Sunday, February 20, 2011

Growing Pains

For those who don't know, McGilvra is a small (269) thriving elementary in Madison Park. Because of the dedication of their parents and being in a fairly well-to-do area, McGilvra has high test scores and a PTA that raises roughly $260,000 a year. Yes, a year. They fund 3.6 FTE.

InJuly of 2000, bought 2 portables for their school to lower class size and to increase the overall capacity of the school. When they bought the portables, they and the district signed an agreement about their use.

So what's the problem? It's a dual one. First, under NCLB, students at schools that did not meet AYP were allowed to leave their school for another school in their same area. McGilvra could not get out of this federal regulation and may have had to take in some students (although it seems like it must have been very few). This is not discussed anywhere at the McGilvra website but I know from other research that it was an issue.

Second, of course, was the New Student Assignment Plan which apparently has made McGilvra even more attractive to those in the neighborhood.

Right now, the principal seems to be trying to figure out how to deal with the increased enrollment and their website reflects the options of looping and multiage to be discussed with parents at a PTA meeting in March.

However, last September, a couple of parents who were lawyers hired a lawyer from the firm of Stoel Rives to enter into a discussion with district legal counsel, Ron English. Here's the letter.

It's cordial but firm. Basically, they feel the district is not living up to the terms of the portables agreement and seem to be obliquely saying if the district doesn't live up to it, the PTA won't be able to fund those teaching positions.

The agreement was for the McGilvra PT to buy the portables ("Portables Gift Agreement") and the district would guarantee that those spaces would be used for smaller classes for twenty years. Under the deal, the district has to pay back the PTA if the district uses the portables for any other purpose. The PTA agreed to fund the extra staff.

The PTA's position is that unless there is no other way AND the rest of the Central area schools have to take their fair share, then McGilvra will grow to even larger. They want to have 20 children per class in K-3 and 22-23 in grades 4-5. They currently have 27 in their kindergarten classes and 23/24 in other grades.

From the letter:

While McGilvra's small class sizes have at times been controversial, the district encouraged the PTA to head down this path a decade ago as part of a 20-year commitment, It is important to emphasize that this was not and is not an elitist approach whereby an affluent neighborhood school has reduced class sizes by restricting access to the school. Just the opposite - with the PTAs purchase of the portables and the ongoing fundraising to support three additional teachers each year, the PTA and district partnership has actually added more children to the school.

One line from the letter was striking:

Without small class sizes, it is highly unlikely McGilvra can continue to raise a fifth of the school's budget.

To be clear, the PTA doesn't want money from the district. They want the district to honor what they believe is their due in the agreement and that is using the portables to reduce class size.

What the PTA desires is for the district to productively engage with the PTA to find ways to maintain and honor their partnership to provide reduced class size and enrichment programs at McGilvra so that the purpose of the contract can continue to be met. If such solutions can be found, the PTA is confident that it can continue to raise funds to support teacher salaries and programs to benefit the school's children.

They also requested a meeting with Mr. English and Susan Enfield. Among issues they wanted to talk about was this:

5. Whether and how the Portable Gift Agreement(and related Grant money) was included in drawing the attendance area boundaries;
6. What would occur if the PTA is unable to fund the teacher salaries at the same level as the current funding it provides the district;
7. Plans for remodeling/recontructing the school;

(Note: McGilvra probably will be on a short list for BEX IV. Unlike Montlake, they have enough land to build to be a bigger school and it would seem they could fill it. As well, their building is quite old (1913).

They don't have a real explanation of whether the meeting took place but reading the minutes, it seems it did. This is what they said:

New administration - different view - they don't like the whole approach. Overall they stayed positive. General counsel who has been around for district for a long time- had a practical approach. His suggestion was- no new contract. A Memorandum of understanding- maybe some things we can tie down.

Felt like we could make the best of it. Sent a draft didn’t’ hear anything. Holly and I spoke with Ron and Ron said basically said it is not going to work. The top of district won’t work with Memorandum and they want to cash you out of portables.

Choices- can sue this under contract. Not a very likely path.
No new contract- new administration doesn’t want to do this.

There's discussion about what the district funds and then this:

They wont’ bring anyone outside reference area- neighborhood schools work.

What's also interesting is in their December minutes they talk about the kindergarten teachers being stressed with 27 students but that the teachers don't want aides (but tutors would be okay). Apparently they were still waiting to hear from the district on the portables issues. They also reference the growing pains over at Schmitz Park.

Harium Martin-Morris attended their Feb. PTA meeting and it looks like he got asked many questions.

Will- what are you doing with the schools are over capacity?
H-Try to encourage folks to make different choices. We spend many nights trying to match up the surges that we see- growing at two small elementary schools a year. MLK- not viable school space- wouldn't have helped.
Cathy- when do you put us up to top of the levy to update our space? H- there are a dozen schools in the same space. This is the biggest growth in more than any other part of the city. We opened up Sandpoint for that reason. It isn't always in the right place.

I do not bring this up to say anything in specific about McGilvra. They have and have had a dedicated, highly-motivated parent base and a good school. I think that many schools would love to have their problems. I would also say there is a danger in these kinds of agreements because of the unknowns of the future. No school should be able to control its place in any assignment plan.

From a district view of the issues raised from this story:

Like Schmitz Park, like Thorton Creek, the issue on crowding for McGilvra relates to public areas like bathrooms and the lunchroom. None of those schools can expand for that even with portables.

There seems to be a theme: functional capacity. I am going to write a thread on this as there were figures given out at the Operations Committee meeting that really confused me. (I want to get the link from Tracy L. so you can see it yourself.) The district has got to quit changing these figures. Yes, programming changes what you can do in a school but there has got to be a baseline number because otherwise, the district can cram kids into a school and claim the enrollment fits the functional capacity.

102 comments:

Chris said...
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Chris said...

I have two tangentially-related comments.

First, class size. I met a teacher from legendary (on this blog) Maple elementary perhaps this is the secret to their test scores (in a non-white, non-affluent demographic): A few year ago she had 19 kids in class, and instructional assistant, and a family support worker. Now she has 28 and no assistance whatsoever. I said "but Maple'e test scores are still good." She said "well, they are going down." I suspect the benefit of the reduced class sizes and increased support will persist a bit until kids who have benefited from them at some point age out of the school.

Second, something else Michael DeBell said yesterday really connected the dots for me. I've heard, and repeated all this bit about "enabling" dismal state funding, but he said "PTA's fund 30-some FTE. That is 3 some million that could be put into, say, a lobbying campaign." (OK, I may not remember the numbers correctly, but you get the idea.) And that's only FTE. We too have put some dough toward mitigating growing pain in other ways. Anyway, McGilvra, if you want to stop funding 1/5 of your schools budget, I have an idea what you can do instead, and I'll join in.

wsnorth said...

Do you mean to imply the district might have lied to someone? Deceived parents? Went back on its word? Took advantage of the hard work of a dedicated neighborhood?

Noooooo! That would never happen in Seattle. West Seattle, maybe, South Seattle, sure, but not the rest of it!

Melissa Westbrook said...

No, I'm not implying anything. I'm just stating what has happened. I have no idea if the district is honoring its agreement with McGilvra and I'm sure no one would tell me even if I asked.

Bird said...

Not surprisingly, I have limited sympathy for a school that has 27 Kindergarteners in each class and 24 kids in all the others.

My kid's school has always had 28 kids, and the first grades currently have 31. What a dream to have 24!

It's remarkable that McGilvra ever came to this sort of agreement with the district, but given the new student assignment plan, it seems like the district should just fork over the money for the portables and be done with it.

