I'm just going to go thru some highlights, review what I was hearing from the first thread and let's see if we can find some ideas to put forth. (Also, please do not hijack this thread on another topic. I'm asking nicely.)
- First and foremost, I absolutely concur with what I believe I heard from the previous thread. I believe for the amount of staff there, they came in unprepared. No real data, no real ideas. You don't come to a meeting with a lot of smart parents and think that just saying "we want to listen to you." Parents did NOT come to that meeting to vent. They came for answers and solutions. It is hard to know how to go forward if you don't have the data to explain how we got where we are. Was this by design or just clumsiness? Probably a little of both.
- Dr. Vaughn's silence was very telling. Look, I like Bob Vaughn and I know he knows his stuff on gifted education. But he has no power and frankly, unless it's totally behind the scenes, I rarely see him truly advocating for these students and for the program. It is mystifying to me. If he isn't the champion for the program, who will be?
- The PowerPoint title was "Short-Term Capacity Managment Planning for Lowell Elementary School." That told me a lot from the start.
- Principal King came up to me with a couple of parents who had recognized me and said he liked to meet people who talk about him. Okay. I told him that I hadn't called him because I know from past experience that principals will not talk about personnel issues and he agreed. (But I probably should have asked him about the BLT.) He did say that he had only been in Seattle three years and didn't know the district well beyond Lowell. (That is not a slam on him; to be a principal in this district AND know the district well is a tall order. )
- Nancy Coogan, the Ex Director for the region, stated that she guaranteed that the district is not dismantling the APP program or closing Lowell. She said that, putting on her parent hat, that several parents had told her that their child would be facing their third or fourth school for elementary and she said that was not acceptable to her. She said she was the voice for "your children." She also stated that Dr. Enfield had a previous commitment but all comments would be forwarded to her.
- According to Pegi McEvoy, short-term planning is for next year, immediate planning is for 3-5 years and long-term planning is 5+ years.
- The planning considerations are these: education and size of cohort needed; operational (safety and space);logistical (transportation and ease of getting done by start of school year); financial and parent satisfaction.
- How many buses currently go to Lowell? Pegi didn't know the answer to that.
- Why can't the ALO program be relocated for the year? This speaker pointed out with APP and Special Ed, it was the right number of students for the building. (I think the point was that it was APP students tipping the balance but the ALO program.) This question did not seem to be addressed and certainly was not on the staff options at all. (But one reader pointed out that moving APP would fall in the Superintendent's authority as a program move while moving the ALO population would be a Board decision and would need a vote.)
- Another parent asked why in-bound APP students could not be denied access because of the capacity issues. (I guess this one is sort of a la Spectrum; you test in but don't get a seat.) No feedback on this one either.)
- Another parent said if APP elementary splits into 3, why not move west or up north? Do the split now and make that cohort by region.
- An ALO parent put forth a petition signed by 54 parents and asked if this was an APP or Lowell meeting. They said they want a vibrant local school and it would disrupt the school if APP left. They want it fully funded and staffed.
- One parent asked if the district would do this to any other school and why is APP a moveable feast (that's my phrasing). He said he wanted an apology from the district for this mess.
- Another mom, Elizabeth Wong, stated that she has a background in educational planning. She spoke to the issues of split families, professional development and collaboration by teachers and social issues for children.
- I mentioned that Ms. McEvoy's explanation of how there are more APP students because of MAP testing didn't go deep enough. First, she had mentioned how it brought more diversity to the program. Has it? She offered no data on that issue. Second, it may be true that MAP testing has brought more students to the district's attention (a good thing) but, in the growing absence of Spectrum seats AND a real Spectrum program, I have to believe that more parents look to APP because there is no real alternative. I also pointed out that there is supposed to be an ALO-type offering at every school and there isn't and there is no consistency to what is offered.
- Another parent worried about moving a group of kids to Lincoln and then they have to move again. He also asked about teachers being able to give input and give it via the union so they feel okay to speak freely.
- Another parent, Scott, a professor of education at Seattle Pacific, stated that there was research at OSPI about schools performing better with high levels of collaboration and communication between teachers and staff. He said it pays big dividends and said it believed there was no research to support a split.
- One parent pointed out that a 4/5th split would divide families who would have one child in a school in one neighborhood, one in Lowell (another neighborhood) and may live in a third neighborhood.
