Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What's Going on at Lowell?

I have been made aware that in addition to the concerns over the quick growth at Lowell, that there are tensions within the community.  Most of the tension seems to be coming from actions by the Principal Greg King and both teachers and parents are very unhappy.  It may all come to a head before school lets out but this is no way to end a school year and go into new year.

I cannot say I know the complete story but I am fairly sure of what issues have arisen.
  • clashes between the principal and staff over passing out and collection of staff surveys.  Apparently some staff felt it was not handled properly and the principal called out a couple of teachers (SEA) who were sitting together.  I know that SEA has gotten involved as there are strict rules over who can handle the surveys and they apply to principals as well as teachers.
  • the BLT (Building Leadership Team).  Apparently the principal dissolved the duly elected BLT and reconstituted it without notice, taking a couple of people off.  There are Lowell BLT by-laws about who serves and how the committee is constituted and it appears Mr. King may have thought he was the final arbiter on this issue.  Even if he were, there would have to have been an election and no one has come forward to say one occurred.
  • Four APP teachers have announced they won't return and other teachers apparently are hoping to be transferred.  The building has also been without a speech therapist for nearly half the year allegedly over a personnel conflict with the principal.
  • It is alleged (although there have been witnesses a couple of times) that the principal will threaten to call school security and/or police if he wants to intimidate anyone who continues to disagree with him.
 I am told that their Executive Director, Nancy Coogan, has received many e-mails and is well aware of the problem as are the Board Directors.    I contacted her but received no reply.

168 comments:

Anonymous said...

huh. sounds not dissimilar to shenanigans pulled by my former administrator. When people call MGJ's methods a "culture of fear" they aren't kidding. I wish there were a better forum for complaints about this type of behavior amongst principals, I think there would be some interesting patterns.

Former teacher

suep. said...

I have also heard about all of these issues at Lowell from various members of the school community, much to my deep chagrin.

Anonymous said...

Well, this is the other "L" school I hoped you were referring to. Thank you so much for posting this. It is so hard as a parent to know what to do in a situation like this. I hope the district will now act. The atmosphere at the school is untenable and needs to change. We hate to lose so many great teachers. We have some teachers leaving who are leaving huge holes behind.

I, too, have heard about all the situations you wrote about as well as some other additional ones.

Thanks for all you do to improve our schools.

concerned

Anonymous said...

I am very sorry to hear this. My four kids went to Lowell, but are now in middle and high school - and the school was wonderful. I am so happy they went through before all of the changes - the spilt does not seem to have been for the better for anyone at all -

- nostalgic parent

Braessae said...

I have no kids at Lowell, but I am aware of the situation of the speech therapist who left, and from all accounts, that situation was handled dreadfully by the principal, an assistant principal, Nancy Coogan, and HR. What are the Executive Directors for if not to ride herd on, and bring some principled resolution to, situations like this, when they arise?

Former teacher -- you are right. I don't want to see good principals hounded out by a few disgruntled staff, but there should be some way for principals (and parent groups like site councils, etc.) to reach the Executive Director/Superintendent level with concerns when they become systemic throughout a school (or chronic, over time).

I think folks who have skin in this game (staff, parents, etc.) should contact Kay Smith Blum. I am sure, given the level of disfunction Melissa chronicles, that she is aware, but this school is in her District, and I know she cares about the success of Lowell, particularly given the overcrowding situation.

Anonymous said...

I am one of the parents who wrote to Nancy Coogan expressing alarm at the situation at Lowell. Several staff members have told me that the environment is unbearable with constant bullying, threatening and harassing behavior coming from Greg King.

Greg King was very deliberate in forming a new BLT whose members and the way they were selected doesn't meet the guidelines of the SEA collective bargaining agreement. This "new" BLT was formed just in the nick of time so that one of its members, rather than the SEA building rep, would be available to collect the confidential building climate surveys. One teacher told me that she believes he not only reads these surveys but that he alters the information. Whether or not this is true, it's pretty sad that teachers cannot trust the process of evaluating their supervisor.

If you are a Lowell parent reading this, I urge to you write your own letter of concern to Nancy Coogan, Kay Smith-Blum, and the Lowell PTA. The district needs to intervene in this issue immediately. We also need to demand that the staff evaluations were collected appropriately.

Laura said...

Is BLT membership public? If so, who was on the BLT that is no longer there, and who are the new members. Is there somewhere to look up this information?

Anonymous @8:07 your post will be deleted. This blog does not allow anonymous post without a signature (doesn't have to be your name) at the bottom.

Anonymous said...

Tensions are swirling for a number of reasons - the severe overcrowding and the possibility of another APP move/split among them - and teachers are leaving for a variety of reasons such as family and health issues.

The rumors that are surfacing are difficult to believe and it seems that only part of the story is being told. In our interactions with the principal over the past two years, he has always been respectful and professional. It's hard to know if a few disgruntled parents and teachers are fanning the flames or if there truly are more serious issues.

Steve said...

Not all parents are "unhappy." Maybe I'm completely out of the loop, but we haven't experienced anything like this at Lowell this year. Not saying it's not occurring, but many of us are happy and had a good year at Lowell.

Jon said...

My understanding of this mess is a little different, that these are mostly people who came to Lowell from TT Minor, and that they took some of the conflicts from there with them. This looks like a battle of wills between some petty bureaucrats and a short-tempered principal. The stakes are low, the battles vicious, and it would be entertaining if it wasn't all so stupid.

Everyone certainly comes out looking bad, but I'm not sure it is all that interesting. The only notable thing is that it is another mess coming out of closing of schools when we badly need capacity and the wonderful APP split that took a successful program and forcibly ripped it to pieces.

GoldenRule said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SeattleSped said...

I heard powerful testimony tonight by Lowell parents genuinely concerned for their children. With a special-needs child myself, I have no reason to doubt there are grave risks associated with the short-sighted "work-arounds" devised for capacity-management concerns. If it were YOUR child, would you sit back and figure, hey, it all good?

Anonymous said...

Thanks GoldenRule. For those experiencing a good year at Lowell and having positive interactions with the Principal, I would suggest providing that feedback to Nancy Coogan as well. It's important for her to get a balanced view of the situation.

Lowell parent

suep. said...

Sorry GoldenRule, the situation at Lowell is not so easily dismissed.

I am a longtime Lowell parent and I have never experienced the school atmosphere like this before.

What Melissa describes I have also been told by multiple parents, teachers and staff. So your insinuations that these claims are merely the rantings of one parent are an inaccurate and ignorant supposition on your part, and your own contribution to hearsay and conspiracy.

Lowell is one of the reasons I wrote about teacher morale to Director Smith-Blum and in this post back in November of last year:

Plummeting teacher morale in Seattle’s Public Schools — a serious issue

suep. said...

I'd like to add that I have also had good experiences with the principal. But too many others have not. And that is very troubling.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Are we really trying to serve and unite the Lowell community or tear it apart. So far you alone are contibuting to the latter."

First of all, I know this is happening. I did say I did not know how widespread it is.

Second, I know that the SEA is involved and they don't just get involved over nothing. Something occurred about the surveys and it seems serious.

Third, there is a new BLT and not one that most people are aware of. That's not what should happen at a democratically run school.

Also, I heard from more than one person so no, it is not generated from one person.

Give me some credit for making sure I investigate before I post.

GoldenRule said...

Speaking to the situations that Melissa referred to, I suggest that she talk with Ms. Betts, First Grade teacher, who was bullied by Ms. McDonald and Sandi Fodor and stripped of the SEA surveys she was collecting for delivery downtown. So threatened that other SEA members asked Mr. King to step in out of concern. Or talk to Ms. Birinyi about how her great BLT ideas fell on the deaf ears of an ineffective BLT for two years. Or the new BLT who was voted on by the majority (35 staff members). Or perhaps speak directly to the principal about calling security. Does Melissa really believe he would tamper with surveys and threaten people with the police? Really? Mr. King isn't perfect and like us all has made some mistakes, but this beyond ridiculous.

NancyC said...

GoldenRule -
please be sensitive to the needs of all stakeholders to be heard. I find it very unfair to call out "the cowardness of parents generating this campaign" and "one parent who had her feelings hurt and is now out for revenge". I truly believe that all of us (speaking as a Lowell parent) want the best for our kids and for all the staff at Lowell. There are valid concerns that need to be addressed. Please allow the district to address them without demonizing individuals who speak up. I cannot say I have ever met a parent who speaks up from a need for attention, spite or revenge. As a parent, I speak up when I feel compelled to do so to right perceived wrongs. Isn't that what all parents do? Everyone needs to be able to freely and civily voice their concerns - to shut people down because you don't agree with their message is not fair. Let us please agree that we all desire a healthy environment in which to learn in which teachers skills are nourished and respected and all kids needs are met. We may have different opinions on how to get there, but our goals are shared.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Does Melissa really believe he would tamper with surveys and threaten people with the police?"

I did not say I did believe that he would tamper with surveys. That he threatened to call security was reported by two different people at two different times. It's worth looking into and I hope the Executive Director is.

Maureen said...

Are there parents on the Lowell BLT? Were they elected by the parent body or appointed by the principal? Are there separate reps for APP, ALO and Special Ed?

JeanB said...

I am a first time blogger, so be gentle. I would like to share my impression of Lowell. I have two children there and have been involved with many of the teachers throughout the year. Most of the turmoil seemed to impact the 4th grade class. Looking at the teachers in 1-3rd grade and even 5th, many of teachers appear to be enthusiastic and generally happy to be at Lowell. Again, this is my opinion.
In terms of teachers leaving my family has had experience with 3 (maybe it’s my fault they’re leaving), I think Ms. Hauge is a dynamic teacher, but I don’t think her 2/3 days a week team teaching approach works for most kids and families. Last she told me, she is looking to move to Bainbridge and get a teaching job there. Ms. Anderson has two small children and lives in Edmonds. She told me that she wanted to be closer to home with her daughter starting kindergarten. These are my personal interactions directly with these teachers. Is there more to the story, perhaps, but I choose to take them at their words.
And in regards to Mr. Drummond, I believe with all of my being, he should have been let go. There is definitely much more to that story than HR will share.
I have not been involved with the outgoing Building Leadership Team (BLT), but must say I am extremely impressed with the energy and focus generated by the incoming whipper-snappers. I have reviewed the guidelines for the BLT in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and Lowell is in compliance regarding the members being voted in, number of SEA members, ALO and APP representation and diversity relative to our school population. It is my understanding that the BLT members serve two years. The transition was not handled smoothly, but I believe there is a transitional meeting for both BL Teams to get together next week.
When I heard about the SEA survey incident, I approached the administration for additional information. I was told and believe that they were asked to intervene by staff during a stressful encounter that occurred during the survey collection. The incident was among teachers, a battle over which SEA member was authorized to deliver the surveys downtown. Although I am not aware of the SEA rules and regulations regarding survey collections, I whole-hearted believe that Gregory would never tamper or interfere with the SEA surveys.
I do believe that parents should have the ability to voice your concerns. I don’t believe this blog should be posted unless extensive effort was made to get the whole story including talking to Mr. King. This to me unfortunately feels like a smear campaign and slanderous. In a time of easy communication outlets, I think we should all think twice before circulating any accusations. Whether you believe them or not, by posting or circulating, you are advertising and supporting information as well as misinformation. Nothing replaces a face-to-face conversation when it comes to conflict resolution. And although our problems cannot all be solved, I hope we can move on and enjoy our summers. Happy Birthday, Nancy!

Anonymous said...

Maureen,

Before the BLT was dismantled and reassmbled, there were parent reps from each of the different programs (ALO, APP, SPED, etc.). The new BLT has one parent rep chosen from the PTA Board. The problem with this is that this one individual cannot represent and speak for the concerns and needs of the different populations housed at Lowell, and her forum in which to communicate to and with parents is at PTA meetings which are poorly attended. I think this change stands to promote the agenda and desires/needs of one group... APP.

Anonymous said...

Maureen,

Before the BLT was dismantked and reassmbled, there were parent reps from each of the different programs (ALO, APP, SPED, etc.) the new BLT has one parent rep chosen from the PTA Board. The problem with this is that this one individual cannot represent and spexk for the concerns and needs of the different populations housed at Lowell, and her forum in which to communicate to parents is at PTA meetings which are poor;y attended. I think this change stands to promote the agenda and desires/needs of one group... APP.

-nowoolovertheseeyes

Anonymous said...

Excuse my typos... edited to add "pen name" and forgot to fix errors...

-nowoolovertheseeyes

lendlees said...

Nowoolovertheseeyes-

The parent on the BLT is the PTA co-president. That is common practice at many schools to have the PTA serve on the BLT, rather than having the administration pick parents.

The PTA represents the entire Lowell population, and anyone and everyone has the ability to be elected to the PTA board. Just because the parent happens to be an APP parent does not mean they will not advocate for the entire school population.

The PTA has representatives from all three populations, and all the meetings are open to the entire school.

And, I have to admit, it would have been nice if Melissa had contacted someone on the PTA to discuss these issues before publishing this blog post.

Anonymous said...

I am a parent, and have to say that I am appalled at what Greg King has been allowed to do to Lowell. He has almost single-handedly dismantled a fantastic long-standing program and has alienated (or dispensed with) many of our most dedicated and talented instructors and staff. If we try to brush this off as a problem only affecting a few, then we are as much to blame as he. For a man who's stated goal is to be superintendant of an urban school system, he has gotten off to a terrible start with such disappointing lack of leadership and abuse of power. Greg King needs to do some serious soul searching and right some of the wrongs he has done- if he can, or he has to go. And where is the VP in all this? I would hope she would step up and take some initiative and at least attempt to save community confidence and keep our talented teachers, and positive parent involvement in the midst of this leadership (lack of) crisis.

signed,
PO'd parent - 0 tolerance for bullying

Joan NE said...

"It's hard to know if a few disgruntled parents and teachers are fanning the flames or if there truly are more serious issues."

"..Not all parents are unhappy...many of us are happy and had a good year at Lowell."

My child and my family is having a great experience at Lowell. I know for certain, though, that not all teachers are having a good experience, and that a wonderful teacher is leaving because of the building climate, and that "administratrion" is a central part of the problem. I suspect "administration" includes Nancy Cooghan.

I bet most parents in the building have not had exposure to signs of adverse climate.

My sense is that Greg is ambitious. Apart from antagonizing parents - he is providing the kind of leadership that is favored by his supervisors, and by Ed Reformers in general.

I am troubled by the possibility that school property trespass law and BLT bylaws are being abused in order to suppress dissent.

