the District's idea, unlike Sandpoint, McDonald, etc.etc.)

An "ask" that can't possibly be granted is not the one we want to rally behind. Is Fairmount simply impossible based on expense, and if so, what would be one that the District might go for?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Jan, I plead some degree of ignorance on the whole West Seattle crowding. I only know what people here are saying as well as the data that seems to point to a continuing problem. But is it short-term or long-term?

Have they tried surge capacity in W.S.? Portables?

You could rebuild one of the West Seattle elementaries but (1) I'd have to check and see who is a likely suspect, maybe Arbor Heights but they are very far south, right? and (2) that would take time if the problem is here right now.

West Seattle folks, what do you think should happen?

Charlie Mas said...

If there was just one ask it would be to re-open Fairmount Park regardless of what kind of program is placed there. The area needs more classrooms.

The Madison Service Area elementaries are more overcrowded than Garfield and it's only going to get worse. The District pretends that the overcrowding is due to out-of-area students, but that's not true.

The District only recently closed Fairmount Park so, while it probably isn't in good shape, it can't be in totally awful shape.

As to the expense of re-opening a school, the District also claimed that it would be too expensive to re-open Sand Point and McDonald. Their claims that something can't be done are not credible. The District has three other vacant buildings in the area where the Fairmount Park students can attend school while their building is getting fixed up for them (Boren, E.C. Hughes, and Genessee Hill). Of those, Boren is in perfectly servicable shape - it is the interim site for West Seattle. Sealth was there last year but it is empty this year. Denny won't need it - they are moving from their old building right into their new building. Oh! That's right! The Denny building will also be available (until they tear it down).

Josh Hayes said...

I certainly hope the district works to meet goal two on the bulleted list, i.e.:

Engage and work with the school community to develop an action plan.

Just a cessation of the outright hostility would be a positive step, but if the district wants an actual, healthy school in the building, it behooves them to talk up the school, make it find-able on the web site (go ahead, look at the school finder and check the list of "alternative schools" - you'd think a school WITH THE WORDS "alternative school" IN ITS NAME would be on that list, right?), encourage enrollment center staff to suggest parents check it out, and so forth.

I hope the district will walk the walk in this matter, because the school community is eager to get the word out and recruit more students and their families.

Thanks to all who supported us in this iteration of the fight. I think the recently-identified point in this thread is well taken: a coherent "ask" and a determined effort on the part of lots of people to drive home the message really works - just look at how politicians drum their talking points into our ears. They do it because it works.

I really believe the push for the best schools we can have should unite all of us, not drive wedges between us: we ALL want those schools, for ALL of our kids. If we in the AS1 community can help others achieve what they want from the district, give us a shout! We're good at organizing by now!

Seattle Parent said...

Hold on a minute! You guys all sound like the District suddenly, deciding instant fixes for a whole community without asking the stakeholders who actually have kids in elementary, middle & high schools in West Seattle what they want and need first! And just like the District, decisons are being made hidden (under a strand about a north end school AS#1) so West Seattle stakeholders have to stumble on this by sheer accident!

Your "one-ask fix" only takes care of part of north West Seattle's problems, for 4 elementary schools which are overcrowded. It is definitely a problem which must be addressed (portables won't cut it for a long term problem), but you all are either ignoring or do not understand the critical sprial that the district is putting on the West Seattle middle & high school imbalances (which the district continues to ignore- see the discussion over on the SAP Transition meeting strand).

Because of our unique & isolated geography, West Seattle must have two strong sets of linked middle & high schools for those elementary kids to move up to, or the assignment plan will not work- We can't have one thriving and full set (Denny/Sealth), and the other (Madison/WSHS) with crippling enrollment cuts, program and services shrinking each year in a tailspin.The district is like an ostritch on this one, and we are just in year one of the destruction cuts.

Recently all 15 of the West Seattle school PTSA presidents were sent an invite to meet together to discuss this and those who met all agreed that the two problems combined at West Seattle must be solved as a whole plan and not piecemeal. Please do not present a half baked plan without full representation from all stakeholders!!!