I don't see under the current system how you can reasonably or equitably guarantee a single school lower class sizes just because the parents have the money to pay for it.

If any McGilvra parents think they can win in the long term on this, they are myopic to a comical degree.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

I think many of the McGlivra parents—re: Madison Park residents—will be looking at private school options soon.

Anonymous said...

Amen Bird!!! It's absurd that the district ever agreed to the McGilvra portable arrangement, especially given how myopic the entire school seems to be. On the one hand, they want to be some sort of utopian neighborhood school. On the other hand, they wish to control who in the "neighborhood" they serve... minorities, students with disabilities, not so much. It seems like the parents would like to draw the line, house by house, around those welcomed. The fact is, all schools serve students outside of their boundary. Some for special programs. Some for NCLB. It is completely unreasonable for McGilvra to do anything less as a public school. Notably, McGilvra area students are also educated in other schools when they have needs that must be met elsewhere. And the threat to stop funding "extra" teachers is downright laughable. Ok then. Stop donating. Or, better yet, attend your favorite private school, fork over the 20 grand, and then fork over the donations at that anuual fund as well. McGilvra IS still a public school.

I vote for give 'em the 60 grand for the portables, and the 28 students per classroom like everywhere else. By golly, some of those kids from the old nearby MLK might show up!

local parent

Anonymous said...

Right! If McGilvra wishes to limit all participation to "local neighborhood", because
"neighborhood schools work"... does it plan to educate all the students with disabilities living near McGilvra? Somehow I doubt it. I didn't see anything about that in the agreement. They wish to be a private school with limited access. Students are currently shipped out of this "working neighborhood school" to the "better working school" somewhere else. There are kids with disabilities in my school unable to their local school, McGilvra.

SPED parent

lori said...

The fact that this quasi-private/charter school has been operating in this mode is finally out of the bag. There are others in the district and they are only slightly less egregious (you know who you are).

There are teachers all over this district who have 28 students in their primary level classes, are expected to do differentiation, and have a whole range of needs and little-to-no classroom assistance. They have the same teachers' contract as the teachers in these you-know-who-you-are-schools.

Ever since the Weighted Student Formula, this injustice in the schools has been allowed to permeate. It amazes me that these people can rationalize it by saying that the rest of us are so lucky they have chosen to send their kids to "public" school.

anne said...

I thought it was no longer allowed that a school's PTA could fund teacher salaries. Although understandable that a school's community wants its funding to stay within the school, it does obviously build inequities between the schools and a line should at least be drawn at funding core stuff like teacher salaries.

joanna said...

I'm not sure why you have thought this could not happen in the central part of Seattle, especially in the Central District portion. Remember if something is happening to you, you may feel alone. The reality is usually that the same thing is happening around the District.



re:"Do you mean to imply the district might have lied to someone? Deceived parents? Went back on its word? Took advantage of the hard work of a dedicated neighborhood?Noooooo! That would never happen in Seattle. West Seattle, maybe, South Seattle, sure, but not the rest of it!"

lendlees said...

Anne-

The PTA can designate the funds for any purpose they like. The principal can choose to accept those funds or not. Our school's PTA funded half of a staff position last year and made a decision this year to only fund enrichment, not staff. (with the small exception of a part-time librarian assistant)

Our principal had no issues with that, and, in fact told us he respected it and was glad that he didn't have to worry each year if we were going to fund the position(s) or not.

wsnorth said...

I was about half kidding, half appalled, and half serious when I wrote my prior post.

5 years ago I trusted the district had the best interest of student's at heart, and at least honestly tried to serve the public good. Now, I find it hard to believe anything they say.

On a serious (and sad) side, 20 students per class in West Seattle meant only one thing to SPS: "time to close some schools"!!

30 kids per class means "time to bring in some portables".

That's capacity planning in our neck of the woods.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Lendees is right; principals can decide. Some say no because the worry is that maintaining the funding for a full FTE is a tremendous burden on parents and the principal can't be sure of the funding year to year.

That McGilvra parents 10 years ago signed an agreement that committed parents for 20 years to funding teachers seems a confident move that (1) all future parents would want to continue funding those positions and (2) they would have the ability to fundraise that kind of money.

lori said...

Anne,

As I recall, Carla Santorno had attempted to rule out PTA spending
for class-size purposes. I had heard that some PTAs/schools (Stevens may have been one) were dealing with this during a brief time. You had a basis for your belief that this had once been overruled.

The inequity and injustice remains.

dj said...

I am sorry but I cannot see any possible justification for permitting PTAs to buy down class sizes in affluent neighborhoods. What would the justification be?

Anonymous said...
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anne said...

My older son (now a 9th grader) went to Stevens and the PTA did fund a bubble class. One class out of K-5 had three classes instead of two, which enabled the other classes to reduce their size. It always suprised me that this was allowed and remember a lot of debate about it a few years ago. I have no idea whether it is still in place. I have a 4 year old that will be in kindergarten at Stevens next year and all I know is that they now have three kindergarten classes instead of two. So no longer a bubble but a constant three classes per grade if the current enrollment numbers continue. No room for the McGilvra overflow at Stevens!

Charlie Mas said...

Let's say that it wasn't the PTA but a philantropic organization, the Opportunity Gap Elimination Society. And let's say that instead of funding class-size reduction at McGilvra they did it at Emerson. Would it be okay then?

And if it is okay for one charity to do it, why isn't it okay for another charity to do it?

And if it's okay for them to do it at one public school, why wouldn't it be okay for them to do it at another public school?

And if what the PTA at McGilvra is doing is wrong, then isn't the same true for what the New School Foundation is doing at Southshore?

And where is the line? Funding basic education? What's basic education? Funding FTE's? All FTE's or just classroom teacher FTE's? Would librarians be okay? Family Service Workers? counselors? instructional aides?

And who gets to decide where the line is drawn? You? the principal? the superintendent? the Board? the OSPI?

If it is wrong for a PTA to reduce class size, then how it is okay for the City of Seattle to levy itself to reduce class size when rural communities can't afford to do that? Isn't that the same thing on a larger scale?

For that matter, how is it okay for communities to pay for full-day Kindergarten or six or seven periods of high school, or extra days of school, or extra training days for teachers? Shouldn't every community just get what the state pays for and nothing more?

What's the difference? What does it matter who pays for it or how the spending is determined?

Anonymous said...

Lori and others this is the post that was removed because I forgot to sign. What I said was that the principal who brought about the portables arrangement and all the exclusions that went with is still lionized by these parents. They think she represents the good old days. Just think about that when you hear people complaining about principal transfers.

Signed, parent

Syd said...

It is a contract, and contracts are legally binding. As well, those portables are close to a quarter of a million dollars apiece. Perhaps I am wrong, but if memory serves the school was under-performing when the idea was floated and implemented. The district agreed because at the time local control was the manner in which schools were governed.

Anonymous said...

Ironic, that MGJ thinks that outside funding to decrease class size is OK at the school her daughter goes to, but not for another school?

Love to know the psychology behind that one....

Po3

Rosie said...

Charlie -- Just curious, what would be your reaction if the non-profit that wanted to do this was related to the dreaded Broad Foundation? Assume all other facts -- parents like it, teachers and principal like it, etc.

This one troubles me. On the one hand, I love the financial commitment that parents are willing to make. On the other hand, I'm not sure I want anyone to be able to buy an exception to what the rest of the District is experiencing.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand this school decision just on a financial basis. the mcgilvra PTA has been paying the district $260K a year to pay for extra teachers that allowed more kids to go to the school while reducing class size. so now, in the middle of a budget crisis, the district decides that they would rather foot the bill for these three extra teachers and pay the PTA back for the portables at $60K while also annoying the parent community and sending many of them running for the private schools. mcgilvra was an awful school before the contract was signed and is now one of the top schools. is this the best use of our district dollars? i don't think so.
signed,
sps parent

Bird said...