What troubles me most is the possibility that wonderful veteran teachers are being driven out, and that teachers are being bullied into narrowing and dumbing down curriculum. The Lowell children of next year and future years who otherwise would have had the good fortune to get these teachers are being harmed. Our children are harmed when curriculum is dumbed down. It appears to me that very few Lowell parents know about the dumbing down of curriculum.

I am very interested in seeing that the building climate surveys are properly administered and evaluated. I am very interested for teachers to feel comfortable to tell us through survey the reasons they are retiring or seeking transfer.

Lowellist said...

Mr. King is a man of high integrity and solid principles, although he might have a short temper. In our interactions with him, we can only say good things about him.

On the other hand, it is obvious that he is facing continuous resistance and smear, from long-timer Lowell teachers, union members, and lazy, bureaucratic and unimaginative people he has inherited with the school. No wonder he loses his patience with them from time to time.

This blog is part of this smear campaign. Here are some additional, future ideas for the instigators of this smear campaign:

1. Mr King is not even an Amercian citizen, he should show his full form birth certificate. (Why, it worked for Donald Trump for a while!)

2. Mr King eats young children.

3. Mr King is the Antichrist.

JeanB said...

As a side bar, I truly appreciate people who blog and have the decency to attach their names. As parents we all have the right to speak-up and as we can all see have varying opinions. Let's keep it real and own our comments. It's easy to throw stones from behind the Internet curtain of secrecy. Thank you Melissa, Sue P, Nancy, Laura, Jon, Steve and Joan for your transparency.

Anonymous said...

well said, Joan NE. Yes - I think finding out what happened with the surveys and seeing what the people filling them out had to say would be a good start. There is some legitimate concern about the chain of custody in regards to those surveys, and we may have to consider re-issuing, if possible. Sorry, but the glaring conflict of interest with Greg supposedly being 'asked' to step in to collect surveys that most likely reflected badly upon him... hmmm... even without all the other serious concerns, it just doesn't smell right - incredibly unprofessional, and unethical.
The kids are the reason for the school, and are the reason that we parents are so passionate about what happens to the things that affect them most. The climate in Lowell will start to affect our children negatively if it isn't addressed, if it hasn't done so already.
Here's a big thank you to our talented staff who have left, or are leaving. Thank you for years of service to our school and our children.

- PO'd parent / 0 tolerance for bullying

Lori said...

My family has had a good first year at Lowell; our 2nd grader is truly thriving there. I can't speak to any of the allegations or concerns about morale. I'm simply not yet as involved as a lot of other parents when it comes to volunteering, committee membership etc.

My interactions with and therefore impressions of the administration come from having attended most coffee chats, a few PTA meetings, and a few inquiries specific to my child, all of which were handled well and left a favorable impression.

However, all of these allegations are disturbing, and regardless of where the truth lies, the divisiveness among parents is as much a risk to our kids as is any internal conflict among school staff. I hope we can get some clarity and resolution around what's going on at our school, which means hearing all sides of the issues. I suppose at this point, I care less about who said what to whom and more about how this is all going to be resolved so we can have a productive and successful year come the fall.

As to the BLT, a notice went out this past winter seeking parent volunteers for the committee and emphasizing a need for parents in the ALO and SpEd program to participate. I have no idea who volunteered or what happened next, but the idea that a single APP parent was hand-picked to represent all on the BLT seems at odds with this request that went out to all families. Again, others with more direct knowledge can opine, and if anyone volunteered and was denied a chance to participate, please let us know.

Anonymous said...

That any of this even got out to me is a sign that things really are this bad. Knowing how awful the situation at my former school was, and how little attention it has garnered (fear of retaliation is all too real), for there to be more than one voice in this is a real indication that things are terrible. This type of situation can be career ending for teachers.

Teachers tenure really comes down to their principal. Sure, there's a process, and it's well designed to look like a teacher gets a fair shake, but one bad evaluation is usually a step out the door, and there's no accountability on evaluations. Additionally, every district in the area has a question about wether the applicant has been on an improvement plan.

The best way I think to evaluate the situation is to ask the kids. Teachers are professionals, and shouldn't let building politics influence their decisions with parents. But if it's like this, kids can tell. Sure, it's common for kids to hate the principal, but ask if teachers seem happy with their jobs. Even if nothing is overtly said to students (and shouldn't be) maintaining a happy face day in and day out for months just doesn't happen.

Former teacher

Anonymous said...

What troubles me most is...that teachers are being bullied into narrowing and dumbing down curriculum

Complaints about narrowing of the curriculum should be directed at the Advanced Learning department and the District.

Between EDM, CMP, and Readers/Writers Workshop (which the PTA supported through teacher training) there seems to be little time left to do the homegrown social studies and science units that were once part of the curriculum. If APP had a more defined curriculum for each grade, and it had been clearly outlined prior to the split, some of these issues would be moot.

-two center

Dorothy Neville said...

I cannot speak for all the allegations. Bullying to one might simply be strong leadership to another. I have my suspicions in that regard. It's no secret I feel that several veteran elementary APP teachers needed removal or remediation. So if that were the only thing I had heard -- that he pushed some to retire or move, I would definitely withhold judgement until knowing more facts.

However, I do know more of two serious issues that are personnel related and not appropriate to share. And yes, I know a LOT about these situations and have seen the documents and evidence. Very troubling indeed. I counseled one person over and over to get a lawyer, because the district would look really really bad. This person has not ruled that out, but really just wants the whole school, the whole district behind them.

I know that other staff at the school know about these issues and that has contributed to the culture of fear. But of course they cannot tell parents or others the details. I suspect though that they would be frank on the climate surveys and so I could very much believe that the administration of the building would be tempted to read them to attempt to figure out who said what, if not to outright tamper with them. I can very much understand paranoia of staff to that regard.

Peripherally to this, I have spoken with Noel Treat several times about the ethics office. He said that most of the complaints to the hotline were personnel related, harassment, bullying, etc. Unfortunately, that isn't covered under the district ethics policy, so really HR should be handling them. We all know HR is the most dysfunctional department and contributes to the negative climate in the district. Now that the City has taken over, the city is examining our ethics policy to suggest strengthening it. The city seems to have stronger policies about whistleblowers, so that's a start. The city will also provide data on the number and types of complaints so we might finally have some perspective on how bad it is and whether the culture improves over time.

I spoke with Noel last night and he confirmed that the MOU with the city has been signed. The city has hired someone to work on district staff training and to handle complaints. People are already submitting complaints to the city, complaints to the district hotline are down as things migrate to the city. What about complaints that fall under HR investigating? I do not know. At least the city will be collecting data and reporting.

Anonymous said...

At the ES level, teacher evaluation (aka MAP tests) and curriculum standardization focus mainly on the math and reading (with a little lazy science from science kits thrown in). This narrowness comes at a cost to science, history, and writing. It is not just a Lowell APP problem, but one for all schools as more and more of the building leaderhsip demands it. For principals who are ambitious and/or want to keep their jobs, they have to make their bosses happy. The domino effect permeates into the classroom. To the teachers who can blunt the effect and manage to add depth and enrich the learning, my kids say THANK YOU!!

It is very hard to stand alone these days.

--grateful parent

Joan NE said...

"Complaints about narrowing of the curriculum should be directed at the Advanced Learning department and the District. "

Unfortunately, this district is committed to narrowing and dumbing down curriculum. Remember "curriculum alignment?" It's in the strategic plan.

I went to the community engagement meeting when the CA plan was being introduced. There was no genuine engagement. Suggestions/concerns from parents were answered by Susan Enfield with "we are having conversations around that." Nothing of course came of the very significant concerns I heard expressed at that meeting.

The current board and employed leadership is totally committed to curriculum aligmnment.

APP teachers are now being forced to fill the more of the school day with the general ed curriculum, with much less time for enrichment. Lowell's ALO, SpecEd and APP kids are all harmed by dumbed down curriculum.

In Ed Reform, the principal's job as "instructional leader" is in part to conduct "Learning Walks" in which he pokes his head in classrooms unannouced to check whether the teacher is teaching the district aligned curriculum. In theory, all same-grade teachers accross the district are on the district-mandated page of pacing guide every day of teh school year.

EDM revisits topics over and over again so that kids that have high absenteism will still get exposure to each topic. Problem is, EDM doesn't support incremental mastery, so kids do not build up a strong foundation on which to place the next brick in the edifice of math understanding.

Balanced Litearcey (Reader's and Writer's workshop) seems to have been developed with similar goals as EDM. If you look into this curriculum, you will find that it is an impoverished curriculum, and it emphasises SSR, which the National Reading Panel says is not supported by research. Balanced Literacy does not provide for Adult Guided read-aloud, which NRP says is well supported by high quality peer-reviewed research. If you are lucky, you kid has a K-3 teacher who coaches kids daily in read-aloud, even though Bal. Literacy discourages it.


Children of parents who (a) recognize the curriculum problem (b) want more for their kids and (c) have resources are tremendously advantaged over all other kids. I really feel bad for the kids of low income and non-English speaking parents. I don't feel bad for the kids of middle and high income parents who are unwilling to look at this problem, and unwilling to agitate for better curriculum for all.

No kids are well served by these curricula. Ed Reform attempts (but fails) to Close the Achievement Gap by giving all kids crummy curriculum.

In the face of poor curriculum, my solution for my kids for now is partial homeschooling. Don't let principals tell you that they don't allow late arrivals. It is your right by state law. They can't prevent you from doing this.

If more parents resorted to partial homeschooling, the district might be more responsive to parent concerns, since this hits the district in the pocket book. They loose proportional FTE student funding.

dj said...

Joan NE, the board (as I am sure you know) is considering a change in attendance policy that seems to conflict with what you just posted. Can you direct me to what state law permits late arrivals by right?

Melissa Westbrook said...

If you are home-schooling, your child might arrive later but not technically "late" as he/she was being schooled elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

State law allows for part-time public school attendance, so it's possible to attend as a 0.8 FTE and just homeschool for one class.

http://apps.leg.wa.gov/wac/default.aspx?cite=392-134-005

parent

Joan NE said...

Find the following and a sample declaration of intent to partial homeschool at this URL:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/58020917/

The Pink Book. WASHINGTON STATE’S LAWS REGULATING HOME-BASED INSTRUCTION, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Revised, February 2003. Office Of Superintendent of Public Instuction. www.k12.wa.us/PrivateEd/HomeBasedEd/PinkBook/A-6.pdf


RCW 28A.150.350 Part time students -- Defined -- Enrollment authorized -- Reimbursement for costs --Funding authority recognition -- Rules, regulations.... (2) The board of directors of any school district is authorized and, in the same manner as for other public school students, shall permit the enrollment of and provide ancillary services for part time students: PROVIDED, That this section shall only apply to part time students who would be otherwise eligible for full time enrollment in the school district. **[For answers to frequently asked questions about this law, see Part Three of The Pink Book.]


RCW 28A.200. Home-based instruction. **[For answers to frequently asked questions about this law, see Part One of The Pink Book.]

RCW 28A.200.010 Home-based instruction — Duties of parents.
Each parent whose child is receiving home-based instruction under RCW 28A.225.010(4) shall have the duty to:

(1) File annually a signed declaration of intent that he or she is planning to cause his or her child to receive home- based instruction. The statement shall include the name and age of the child, shall specify whether a certificated person will be supervising the instruction, and shall be written in a format prescribed by the superintendent of public instruction. Each parent shall file the statement by September 15 of the school year or within two weeks of
the beginning of any public school quarter, trimester, or semester with the superintendent of the public school district within which the parent resides or the district that accepts the transfer, and the student shall be deemed a transfer student of the nonresident district. Parents may apply for transfer under RCW 28A.225.220;

RCW 28A.200.020 Home-based instruction -- Certain decisions responsibility of parent unless otherwise specified. The state hereby recognizes that parents who are causing their children to receive homebased instruction under RCW 28A.225.010(4) shall be subject only to those minimum state laws and regulations which are necessary to insure that a sufficient basic educational opportunity is provided to the children receiving such instruction. Therefore, all decisions relating to philosophy or doctrine, selection of books, teaching materials and curriculum, and methods, timing, and place in the provision or evaluation of home-based instruction shall be the responsibility of the parent except for matters specifically referred to in this chapter.

WAC 392-134-010 Attendance rights of part-time public school students. **[Statutory authority RCW 28A.41.145. See Appendix 1 of The Pink Book.]


Additional References

The Pink Book. WASHINGTON STATE’S LAWS REGULATING HOME-BASED INSTRUCTION, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Revised, February 2003. Office Of Superintendent of Public Instuction. www.k12.wa.us/PrivateEd/HomeBasedEd/PinkBook/A-6.pdf

State Board of Education Examples of Approved Standardized Achievement Tests for Home-Based Instruction Use. The Pink Book, OSPI (2003), p. A-3.

Declaration of Intent to Provide Home-Based Instruction, Sample Format Only. The Pink Book, OSPI (2003), p. A-2.


Washington Homeschool Organization. http://washhomeschool.org/; WHOoffice@foxinternet.net. "The Washington Homeschool Organization (WHO) is a statewide, non-profit membership organization. Its mission is to serve the diverse interests of home-based education in Washington State. WHO is nonpartisan, nonsectarian, and non discriminating in its views of homeschooling and participation in its activities." Information and Resources; Support Groups and Co-ops.

Joan NE said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joan NE said...

How to submit a Declaration of Intent to Homeschol.

The following information was provided to me in January, 2011 by Linda Downing
Data Registrar
Homeschool Resource Center
Telephone 206.252.4727
Fax 206.252.4721
MS: AD-516


1. Mail the Declaration of Intent to the following address:

Superintendent’s Designee
1330 North 90th St., Bldg. 200
Seattle, WA 98103

2. Once these documents are received by the S.D., the S.D. will date stamp and return a copy for parent's records. The S.D. will also, at that time inform the child's school of the parent's intent to (partial) homeschool.

Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity, how many years has Mr. King been a principal? Our new principal is brand new out of the gate (first principal assignment) and this inexperience is quite noticeable and has made for a very bumpy year (both for staff and parents). Obviously everyone needs to start somewhere, and on the job experience is extremely valuable, but the fact that SPS has so few principal candidates with any experience in school leadership (and many with even only a few years teaching as well) is concerning. The current principal pool reflects this lack of building leadership experiece as well.

Coming into a building w/ lots of long term staff and pending issues (all schools have them) is difficult and sending an inexperienced leader into the building without continuing ed/ PD and without heavy duty coaching is a recipie for disaster. I see a lot of this as a failing of the Ed Directors (and I like ours quite a bit) and SPS administration, who promotes these folks to principal-ships and leaves them to essentially flounder, while requiring them to do SPS's Ed Reform + Reduce the Achievement Gap at All Costs bidding.

