I attended the press conference today about the Transition Plan for 2011-2012. Tracy Libros was there along with the new(ish) head of Customer Service, Brandon Holst and Teresa Whipple of Public Affairs.
The media was represented (in person) by me, Phyllis Fletcher of KUOW and Jerry of KING-5 tv. (By the way, I think KING-5, followed by KIRO-7, do the best job for tv coverage. KOMO and KCPQ always seem awol on these issues.) On the phone were reporters from the West Seattle blog, PI-online, Seattle's Child and The Stranger.
Two of the most important things before Q&A.
Again, as I posted previously, the deadline for issues/concerns to Board members in order to create amendments is FRIDAY, JAN. 7th (tomorrow), not Monday, the 10th. Steve Sundquist abruptly changed this date.
Second, I asked and Tracy verified the following point. There used to be an amendment to the enrollment plan called the Waldman/Barnhart amendment. Basically it was a hold safe amendment. You could put down a first choice that wasn't your reference area school (but hold the reference assignment). That way you chose your TRUE first choice without worrying about losing your neighborhood assignment.
The PowerPoint referenced this going away but I asked Tracy if it was true that if you wanted to put down a choice that wasn't your attendance area school, you would still have that attendance area assignment. She said yes. She said the difference now is that under the NSAP, you get an automatic assignment to your attendance area school and then had to go through Open Enrollment if you had a different choice.
So you can put down any first choice you want AND still have your attendance area assignment as a back-up. Even if you don't get your first choice, you will be on the waitlist (and again, waitlists DO move) so you would still have still have a chance of getting into your first choice.
Q: Steve Sundquist referenced a "capacity review" at last night's Board meeting. Will that change any boundaries or policies for next fall (this was in reference to West Seattle)?
A: Tracy gave the dates for the Transition plan but said that they would be looking at projections. So basically, the answer was no unless something startling or new came up.
Q: How is Garfield's overcrowding being solved?
A: There are several components including boundary changes, an optional APP pathway to Ingraham starting with 9th grade (and possibly 10th grade) and a tie-breaker for students who live in the Garfield area (they would get first choice of any high school in the lottery period).
Q: Was the RBHS community consulted about having an IB program?
A: Yes, it was part of the community discussion.
Q: Is there any truth to the rumor that Martin Floe (principal at Ingraham) might get transferred to RBHS to oversee the new IB program there?
A: (both Tracy and Theresa) No, we haven't heard anything like that.
Q: What about transportation?
A: Transportation issues will be introduced on January 19th and voted on Feb. 2nd.
Q: Won't that be a problem if the Transition Plan is approved the 19th without transportation being addressed until Feb. 2th?
A: No, because any issues would be addressed in the transportation plan, not the transition plan. If any service standards change, transportation would be adjusted.
Q: A follow-up on transportation. If the transportation plan is addressed after the transition plan, won't that be a problem for parents trying to figure out their choices?
A: No, because everything will be announced before Open Enrollment from March 15-31st.
Q: Looking at the Open Choice seats slide, it seems very confusing and given that the NSAP was supposed to be streamlined and easy to understand, it seems counterintuitive.
A: The NSAP never said it would always be 10% and that we would have to look at the data. Open Choice seats will vary from school to school and may not be available at all high schools. Every high school will be given a number for their Open Choice seats and parents will know that number before Open Enrollment. (But I still say they promised the ability to try for any high school but now that seems to not be the case.)
Q: Do you anticipate fewer siblings coming in than last year?
Q: What about international elementaries?
A: (Tracy went through the line from elementary to high school, but folks, I must have missed the memo that McDonald is a done deal but it is. I thought it was still up for discussion. What is up for discussion is what elementaries will be in the Beacon Hill to Mercer chain and what will be in the Concord to Denny chain. I think the choice of McDonald is a slap in the face to the rest of the region. I did not bring up the issue of why these schools aren't Option Schools.) There are still 2 elementaries and one high school to be picked (assuming Ingraham becomes the international high school; it seems like Ingraham, like Hamilton, will be taking on a lot more).
Q: How long do you expect the transition period to be?
A: Technically about 5 years. We expect by then about 90% of the plan will be steady and in place.
Q: What about allegations that there are people who created an address around Garfield to get in?
A: Brandon said that they investigate all reports they receive on this issue. He said that throughout the district there are about 10-15 investigations going on but declined to name schools.
Q: Hamilton is quite full now so do you feel worry that there is no room there at all?
A: Not really but we will continue to monitor capacity issues thorough our annual capacity management report.
Q: Will you be able to accommodate incoming K students to their sib's school?
A: Probably not as we have maxed out the surge capacity with this year's enrollment.
Q: I know AS#1 is off the table but what about it for the future?
A: That's correct. It will not be closed and the Executive Director of that region is working with the principal.
Q: Did I read correctly that you won't be doing the APP pathway to Ingraham if you don't have enough 10th graders?
A: We will start with 9th grade but if there is enough interest (25+ students) then we will have a 10th grade cohort as well.
That was all that was covered.
As I said, I was surprised that McDonald is done deal. I also think that direct invention and support is what is needed at RBHS before any new program. This is what the parents ask for and yet the district seems to think creating a new program will work. It does take a couple of years to get an IB program off the ground so this lays the groundwork but where is the help for students now? I also wonder if transportation issues might suffer because transition and transportation are not being addressed at the same time.
I also asked Mr. Holst about his background (he came on in July). Pretty interesting; he has a theme park background. He worked at both Disneyland and Six Flags and his wife teaches 2nd grade for SPS. Boy, if anyone should know something about customer service, it would be someone who had to deal with irate parents in the middle of summer at a theme park. I pointed out that when they get a new head of Public Affairs/Communications, that he should work with that person to put on the best face possible for SPS. He agreed.