And if it is okay for one charity to do it, why isn't it okay for another charity to do it?

Last I checked, there weren't a lot of charities cutting checks to reduce class size by a third in affluent neighborhood schools that are filled with families that could pay tuition for the private school class sizes they want.

But putting that aside, they main reason this is untenable is that this is a neighborhood school now.
The neighborhood schools have to take the neighborhood kids, or we're back to the old assignment plan.

If McGilvra gets to buy their way into a fixed class size, then I can think of a whole bunch of other schools that will want to line up to buy a fixed class size as well, at which point the NSAP seizes up, at least in the north where most of the big PTA bucks are found.

dj said...

Charlie, we all pay the same taxes here in this city for the same school district. I personally find it pretty outrageous that one community would be able to get small class sizes because it is affluent. I think it is being too cute by half to suggest that creating small class sizes at an affluent school is the same thing from a moral or policy perspective as it would be at a school that has a lot of high-needs students who require a great deal of intervention and support.

Bird said...

I don't understand this school decision just on a financial basis

I don't see how this is a terrible financial decision. Sure, the McGilvra PTA stops paying for a few FTE, but when the classes can be filled to capacity, it will cut the FTE costs elsewhere. It's not like the district is going to keep paying these FTE costs to keep the class size of 20. The change is probably mostly a wash on the staffing.

The district will have to pay for the portables, but the district should pay for portables. Sure, every little bit is hard in these tight budget days, but this will hardly break the budget. It's no MAP testing or pay raises for teachers.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm not sure that the McGilvra PTA is going to do anything. The minutes are somewhat ambiguous about what the outcome will be and I think they are still either discussing this with the district or pondering what comes next.

Keep in mind that McGilvra is NOT the only school to fund teachers (or other FTE). There are about 32 FTE funded by PTAs. At the same time, I note that there are at least 5 elementaries with no PTA at all.

Charlie, none of the city levies reduced class size. When did I miss this? The only one I recall was 728 and that was statewide and our district didn't use the money to reduce class size.

But you do ask good questions and ones that flare up more during hard economic times.

Again, I didn't write this to pick on McGilvra but to point out how the best of intentions can go awry AND that the NSAP is playing out in ways that the district somehow didn't account for (or believe will flatten out in several years).

Anonymous said...

If you can't tell the difference between a diverse municipality taxing itself to provide a communal good to all its citizens or a philanthropic organization piloting a program designed to equalize social opportunities and a group of rich families self-dealing to buy themselves a higher quality public education than that available to the rest of the district, then I'm glad you are not on the school board, Charlie.

--A former supporter

Guppy said...

Actually McGilvra fundraised over $395,000 this year. $260,000 of that paid for 3 classroom teachers.

For a list of everything their PTA funds look here:

http://mcgilvraschool.org/wp
-content/uploads/2011/01/Detail
ed-programs-funded-by-PTA-Donat
ions-11-14-10-1-McGilvra
-2010_2011-Budget.pdf

Frankly, I'm proud of them. I'm always happy to hear when a school is doing well despite what may be happening in the district.

Look, nothing will ever be equal. If things were equal then the south end schools wouldn't have 30 minutes of extra classroom time per day, Hale wouldn't have a radio station, Roosevelt wouldn't have an award winning jazz band, Sealth wouldn't offer IB, South Shore's per pupil funding wouldn't be $10,000, there would be no SE Initiative, and no International program at Beacon Hill.

Do we want all of these wonderful things to go away in the name of equality? And where does it end. Does every school have to have the exact same thing? Same offerings? Same exact number of students in every single 4th grade class?

Let's celebrate when schools figure out ways to meet their communities needs, despite the many constraints of central admin, and the economy.

dj said...

Guppy, with whatever respect is due, I think every single parent in this district would love to have 20-child kindergarten classes and comparably small elementary school classes. How innovative! There is nothing special here besides having a fundraising base. You will pardon me for not "celebrating" wealthy people having wealth.

Stu said...

First, to "a former supporter," I think you completely misread what Charlie was saying. He wasn't necessarily advocating a pro or con position on this, he was asking why funding one program in one place is any different than funding another one somewhere else?

There are a lot of schools that raise extra money through PTAs and grants and, yes, schools in more affluent neighborhoods can give more money to their local schools. And schools in less affluent neighborhoods can get additional funding through the district and grants. It's not entirely fair but to criticize a school for doing the best it can for the students that go there . . . I just don't get it.

McGilvra was an underperforming school before coming up with this arrangement. They worked out a plan to improve and, hey look at that, it worked. For the district to now go in and change it is insane. What the district SHOULD do, and it's something they NEVER do, is replicate the success elsewhere.

This school is a perfect example of what can happen when you have smaller class sizes. What's going to happen to this school is a perfect example of what happens when a district pays no attention to data.

I find the anger on this thread incredibly misguided and misplaced. Mcglivra's a neighborhood school and will have to take neighborhood kids up to capacity. They have a contract with the city that limits their capacity a bit for now. The district, and it appears a number of people on this thread, want to knock McGilvra down a few notches with a ridiculous "that'll show 'em" attitude that celebrates mediocrity in the name of equality.

Bring other programs up, don't knock successful ones down.

stu

Stu said...

dj said: There is nothing special here besides having a fundraising base. You will pardon me for not "celebrating" wealthy people having wealth.

This isn't wealthy people "celebrating" their wealth . . how insulting! These are involved families and a neighborhood celebrating a successful transformation of a public elementary school.

Do I resent, living here in the Northeast cluster, that I'm called upon to donate money to my local schools to make up for district shortcomings while the district pours millions in the south end? Sometimes. I pay the same percentage of taxes as every other homeowner in the city and I hate the idea that this district is so damaged that it doesn't know how to replicate successful programs and reward ingenuity and creativity. I hate that every three or four years they come up with a new way to throw money at failing schools when, in my humble opinion, the first step should be smaller class sizes, personal tutoring, better in-school leadership, counselors, and neighborhood involvement. And I hate reading comments about how the success of one program has any bearing on the failures of another.

To slam people, especially "people of wealth," who've decided NOT to leave the district for private school but, instead, have donated time and money to make a public elementary school better for all who go there . . ? That's insane.

stu

Chris said...

I agree Stu. McGilvra and South Shore are putting different colored bandaids over a gaping abscessed wound that is the result of WA being near-last in funding K-12. AND, the voters have been pretty consistently clear that we value small class size, yet our legislators leave us hanging. Yep, you're going to pull out the vote on 1098, and I'm going to say that such an idea had to be citizen-supported is just sad. There are no good guys or bad guys in our school communities. Look outside - outside Seattle, outside public education - who funded no on 1098???

TechyMom said...

I live in the old MLK reference area, which is now part of the McGilvra attendance area. Most of the kids in my neighborhood go to McGilvra. Parents from my neighborhood are active in the PTA. My neighbors are a diverse bunch, and no one has ever complained of being unwelcome. The McGilvra PTA asked to have the MLK reference area added to theirs when MLK closed, and one of the goals was increasing diversity.

Families in Madrona tried in 2001 to do something similar to what McGilvra did, and were turned down by the principal. These are very similar neighborhoods, with vastly different school outcomes. Wouldn't it make more sense to try to replicate the success of McGilvra at Madrona, so that people would use some of its capacity, rather than trying to stamp out one more small island of excellence? If MJG doesn't leave soon, we will no excellence at all left in this district.