It's disappointing that our building leaders lack this experience - and much of it is common sense workplace skills. I'm talking about basic communication skills, consensus building skills, building management (eg creating a budget) and things like NOT losing your temper (and yes, I expect my principal to NOT lose his/her temper with staff or parents and certainly not w/ kids).

..Eliza

Joan NE said...

Here are a couple more statutory rights that many parents don't know they hold:

1. Right to see, on demand, all of the work ever produced by a child at school (The teacher should be keeping a folder). This includes the right to see all the assessments that the student has taken, including state assessments. This right must also cover MAP tests.

The file of a child's work may be the best means by which a parent can judge if thier child is growing academically; homework is another way, but often kids are not getting homework that gives a clear picture of the taught/learned curriculum.

2. Right to enter and observe in the classroom where their child is being taught, but parents must observe law about what behavior is deemed unlawful, and makes parent subject to removal from site by police, without a warrant for arrest. Observing quietly without disrupting the teacher's work is protected by law. If a parent is removed for this behavior, then their statutory righrs are being violated.


3. The right to excercise free speech on school grounds, without fear of being arrested or physically banned, except when certain behaviours specified in law are exhibited. This right is owned by all members of public, including teachers. Sadly, I know that Seattle police are willing to enforce unlawful bans issued by Seattle Public Schools. Until someone is willing to challenge an unlawful ban in court, the police will continue to support unlawful exlusion orders.

dj said...

Thank you, Joan. I really appreciate it.

Laura said...

This is Mr. King's second year at Lowell. He was the principal at TT Minor for one year (at least). He came from an out of state school district. I think he was a principal in that school district as well.

I don't have any information about the Asst. Principal. This is her first year at Lowell.

Anonymous said...

this is not surprising to hear this about greg king. last year, he made our daughther log into her personal email account, which she has never accessed at school, because he had concerns that she had received inappropriate emails from another student. this was a blatant violation of school district, policy, washington law, and our daughter's constitutional rights. we sent a stern letter to him (and cc'd Susan Enfield, who didn't respond at all) and met in person to express our displeasure and to let him know that we instructed our daughter to refuse any future request of this type.

did you know he is sending his own kids to Lakeside next year?

lowell needs to replace mr. king

Anonymous said...

last year, he made our daughther log into her personal email account, which she has never accessed at school, because he had concerns that she had received inappropriate emails from another student.

how would he have any idea to even ask about it?

this behavior is appalling and unethical as well as illegal, and i'm happy to hear you didn't sit back and ignore it. i hope there were some serious discussions downtown about this.

but it also brings up the question of why/how your elementary student has her own email? most (if not all) email providers specifically do not allow kids under age 13 to use their systems. this is just one example of why.

did you know he is sending his own kids to Lakeside next year?

his older daughter has been there for the past 2 years, it's not new.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Lowell went through three speech-language pathologists this year and has been without one for several months now -- which means spending extra district money to provide compensatory service over the summer.

The situation leading to the removal of the last SLP stems from retaliation by the assistant principal and the principal against that SLP for reporting staff misconduct. The district is investigating itself on this so any eventual justice is unlikely.

The situation at Lowell is beyond outrageous.

Signed,

BrassB

Anonymous said...

Given everything that is going on in this district, if I had the money AND my kids can get into Lakeside, I would send them there. (My public school mom will kick me, but I think she gets it 'cause she helping out with at home supplement.)

So I am not faulting Mr. King for his school choice.

Signed me, Wish my kids could go to Lakeside too!

Anonymous said...

I second the call to replace Greg King! However, it is not enough to simply shuffle him off to another school where he can carry on without addressing these issues which have caused such turmoil in our school community. Mr King draws a healthy salary, and I don't feel that we are being responsible citizens, or responsible tax-payers if we don't get to the bottom of these very serious allegations. Mr King works for us and our children! No employer would ever allow such behavior and abuse of responsibility as that of Mr King. There needs to be a comprehensive performance evaluation so we can determine if we are getting our monies worth out of Greg King. Also, once allegations have been substantiated they should go in Mr King's permanent record so he doesn't just wind up getting promoted up the chain of incompetence as is too often the case when organizations find themselves with a sticky problem like Mr King. 'Fortunately' this is only one school...Imagine what damage he could inflict upon an entire district! ? I have NO CONFIDENCE in Greg King as principal of Lowell Elementary

signed
PO'd parent / 0 tolerance for bullying
(anonymous until fear of reprisals is no longer a legitimate concern... sad, but true)

RosieReaderFan said...

This is why blogs are not recognized as being legitimate news sources. There is the original "news" story and dozens of comments (all anonymous, of course)attacking Mr. King, without any attempt, that I can see, of getting his input. REAL news outlets at least ATTEMPT to get BOTH sides of a story, especially when someone's personal integrity is being attacked.

I have no idea whether the allegations here are true, but this whole thing is pretty nasty yellow journalism.

Anonymous said...

Rosie Reader Fan,
I wouldn't accept any anonymous comments to this post as factual anymore than the comments in the NYT, CNN, or ST comment section. Those media groups are still considered legitimate "news sources".

I still appreciate your comment because it helps to balance out others. Besides the more outrageous the comments on either side, the more they invite scrutiny and healthy skepticism.

- wanna be Nellie B.

Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

Take a deep breath, folks...this is blogging at its worst!
I read a lot of people jumping to conclusions based on hear-say and assumptions.

When you post these comments, they become very public...this is not a personal dialog between a few people.
It's important to remember you are talking about, making assumptions and accusations about real people with families, careers they care about, not to mention these might be union, personnel, and legal issues too.

I suggest that anyone with concerns contact the Lowell ptsa board and the APP AC. If you have first-hand experience with issues, also contact Ed Director Nancy Coogan at SPS.

A blog is not going to be the best way to find out what is really going on, nor the best way to do anything about it. This is only serving to stir the pot more and scare a lot of people. Yes, you have the first amendment right to do that, but I respectfully ask all to consider the implications (to the staff, parents, and our students in the Lowell community) of what you post before you hit "publish".
Stephanie

Melissa Westbrook said...

What's APP AC?

Anonymous said...

End of Year Message from Gregory & Rina

Dear Lowell Families,
As the year comes to an end, and we prepare to say goodbye for the summer, we are already busy planning for next year. As we are all aware of, we will face many challenges and unknowns as our school grows. This Friday, the entire Lowell staff has been invited to attend a meeting to brainstorm ideas for how to best deal with these challenges. Our school has so many unique qualities that make it special, and we want to ensure that all programs are fully supported.

As we reflect on all that has happened this year, we are truly amazed at our accomplishments. These accomplishments would not have been possible without the caring, dedicated hard work of both staff and community members who all share a common goal—to provide students with the best possible education. We had our first Move-A-Thon and an amazing art showcase, both of which were a combined effort between staff, teachers and parents. We are very fortunate to have such a dedicated staff that gives so much of themselves. We are excited to build upon our amazing programs and events such as these, so we can continue to flourish and provide high quality experiences for all of our students.

We say a fond farewell to our fifth graders and their families. Each of them will be missed and leave behind many cherished memories. In addition, we also say goodbye to five staff members, Kristen Anderson, Allison Fenzl, Tamra Hauge, Karen Harmon and Bob Schilperoort. We wish them the best in their new adventures and thank each of them for their contributions to Lowell.

Looking to the future, we are excited about the many possibilities that will come from our newly formed partnership with The Robinson Center for Young Scholars at the University of Washington. Our goal is for all the Lowell programs to benefit from monthly professional development through this partnership. In addition, we are committed to supporting our teachers who are interested in attending conferences, workshops and other opportunities that can appeal to their interests and can benefit their instructional practice. Many of our teachers will be attending workshops this summer and are very excited to be part of cutting edge ideas and practices.

Over the summer, the administrative team will continue to work on capacity issues so we are well prepared for students in the fall. We recognize the toll this has taken on staff, and we will work hard to make sure everyone feels supported. We are working closely with the staff and PTA to develop strategies to ensure this happens.

Again we want to thank all of our staff and families for making Lowell a special school. We couldn’t do without your help and support.

Have a wonderful summer,
Gregory and Rina

Anonymous said...

Can someone who truly knows the details, plz enlighten us as to what exactly happened with the Speech Therapist at Lowell? I've heard many references to this situation but have been unable to confirm exactly why the therapist left (?) abruptly. I agree that teacher morale is low, i have heard this from long-time teachers I trust HOWEVER I can't say exactly why this is - I agree about the pressure on teachers from District/national emphasis on using test scores to evaluate teachers. These issues are likely exacerbated by the expected overrowding and other issues at Lowell. BUT SInce there are several posts pointing to Principal King as the source of the morale problems at Lowell, and specifically the issue w/the Speech Therapist, I would love to hear exactly what happened there. Thnx to Melissa and all posters who so generously share info - many of us working parents dont get to spend much time "in the halls" at school -- all I know is my son is pretty happy and had a great yr - but i have no doubt that if there are problems with "the leader"the staff and eventually the children will be affected. If parents have concrete feedback, we need to know and I'm unaware of another forum where we could exchange the information.
-Current Lowell Parent

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Stephanie.
Clementine

Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

APP AC is the APP Advisory Committee,
a district-sanctioned group of volunteer parents and staff from each of the APP schools, who all work together, with the schools, the Advanced Learning office, and the district to advise and advocate on behalf of APP and our schools.

We have sent out over 100 emails this year so far to the 1350 folks on our opt-in email list.

If anyone wants to sign up to receive the emails, go to

http://groups.google.com/group/app-ac-seattle
and sign up,or contact our communications rep at
robertnappac@gmail.com

Mel, you know this group, probably not putting it together with only the initials!
Thanks,
Stephanie

protected static said...

@Melissa - APP AC == APP Advisory Committee

Dorothy Neville said...

Any information about the SLP or other staff would be considered personnel and therefore private. Only the persons involved would have the authority to share and would have the accurate information.

I will say that there are investigations underway relating to the personnel issues. We need to trust that the investigation will proceed in a professional manner. Any details listed here would be second hand speculations and without the benefit of the whole picture. We have an interim HR head who seems knowledgeable and credible. We also have a new MOU with the city to help professionalize investigations. At this point, I think we need to trust that.

Anonymous said...

I fully agree with the comments calling for fair-play and consideration of consequences before posting.
Greg King should definitely have an opportunity to answer any allegations that have been made about his conduct while in capacity as Principal of Lowell Elementary.
These issues have been festering for some time and now it's coming out all at once; compounded by the revelation of additional issues that have only come to light because people felt safe enough to post once someone was brave enough to stand up and say 'hey! something isn't right here. peoples lives are being negatively impacted, and reputations being damaged.'
They too deserve to have a chance to voice their concerns and feel safe doing so.
Perhaps those who feel they have a legitimate complaint could communicate elsewhere, and issues be brought to the appropriate authority as joint complainants. It may prevent individual complaints from being explained away one by one, when it may be a pattern that requires group action. Strength and safety in numbers...
It'll be a much nicer summer if we can feel confident that next year can be approached with a fresh start, and that last years issues are being addressed.

Thanks,
PO'd parent

Dorothy Neville said...

I will say that the personnel issue has some serious aspects to it, very serious aspects. So other staff, whether or not they know the whole story, most likely know the very serious quality to the aspects and that is probably part of their morale issues. But again, explaining the details of the seriousness is not appropriate here. A formal investigation is appropriate and is underway.

WenD said...
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WenD said...
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WenD said...
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WenD said...

Actually, not educating your child in the district you represent is damning evidence that you might have doubts about the very system you're charged with promoting and preserving. It's natural. Other parents want to know that SDS leaders believe in their schools and share common goals.

As for this blogging thing having less integrity than Joni Balter or Lynne Varner, isn't it remarkable that at least two members of the Times ed board don't appear to even read what their reporters are finding with regard to white collar crime in our schools? I think the newbies who joined this particular thread protest too much. The numerous threads contained in this blog regarding the destruction of APP and Spectrum are must-reads. Mel, Charlie, and other contributors have scooped the daily and weekly media more than once.

I don't know if Raj Manhas has children and if they were students when he was sup, but Joe Olchefske and MGJ sent their children to SDS schools. I seriously doubt that either of them made these choices for purely political reasons, so this matters, especially when you consider the number of children who are being denied access to gifted ed, now more than ever.

Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

We don't know the personal reasons why a family chooses one school over another, public or private. Different kids have different needs, and parents need to find what is best for their child. That is responsible parenting. Period.

It's not wise to speculate about decisions made by another family--we simply don't walk in their shoes.

While I am a newbie to posting on this blog, I am certainly no newbie to APP issues--going on 10 years now in the thick of all things APP. I think it's a good idea to provide some balance and perspective, as the sky is not always falling.

I appreciate the range of parents who write in representing different points of view and experiences.
Stephanie

Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

There are actually more kids being served now in gifted ed than ever before...and growing... a lot. The numbers that apply for advanced learning testing are going up each year, this past year around 5,000 kids.
Stephanie

seattle citizen said...

In my opinion, this conversation is representative of the problems the district has caused with its untruthfulness, its shadowy manipulations, its glad-handing and its inability to do what it says it will do.
People are upset, they're concerned that "something is going on" (and there often IS), they're reactive, paranoid, unsure of the truth...This IS the education of Seattle's children we're talking about, and that is a very important thing to most people. That the system that is to be doing this (with our help, one hopes) is, lately, so dysfunctional leads to this sort of conjecture and informal information (or disinformation) letting.
One would think the MSM (the Times, in our case, or King 5 or somebody) would report on education issues, but (in the Times case, at least) there is little straight information there, either. Without that, we are left these new "information" sources, that are often somewhat squishy as no one here is paid (right, Mel? Charlie?!), people have other jobs, so information is often gathered in bits and pieces.

Whaddya gonna do? It's what we have. I believe the admins of this blog do a great job...usually...of getting actual information and trying to moderate the input of disinformation (at least that which they can control, their own) and I recognize that some of us (me) sometimes might throw stuff into the mix that might prove to be untrue...It's the somewhat gossipy nature of a blog, of people, to this. But again, without fair and balanced news agencies, what're ya gonna do?

Just my two cents. I hope Lowell, its community, and the district can find common ground and resolve whatever issues they have (or don't). I hope we can continue to share news (right or wrong) and debate its merits and its truth. This is a far cry better then what we get when we turn on the evening news: We should be grateful. Thanks, Charlie, Mel and Beth for providing this forum. It's work (pro bon) and I, for one, appreciate it.