As to opening another elementary school, at the SAP meeting Kathe Johnson said there were 3 options: Fairmount Park, Boren and yes, Hughes (after a 1 year recall option on their lease to West Side School!). There was more, about reopening buildings, limiting new international immersion programs, etc, but I think I should put it in the strand about yesterday's SAP meeting so others can find it.

Oh, by the way, what was the district's new solution for attracting more kids to want to go to WSHS instead of Sealth, in their "Academic Assurances & Program Placement" section last night? The said they will be sure WSHS has 1 (yes, that's one) AP science class!

Seattle Parent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Seattle Parent said...

Jan said,
"To the extent LI is involved, we are presumably conceding that this particular "ask" helps elementary overcrowding, but does nothing to solve any imbalances between Denny and Madison (and ultimately between Sealth and WSHS) -- I would be ok with that -- not ok with the long term problem, but ok with the idea that this one, first idea isn't going to solve everything. Sometimes, "perfect" is the enemy of "good."

Wow, all the middle and high school students present & future in the north end of West Seattle really thank you for throwing them all under your bus!

Do you know that last year the 2015 projections (based on actual in-area enrollment from the off-balance maps we are stuck with) showed a 35% enrollment cut at both Madison & WSHS? This compares to the 10-25% overcrowding at the 4 elementary level. Neither of these problems is acceptable for our kids, especially when there wasn't a problem before the school closurers and the 4 to 6 off balance maps were approved!

Over-enrollment stresses & impacts programs and services to kids just as significently as under-enrollment does, yet under-enrollment takes much longer to recover from the damages (kind of like the stock market)- Once a school has severe program & service cuts, word gets around that it will get worse each year your kid is attending- all those promised cool programs & classes will evaporate, less kids will enroll, and the downward spiral continues. With over-enrollment, once the problem is fixed & enrollment is back at a managable level, parents will gladly keep & send their kids to a succesful school.

The problem is that you will always get more elementary parents rallied around a problem than you will middle & high school parents, who have for many reasons stepped back from the engagement plate. The meeting I mentioned with West Seattle parents we held recently reflects that. Sad but true, MS & HS parents disengage and let the district do what they are going to do anyway.

Please do not throw these kids who do not have a voice under your or the district's bus!

Jan said...

Seattle Parent: I don't want to throw anyone under any bus!! All I want to do is figure out how a bunch of people some of whom don't live in WS (including me) can figure out from better informed, more clued in folks, exactly what we can/should ask for -- right NOW -- to help the WS problems. From reading blogposts and comments on this site, my sense is that there are a LOT of problems. The initial one that was identified was intolerable crowding in WS elementary schools -- and the fix that was identified, and debated, was to reopen Fairmount (and then "help" with another couple of problems by either making it an all option language immersion school (with a geo boundary that gives WS kids preference, or by making it a part neighborhood assignment/part language immersion school -- with the LI program going to Denny, and the neighborhood kids going to Madison.

I was actually trying to draw attention to the fact that this particular "ask" does NOT solve one of the other "big" problems in WS. AS#1 has achieved a "win" by pulling together a single coherent request, a clear "do this -- not that" request. My sense is that it was spearheaded by two communities -- AS #1 parents and the alt community -- with some generalized "other" support.

All I really want is for help for WS. But I don't know what to ask for. There is so much that needs to be done, and MGJ has caused so much harm to so many schools, between school closures, the SAP, bad program placement and management, etc. No area is going to get everything it needs or deserves at this point. But we need to grab onto problems and try to fix them. AS was one. My point was -- WS is another. So, let me fetch those poor kids out from under the bus and ask you (really, I have no skin in this game, only a voice to be deployed): Given all of the possible issues in WS, what should parents who care generally ask for. If I show up at a Director's coffee hour, what do I say? I don't think I get a long wish list for WS (I already have things to say about Garfield - where I do have a child). What do you think parents interested in advocating for WS schools should specifically be asking for?