Guppy said...

"Guppy, with whatever respect is due, I think every single parent in this district would love to have 20-child kindergarten classes"

Yup, you are right. That is exactly what every parent wants. McGilvra was able to make it happen, and you want to take it away from them? I don't understand this rationale?

Every parent in this district would also love to have access to free, high quality, pre K too. But only South Shore gets that. Should we take that away too?

And speaking of South Shore, should we also take away the extra per per pupil funding that South Shore Students get? It's not paid for by PTA fundraising, but it is paid for by private funding (Stuart Sloan's Foundation). The district along with Sloan spend $10,000 per pupil at New School, while students at every other school in the district receive 7432. Take that away, or celebrate that at least one group of students can be the beneficiary of a better education? I say celebrate.

And how about the 30 extra minutes of classroom time that students in certain south and West Seattle schools get? Do you have any idea what this costs the district? Only these schools receive it. Should we take it away in the name of equality? And what if Laurelhurst elementary saw that it worked, and decided to try it themselves, and paid for it from their PTA funds?

If a school community figures out how to help themselves, whether by utilizing extra district funding, grants, community or private partnerships, or PTA fundraising we should applaud them. We should strive for every student to get a great education. Stop tearing down the few who are actually doing well.

dj said...

I fundamentally disagree with the notion that within a school district, some schools should have substantially better offerings because they have people who are able to fundraise. I find it insulting to suggest that when we have schools that have 80-90% FRE populations (and we have plenty of them) that there is some way in which parents are noble or "involved" because they can raise triple-digit amounts of money for a supposedly public school so that they can provide better basic services (and I consider things like core teaching staff to be the definition of basic) than other schools.

Guppy said...

"I fundamentally disagree with the notion that within a school district, some schools should have substantially better offerings because they have people who are able to fundraise."

OK DJ. Should some schools have substantially better offerings because they DO NOT have people who are able to fundraise?

Because that is exactly what is happening in SPS.

As I noted earlier:
Much higher per pupil funding at South shore, free pre-k at South Shore, 30 minutes of extra classroom time per day in several south and West Seattle schools, automatic college scholarship for Cleveland graduates no matter their income, and believe me I can go on and on and on.

These schools are obviously getting much more that most other schools in the district. Is this OK? And if so, why? Why should low income schools be allowed to get more than other schools when higher income schools can't (even when they are willing to fund it themselves?

Please explain DJ.

Rosie said...

So Guppy, while some of your points make sense, is it really fair to compare extra (public) funds that are going to schools with highly challenged populations, with extra (private) funds that are going to schools with far less challenged populations?

Put another way, it is "unfair" that a person with asthma or heart failure uses more health care dollars than people who are robust specimens of physical fitness without any chronic health conditions? To your way of thinking, it appears that it is.

That can't be what you really mean, is it?

Guppy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

McGilvra parents are myopic if they think they can escape the pain of the district's bad capacity planning, but the McGilvra bashers are also myopic. You should be rooting for the McGilvra families to have an incredibly fabulous public school experience at McGilvra so that they all go on to Washington MS and Garfield HS - and bring their checkbooks with them! Then they can pay for all kinds of cool extras for YOUR kids. And hopefully they also bring their firepower to campaigning for school levies, advocating for funding in Olympia, etc.

There are all kinds of good knock-on effects that come from having middle class and affluent families engaged in the public schools. Conversely, a district where all those families choose private school or move to the suburbs would NOT be a happy place for those left behind.

Signed,

A Stevens parent

Guppy said...

"Put another way, it is "unfair" that a person with asthma or heart failure uses more health care dollars than people who are robust specimens of physical fitness without any chronic health conditions? To your way of thinking, it appears that it is. "

Of course it is not "unfair" for a sick person to use more healthcare dollars than a fit person does. As long as the fit person has access to the same benefits should they ever need them. An insurance company covers everyone with the same benefits. If the fit person become ill, he too, will have access to those benefits.

That is NOT what SPS is doing. What SPS is doing, is saying since you are a fit person, we assume that you will never have any heart disease so we are eliminating this benefit from your plan. You are no longer covered.

And while we are at it since you are so fit we do not think you will need preventive care services, routine check ups, or cancer screening. We have eliminated these benefits too. You are no longer covered.

And since you are so fit we assume that everyone in your household is fit too, so we will be eliminating your families benefits as well.

And while we were looking over your policy we discovered that you can afford to pay out of pocket for prescription medication, because of this we will be eliminating your prescription drug benefit too.

And by the way do not try to buy private, supplemental policies, to cover these cuts on your own. We won't allow you to.

klh said...

Rosie -

I don't think your comparison quite it. My take on the problem isn't that it's analogous to the people with chronic health problems getting more dollars than the robustly healthy. The healthy would not benefit from asthma medication, or drugs to control diabetes so there is no harm to them in denying them those services.

With education, all the children - whether officially poor enough to qualify for extra dollars, just barely over the poverty line, or not financially hurting - would benefit from smaller class sizes, personalized instruction, etc. Denying children of any socio-economic group the smaller class sizes and individualized instruction they need to do their best is the problem.

The way things are right now, we seem to be in the same old spot of squeezing out the middle. The wealthy can raise extra funds, and the poorest and economically disadvantaged are provided with extra funds to put the services in place.

Guppy said...
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Stu said...

Rosie,

The problem with your health care analogy is that, with health, the state isn't theoretically funding everyone evenly.

The Seattle Public Schools should be able to offer every student a quality education. They don't. The school district spends a lot of money subsidizing some schools over others. The problem is, it isn't evenhanded or fair. Even something as simple as language immersion, which should be available to all that want it, is only available in certain neighborhoods.

I see that no answered the question, though. "Why should low income schools be allowed to get more than other schools when higher income schools can't (even when they are willing to fund it themselves?

stu

Rosie said...

I concede the inadequacy of the health care analogy. But it's not that far off.

Guppy specifically points to pre-K classes. So I'll start there. Assume that South Shore students get pre-K because a large percentage of those kids have huge challenges to being ready for K, and pre-K is the best we can do to try to help some of those kids bridge that gap towards preparedness.

That rationale doesn't exist at McGilvra. In a world of limited resources, should we provide it anyway? If you answer yes, then you are equating the identical allocation of resources with the fair allocation of resources. "I get it because he gets it, not because I need it, or it will help me in any way. It's unfair if I don"t"

Going back to health care, I get a shunt operation, even though my heart is fine. It's unfair if I don't.

I'd hate a world like that.

Guppy said...

Sure, Rosie, provide pre k for South Shore students.

But don't bash McGilvra for wanting small class size for their students, especially if they are willing to pay for it.

But this all leads me to another point. Dollars follow schools, not students.

If a student attends Roosevelt and is struggling, failing his classes, and on target to drop out he does not receive any intervention, support, free tutoring, or 30 extra minutes per day of classroom time. Why? Because the school isn't struggling and the district does not fund these services.

If a student attends Aki Kurose and is a straight A honor student, from a middle class family, he gets 30 extra minutes of classroom time per day whether he needs it or not. He has access to free tutoring from kumon even though he doesn't need it. Why? Because the school is struggling. And the district funds these services.

Same for Pay for K at South shore.

Our family sure could have used free pay for K. We are struggling, but had no options like this because we live in the north end.

Things need to even out. If the district doesn't even them out, families who can, will. Thus we see the McGilvra families paying to reduce class size allowing them to be somewhat closer to Southshore.

dj said...

Guppy, I am not bashing McGilvra parents.

I am bashing people who praise McGilvra parents and/or think that it is ok to provide smaller class sizes to parents who can pay for them.