RosieReaderFan said...

WenD-what makes you think I'm a newbie? Just because I think an anonymous free-for-all full of damning charges against someone's integrity is terrible journalism doesn't mean I agree or disagree with anything else on this blog or that I've only begun to read it recently. I've followed SPS over a decade and have been a reader here almost since it was started.

If I were Greg King and I saw how some APP parents shred anyone who goes against the grain, I'd move my kids out too-MGJ and Raj had the choice of any school in the district-with his girls in APP, Mr. King doesn't have that option if he wants his kids in gifted ed. Why would he want parents accosting his children with accusations against their father? If things are as bad as it's being implied here, I can certainly see that happening.

Braessae said...

Stephanie Bower, RosieReaderFan, and Nellie:

Anonymous blog posts (and blogs in general) always have the capacity to be one-sided, unfair, whatever. For that matter, so do news reports published by major newspapers (as many have discovered when news they know first hand gets written up with factual errors, omissions and biases that are unwarranted and unfair).

There are occasional (and by that, I mean quite INfrequent) posts on this blog that are wildly unfair. Virtually all are not attributable to "usual" posters, whose "identities," ideological bents, and/or biases we don't know. I know what Dan Dempsey thinks of the Board. I know what Sahila and Sue P think of the Broad and Gates foundations. I know what WSEADAWG thinks of Steve Sundquist's performance as a board director.

But -- I think Melissa's post on this issue was extremely valuable. When bad things happen at schools (let's just assume, for the sake of argument here that bad things may have happened at Lowell this year -- mind, I am not saying who are the baddies and who are the victims because, except for one issue, I have no clue -- AND that many of them have happened with respect to personnel matters, which are ALWAYS confidential, and thus not likely EVER to be aired by any of the parties unless and until their is a lawsuit -- and a lot of damage can happen short of a lawsuit), how can people possibly know that ANYTHING (much less WHAT) is going on -- outside of informal communications (parents talking among themselves, overheard comments, blogs, etc.).

I see nothing in any of your posts that posits any possible way of clearing any of this up -- or even of alerting Lowell and other Seattle parents to the fact of possible problems at Lowell. Nothing. Nada. Of course, the principal could post here (and perhaps already has, under a pseudonym), as can his supporters (and some of them certainly have -- and good for them). But where could a fearful and aggrieved teacher -- or speech pathologist -- go to let Lowell parents or other Seattle parents know that something alarming is/may be up at Lowell. How many of us were aware of one -- but not the possibility of many other -- issues? I am in that camp. I am directly aware of many of the facts involving the speech pathologist -- though from only one side. My understanding of the situation EXACTLY matches what BrassB has described. Based on what I have been told, my opinion is that the District has, to date, responded with a weak, ineffective, "path of least resistance," "sweep it under the rug and pretend no one ever screwed up and retaliated" response by every administrator involved (except Noel Treat, if you consider him an administrator here -- and that exception is only because he alone has been responsive and I think he is not through with the matter).

This District does very little right in broad daylight. I am not aware that they EVER EVER EVER do anything at all to truly fix problems, much less do anything RIGHT to fix them, if they can keep those problems in the dark -- if they can keep it all hushed up as confidential personnel stuff. Do you, for an instant, think that the audit issues would ever have been addressed (assuming they ARE really being fixed) if there had not been public audit findings?

If there are indeed issues at Lowell, and in my particular book, there are an assistant principal and an ed director much more in the crosshairs than Mr. King, what should we do? How can anyone ever know about it? How can we ever discuss it -- except as it has been discussed here -- with Melissa trying to be as careful as she can to pass on ONLY what she knows -- to let us know if it is only stuff she has been told, and if so by how many, etc. etc., and with plenty of admonishment by MANY of the commenters with respect to whether people are making accusations of fact that have no basis.

Jan said...
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Charlie Mas said...

For myself, I have never made any claim that what I do is journalism.

I have far too much respect for journalism to think that my work here merits that label.

Mel has said that she is a journalist. A review of her post does not appear to violate any of journalism's sacred rules. She makes plenty of disclaimers ("I cannot say I know the complete story", "Apparently...", "Apperently...", "It appears...", "allegedly", etc.) She made an effort to check the story with an authority, the Education Director.

Neither of us is compensated in any way for this work. Not so much as a doughnut.

The folks who comment on the post - so far as I know - make no claim that they are journalists or that they are committing journalism with their comments.

I sure ain't payin' 'em. Some of them, of course, may be paid flaks trying to anonymously influence public opinion, but that's a delusion I cannot sustain. It just takes too much energy.

So... the complaint from RosieReaderFan that this thread represents poor journalism is a straw man argument. It may be true, but it is equally true that the thread is poor poetry. So what? The thread makes no claim to be either. Hey, it also makes a terrible turkey sandwich. What's your point?

By the way, I was very much amused by the other straw man argument made by Lowellist that people will accuse Mr. King of other heinous acts. Lowellist is funny in a number of other ways. I enjoyed the distictions between "long-timer Lowell teachers, union members, and lazy, bureaucratic and unimaginative people he has inherited with the school." Aren't these all the same people? And isn't it ironic to decry smear tactics by making smears of your own? Hee-larious. I almost spit out my coffee.

Of course, I'm easily amused.

I am also a pretty savvy media consumer, as, I presume, most of us are. I don't believe everything I read - regardless of the source. I certainly don't believe everything I read on an anonymous, unmoderated blog. I will be generous and grant the presumption that none of the readers of this blog believe, accept, or agree with everything they read here. We can tell opinion from fact. We can tell unconfirmed statements from confirmed ones. So even if someone actually did write that Mr King is the Antichrist, I would hope that no one reading that would believe it without some corroborating evidence. So I'm not too worried that Mr. King will be much harmed if someone does make that claim.

Now, if there were some corroborating evidence...

I'm reminded of a joke that was told about Ricky Henderson. During his brief time a Mariner it is said that he asked John Olerud if he always wore his batting helmet when he was in the field. Mr. Olerud said that he did. "Funny", said Ricky, "I played with a guy on the Mets who did that too." The joke, for non-baseball fans, is that the guy on the Mets who did it was also John Olerud. Ricky was so egotistical and self-absorbed, the joke postulates, that he didn't even know the other players on his team. The story isn't actually true. But everyone believed it plausible.

There's no journalism here, but a bit of advice. Try to lead a life that wouldn't allow folks to hear an invented horror story told about you and consider it plausible.

Anonymous said...

I seriously doubt that any Lowell parent or teacher would ever accost any child, regardless of their personal opinions on the issues. ridiculous.
undoubtedly some comments here are steeped in resentment, fear and anger, just as others are justifying and rationalizing whilst sweeping legitimate concerns under the carpet.
these allegations merit investigation, and once the appropriate, qualified authority shows genuine concern and takes any necessary actions I'll be happy hold my tongue and give the course of resolution space to settle. Until then, I feel it is my obligation to let others who find themselves in this situation know that they are not alone.
I urge anyone with a complaint to lodge it with the superintendent. Although this blog has been helpful in confirming the suspicion that we are not isolated incidences, it will be more effective if taken through the proper channels.

- parent

Jan said...

RosieReaderFan, Nellie, and Stephanie:

I for one am extremely glad that Melissa posted this piece, and I do NOT think that either Melissa's post, or the comments, represent blogging at its worst.

Many of us -- me included -- were aware of one issue at Lowell, but not that there may be many more (maybe related, maybe not). Many of them are personnel related, meaning we certainly won't hear about them from the administration, and we are unlikely to hear about them from people who have left, or are leaving -- folks now either absent or marginalized.

I am curious as to how any of the three of you think that administrative problems (lets assume, for the sake of this comment, that there are some) between a school's administration (backed by the District administrators) and a school's teachers and parents would ever get aired?

I see LOTS of posts on this blog that caution folks not to let opinions be misconstrued as fact. I think all of us know the opinions of frequent posters on certain issues (I am pretty up on Sahila's opinion of Gates and Broad, Dan Dempsey's opinions of the UW math department's "efforts" to "help" Seattle high schools, and WSEADAWG's opinions of Steve Sundquist's advocacy for West Seattle schools.)

We are all aware that Mr. King has not chimed in with a defense of his actions (unless anonymously), and that in fact he cannot address issues that are personnel matters.

I have never known Melissa to be a purveyor of idle gossip. But when you start hearing from a number of folks that a lot of problems have occurred, and have not been resolved, that a school's staff is or may be in a fair amount of turmoil, -- well, where and how would you suggest this be discussed? If we can't talk about it unless Mr. King chooses to make a statement, then we can't talk about it at all, because he can't, and won't. But then, you all knew that, right?

And finally, if I were Mr. King, I would be sending Melissa flowers! Because NOTHING could be of more assistance to a good, honest principal seeking to manage well the various constituencies of a school than to know that unfounded rumors (if unfounded they be) are being spread, that efforts to govern the school and manage the staff are being misinterpreted or misconstrued, and that there is any possibility that my staff is scared, demoralized, or paranoid.

If there are evil people out there, spreading strife and calumny, he would want to know.

If there are well-intentioned people out there who are misinformed, or unnecessarily concerned, he would want to know.

In fact, the only way it seems to me he would NOT want to know, is if he was up to his elbows in bad management, retaliation, and "shenanigans" -- as former teacher put it, and hoping no one would turn the light switch on. (Even then, he might want to know, so he could start the cover up and the retaliation sooner, rather than later.)

a regular here said...

Stephanie said: Take a deep breath, folks...this is blogging at its worst! I read a lot of people jumping to conclusions based on hear-say and assumptions.

There may be some of that, but many of us are posting from firsthand and secondhand facts, i.e. hearing directly from someone who witnessed certain incidents.

Since you usually have your ear to the ground on many issues regarding the program and its buildings, I'm sure you have at least some idea of what's happening at Lowell. So you know it ain't pretty. Teachers are being polite right now out of fear, and that sucks.

A blog is not going to be the best way to find out what is really going on, nor the best way to do anything about it.

I disagree. Often, it is not just the best way, but the only way. In this example, if you are a parent, but not in the building on a regular basis talking with the teachers and other parents firsthand, one might have no clue what's going on. For many people, this blog and the APP blog are the only sources of information available.

But more than that, this is a way to "connect the dots". Even if you talk with a handful of parents and teachers, the big picture doesn't materialize until lots of information from lots of people is freely flowing. No one takes every single post as gospel, but patterns emerge, and in this case they are not good ones.

The one thing I agree with is that people should be very mindful that these are real people who are affected, with real jobs and real children. But that goes both ways. Teachers are actively running away from the building, and that's no small decision. Several of those remaining are extremely frustrated as well, but sticking it out. The fact that most people will only speak anonymously on this topic is a serious concern. I've heard too many stories of retaliation to do that now. I'm not going to go public, even if others are willing to take that risk. But I will continue to post information here as I see fit.

WenD said...
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WenD said...

@Stephanie:
"There are actually more kids being served now in gifted ed than ever before...and growing... a lot. The numbers that apply for advanced learning testing are going up each year, this past year around 5,000 kids."

This is good to hear, but there's also growing uncertainty around the issue of access, now and in the future. Testing is only part of the picture.

I agree with a regular. Nobody is being taken apart here. The question of retaliation and fear on the part of teachers and staff is going to be discussed because it's real.

Anonymous said...

Re: discussion on this blog

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise...

..If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it...

-Kipling

Melissa Westbrook said...

Good one, Kipling, thanks,

"Of course, I'm easily amused."

Me, too.

basically said...

Charlie,

Someday I will buy you a donut. I swear.

wsnorth said...

You have to wonder what went wrong with this district and board. Hopefully the new super will have a new board to work with!

Schools like Lowell, Schmitz Park, and Lafayette were doing a fabulous job before NSAP, but are now all heavily under attack. It's as if these excellent performers somehow embarrass the district. Instead of tearing them down, SPS should learn from them and try to replicate their success!

Joan NE said...

"Schools like Lowell, Schmitz Park, and Lafayette were doing a fabulous job before NSAP, but are now all heavily under attack. It's as if these excellent performers somehow embarrass the district. "

Sabotaging the high achieving predominantly white schools serves the Ed Reform goal of Closing the Achievement Gap very nicely. Remember that Ed Reform doesn't know how to achieve this goal legitimately, since to do so legitimately requires putting lots of money into high poverty schools and using it constructively. Ed Reform is trying to deliver public dollars into private hands, so legitimate means of Closing the Achievement Gap are not followed. Instead they use illegitimate means, which includes Bringing Down The Top.

It is much easier and less costly to Bring Down the Top than to Raise Achievement of All Students, and Especially Lower Income Students.

I am not making this stuff up. This is what I learned when I spent considerable effort to figure out what Ed Reform means, in part by reading as much as I could about what was happening in other districts around the country that were under Broad's control. I did this work when I was trying to understand whether having a Broad Superintendent was a good thing or not.

1.5 years ago I figured out that SPS' future would be quite ugly if we didn't get rid of Broad and its reform agenda.

The sabotaging of alt schools and high achieving predominantly white schools is part of the ugliness that I knew was in our future.

"Restructuring" low achieving schools is also part of the ugliness. The restructuring models favored by Ed Reform (and spelled out in the RTTT competition program document from USDOE) actually do more harm than good, in my estimation.

The sabotoging is certain to continue if we do not get rid of the stranglehold of the four incumbent directors.

The sabotaging just might end if we unseat one or more of the incumbents with a genuine grassroots candidate.

Anonymous said...

wsnorth, I share your pain and wonder.

Instead of replicating success, SPS cannibalizes it.

Excellence for all? No.

Mediocrity for all.

Where did the real educators go?

WSEADAWG

Anonymous said...

"There are actually more kids being served now in gifted ed than ever before...and growing... a lot. The numbers that apply for advanced learning testing are going up each year, this past year around 5,000 kids." (Stephaine)

This is true BUT regardless of this growth and popularity, SPS (Advanced Learning) still does things to weaken the advanced learning program. Spectrum at Lawton and Wedgewood is going away (it will be there in name only, not in rigor or practice)- forsaken to cluster grouping - and I'd bet that all Spectrum programs (no matter how well they function) will go by the wayside in a few years. Not sure about APP programs but in order to teach to the test, and meet core curriculum standards, it sounds like the rigor is being sacrificed there as well.

Program growth yes. But kids being served, Nope.

I'm seeing more and more truth in points like Joan's -- bring the top down and your achievement gap closes. Not the way we think it SHOULD be closed (by bringing under performing students up) but by bringing high performing ones down.