- There was some note of what is a "small" school in SPS. I'd have to go back and look at numbers but I feel sure that there are at least 8+ schools that are under 300. I have to smile because when we did the first closure and consolidation, many parents advocated for these small schools saying it was better for children.
- One parent worried that the district is not "seeing APP for the community it is."
- One parent asked for newly enrolled students to have the opportunity to go back to their neighborhood school because they based their Lowell decision on what was presented at the time.
- One parent asked why the School Board didn't supervise the staff better. The School Board members sat by mutely.
- One parent said she just wanted predictability after so many changes to bus schedules and day care schedules.
- Another parent asked why Thurgood Marshall families were not invited to this meeting as possible solutions may affect their school.
- One sweet child asked if she would still be able to be in a music program and ask "who would we perform to?'
- Another person asked if the Special Ed parents in the building had been notified of this meeting.
- The last person I heard speak was Brent, a teacher at Lowell. I was glad I stuck around for his comments because he was being blunt and to the point. He said this district "needs to get its house in order." Amen, brother but go on. He said it was one crisis after another and these decisions have wide-ranging impacts. He said the problem is not the schools but the management. He said poor decision-making damages SPS' reputation and it could affect the levies someday.
- no to the 4/5th split (and is this a diversionary tactic from what the district really wants which seems to be the 3rd school split)
- there is no way to keep everyone at Lowell and portables would not solve the problem so that's out
- there is some advocacy for moving the complete APP cohort to another school (like Addams). I completely disagree and that's for historical reasons. The late Superintendent John Stanford had ended the APP at Madrona (when it was a K-5) experiment and said that APP should never co-house with another school. I believe Kellie LaRue has stated the capacity issues in doing so and I think that should do it for that idea.
- I think that parents who are new to Lowell next year should advocate to be allowed to move to their neighborhood schools if they do not like what the final decision is. This change is a totally different idea than what was presented to them (although the program would largely be the same). That said, if it were me, if they move the entire cohort together, I'd stay with my assignment.
- Yes, I believe the district always writes its leases with the option of taking back the school for educational purposes. That said, I don't know a lot about the size and condition of TT Minor. And, it couldn't happen in time for the new school year.
- McDonald has its own thing going now with foreign language immersion. McDonald has another year at Lincoln before going back to their own building in 2012-2013.
- Lincoln is the workhorse interim building. SBOC will move in there in 2012-2013. I don't know if what I'm hearing from APP parents is to move the entire Lowell APP cohort to Lincoln for a year or two until a permanent decision is made but if SBOC comes in, I don't think this is practical. And with all due respect, SBOC has been waiting its turn for a long, long time. They should be first in any considerations about Lincoln. Could SBOC and the entire Lowell APP cohort co-house for a year or two at Lincoln? I don't think so given the age groups (1-5 versus 6-12) and the space needs for each.
- It feels like the district wants the 3rd split but I hear APP parents saying that it is too soon from the last split and will be one more blow for students, parents and staff to absorb.
- Another worry on the horizon - will there be enough capacity at Hamilton and Washington for all these students? Hamilton has already been renovated and is maxed out. Washington could be on BEX IV but I don't know how much bigger it could be built.
- I personally think those costs estimates for the various options to be so vague and flimsy as to be useless. Look, they had money for raises, they can find money to address the emergency needs of a program.
I would reject the 4/5th split, outright, no way. The district would not do this to any other community and no community would accept it.
I would reject the 3rd expansion. If the district wants another split, great, take your time and do it right. Deciding by July 8th is not enough time.
What is left is to move the entire APP cohort. (I know this leaves the remaining Lowell community worried but honestly, there are other small schools and it is possible to do well as a small school. I don't think you will stay small for long.)
Move the cohort for one year while the district intensively studies the best long-term option. Not intermediate - long-term. You could go to Lincoln for a year or maybe Jane Addams (it's a better building for that purpose).
Then whatever the split, the next APP school should just house APP. I say that because this co-housing of neighborhood and APP has been tried now, twice, and has not worked. (Maybe Thurgood Marshall is an exception but the capacity issues make it even harder.) There are a few buildings to consider but that's the district's job.
I urge you not to be divided. That is what the district likes to do and it will further weaken APP as a group. You should urge the PTA to go to SEA now and find out what Lowell teachers are thinking and find common ground and stand it.
In the end, there is no answer that will make everyone happy. There never is.