Not the same thing.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Actually Guppy, dollars DO follow students. Every student has a pot of money attached to him or her. Schools get money based on need for services, that's true but students also come with money.

Stu said...

I am bashing people who praise McGilvra parents and/or think that it is ok to provide smaller class sizes to parents who can pay for them.

Ah . . THAT'S why I feel so insulted. I', one of those who actually thinks it's ok for a community to pay to provide smaller class sizes. Just as it's all right to pay to raise extra money for sports, or music, or tutors.

As long as the district is going to pick and choose WHICH students get extra class time or which school gets paid pre-k or which students get languages or which students get counselors or which students get which math program . . . in fact, as long as the district denies services to some while leaving others to fend for themselves, I'm for any supplemental monies coming to the school and/or the district.

And I'm not opposed to Broad or Gates or anyone else giving money to the schools. The biggest difference with parents donating the money, at least in this case, is that THAT community gets to decide how it gets spent.

If a school like Sacajawea, which is one of the ones not too far from us, can raise $50,000 to help with their school, more power to them. If the Roosevelt community can raise money to maintain a world class music program, doesn't that balance at all against the district buying computers for everyone at STEM?

When families that can afford to go to private school instead donate money to their local public school, making things better for ALL who go to that school, I think they should be thanked, not ridiculed.

stu

name said...

Guppy, you could have sent your child to Northgate, Broadview Thompson, AS#1, Olympic Hills if you wanted Free K in the Northend. All you need to do is be willing to put your child in a high FRL threshold school. If you think those "benefits" outweigh what your child gets from being in an affluent school then by all means send them over. I am sure there are many families who would gladly trade you.

Let's not become lobsters in a pot trying to drag each other down.

Bird said...

Yup, you are right. That is exactly what every parent wants. McGilvra was able to make it happen, and you want to take it away from them? I don't understand this rationale?

Look, I understand that this agreement came about before the NSAP, but now McGilvra is a neighborhood school operating under the NSAP.

Every neighborhood school has to take the kids in the neighborhood now. The district will have to do something for McGilvra to make this right, but as long as McGilvra is a neighborhood school, it's going to have to operate under the same rules as the rest of the schools.

I think it's ridiculous to say that something is being "taken away" from them. They had an agreement that could operate under the the old assignment plan because all schools could set fixed enrollments. Now no schools can set fixed enrollments. This agreement can't be reconcilled to the current assignment plan.

Look at the excerpts of agreement referenced in the letter Meilissa linked. They refer to the setting the enrollment in McGilvra in relation to the enrollment in the "Central cluster". There is no "Central cluster" anymore. There is no way to fix enrollment in neighborhood schools anymore. This agreement is unworkable under the current student assignment plan, which, from what I gleen from the letter, is somewhat acknowledged by the fact that the letter offers no clear demands for resolution.

You can say you think it's wrong for everyone to have to be the same, you can say you think the district shouldn't mess with success, but, I think, you are deluding yourself if you think the district is going to allow McGilvra to be an exception under the new student assignment plan.

If we go forward with a new terms that work with the NSAP and are similar to the old agreement, then the district has no way to say to other schools that they can't cut the same deal. There are lots of affluent schools in the district that can raise this kind of money in exchange for this sort of sweet deal. Once they all start doing this, the NSAP falls like a house of cards.

That's the rationale.

Bird said...
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Bird said...

Ah . . THAT'S why I feel so insulted. I', one of those who actually thinks it's ok for a community to pay to provide smaller class sizes. Just as it's all right to pay to raise extra money for sports, or music, or tutors.

You know there are two issues here.

1. Should parents be able to buy FTE's to reduce class size?

(This is, I think, somewhat debatable. I am sympathetic to the argument that it is unfair and saps the motivation to find a larger solution. I'm also sympathetic to the argument that parents will donate more when they can see where and how their money is benefitting their school, and reducing class size in the early grades is a great benefit.)

2. Should parents be able to buy a guaranteed class size by funding FTE's.to reduce class size?

This is what the McGilvra agreement did. The answer to this is, of course not -- not if we are going to continue to opearate under the NSAP anyway.

Melissa Westbrook said...

This discussion over what money buys is all over the place. Bird got it back to the point of FTE which is buying staff for a school.

I've made this point other times but PTA used to be about enhancement and enrichment. It was a lot more about funding after-school activities or bringing in part-time "specialists" (like music or art or foreign language). PTA was never meant to be about funding full-time staff or maintenance or school equipment like carpet or furniture. To me, that is wrong only because the district becomes more and more dependent on parents. That's not our job.

In terms of academics, high poverty schools get more money because of the challenges those students face. For F/RL students at higher performing schools, the balance might be thought of as being around students who will push that student along (rather than he/she receiving tutoring if that student was at a high poverty school).

However, I don't think receiving extra tutoring is the same as the enhancements that big fundraising can bring to the rounding out of a student's experience at a school.

The Superintendent says class size doesn't matter. She might be right but parents still don't want kindergarten classes over 22/23 students. Obviously, it matters to parents especially in elementary school.

So I think bringing in Roosevelt's music program to contrast with McGilvra's efforts (for example) are mixing apples and oranges.

Any kind of fundraising supporting any kind of programming sustains schools and makes for a stronger school community. In that way, it's all good.

But for students in high-poverty schools who don't see this kind of help either in the classroom or via after-school activities, the gap between students is large. And eventually, all those kids will come together in middle and high school.

So I ask the question: is it a good thing to have such uneven school experiences for students? (Mind you, I"m not talking equal experiences but all kids having access to some kind of enrichment that a PTA can bring.) Is it possible to even it out? And if it matters, who should address it? The district? The Board? The PTA?

Guppy said...

"Guppy, you could have sent your child to Northgate, Broadview Thompson, AS#1, Olympic Hills if you wanted Free K in the Northend."

I said Pre-K, not K.

Name said...

Actually, Guppy @1:38 PM you said,

Our family sure could have used free pay for K. We are struggling, but had no options like this because we live in the north end.

My main point was that people who begrudge the poor schools for the extra funding they get are more than welcome to send their kids to these schools and receive the same benefit. I am not saying that you hold this point of view as your comments on this thread are more nuanced than that, but I did want to point out that there are school in the N end that do have free all day K.

Anonymous said...

But NAME, given the new NSAP transportation rules, you may be able to find free K in the northend, but you cannot get a bus to go there.

signed,

NON FRE FAMILY.

Charlie Mas said...

In my first comment I only asked the questions without providing my answers (although at least one person presumed that I had provided answers).

My answer is that the District should set a policy on the use of non-competitive grants. The board should decide these questions, but whatever they decide, the answer should be the same for all schools and all non-competitve grants.

Personally, I don't think that the District should allow funds from non-competitive grants to be spent on any Basic Education expense. In fact, I wish that were a state law.

Moreover, I think that state law should prohibit local levy funds from being spent on basic education expenses. The Seattle Family and Education Levy, for example, is prohibited from being used for basic education expenses.

Right now, the state has defined basic education to mean half-day kindergarten, a five period day in high school, and specific student:teacher ratios. The state also funds (to a limited extent) special education, bilingual education, and services for highly capable students. The state provides some funding for transportation. I think that every school and District should be required by law to spend that funding - and no more - on those expenses. That would put pressure on the state to fulfill its responsibility.

Districts would be free to spend as much money as they like from local levy funds, competitive grants, or non-competitive grants on anything else. Just not one penny of it for Basic Education which would be the same all across the state - within districts as well as among them.

That's my sense of fairness. That's what I think is consistent with the spirit of the law.