Mediocrity for all. Yep.
..elizabeth

Just Saying said...

Raj Manhas didn't live in Seattle. He lived in Lake Forrest Park (recall he didn't seek out the SPS Sup job, he was appointed to it). I believe his children attended Shoreline Public Schools before and during his tenure as SPS Sup. I am sure they were long into college by the time he moved down to North Thurston.

Sue said...

I would maybe just say that as far as SPS is concerned they have been trying to close the achievement gap by dumbing things down/lowering the bar/etc for at least 13 years now (that's how long I've been in SPS)



It's nothing new. It is perhaps more obvious now that that is the goal, but it's certainly nothing new.

Sue said...

And Charlie, your advice is good. It recalls the advice my mother always gave : "Don't do anything you wouldn't want to see on the front page of the New York Times"

Anonymous said...

Joan NE, you forgot to mention the shenanigans employed by Ed Reformers to "bring up the bottom" like counseling failing 10th graders to take GEDs, which erases them from a school's books entirely, up to 50% attrition rates at charter schools, where kids magically go missing from the books as well, making it look like they work miracles. More like magic: poof! They're gone.

Doesn't it just warm everyone's heart to know that hedge fund managers are investing in and running for-profit charter schools, and/or Educational Management Companies? Get used to hearing "EMO" alot in the future, as the profit seekers bring their masterful "corporate governace" models (as Eli Broad calls them) to a neighborhood near you!

And how about those "non-profit" charter schools who's officers and staff earn 250k to 500k or more per year in some cases, working so hard "for the kids?"

Oh yes, "it's all about the kids!"

As always, follow the money. WSEADAWG

Linh-Co said...

Parent said: I urge anyone with a complaint to lodge it with the superintendent. Although this blog has been helpful in confirming the suspicion that we are not isolated incidences, it will be more effective if taken through the proper channels.

Unfortunately, central office has no mechanism for processing complaints. We had a similar incident with our principal 3 years ago. When parents went down to share their concerns to the district ed director, Gloria Mitchell, she shared the information with the principal. Dr. Mitchell also ratted the names of these parents to the principal. So much for confidentiality. Fear of retribution is real.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, Charlie, or others who might know -

Several people at the district have been informed about problems at Lowell. Should parents expect to hear anything? How do we know if anything is being done?

We have also heard nothing from the district, our PTA or the APP AC regarding the status of any investigations, if any. I know personnel issues are secret, but we need to know someone is paying attention.

concerned

Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

Parents should learn more about the cluster grouping in Spectrum and how this is done in other places. It is my understanding that the outcome of this approach will be carefully watched for success, and if it is not successful, will be changed.
There needs to be a Spectrum equivalent advisory/advocacy group similar to that for APP. Spectrum parents: it is on the Advanced Learning office's To-Do list...if someone will get it going, they will work with you. It needs to happen soon (I've been saying this for years, waiting for someone to step forward to get it going).

I find that the creation of a mostly self-contained new gifted program is astounding and should not be taken lightly...it tells me the district IS willing to support a high level of gifted ed...more astounding, they have even given parents the opportunity to CHOOSE the program as opposed to a forced geographic split, as MANY predicted (yes, many of you!) Again, big picture is important.

As far as "watering down the program"...I remember when Julie B. came into Lowell, there was a lot of push back from parents and some teachers about changes, including some from me. She wanted to create more alignment and consistency, both vertically and horizontally in the curriculum. In the end, parents have loved it, the program needed it, and Julie is a well-loved and respected principal. What APP has lost are some of the staff who liked doing their own thing, much of which was wonderful, but...
in the end, I hear parents say the program has become stronger for it.
Change is hard, but not necessarily bad.

I don't look at APP through rose colored glasses, I am in the trenches. Charlie, I'm going to call you out because I know you!
You are smart as a whip, smart as they come, but you are not muddy from being here in the trenches working with principals, staff, parents, you're not APP parent anymore. I'l buy you a donut too, but over a cup of strong coffee and a healthy debate.

Things look different than they used to look, some things are better, some things are more challenging...parents wanted to freeze the old Lowell in time, but
it's proven impossible.
Stephanie

Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

Anonymous,
the Lowell PTSA and the APP AC are at work on sorting through the issues. You may not hear a lot out loud, I'd say talk directly with the ptsa board and/or Geeta on the APP AC.
Stephanie

suep. said...

C'mon Stephanie, give us credit for our healthy and legitimate skepticism about the district's plans and track record.

There were no "options" in the last APP splits, despite all our efforts opposing the plan, so those of us whose kids were subjected to the splits against our will had every reason to be concerned that the district might try it again with Ingraham. A valid argument could be made that the vocal pushback from those of us who were burned last time contributed to the district's decision NOT to make Ingraham a forced assignment this time around.

Not sure I agree with your take on Julie B. either. You're entitled to your opinion, of course, but you can't speak for us all.

I know you've been in the trenches for a long time, Stephanie, but some of us have been there for quite awhile too, and have our own experiences and viewpoints. And some of us have kids who are still at the beginning of their education, so we have a longterm investment right now in trying to make APP as strong as it was in the past.

I also disagree that teachers with their own, more creative, approach to teaching deserve an ellipsis of insinuation. They are the kinds of teachers my family values the most -- and the kind this district and national ed reformers are trying to get rid of.

Ingraham APP/IB is a good idea which I support. But if Lowell APP and the school in general is suffering right now from poor planning and mismanagement, then perhaps you'll understand that it's hard to cheer one victory while standing in the wreckage of another ruin.

Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

Hi Sue,

"hard to cheer one victory while standing in the wreckage of another ruin"...? Wreckage? Ruin? Really?

This is exactly the problem with the blogs sometimes...those who post tend to be very gloom and doom, the sky is falling, disaster is not looming but actually upon us. Other folks who are actually having GOOD experiences in school get blasted if they try and post their opinions. I applaud those who try, I know a lot don't dare post but do read the drama.

From my perspective--and I do talk with more people than most and get a good number of emails, as does the rest of the APP AC, but it IS my personal perspective after over a decade of APP advocacy--I don't see balance or consideration of the bigger picture over time here. And it's important to not just look at our feet as we walk, but to look up, way forward, and behind us too, to really understand where we are on the road.

Sometimes the language (such as "ruin", "wreckage", "bait and switch", "promises broken", etc.) unnecessarily scares parents, as some write me about it. These comments can put people in an unnecessary panic, ramp up emotions about their kids, and unfounded panic spreads. I personally don't believe this is helpful. People sharing information, asking questions, personal experiences, both positive and negative, these things are great. Some do this. But the constant disaster scenarios are inaccurate and don't help our schools or our kids.

Stephanie

Charlie Mas said...

Hi Stephanie! We're very pleased to have your participation on this blog. Your contribution is invaluable.

You wrote: "Charlie, I'm going to call you out" Really? Call me out for what? "I'l buy you a donut too, but over a cup of strong coffee and a healthy debate." Debate? Debate what?

I have one comment on this whole thread. I have read it three times, but I have no idea what you want to debate with me.

Are you going to try to convince me that I am a journalist? Are you going to try to convince me that people have confused the anonymous rants on this web log with the editorial authority of The Washington Post?

What did I write that you want to debate? I honestly can't figure it out. My best guess is that you didn't like the Ricky Henderson joke.

Let me lay out my positions on APP and you pick the ones that you want to talk me out of.

1. I believe that north-end elementary APP should be located in the north-end. That would be better for families and compliant with the Board Policy on Program Placement.

2. I believe that the District has not kept the promises they made to the APP community at the time of the split and that the District should fulfill these promises without further delay.

3. I believe that there are a number of critical elements required to make APP successful. They include a critical mass of students, a supportive staff, a supportive administrator, and at least benign neglect from the District.

Stop me when I get to something controversial.

4. I believe that the APP curriculum should extend beyond the general education curriculum along three dimensions. Yes, it should be accelerated as appropriate (farther), but it should also explore concepts and seek greater details (deeper) and present those concepts in a greater variety of contexts (broader). I don't think any of these should be emphasized to the detriment of the other two.

5. I don't think the APP community - or any Seattle Public Schools community - should trust the District to keep any of their promises because I have seen the District's record. Stephanie wrote: "It is my understanding that the outcome of this approach will be carefully watched for success, and if it is not successful, will be changed." I have heard that story twenty times before and it is not my understanding. My understanding is that the District will say that to overcome opposition to the scheme but will not monitor, will not set benchmarks, and will not reverse their decision regardless of the outcomes.

Joan NE said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joan NE said...

"And it's important to not just look at our feet as we walk, but to look up, way forward, and behind us too, to really understand where we are on the road."

Well, I have serious problems with the MAP product, but I also see some potentially tremendous value in this data, when aggreggated.

The MAP data is much more useful than state assessment data for evaluating whether SPS program and policy choices are actually causing increases in student achievement, or at least, doing no harm. This data could be applied, for example, to evaluating curriculum and policy choices about APP.

Thus, MAP data may provide a great opportunity to "look up, way forward, and behind us too, to really understand where we are on the road."

I asked Mark Teoh last week if the district would use MAP data to evaluate their program choices. I specifically mentioned, as an example, to use MAP data to determine if dispersing the self-contained spectrum classes leads to increased achievement of both the spectrum students and the regular and spec ed students in the receiving classrooms.



The answer basically that the MAP data would not be used for this purpose unless the program managers agreed that they wanted this analysis done. So basically, it would be a policy choice as to whether the data is put to this obviously beneficial, constructive, use.

Most of us realize that this district would NOT use the MAP data in this way unless they were CERTAIN that the data would show the district's choice in a good light.

This district is just like Ed Reformers in general: They say they are "data-driven," but they are only interested in the data that supports their agenda.

(Stephanie, you sound like a district propagandist! But I give you the benefit of the doubt. I presume that you are expressing your true personal opinion.)

Anonymous said...

Stephanie, while I completely respect and appreciate all of your years in the trenches of advanced learning, I have to agree with Sue P. to a large extent - as a long-time Lowell parent, I have seen many changes over the years that were not for the better. The experience of my oldest child at Lowell was much better than that of my youngest - all of the aligning and testing and standardizing did not make for a better education in the least. Of course we can't freeze time, but it is always a shame to change what is working well.

I am also troubled that Mr. King has chosen to send his kids to Lakeside - of course he is free to do what he wants, but it is not much of a vote of confidence in the school or the program, is it...? Do you really think his children, unlike those of most of the rest of us, have special needs that can't be met in SPS...? Maybe those needs are just for smaller classes, more freedom for teachers, newer facilities, etc?

And finally, I think this blog serves a very important purpose and I am so happy it exists. I have learned so much about what is going on in the district and in the various schools. Of course comments will be biased and sometimes inflammatory - but they are very real,and taken as a whole, give a pretty good picture, I think.

- A long-time APP parent

Anonymous said...

BRAVO, Charlie! Well said!

Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

Response to Charlie in a while (I'm trying to deal with a work deadline!)
Hi, Charlie!

HI Joan NE, a little background since I'm just now jumping in to this blog:
I have been through it all with this district. I have participated in countless meetings, been made to feel humiliated and disrespected beyond belief (Charlie was there too for one of these events), have argued, cajoled, used data to advocate, used emotion to advocate, confronted politically difficult situations, spoken out when needed, addressed the school board many times, met individually with the school board members, superintendent, CAO, worked first hand with 3 Advanced Learning managers, pushed issues, been shocked, dismayed, desperate, angry, resigned, hopeful, and also happily surprised. District propagandist, I am certainly not... my opinion and outlook are formed by many years of advocating for this program and our kids--you just can't see the scars and gray hair!

My kids started in APP in first grade when there was one class for the entire district, at Lowell. I am still friends and APP advocates with some of those same parents. My kids are now in high school, one is 2e (talk about battles!). I know and have worked with all 6 present and future APP Principals, served on ptsa boards, etc. I remember sitting next to Dr. Enfield in a meeting about APP, as she eloquently stated there will always be a need for self-contained classes at both ends of the education spectrum, she said that our opinions are formed by our experiences. I have had a lot of experiences, they form the foundation for what I say and do today.
And I am honored to work with a great bunch of hardworking parents and respected school staff on the APP AC and APP Task Force before that.
Stephanie

Anonymous said...

Stephanie -

Shouldn't people care about the problems at Lowell? Just because you say things are great, doesn't make them so. Things feel awfully gloomy to me around Lowell now, and I spend a lot of time volunteering at the school.

Someone else posted on the APP blog that we should not talk about the problems at Lowell because it will scare the new families. Won't anyone think of the new families?!?!?!? Come on. Are we just supposed to act like we have been lobotomized and that everything is hunky-dory?

There are serious problems now at Lowell. I will NOT pretend they are not there so that all the grownups can feel better about themselves. I want my kids to be in a school where the teachers and kids are having a good experience. They are not getting that now.

I want to hear what is being done about the situation. A change of leadership sounds like it's in order. There certainly needs to be some sort of mediation.

concerned

Maureen said...

Joan NE, who are the 'program managers' in this case? Could principals or someone else request that the analysis be done? Or could it only be done if someone in Teoh's office requests it?

Joan NE said...

MAP data analysis: Anyone who has the data can do the analysis. Public agencies in state of washington are required to provide de-identified data on request. Figure out what data you want, write to ckcarlson@seattleschools.org (colleen carlson) with your request.

There is no special form to use.
Colleen will tell you if she needs clarification.

You just need to be sure to specify "de-identified data." This addresses the federal privacy law.

It's pretty much "Ask and you shall receive." It might be a few weeks before you get the data, though.

If they tell you privacy law prevents them from giving you certain data, checi the privacy law...they may be misrepresenting the law.

I have had the problem of the district making up a bogus excuse for denying me name of school of current enrollment. They said school-of-enrollment plus race/ethnicity data could lead to "groups of fewer than 10." "Small groups" is a legitimate problem, but the district can address this without withholding the requested information across =0the-board for 100% of students in the district.

I think to do the analysis, you should ask for all math map scores for each currently enrolled student in SPS, starting with scores from fall 2009. You also need to ask for the program code and name for each student, current grade level, FRL status, and other data elements such as you can anticipate you will need to do whatever analysis you want.

These are the MAP and MSP data requests that have I submitted so far.

You can ask for supplemental data if you discover there are additional elements you need.

For a supplemental request, make sure to tell them that you want them to use the same proxy ID as in the original file.

I highly recommend more people start asking for and analyzing the data. We could shame the district into making constructive use of this data by sharing results of external analysis with board of directors and public.

In fact, you (and any person) could ask for to be sent the data file produced for PDR## 201192, and for teh supplement to this request. The supplemental request has not been fulfilled yet. It is PDR# 2011213.

These pdr's will provide you with a rich data set on which you can do very interesting, useful analyses.

Joan NE said...

sorry about all the typo's in the preceding message.

Lori said...

Concerned, I presume you are referring to some of my posts on the APP blog, which I wrote prior to the start of this thread a day or two ago.

I think you missed my point or misread what I've written. I actually asked people to discuss the issue in greater detail, NOT to avoid talking about it at all.

My frustration a week or so ago was with all the anonymous posts hinting at problems but no one would "go on the record" with anything specific. As a family at Lowell who is having a good experience this year, all the rumors and innuendo didn't jibe with my experience. I was asking for MORE information, not less!

And, for what it's worth, a few incoming families DID contact me last week with concerns about all the vague and scary posts they were reading. I wasn't being paternalistic; I was trying to point out that the conversation, as it existed then, was not helpful.

I'm not on any "side" here, and I too hope there is a prompt and successful resolution to whatever is going on.

And to Stephanie, thank you for participating on this blog. I appreciate hearing your insights and experiences and appreciate that you have the courage to post under your real name.

Can't wait for Lowell next year said...

I am a new parent with a daughter entering 1st grade at Lowell in the Fall. I read this blog and take most comments with a grain of salt. Stephanie's words hold more weight with me since she uses her name and sounds credible to me for a host of other reasons.

My experience in SPS is short, but I learned quickly that there are too many overly-involved parents who think they are doing good, but they are mostly stirring the pot and gossiping in the hallways. I say put your contributions to good use by helping in the classroom since the teachers need it, or get a job! Complaining and spreading rumors on this blog isn't going to effect change. Whether you agree with them or not, Stephanie and Melissa are actually working for change not just complaining anonymously.

Whoever said King's kids going elsewhere is some sort of sign of how bad it is....Well, after reading all these aggressive posts, I'm NOT surprised he'd want to get his kids out of such a charged environment.

Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

I have hesitated to post on the blogs before because as co-chair of the APP AC, my posts quickly become lightening rods for folks.

"Shouldn't people care about the problems at Lowell? Just because you say things are great, doesn't make them so."
This is taking statements and turning them into extremes again, and not at all what I wrote.

Of course people should care about problems at Lowell, but have some perspective.

Concerned parents should talk to the ptsa board at Lowell and also to the APP AC co-Chair, Geeta Teresadai, as she is also a very involved parent at the school.

While blogs are important for some, they are only one of many ways to communicate.
Stephanie

Melissa Westbrook said...

Concerned, you should check with Lowell PTA. I thought they had a meeting this week.

"It is my understanding that the outcome of this approach will be carefully watched for success, and if it is not successful, will be changed."

Are you talking about Spectrum? Because Spectrum schools do exactly what they please in terms of how they present Spectrum.

"There needs to be a Spectrum equivalent advisory/advocacy group similar to that for APP. Spectrum parents: it is on the Advanced Learning office's To-Do list...if someone will get it going, they will work with you."

Really? On the "to-do" list. We HAD a Spectrum group and the district really didn't support much of what input they were given. It's hard to stay together when the people in charge don't listen.

"This is exactly the problem with the blogs sometimes...those who post tend to be very gloom and doom, the sky is falling, disaster is not looming but actually upon us. Other folks who are actually having GOOD experiences in school get blasted if they try and post their opinions."

You don't read this blog much do you? First of all, we deal in facts as much as humanly possible. That we have a troubled district management is not our fault.

People don't get blasted here for reporting good experiences (one parent recently explained how she liked MAP and others ask her for more info, for example). Also, I try to put out good news every single week.

I get REALLY tired of "they are so negative" nonsense. I like to think of it as not ignoring what is staring us in the face.

One thing is true; there are other places to get information but for many parents, desperate for it, they have no other place. The district's website? Not helpful (and I still don't know what we got for our $700k). Some schools don't keep up their webpages and some don't want to be "political" so say nothing about issues that parents can feel when they step through the door.

Joan NE said...

Maureen asked, "Who are the program managers in this case?"

Well, a decision to analyze MAP data on the question about Spectrum program changes would have to involve Rob Vaugh. I presume also Susan Enfield would have an opinion on whether this analysis would be done or not.

There will not be sufficient data to make an evaluation until this time next year.

Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

Hi Melissa,

I have not posted before this, but I do read it. You do an amazing job with an enormous amount of information (mind-boggling, really), I wish you'd run for school board, but you do the community a possibly greater service doing what you do now.

That said, there is some great information about APP on the blog (I can't speak to the other topics), but also some assumptions based in very little "fact". There is tendency to exaggerate, dwell on the cup half empty, and the negative, at least in this thread. I'm not saying everything in APP is great, it's not, but whew.

I know the person that ran the Spectrum group before, it already started to fade before BV's time. Although not a Spectrum parent, I have asked BV about this over recent years, and they will support a Spectrum Advisory Committee. Yes, REALLY. I believe Roger Daniels was tasked with starting it up, so bug him. I hope someone will step up and do this, as the community really needs it.

I have started a 2e parent support group recently for families in ALO/Spectrum/APP who also have kids with 504's and IEP's, and the Advanced Learning office is supportive of that effort. We are a group of parents who are sometimes quite frustrated and desperate with the district and the schools, and we really need to connect.

I agree with you about lack of places to get information, I wish the district website were better in this regard too and have voiced this.
Stephanie

Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

Also, there is some oversight regarding spectrum...I think it was two years ago, the principal at McClure announced out of the blue at a school event that Spectrum was to be dissolved and blended with the other programs. Parents jumped and wrote BV, who stated principals do not have the authority to do this, and self-contained Spectrum has remained at the school.

That said, there is a lot of pressure on Principals to blend programs, and some have a philosophical/moral issue with self-contained advanced learning programs in general. I hope Spectrum parents will get together to re-form their advisory/advocacy group. It is harder than forming one for APP--part of why it faded is that it was so hard to connect with spectrum parents in so many buildings around the district. But now they are facing more challenges, so there might be more motivation to get it going.
Stephanie

seattle citizen said...

Stephanie,

For me, part of the crux of the matter is this:

You write that it is your "understanding that the outcome of this approach will be carefully watched for success, and if it is not successful, will be changed."

I immediately think of the district's sale of the MLK building, the covenants attached that the district would supposedly make sure were addressed, and the recent disclosure that no one was watching to see that the covenants were met. To me, this is symbolic of many district actions of late, and it concerns me. There are many, many changes going on, many promises made to "monitor and adjust," yet it seems that that doesn't happen. Look at what happened to the poor Cooper students: Shoved out, left to fend for themselves...

The only actions that seem to have real push and follow-through are the "Reforms": MAP, merit pay, etc. Even in the face of absurdity (using MAP to evaluate educators, for instance) the district pushes forward because THAT is important to it.

The rest? Well, the rest sometimes gets attention from well-meaning but often over-worked grunts at the lower levels (Bob Vaughn, no disrespect to him, is one of these: A long time advocate for AL, whether you agree with him or not, but really serving at the whim of the higher admins)

What I'm looking for is planned initiatives (APP move, or Cooper closure and student relocation, for instance) that gets serious and intentional follow-through and attention. And adjustment. Things lately are haphazard and anytime I hear someone say there will be close monitoring and follow-through I have to cringe.

Dorothy Neville said...

Well, that's funny, Stephanie, about McClure, because the principal of Wedgwood announced out of the blue after open enrollment that they were dismantling Spectrum and moving to a cluster model and Bob Vaughan showed up at meetings and said that he fully supported that, that Spectrum being self-contained was "tradition, not policy" and that the principal was free to do what he wanted.

Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

I am not a spectrum parent so I can't be an spectrum advocate. I don't have first-hand experience with the issues the spectrum program or the spectrum parents and students are facing.
As an APP parent, I am careful not to make statements about the needs of those in other programs, as I don't walk in those parents' shoes. I also don't want other parents, who don't walk in my shoes, to make assumptions or tell me what my kids need or my kids' program needs (just had this recently at GHS and it was not pleasant.)

But I have seen how an APP Advisory group that advocates for the program has benefited APP--such as personally going to each school board member and advocating for the new Ingraham program to be a CHOICE for APP families. That initially wasn't supported by the school board, but after APP AC members, including myself, spoke with each of them as well as MGJ and Dr. Enfield, choice instead of geographic split had traction.

I think it would be a good idea for parents to form a comparable group for Spectrum ASAP.

The Boss, in SPS that would be the Superintendent, always has final say as in any business structure, but that does not mean she doesn't listen to her program managers and Ed Directors. However ultimately, the Superintendent has the say and the Superintendent gets the blame (or the boot) if something doesn't work out. The Superintendent's boss is the School Board. There have been times when the District didn't act, so we went to the school board, who got things done on our behalf. Again, big picture.
Stephanie

Anonymous said...

"Spectrum at McClure" is exactly 1 class, LA, out of 7. Hardly sounds like a program, but something to pacify parents of the extra special. Looks like it worked.

-McClure parent

JvA said...

Stephanie Bower said:

"A blog is not going to be the best way to find out what is really going on, nor the best way to do anything about it."

Please let me know where I can find out more information about the SPS than this blog! Ever since I became a Seattle mom about 3 years ago, I've been wanting to learn more about the local public schools. I personally don't care if you call it journalism or yellow journalism or blogging muckraking or fear-mongering or whatever, but what Melissa and Charlie have produced here is light years ahead of any other source of SPS information that I've seen. When you tell a time-strapped, working mom of a 2-year-old like me that she shouldn't be turning to a blog to find out what's really going on, please tell me where I SHOULD be going to find out what's really going on. I also read the schizophrenic Seattle Times and listen to KUOW, etc., etc., but nothing compares to this blog when it comes down to getting lots and lots of timely information and what I personally would call "advocacy journalism."

(Thank you, Melissa and Charlie.)

Melissa Westbrook said...

Stephanie, I appreciate your calm and friendly advice. I really do.

It's just painful because I just feel like APP, for whatever reason, works better and gets more attention than Spectrum ever did. Maybe it's because APP has federal money attached or is at fewer schools. (This is not to say that I think APP was or is a perfect program beloved by the district. You have to wonder about the drop-off at high school and AP courses being the only offering for "advanced learning.")

Bob Vaughn was never that interested in Spectrum(although I felt like Colleen Stump tried). And now Bob says it was "tradition" that Spectrum was self-contained? In a word, bullshit.

Funny, I thought it would be MGJ who finally dismantled and rang the death knell for Spectrum but I guess that honor goes to Susan Enfield.

(Am I bitter much? Yes because the lack of consistency and coherency in advanced learning is why I became active in this district. And, this many years later, I was not able to make a dent in making it better. Oh well, lesson learned.)

Anonymous said...

Sure, Stephanie, the principals want to dissolve Spectrum because it makes their job easier. No matter that most spectrum teachers, parents, and students, don't want that. And of course the principals know best, given that they work for the Central Administration and don't actually teach for a minute. Nice. WSEADAWG

Anonymous said...

And one more thing about APP. Even under Julie B, APP is losing way too many of its best teachers. The latest is Mrs. Zoog, 5th grade, who apparently is headed off to a private school. I don't personally know of any APP teacher who worked harder and got more from their students than Mrs. Zoog. Losing her is a huge blow to APP at TM. Sorry to rain on the Julie B love parade, but she's got two different cohorts to worry about now, so, not surpisingly, APP only gets half her time and attention now (if that), compared to when she was at Lowell, where she had an (albeit, worthless) assistant principal. No slam on Julie B, but it is what it is: A significant net loss of support and leadership for APP at TM. The TM experience is still good, but it doesn't touch what it was at Lowell. Not even close. WSEADAWG

JvA said...

Also, you said that

Sometimes the language (such as "ruin", "wreckage", "bait and switch", "promises broken", etc.) unnecessarily scares parents, as some write me about it. These comments can put people in an unnecessary panic, ramp up emotions about their kids, and unfounded panic spreads. I personally don't believe this is helpful.

OK, let's say that Melissa and Charlie are paranoid, gossip-spreading fear-mongerers who none of us should be listening to. If parents are reaching out to you to set the record straight, and you're responding here for all of us to see, isn't that a net positive? The parents are hearing from this blog that the principal is causing tension, there have been clashes about the handling of surveys, the principal single-handedly reconstituted the Building Leadership Team, four APP teacher are leaving, the principal threatens to call security on teachers, etc., and you're setting the record straight with them, either explaining how these are falsehoods or providing proper context, isn't that extra communication beneficial?

Personally, I want to hear it all. M&C's take on things, then responses from people like you. Again, if there is some other place where this kind of dialogue is taking place, I'd like to know about it. (As a mom of a likely future SPS student, it doesn't make sense for me to subscribe to mailing lists, like yours, about individual schools yet.)

Anyway, I wish there were a range of choices of thorough information about SPS, but there aren't. When you say not to listen to Charlie and Melissa about the SPS, you're essentially saying we should stay in the dark. Please correct me if I'm wrong--totally want to know
if I'm missing something out there.

Dorothy Neville said...

APP task force could have saved themselves a lot of trouble over the years by advocating for ALL gifted kids in the district. Fighting for solid Spectrum programs would have meant a much smaller APP that truly served the outliers it was meant to serve. And more parents overall in the city who felt that their own kids' needs were being met would be more supportive of APP students getting their different needs met. Nope, not your mission, but it could have been.

And it always has been Bob's mission. His abdicating his responsibility to Spectrum is the main reason APP has the struggles it has today.

I am still confused that Stephanie can say she absolutely cannot speak for Spectrum because she is not involved in the program. Does that mean that APP would not expect anyone outside APP to advocate for a strong APP? Or those of us without a special ed student to advocate to strengthen special ed? Sure, I would never tell special ed families what they should want, but I can educate myself, talk to special ed families, research the positions of the special ed PTA and advocate based on that knowledge. Isn't that what we want? Parents supporting our own kids needs AND the needs of other students as well.

Yes, Spectrum families should work for Spectrum first and foremost. But the APP task force could facilitate that. Certainly doesn't have to, but it could.

Because, Bob Vaughan telling Spectrum families that Wedgwood is going to implement a very well researched model for gifted learners when in fact Wedgwood is planning to cherry pick a few aspects of the model and otherwise create the antithesis of what Susan Winebrenner describes, well, that should send shivers down the back of APP parents as well.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, WSEADAWG - I did not realize Ms. Zoog was leaving. I am very sad to hear it - two of my kids had her for 5th grade and she is amazing.