I suppose it's easy to be so principled when I'm not really in a position to pronounce such an edict.

Just for reference, I can tell the difference between a municipality taxing itself to provide a communal good to all its citizens or a philanthropic organization piloting a program designed to equalize social opportunities and a group of rich families self-dealing to buy themselves a higher quality public education. The law, however, cannot distinguish between them. The law needs to change.

Anonymous said...

Look, a goal of the NSAP, was to have ALL schools running at capacity. At 100% capacity. That means... NO you don't get to have some schools running at 70% of capacity in support of reduced class size. If the class size of the neighborhood is 20 per class, then clearly the boundaries have been drawn wrong or inequitably. The other goal of the NSAP was guaranteed attendance. Those two goals do not leave room for any sort of "pay down" scheme. Portables are part of the school's capacity and should be used as such. The capacity of one school clearly effects all the others.

-parent

Guppy said...

"Our family sure could have used free pay for K. "

Oops sorry, I meant free pre-k, not pay for K.

We do not have any free, public, pre-k, in the north end that I know of. If you are a low income family and live in North Seattle you are out of luck when it comes to pre-k.

Melissa, I know each student comes with a set amount of dollars, but I thought the change from the weighted student formula (WSF)to the Weighted staffing Standard (WSS) shifted funding from more of a student based method to more of a school based method. Can you explain what the shift from WSF to WSS was? I guess I'm a bit confused.

wsnorth said...

Here is something that seems to be missed on this thread: according to the McGilvra school report card, it receives Per‐Student Funding of $6,60l per year, while, for comparison, Bailey-Gatzert receives Per‐Student Funding $8,385.

Maybe the McGilvra PTA is just trying to level the playing field.

In West Seattle, as usual, Schmitz Park is even further down the list, at Per‐Student Funding: $5,600.

Does anyone have any light to shed on these numbers?

Name said...

If you are low income in the North End you could apply for head start at the following locations:

Half-day programs are held at Broadview-Thompson, Northgate, Olympic Hill.

Any child in the Ekstein service area can have transportation to AS#1/Pinehurst K-8 where, to my knowledge, they still offer free all day K. Northgate and Broadview-Thomspon also offer many special services so its probably easy to catch one of the feeder shuttles to one of those schools. So it looks like the only Northenders who are shut out of a free all day K are the families that live in the Hamilton service area.

Our family chose Broadview Thompson for Kindergarten because of the free all day K and the full time nurse and family support worker. At the time, that was a big draw for many families and then people moved on to their neighborhood school for 1st grade.

Guppy said...

Per pupil spending is $8385 per year at Bailey-Gatzert, $6601 per year at McGilvram, and $5600 per year at Schmitz Park.

This is exactly what I meant when I said the money follows the school, not the student.

The district would spend an extra $2785 per year, or $16,710 over the course of 6 years, if a child went to Bailey-Gatzert instead of Schmitz Park.

Bird said...

Does anyone have any light to shed on these numbers?

Bailey-Gatzert get Title I money. McGilvra doesn't.

Why not? Is that fair?

B-G has 88 kids receiving special ed services McGilvra has 18, all of which are level 2.

B-G has 257 FRL kids. McGilvra has 20.

B-G has 108 English language learners, McGilvra has none.

If McGilvra receives the same amount of money as Bailey-Gatzert would that be a level playing field?

Guppy said...

Bird, I haven't heard anyone say that low income schools don't deserve the extra funding they get. We all know that they do.

What I think most people are concerned with is that when a school that receives less funding from the district, like McGilvra, decides to fundraising to give their kids the same extras that B-G kids get (music, art, a school nurse, tutoring, lower class size), people get up in arms about it.

Bird, do you think because McGilvra doesn't have as many FRL, ELL, and special ed kids, and because their parents are wealthier than B-G parents, that their kids don't deserve music, art, a nurse, tutoring when needed, and smaller class sizes?

amsiegel said...

Guppy--

You are being disingenuous. No one thinks it is right that the state and district fail to fund the items that you list. No one is angry at the parents of the McGilvra students for wanting those things for their children. What people are objecting to is the consequence of a confluence of low state funding, the NSAP, and district policy allowing schools to keep 100% of their PTA dollars in house. The result is that some neighborhoods can effectively build themselves private schools that are 80% funded by the public while many of the rest of us pay the same taxes and are faced with inadequate public school options. Why is that so hard to understand?

Guppy said...
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Guppy said...

With your rationale amsiegel since we all pay the same taxes, then all schools should get the same funding. right?

amsiegel said...

No, Guppy. By my rationale, all students should have access to schools of similar quality. Since students require different services and the programs necessary to provide quality schools to different communities differs, funding every school with the same number of raw dollars would be emphatically unfair. The strange thing is that twenty years ago my point would have been universally accepted. It's a testimony to the tea-partyization of our discourse that we are even having this discussion.

Bird said...

What I think most people are concerned with is that when a school that receives less funding from the district, like McGilvra, decides to fundraising to give their kids the same extras that B-G kids get (music, art, a school nurse, tutoring, lower class size), people get up in arms about it.

No, the issue with McGilvra is not that they are getting music, art, a nurse, tutoring or even lower class size. Lots of schools fund these extras through the PTA. This is not news, nor is it the reason this thread was started.

The issue with McGilvra is that they want to buy their way out of the student assignment plan. You can't buy a guaranteed class size of 20. You can't pay a chunk of money to the district to exclude transfer students from NCLB failing schools. That's the part that's beyond the pale. Not whether they can buy some "extras" with PTA fundraising.

Let them take some cash compensation from the district for the portables and then operate like any other neighborhood school in the district.

Guppy said...
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Guppy said...
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Bird said...

McGilvra is enrolled to their "buildings functional capacity"

I'm not sure what the definition of "functional capacity" is being used here. I know the district's numbers are quite fungible for this.

I would argue that a school with 20 students per class is not at capacity. It wouldn't be considered at capacity at my school. It sounds like the district doesn't think McGilvra is at capacity either if it is assigning students over these numbers.

From the letter Melissa linked...

A proposal was made to the district and in July of 2000, the district and the McGilvra PTA signed the "McGilvra Portable Gift Agreement,"...under which the PTA agreed to pay for two portable classrooms and the district guaranteed that these classrooms would be used for smaller classes....

You have raised the question before about what "reduction fo class size means" and to whether that ties to a particular enrollment number or class size. The short answer is that it does.....

Thr first conditon specifically referernces a maximum enrollment (no more than 250 students under any future scenario)...

The Justification Form even goes beyond circumscribing the total enrollment cap under the Portable Gift Agreement and also talks about what it will mean on a classroom level. District Staff wrote that "In all K-3 classrooms, where we are at maximum enrollment, class sizes will be reduced from 28 or 27 per room/per teacher to 20 per room/per teacher."


This agreement did more than reduce class size, it was meant to guarrantee class size. This wasn't out of alignment with the old student assignment plan. Schools could set fixed class sizes.

Under the new assignment plan, schools have to take all the kids in the neighborhood. Schools have to take NCLB transfers if they aren't at capacity. This agreement does not work with the new assignment framework, and the district should reimburse the PTA.

What woud you have the district do, Guppy? Do you really think that the district can continue to follow the terms of the portable agreement?

Do you think the district can continue to guaratee a 20 student limit in McGilvra?

Do you think McGilvra should be grandfathered in to the NSAP to have a fixed class size? If so, should other schools that had fixed class sizes in the past have those fixed class size continue?

What should the district do with the kids in the neighborhood when there are more than 40 incoming Kindergarteners?