This is one reason I like reading this blog - I would not have known this otherwise -

- sad to hear this news

Anonymous said...

My thanks too, Charlie and Melissa - I don't know of any other source for information about what is going on in the district -

You do an incredible job making information available - it is much appreciated!

- parent of north end APP students

Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

Spectrum will be best served by Spectrum parents organizing and advocating for themselves--they know their program, what they need, are passionate about their kids as I am about mine in APP and Special Ed.

Stephanie

Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

In 2007-08 Bob Vaughan assembled an Advanced Learning Review Committee, which had ALO/Spectrum/APP representation from principals, staff, parents, even Gary Locke. We considered joining forces with Spectrum and ALO, but we all realized that many of the circumstances and issues around APP were different from those of ALO and Spectrum...each is unique, even though under the same umbrella.

And frankly, APP has had plenty to deal with without taking on Spectrum and ALO's too. The Advisory Committee is volunteer staff and parents, with lives, kids with issues, careers, sick parents, just like everyone else...we do a lot, but we can't do everything.
Stephanie

Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

LISTEN TO EVERYONE--
blogs, APP AC emails, ptsa newsletters, talk to parents in your schools, go to ptsa board meetings in your schools, talk to the BLT parent reps (really, it would be great if they reported back to other parents about what issues are discussed), go to school board meetings or watch on TV (that is actually pretty informative), read the paper, get to know the school board by going to their community meetings, sign on to email lists like the WA Coalition for Gifted who lobby in Olympia,
wagifted@earthlink.net
Sue Peters has an interesting blog. There are a lot of ways to get information. It takes a lot of time, a lot of work.(I do most of these things).

I will try and post more often on this website to add my 2 cents.
Stephanie

Joan NE said...

Dorothy wrote, "Fighting for solid Spectrum programs would have meant a much smaller APP that truly served the outliers it was meant to serve."

For purpose of discussion, see following one page table of data on APP and Spectrum enrollment by grade, as % of total April 2011 grade-level enrollment.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/58162401 (Information from PDR 201193)



Summary:

1. Overall, APP students make up 3.5% of Grade 1-12 enrollment. Spectrum students make up 4.5% of Grade 1-12 enrollment.

2. APP & Spectrum enrollment percetages are smallest in Gr1, max in G8.

3. [APP,Spectrum] enrollment percentage increases from [1.25, 3.79] in Grade 1 to [5.58, 10.08] in Grade 8.

4. APP enrollment drops markedly after middle school (Spectrum only goes to G8).

Joan NE said...

PDR given in previous posting is incorrect. The correct PDR is 201192.

none1111 said...

Dorothy,

Your post above is one of the best regarding advanced learning that I have read on this or any education blog in Seattle. Ever. I'd quote the whole darn thing again, but I think people can just scroll up 7 or 8 short posts to read it again. I wish it was at the beginning of a new thread.

Fighting for solid Spectrum programs would have meant a much smaller APP that truly served the outliers it was meant to serve.

This is the core of it. For reasons I don't fully comprehend, the district at large still doesn't get this. Many SPS staff want to see APP "grow", but that makes no sense at all. No more than wanting our SpEd population to grow, or wanting our ELL population to grow. APP exists to serve a small number of outliers who can't be well-served in a neighborhood program. But in recent years this has been twisted and morphed into "we must be doing great if more families qualify for and choose APP!". But that's completely wrong.

Changing entry criteria over the years has hugely affected the size of APP. You can look back at the years when policy changes occurred and see the numbers rise in subsequent years. These changes are easily seen in the classroom, and is what many people are talking about when they refer to "watering down" of APP. And it's happening again with use of the MAP to guide access. In a nutshell, with high-achievers, the margin of error on MAP goes way up (to the degree that they disregard the margin of error as a reliability factor!). So the scores bounce up and down, unreliably. When they're on an up cycle, the testing process qualifies them.

But it takes more than just lowering the hurdle, it also takes a nudge for many families to jump over the fence. And that's where the lack of support for Spectrum comes in. Support and advocacy for Spectrum has been weak for many years, and it just seem to get worse and worse. The fact that a new principal can come into Wedgwood and push for essentially dissolving one of (if not The) longest-running Spectrum programs in the city ON A WHIM shows how out of control things really are. Yes, he's holding community meetings, but he's not really taking into consideration the negative feedback, he's on the full-steam-ahead track, and plans to start implementing essentially blended classes (not truly cluster groups) THIS FALL!

When moves like this happen, it drives families to make the extra jump to APP. And when the bar has been lowered, it's just that much easier for kids to make the jump into a program when they don't actually need the services, but will be reasonably well served, and less likely (in their minds) of getting screwed over than their neighborhood school.

Now we're paying the price.

What are the costs of APP "growth"?

continued...

none1111 said...

...continued

- Kids are not getting the same quality breadth, depth and rigor they did in previous years. This is absolutely not up for question, but with so many of the veteran APP teachers leaving, that knowledge will disappear as families age out.
- Elementary and middle school programs were split.
- Elementary, middle and high school programs are terribly overcrowded and getting worse.
- Post-split: even less support in the buildings (esp middle)
- Post-split: loss of high-level math in middle school
- Post-split: APP teachers assigned to teach non-APP classes, and vice-versa (MS)
- Post-split: more split grade classes in elementary
- Higher transportation costs. With all the push for reducing transportation costs, you'd think we'd want to minimize APP buses. But no.

I'm sure there's more. At the root of most of APP's problems is the push for growth, which is flawed at its core.

Supporting Spectrum is a key part of APP's survival, so I agree that the APP AC should be paying more attention to this. Perhaps not so much doing the direct advocation, but pushing very hard for a district-recognized Spectrum advisory/advocacy group again. And helping to support that group as needed. Dr. Vaughan needs to be pushed and prodded as well, to make this happen.

I want to be careful not to sound disparaging toward Stephanie and the APP AC. Stephanie works harder than most of you can imagine (if you send her an email, you will get a response). But the APP ship is at the brink of sinking, and if we can't stop the Spectrum exodus, that extra weight will sink us very soon. It may already be too late.

Dorothy Neville said...

Joan, thanks for the data. I am not sure what it's for, do you agree or disagree with my statement?

APP is also growing over time and is growing faster than the district. Also, the huge jump in middle school enrollment is new and I suspect related to the splits and the district (with Bob Vaughan's support) undermining advanced learning in other high schools. Reneging on the promise to support opening the new Ingraham accelerated IB pathway to other students means more app eligible students may find that attractive and will get into APP by 8th grade for that option.

Remember, the increase in APP from last year's 5th grade to this year's 6th grade was an unprecedented 43% increase! And there was an increase from last year's 7th to this year's 8th grade APP of 14%.

(I do not know if Spectrum enrollment is growing over time faster than the district in the same way.)

Look at your figures! 10% of 8th graders are in Spectrum and yet the regular program comprehensive high schools are weakening rather than strengthening their commitment to advanced learners.

So the current high school figures indicates a shrinking APP in high school, but the historical situation no longer applies.

Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

Dorothy,
historically APP DOES shrink in high school.
I just checked the numbers from 2005 on, and the cohort drops significantly from 8th grade to 9th grade, and gets smaller toward 12th grade, the smallest cohort.

APP students do a number of things:
go to their neighborhood HS, go to private school, do Running Start, start college early. A very small number start college after 8th grade, more again after 10th.

When looking at increases and drops in enrollment, it's important to look at which years are bubbles with large numbers that move through the system.

Middle School is also growing because now APP 6-8th grades is now closer to home for the many students who qualified but chose not to go so far to WMS.
Hamilton is in a newly renovated building, that always attracts more students when buildings are new or renovated.
Stephanie

Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

I and others on the APP AC would be willing to help Spectrum parents organize into their own Advisory group...someone from that parent cohort needs to step forward and get it started. It really must come from Spectrum itself. Maybe there could be a thread devoted to that effort on this blog (a GOOD use of the blog!)

The APP AC has already talked about the need for the spectrum advisory for a few years.

Thanks for your understand about all the work, none 111.
Stephanie

Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

NONE111:

On these points:
"- Kids are not getting the same quality breadth, depth and rigor they did in previous years. This is absolutely not up for question, but with so many of the veteran APP teachers leaving, that knowledge will disappear as families age out."
In some cases, there are new teachers who are better than the old...how far back do you want to go? Most of the teachers now at Lowell started in the last 5 years, and many of them are excellent. I was a Lowell parent only 4 years ago, and I know only one of the current APP teachers (the wonderful Ms. Roth).

"- Elementary and middle school programs were split.
- Elementary, middle and high school programs are terribly overcrowded and getting worse.
- Post-split: even less support in the buildings (esp middle)
- Post-split: loss of high-level math in middle school
- Post-split: APP teachers assigned to teach non-APP classes, and vice-versa (MS)
- Post-split: more split grade classes in elementary"

YES, I agree with all these points...it is a lot of what the APP AC tries to address too. Some of these are genuine problems with the current program. Lobby Principals for better hires and how they assign teachers...that is their job.

"- Higher transportation costs. With all the push for reducing transportation costs, you'd think we'd want to minimize APP buses. But no."
Here, I disagree...ask the Lowell parents who are now going to cluster stops and waiting, so that there are fewer buses and streamlined stops.
APP transportation has been funded by the state at a much higher rate than gen ed bus funding, the district quite literally makes money from transporting APP kids, especially when they can combine buses (like Lowell and TOPS).
There are efforts to reduce costs to APP busing, particularly if funding from the state drops or stops.
Stephanie

Joan NE said...

Dorothy, I put up the data to show that, at least prior to grade five the proportional distribution of students to APP and Spectrum do not at all match the expectation of 8% in spectrum, 2% in APP.

The APP enrollment at G5 is bloated (4.0%), and Spectrum looks underenrolled (4.9%). We don't know the causes of this pattern. Survey day may help us to understand why Spectrum is underenrolled. It could be because SPS us just not providing enough quality Spectrum seats, and has lowered the bar for APP.

Maybe 4% of Seattle kids are scoring in the top 2% nationally?
I think that is possible. Rob Vaughn should know if the bar has been lowered.



We have to be careful not to overinterpret the pattern at G6. It looks like there is a large exodus of Regular Ed students at G6 to private middle school. It looks like APP & Specturm kids are more likely to stay in SPS for middle school than are Regular Ed Students.

I do think the data pattern indicates overenrollment in APP and underenrollment in Spectrum.

Personally, I am not bothered by the lowering of APP bar (this is not because I think my son wouldn't qualify if the bar were at top 2%). I haven't read any research on gifted ed, so I don't know if the placement of the bar is very significant.

Does anyone know if shifting the bar to top 5% is a genuine problem?

I put up another figure on that has the raw enrollment #s for APP & specturm by grade.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/58179707

Dorothy Neville said...

Historically APP enrollment in high school has shrunk. Yes, I get that. But historically has the rising 6th grade class grown by 43%? No. Has the rising 8th grade cohort grown by 14%? No. Why would the rising 8th grade class grow so much if the reasons for moving your child for their last year of middle school (a disrupting idea) were anything other than the ticket to Garfield and now the accelerated IB?

And check the data. Sure, each year in high school APP enrollment drops, but except for 12th grade, the trend has been for smaller drops percentage-wise AND growth compared to overall HS enrollment.

Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

Yes, more people are coming...we all get that.
Stephanie

Anonymous said...

Let's get back on topic. The thread is not "What's wrong with Advanced Learning" it's "What's going on at Lowell?".

Something IS going on, and I have heard first-hand from staff in all three programs. Theresa Roth never says anything negative about another person, but if she finally spoke up at an APP AC meeting to say staff morale is low, then we'd better listen. A very long-time SpEd staff member left due to climate earlier this year when another opportunity came up, there are ALO staff who do not feel supported, and several APP teachers sought out other choices for next year. Yes, those "other choices" are all legit, but are made easier by the negative building climate.

To those of you who have had a great year, of course you have. Lowell is still a good school, and the teachers are professionals who would protect kids from any adult business. People afraid of retaliation do not speak up.

Open Ears

Cindy said...

My son attends Lowell and I was not aware of many of these problems until recently. I would like to thank Nancy and Jean for their comments. I am not the most educated person, but it is clear that a smear campaign is going on. It is also clear that for it to be a school concern, many people seemed less concerned about the children--others only concerned about certain children. Call me naive. I believe Lowell has awesome teachers in every program, as well as a principal who desires the title. I hate what has happened; is happening. How about we as adults are suppose to be the example for our children and they get along a lot better than we do. Many of the comments were outright ignorant and mean. If there is anyone reading this, who care about the children, I want to say Thank-you. I apologize for not saying it first. I can not express how floored and heartbroken I am by this blog. I pray that one who truly understands and cares intervenes for the good of all.

Nancy said...

Ok- 141 comments in, I've read all of them (although I'll admit to skimming some) and perhaps I'm wrong (apologies to Stephanie if so) but the only person who has definitively said that the district is investigating this issue is Dorothy. I appreciate your comments Dorothy, but do you have confirmation from the district that this is so? I will admit to having some correspondence with Ms Coogan, and I have spoken with others who have done so as well and we're hearing an awful lot of silence in that direction. It would go a long way I think to hear from the district that they're looking into these concerns. I'm sure the blog is the wrong place to get this, but when you've attempted all the other avenues, where do you turn?

Nancy said...

Oh- and sorry to clog up the works, but thanks Melissa and Charlie for having this place where we can voice concerns, vent etc. And I loved your advice: "try to lead a life that wouldn't allow folks to hear an invented story told about you and consider it plausible." advice that is ever more important in this age of Internet anonymity - from us little people to our federal legislators and everywhere in between.

Dorothy Neville said...

Yes, I know for a fact, absolutely positively that one of the main reasons for the morale problems, one of the things hinted at above IS under investigation. And since this played out before the city Ethics MOU got started, it is being handled through the district. But depending on the outcome, it WILL also go to the city ethics office.

It's a very touchy situation, because the person who filed the complaint can absolutely not talk about it for several reasons. First and foremost is that this is something that requires full investigation by those who can gather ALL the details. Second, there are other people involved, so this one person's story would reveal aspects of other people's stories as well. And that is not appropriate. Again, the investigation is the appropriate vehicle right now.

I do believe that submitting a complaint through the Office of Equity and Compliance requires one to sign an agreement not to talk about it, at least while the investigation is proceeding.

Anonymous said...

I am the SLP who resigned on April 15th of this year. I confirm what Dorothy has written about the complaint and investigation process, and the reasons why it is not appropriate to discuss details, at this time, in a public forum. I remain optimistic that the district will investigate this matter appropriately.
-SLP

nancy said...