What should the district do when there are 29 kids in the neighboring schools classes and 20 kids in McGilvra and they need to find seats for NCLB tranfers? Should the other schools just take 30, 31, or 32 kids because McGilvra was able to "accomplish" smaller class sizes by paying for them?

I don't begrudge schools with smaller class sizes than my own, but I don't see how the district can guarantee enrollemnt to McGilvra under the NSAP.

Guppy said...
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Bird said...

Whoops. My post was in response to a post by Guppy that was deleted before I posted response.

For what it's worth, I'd still be interested in seeing answers to my questions.

I simply don't see how the Portable Agreement is workable. If you have some reasonable argument, I'm interested.

If you just want to bemoan the loss of a smaller class size under the NSAP, I understand. My school is struggling with enormous class sizes and a lot of uncertainty as well. If it is any consolation with 31 kids in my child's first grade class, your nightmare of 24 is my dream.

Guppy said...

Bird the portables do not belong to SPS. They belong to the McGilvra PTA.

The McGilvra building holds 250 students, not counting the portables, and the school enrolls 250 students (sometimes a few more). They are enrolled to their "building functional capacity".

What the families at McGilvra did was buy themselves some portables, hire a teacher, and use that to create smaller class sizes. They did not reduce the number of students the school accepts.

I don't think SPS could force McGilvra to use the portables to increase capacity, as they do not belong to SPS. If SPS forced McGilvra to use their portables to increase capacity, and thus class size, I'd think that the PTA would have a fiscal responsibility to sell the portables and repay the PTA money spent, as families donated the money with the expectation (and a 20 year contract) that class size would be reduced.

But what good would selling the portables actually do? Without portables McGilvra would still accept the same number of kids, they'd just be housed in the main building and have much larger class sizes.

Perhaps SPS could buy the portables, but with the current cutbacks and lay offs, I doubt they have that kind of money to invest. Plus they have Madrona sitting half full just a mile or so away. I'd think they'd want to focus on making Madrona more attractive and filling all of those emty seats before they buy portables to cram even more kids into the already over crowded McGilvra.

And McGilvra does, and always has, accepted no child transfer students as is required BY LAW. They can't buy their way out of that. Where in the world did you get the idea that they didn't?

Guppy said...

sorry my post disappeared and I had to repost again.

Guppy said...

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the district created the NSAP. They guaranteed everyone space in their neighborhood schools. They have to make it work. If the school doesn't have space for all of the students in their boundaries, then SPS needs to address the situation. They may need to adjust the boundaries, buy their own portables, or rebuild the building. What they can't do is just co-opt, and take over, the portables that the PTA paid for, and owns. They do not belong to them.

Bird said...

But what good would selling the portables actually do? Without portables McGilvra would still accept the same number of kids, they'd just be housed in the main building and have much larger class sizes.

From what I've read it sounds like the disrict will just buy the portables for $60K. The capacity of the school will not be reduced, and while it's not great to be putting out the extra expense, compared to the other capital costs the disrict has (like the costs of reopening schools) $60K is a very small figure.

From what I've read elsewhere it sounds like the PTA is already reconciled about this.

It is an interesting question about what the PTA should do with this money, since it can't be used for the exact purpose it was originally intended and it would be, I imagine logistically impossible to refund it.

Any idea, Guppy, what the PTA plans?

Charlie Mas said...

Once again we see a story about an MOU between an individual school community and the District.

How can my kids' schools get MOU's like this? We just get promises, that the District promptly breaks.

dj said...

I was wondering how long it would take for someone to offer "send those kids we don't want to Madrona" as a solution. You can set your watch by it.

Stu said...

I was wondering how long it would take for someone to offer "send those kids we don't want to Madrona" as a solution. You can set your watch by it.

The same way you know that someone's going to misinterpret an argument and put words in someone's mouth.

No one said to send "those kids we don't want" to Madrona. Someone did say that perhaps making Madrona more attractive might be a way to take pressure off a FULL McGilvra. That's right . . at capacity. And, if the whole thing with the portables changes and the capacity goes up, it'll STILL be at capacity and the district will have to do something to make Madrona more attractive to THOSE WHO CAN'T GET IN TO MCGILVRA.

stu

Clay Boggess said...

This is one of many things that are wrong with public education. You have parents who are even willing to fund this endeavor and have gone so far as to sign an agreement with the district and the district still may want to break the contract. There’s no skin off the district’s back on this one. The point is that the parents want smaller class sizes for their students and if they’re willing to pay for it, so be it! How hard is that? It’s not like they are asking the district to pay for it and make exceptions for them from a financial standpoint. Maybe it would be better if the district just taxed them for it. Oh yea, then the parents would never see the money.

TechyMom said...

Remember that the portables only add something like 50 kids to the capacity of McGilvra. How many empty seats are there at Madrona (a new, expensive building, btw)? Isn't it something like 300? Does it make sense to spend money to buy portables or remodel McGilvra to hold more kids, when we've already spent that money on Madrona's building. The program at Madrona needs to get fixed so that it is a program the neighborhood families are willing to use. THAT is the elephant in the room of Washginton SA capacity.

There were 10 kindergarteners who were kicked out of McGilvra for using fake addresses this fall. 10! Why did those families feel they needed to cheat? Can we fix that, before we start adding capacity at McGilvra?

dj said...

Stu, what do you mean, "to those who cannot get into McGilvra"? We have a neighborhood assignment plan now. McGilvra has to take the kids in the assignment area, period. That's what the plan means. Conversely it also means that if the school is filled to capacity with McGilvra-area kids, noone else can get in. The only thing being dickered about here is what "being filled to capacity" means -- does it mean that classes have 28 kids or 20?

Oh, sure. It would be super if the district would take steps to improve Madrona, or any of the other schools in this district that are undesirable to families. Come to think of it, there is nothing stopping the McGilvra families from investing huge sums of money into exactly that endeavor (except for the "well that's not *our* school so it is not *our* problem" argument, which is in my view one of the worst aspects of the NSAP -- the extent to which the NSAP reinforces that view). Of course, the argument is pretty specious given that we all know that it is not happening and is unlikely to start happening now, during a time of fiscal crisis.

Guppy said...

DJ, the district created the NSAP. The district formed the boundaries. The district guaranteed all families within the boundaries a spot at McGilvra. Now the district has to make it work.

One option the district has is to use the portables to increase capacity. The only problem is that the portables do not belong to SPS. They belong to the McGilvra PTA. They bought them. They own them. The district has no right to use the portables to increase capacity, unless the PTA agrees to sell them to the district. Which they may do. Or they may decide to sell them to the Edmonds school district, or Bellevue, or Northshore. And they'd be fully within their rights to do so.

Then what is SPS gonna do to make the NSAP work?

SPS got themselves into this mess, they need to get themselves out.

TechyMom said...

Well, DJ, there are a lot of families in the Madrona neighborhood that want to do exactly what the McGilvra families have done. The last prinicipal said no. What does the current one say? Anyone know?

The question is whether the district gets to count the portables that it doesn't own in the capacity calculation. It seems that they did when drawing the attendance area boundaries, even though they were contractually obiligated at the time not to. And that is another example of the district ignoring it's obligations, contractual and otherwise.

And, btw, as I live right on the edge of those boundaries, reducing them doesn't benefit me at all. My kid goes to a different school, but being in the Madrona attendance area rather than McGilvra would have an impact on my property value.

Rose M said...

The district deliberately drew the boundaries around McGilvra to require use of the portables with full classes. McGlivra is lucky the district didn't also include the stage, the teacher's lounge and any large closets. Or maybe they won’t find out about that part til September. In fact, if the PTA sells the portables to the district, it is equally likely that the district will move the portables to some other school and still put the extra McGilvra kids on the stage.

As for spreading the parent investment to other more deserving, needier schools like Madrona. We learned those lessons the last time middle class parents tried to get involved at Madrona. Such paternalism was degrading and unwanted. The accusations of privilege and racism are not soon forgotten.

Bird said...

If the district had drawn the boundaries smaller, so that McGilvra would be able to have 20 kids per class, wouldn't a bunch of families who wanted in to McGilvra be left out?

It's not as though a class size of 20 is without costs -- and I'm not talking monetary costs here. The families that get the McGilvra with a class size of 20 are happy, the folks who could have easily fit in are very unhappy.

Why should I care more for the folks who want a class size of 20 and less for those that will be prevented from enrolling?

In regards to Madrona, I have yet to see the district make significant programming changes to a school without having their hand forced by capacity.

Perhaps if McGilvra takes classes full of 28 students and there is still unaddressed capacity pressure, then the district will feel forced to take dramatic action to make the school more appealing. Maybe they'd even switch it to an international program, but maybe I'm just dreaming.

Stu said...

Stu, what do you mean, "to those who cannot get into McGilvra"? We have a neighborhood assignment plan now. McGilvra has to take the kids in the assignment area, period. That's what the plan means.

Yikes . . . chompin' at the bit much?

I simply meant those who can't get into McGilvra (like any other school) when it's full. Regardless of how the portables issue ends up, there is limited space at McGilvra and I'd rather see the district spend the time and money building up the program at Madrona, which was ease things in the whole area, than ruin something at McGilvra.

stu

Guppy said...

the building is operating at full capacity. The district has assigned 28 per class based on the functional capacity of building. they can not use the portables in their capacity calculation because the portables do not belong to them. In this way the building is at capacity.

Bird said...

Just out of curiousity, how many classes are housed in the portables? And how many classrooms are there in the building?

Anonymous said...

Wow! It is amazing to see all of the misinformation in this string. It is unfortunate that so many people will read through this and make judgments based on partial or incorrect information.



Old school Wildcat

Stu said...

It is unfortunate that so many people will read through this and make judgments based on partial or incorrect information.

Then correct the information. Let us know what we've got wrong . . .

stu

Anonymous said...

Here is some data on McGilvra. Each portable houses one first grade class currently. The contract from 10 years ago created 3 new classrooms at McGilvra (2 were each in a portable and one was made via changing around the lunchroom and a storage closet.) By adding 3 more classrooms and paying for 3 teachers, the PTA got smaller class sizes and the district got more overall students at McGilvra. Oh, and they got a much better performing school.

No one comes to McGilvra for the facility. There is one set of student bathrooms that were not designed for the number of students currently at McGilvra (they were designed for the old 9 room schoolhouse) and the size of the lunchroom is laughably inadequate. The art teacher is set up in a hallway. As far as putting kids on the stage --- there isn't a stage at McGilvra. The McGilvra end of year concert is at TOPS.

My understanding is that the school district has basically told McGilvra that their new functional capacity is just over 300 students (and, yes, they're counting the portables even though SPS doesn't own them), but if there are more students than that, they'll still end up at McGilvra. Also, if the PTA tries to do anything to reduce class size again (such as build more portables) the school district will just add that space to their functional capacity and send more kids to McGilvra (and they noted that yes, people from Madrona would likely want to get in under NCLB since it's "undesirable"). And, yes, McGilvra parents did lobby to get the MLK students into the McGilvra boundary when that school was closed.

I'm not too worried about overcrowding at McGilvra next year, though, as I know of several families that are now opting for private school instead of kindergarten at McGilvra. This is too bad as they would have been an asset to SPS not only in elementary school but also at Washington and Garfield.

Signed,
SPS parent

Guppy said...

Very unfortunate situation for McGilvra.

The families at McGilvra worked hard and donated plenty of time and dollars into making a public school an attractive option for all families, including those that could very easily choose private.

If I were the head of the McGilvra PTA, I'd propose selling those portables to another school district, and I'd repay the funds to the McGilvra PTA. Let SPS figure out how to get themselves out of the mess they've created.

SPS ruins yet another good thing, that was working, and that came from the community.

Maureen said...

The thing is that the Assignment Plan has changed. It doesn't matter what the functional capacity of a building is anymore. Families wanted predicatable access, they forgot to ask for predictable class size. Whoops.

The kids who live inside the neighborhood boundaries now get a seat at their school. That is a good thing for the Madison Park families who might have been closed out of McGilvra under the old system. It's not so great for those who live closer and knew they had a seat in a small class under the old system.

McGilvra has the same problem that Garfield and Bryant and Schmitz Park do. The portables make their situation a little easier, and saves the District the trouble of moving in new portables, but the fact remains that all neighborhood schools now have to take all of the kids who show up. The ownership of the portables is irrelevant now. Selling them off would help no one and only hurt the McGilvra kids. It would be nice if SPS paid the PTSA the amount it would cost them to move existing portables onto the McGilvra lot.

I suppose it's true that their existance makes it slightly more likely that McGilvra will have to accept kids leaving Madrona or other schools for AYP reasons. On the other hand, if there are enough kids in the boundary to fill the school then that won't happen. Families leaving for private are making it more likely that kids from outside the boundaries will be bused there. If there are seats, why should they sit empty while the AYP kids are bused to Montlake or Sandpoint?

McGilvra has had a great thing going for quite awhile due to the dedication (and money) of the Madison Park families. Under the NSAP more neighborhood families will feel confident that they can attend the school. In a way, they are lucky no major remodel has been done, now they should work on getting onto one of the building levies and create a safe and updated school that serves the neighborhood. Then they can have their own stage and spend their PTSA money on drama and music and art and on hiring reading and math specialists to effectively reduce class size. That is how other schools do it when they can.

In fact, I would advise them to keep trying to collect extra money from parents even though they won't have to pay for the extra staff anymore. Then they can use that money to pay for all of the things SPS won't provide for their remodeled building, like curtains for their stage.

Guppy said...

"It would be nice if SPS paid the PTSA the amount it would cost them to move existing portables onto the McGilvra lot."

Really, Maureen? You don't think SPS should have to pay for the portables? You think SPS should just pay the cost of moving the portables? Why should SPS get something for nothing? Why should the PTA donate those portables to SPS?

At the very least the PTA should sell those portables to SPS for whatever they are worth on the open market today, in addition to billing SPS the cost to move and set up portables.

I'd be outraged if I were one of the parents that donated money to buy the portables, in an effort to reduce class size, only to see them given to SPS for free, so they could increase class size.

Maureen said...

Why should SPS get something for nothing?

Well maybe because they do it all the time to lots and lots of schools? At least they aren't threatening to charge McGilvra's PTSA 3% of whatever they paid for the portables for the honor of donating them.

I guess I'm getting jaded.

Anonymous said...

SPS didn't "get something for nothing". What about the land under the portable? That does in fact belong to SPS. Without it, the portables are worthless. The portables on the school property ARE part of the schools capacity. MOU's are absurd. Schools should not be able to pay down class size, nor get any other special arrangement. No matter how much money the parents have. You want private school? Go to private school. So now that the school is in the situation, sure pay them whatever is left on the deal. I'm sure less than $60K. And no Guppy. Somehow equalizing the funding at BG and McGilvra doesn't make anything "fair" or equitable. Whatever parents donate should be spread out "equitably" across the district, and disproportionately to those who need it. The BG's in the district should ALWAYS get more, because their needs are way more. Their needs are more than whatever few thousand they receive. If you want a piece of that increased funding, then go sign your student up for BG, there's still time!

parent