Thanks Dorothy and SLP for confirming. I guess it just highlights yet another, much more chronic issue, that the district seems to be very poor at communication. I really believe if the district had given this general message to concerned inquirers such as myself much earlier, a lot of frustration might have been avoided. I fully appreciate that there are details that are inappropriate to be shared - I don't want or need to know details, but a simple: "thank you for letting us know, we share your concerns and we are looking into the matter" from Ms Coogan or Dr Enfield would have been so helpful so long ago.

It is interesting that SLP says "I remain optimistic that the district will look into this matter appropriately" - by now I would have hoped for "I remain optimistic that the district is looking into this matter appropriately" but perhaps this is just semantics.

suep. said...

Thanks for updating us, SLP, and confirming some of the facts. I also hope that whatever needs to be investigated is investigated and resolved. Lowell has a very challenging year ahead of it. If the district does indeed send as many as 700 children next year (despite a current functional capacity of 490), the school will be challenged in many ways.

It will be even more crucial for the school to be cohesive, cooperative and have a respectful and positive working and learning environment for all who are in what will be an extremely crowded building.

Mr. King has some inspired visions for the school, but in order for these to be realized, Lowell needs to be a place where the administration, teachers and staff can work together in an environment of mutual respect, trust and cooperation. That apparently has not been the case this year and has resulted in abnormal amounts of staff attrition.

I am hoping a positive climate at Lowell can be restored or assured by next fall.

My earlier comment on this thread about damage that has been done to Lowell was a reflection on the morale at the school as a whole (perhaps not something new parents would have been tuned into, so I would caution anyone from accusing anyone else of a “smear campaign”) and the changes in the APP program at Lowell since the split (exacerbated by district policies like curriculum standardization, undue pressure on teachers caused by a national ed reform obsession with overly punitive teacher evaluations, and thrice yearly MAP testing).

Yes, I believe APP can be a strong program again, and the school as a whole. New teachers can develop into strong teachers. But inspired, experienced teachers are not easily replaced.

One thing that I believe has not harmed the school has been the addition of the ALO program. But there simply isn't room anymore for all three programs (ALO, APP and SPED) to thrive, so there is likely to be another move for APP or ALO families in the not too distant future, and this indicates poor planning by the district which I find regrettable.

Anonymous said...

Please understand that this is not just an APP issue. This is an APP, Special Education, ALO and Regular Education Issue - All of Lowell is in trouble, not just APP. For me, this is not about better test scores or moving ahead, it is about injustice. Many staff members have moved from depressed to scared. At first I attributed issues to incompetence. Like many, I thought "If I just do my thing, I'll be okay. This is their problem." But over the past six months incompetence has turned into aggression and intimidation. Your conversation is important because it cannot happen within the walls of Lowell right now. Those with voices have been pushed out or silenced. There is a weight of sadness and fear that is becoming unbearable. We have braced for the storm, but we are tired and it just continues to pick up speed.

It is fortunate; Students are for the most part sheltered from this
because of the high level of profesionalism across the board. I do not doubt that everyone involved at Lowell began with the intent to provide the best for all of our children. Unfortunately, this is not how it is playing out and we are all losers if this continues.

Anonymous

Charlie Mas said...

I was one of the original members of the APP AC after the APP Task Force and the Advanced Learning Steering Committee were dissolved.

I remember the charge to the APP AC at that time and, at least then - and I doubt that it has changed - it included all advanced learning programs - not just APP.

Where is the charge for the Committee? I can't find it on the District web site.

Charlie Mas said...

Also, the 2007-08 creation of the Advanced Learning Review Committee was supposed to be one of the first steps of a response to the APP Review. Remember that? The APP Review was an original element of the Strategic Plan, but it just faded away, and so did the Advance Learning Review Committee.

The District never did respond to the APP Review and then responding to the APP Review mysteriously disappeared from the list of Strategic Plan projects.

Anonymous said...

We're at Lowell. The atmosphere has been enthusiastic and full of fun. I can't yet find anyone to corroborate credibly any of these stories. Not one person. All I get is "well, I heard that so-and-so..." And I am in the school volunteering multiple times a week. All communities have problems, and boundaries that must be sorted out, and conflicts that must be aired and dealt with. That doesn't mean the school is falling apart. The big problem is the overcrowding coming up - parents are going to be shocked when they see what 700+ kids means in the day-to-day experience of that building.

Dorothy Neville said...

The fact that many parents can be happy and unaware of the issues at Lowell is a Good Sign. It is a sign that no matter what, teachers and other staff are doing their best to be professionals with their children.

The fact that most people do not know the details and only have sketchy rumors also shows some professionalism. When and if it is appropriate for details to emerge, they will. But it is not appropriate for that to happen now. Personnel matters almost never occur in a vacuum affecting only one person. The serious personnel issue that I know about (and know that there is an investigation underway) has ramifications well beyond one person and must be handled with professionalism.

If I were to share details, half of you would be outraged at person A, half would defend A and be outraged at person B, half would be outraged at me for saying anything, half would be outraged that this wasn't public already. And probably half would argue that I was making it up. Who knows.

still not signing a name. said...

We're at Lowell. The atmosphere has been enthusiastic and full of fun. I can't yet find anyone to corroborate credibly any of these stories. Not one person.

As others have written, just because you don't know what's going on doesn't mean things are hunky dory.

Many of the staff are feeling very intimidated right now. They're not going to blab to anyone and everyone because there are snitches in the building. And they're not just complaining, they're actually packing their bags and quitting their jobs! Think how bad your work situation would have to be right now in order for you to up and quit your job. Seriously! Others are scared as well, but they can't afford to quit (or lose) their jobs. Unless you have a solid personal relationship with them, you are not going to hear squat.

It's a great compliment to the teachers' professionalism that many of you haven't got a clue as to how rough this past year has been.

Anonymous said...

First time here but I am a parent at Lowell and need to let those of you saying this is just a smear campaign of a few people know that, unfortunately, it is not true. I wish it was because the whole thing makes me so depressed and sad.

I personally am at the school almost daily and have seen firsthand the complete change in morale, etc. this year after the honeymoon period of last year. I was unwilling to believe it was Mr. King- I like him, I like his ideas and I want him to suceed in trying to make this divided, fractured school work.

So I assumed, like some of you appear to, that he was just getting resistance from people unwilling to change or get with the program. I also thought those people should move on if they were not willing to work with with new ideas. Some seemed still mad that APP was split and wanting to fight on that but I was ready to say it was really time for us to move on and get to work with where we were.

At school though, unfortunately, I saw I was wrong. Mr. King is dynamic and friendly with parents so most of them don't see how he treats staff but I did. He is often rude and demeaning and I saw him do that to two different teachers a few months before they announced to leave. I actually was so shocked and surprised that I did not want to believe what I had heard until I heard it again a few days later with a different teacher. I don't know what was going on but the language was highly unprofessional, as was the tone.

I know Howge is leaving because he bullied her and have talked with parents in her class who saw him do it in front of the kids and saw it myself in the hall. I also saw that teachers/staff who disagreed with him in "open" discussions are verbally attacked, told their ideas are "stupid," etc.

Believe me all of this has really shocked and saddened me. I really had high hopes for Mr. King and am very, very disappointed with what I have seen and heard. I'm not saying all of the stuff out there is true or that some of it is not coming from people with axes to grind or whatever. But there is a real problem here and I really hope we, as people who care, can have constructive, positive discussions about how to improve things without resorting to just name calling or dismissing this as a few crackpots trying to stir up trouble, because it is not.

Concerned Lowell Parent

SkritchD said...

Charlie, I wholly agree with your post below...

"3. I believe that there are a number of critical elements required to make APP successful. They include a critical mass of students, a supportive staff, a supportive administrator, and at least benign neglect from the District."

none1111 said...

Concerned Lowell Parent,

Your comment is useful and welcomed. The situation is very disheartening. But you should refrain from posting details about individually named teachers. Unless they are actively posting comments under their own name, it should be their right to live without coming under additional scrutiny from district staff or whoever else reads this blog. They are victims in this story, don't make it worse.

I'm going to re-post your comment with a small edit, then I suggest you delete it, or maybe Melissa can do that.

none1111 said...

Re-post with small edit:

First time here but I am a parent at Lowell and need to let those of you saying this is just a smear campaign of a few people know that, unfortunately, it is not true. I wish it was because the whole thing makes me so depressed and sad.

I personally am at the school almost daily and have seen firsthand the complete change in morale, etc. this year after the honeymoon period of last year. I was unwilling to believe it was Mr. King- I like him, I like his ideas and I want him to suceed in trying to make this divided, fractured school work.

So I assumed, like some of you appear to, that he was just getting resistance from people unwilling to change or get with the program. I also thought those people should move on if they were not willing to work with with new ideas. Some seemed still mad that APP was split and wanting to fight on that but I was ready to say it was really time for us to move on and get to work with where we were.

At school though, unfortunately, I saw I was wrong. Mr. King is dynamic and friendly with parents so most of them don't see how he treats staff but I did. He is often rude and demeaning and I saw him do that to two different teachers a few months before they announced to leave. I actually was so shocked and surprised that I did not want to believe what I had heard until I heard it again a few days later with a different teacher. I don't know what was going on but the language was highly unprofessional, as was the tone.

I know one teacher is leaving because they were bullied, and I have talked with parents in that class who saw him do it in front of the kids and saw it myself in the hall. I also saw that teachers/staff who disagreed with him in "open" discussions are verbally attacked, told their ideas are "stupid," etc.

Believe me all of this has really shocked and saddened me. I really had high hopes for Mr. King and am very, very disappointed with what I have seen and heard. I'm not saying all of the stuff out there is true or that some of it is not coming from people with axes to grind or whatever. But there is a real problem here and I really hope we, as people who care, can have constructive, positive discussions about how to improve things without resorting to just name calling or dismissing this as a few crackpots trying to stir up trouble, because it is not.

Concerned Lowell Parent

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many out there know the "latest" plan announced this afternoon for the Lowell over-crowding? Lowell staff and also the moving team that had worked all day were told by Gregory that nothing was going to be done after all. Now - the 4th and 5th grade APP classes at Lowell are to go up to Lincoln HS next year. A good decision finally to not overload the school anymore - and disrupt or take space primarily from special educ. - but also reactionary with no planning. Why now at this very late date and time tell the 4th and 5th grade teachers that they have to pack up to be moved to Lincoln? Have they put any thought into how to replicate things like choir, art, PE, before and after school programs, and services such as SLP, resource room, ..for these students now slated for Lincoln? FedUp

Anonymous said...

A few more things - who will be the principal for the 2 grades of APP going to Lincoln? How about the kids that need a nurse there all the time? Sounds like the plan is to not make any new classrooms out of larger rooms - no construction - but still there is to be shuffling of some of the teachers to different classrooms. And - staff told they have to out of the building today by 4:00 several times - but then today, it's "ok" to stay till 10:00 and work an eleven hour day if they need to?? -- And how many parents know that almost everything in the "dungeon" was essentially thrown away last week w/ less than 24 hrs. notice to staff - but none to the PTA? FedUp

Anonymous said...

none - how do I edit or remove? Thanks! Concerned parent

waterweim said...

I worked under this horrible man at Hamilton E Holmes in South Fulton County, Georgia. He ruined many young school teachers' careers. I hope that is not allowed at Lowell. One young teacher left after she would not date a friend of his. She was intimidated and harassed. Another first year teacher was also put under thumb and lost her position.
If proper background checks be done it would be found that he has a history of predatory behavior. He was put on leave after over $40,000 dollars was embezelled using the school's credit card. The article can still be googled; it was blamed on the secretary(with whom he was allegedly having an affair). I guess charges were dropped and then he got the job in Seattle. Before coming to South Fulton, he came from Atlanta Public Schools. I heard he had a history of stalking and intimidation there. He apparently did not mention his affiliation with the Atlanta Public School System when applying for the position in Seattle. He has no place in the public school systems of the US. I am proud that the teachers of Seattle are standing up to this tyrant. I wonder from whom his recommendations came? I would not be surprised if they were fabricated or came from someone associatied with the current CRCT test scandal in the Atlanta Public Schools. I would also look carefully at how test scores are handled in any school in which he works. If they seem too good to be true, they usually are.

Braessae said...

@waterweim,

That is an incredibly strong accusation regarding misappropriation of funds. Though the intimidation comments seem to be in line with others' complaints, I recommend you back that one up with some solid evidence.

Anonymous said...

This looks like part of the story.
http://www.wsbtv.com/news/14730384/detail.html

CT

waterweim said...

I hope Gregory is following this blog. He once said at a teachers' meeting that he could replace one older teacher with 2 young teachers and save money; he then followed his comment up; at least 3 experienced teachers left that year. I was one of them. That was okay. I knew something was wrong with him and not me; I am still teaching, loving the children, and making a difference in a positive way. But, I felt terrible for the first year teachers he persecuted. They did not have a chance without his recommendation. He told them to quit or else.

I'm sure he will be happy to know I left this blog site with friends still working in the East Point, Georgia area. He thought he could hide out in Seattle after being found out in Georgia. I wonder where he will go next?

waterweim said...

I am curious about one thing? Does he still have the assistant principal following him around when he does his dirty work (attacks teachers)? He liked to keep a witness with him at all times?

SPS Observer said...

Greg King was "separated" from Fulton Georgia School district.

Here are the school board meeting minutes that state that he was separated. No reason given.

http://www.fultonschools.org/
board_briefs_masterdata.asp
?id=86

(I broke the link into three lines)

Following is direct quotation from the March 18 2008 board meeting minutes.

"Executive Session. The Board met in closed executive session to discuss land, legal and/or personnel items. In open session, the Board upheld the decision of the hearing panel regarding an employee termination and approved a water vault easement at the South Fulton high school site. Authorization was given to the superintendent to pursue the purchase of property in North Fulton.

"The Board approved the personnel report, including the following changes:

"Separations

"·Gregory King, principal at Hamilton E. Holmes Elementary School (eff. 6/30/08)

"·Alma Paige, assistant principal at Banneker High School (retirement eff. 3/31/08)"

Through PDR it might be possible to get a copy of the personel report referred to here, and to get a copy of GK's resume and his SPS job application. Did he not start in Seattle at TTMinor a few months after his separation from Fulton Schools?

waterweim said...

Let's see; Greg King was separated from Fulton County/Hamilton E. Holmes in East Point, GA 2008. I am certain he came to East Point from Atlanta City Schools. He claimed he worked in Clayton County Schools?? When I wonder?

Anonymous said...
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