Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Meany Challenges

There are a number of challenges around the District's plan for a middle school at Meany. I choose to call them challenges instead of problems in the hope that it will make me sound less pessimistic, but they amount to the same thing.



The first challenge is the question about whether we even need the school in the first place. We had a middle school at Meany just four years ago and the District decided that we did not need it. Now they say that we do. Pardon me if I don't have a lot of confidence in their conclusion. How is it that we need another middle school in the Central Region but we don't need any more elementary school space there? T T Minor was closed at the same time as Meany and I don't see the District saying that we need to bring T T Minor back. So where are these kids coming from? Also, at the same time that the District closed Meany they moved over 200 students out of Washington. If you look at the District's own projections for the area you'll see the creation of 110 seats in 2014 (What's that? Is it NOVA?) and then the creation of another 700 seats in 2016 (which is Meany), but that the number of surplus seats doesn't drop below 700 until 2020 and then by just a little. That tells me that we don't need it.

After the division Meany and Washington will each be pretty small middle schools with only four elementary schools feeding each of them.

There's the money. The District is going to spend over $50 million dollars on this. They will spend $13 million to move NOVA back to Mann,  $14 million to move the Seattle World School into TT Minor, and another $23 million to create a middle school at Meany. I'm thinking that they could fix up Meany for NOVA and the Seattle World School (you know, like they promised that they would do four years ago) for a heck of a lot less and use only a portion of the remaining money to build a suitable addition at Washington to house another 250 students or so. It's only costing $12 million to build the 180 student addition at Mercer. Even if we spent $18 million at Washington it would be a $5 million savings. We wouldn't just save money. They would also save the Mann building for use as an interim site, to lease for income, or for future growth and they would save TT Minor to lease for income or for future use as a downtown elementary. Seems a lot smarter and cheaper to me.

NOVA and SWS can camp at Mann and Columbia for a couple years while their space at Meany is under renovation. The District was planning to use these sites while fixing up Meany anyway.

Then there's the demographics. The Central Region wears its elementary schools like a bikini. There's a band at the top and a band at the bottom and lot of exposed space in between. Four of the Central Region K-5 schools are north of Mercer and four of them are south of Yesler with none in between. The division between the feeder schools for Meany and Washington are pretty obvious with Lowell, Montlake, McGilvra, and Stevens feeding to Meany and with Bailey-Gatzert, Thurgood Marshall, Leschi, and John Muir feeding to Washington. I suppose the division could be different but it would look odd and contrived - like a two-piece bathing suit arranged some way other than a top and a bottom.

The demographic contrast is stark.


Meany       Total                 White                    FRL
Lowell 616 62.5% 385 16.4% 101
Montlake 238 67.2% 160 8.4% 20
McGilvra 298 62.4% 186 13.8% 41
Stevens 371 46.1% 171 38.5% 143
TOTAL 1523 59.2% 902 20.0% 305
Washington         Total                 White                FRL
Bailey-Gatzert 371 3.2% 12 91.6% 340
Thurgood Marshall 451 45.7% 206 35.0% 158
Leschi 378 19.8% 75 61.6% 233
Muir 404 19.6% 79 53.7% 217
TOTAL 1604 23.2% 372 59.1% 948


The Lowell numbers will be very different because these numbers still include Lowell at Lincoln, but the theme is unmistakable. This division will look a lot like racial and economic segregation with a majority White population with low incidence of poverty at Meany and a minority White population with a high incidence of poverty at Washington. It looks like the District is creating a boutique middle school for White affluent families living in Eastlake, Montlake, Capitol Hill and Madison Park. Adding Laurelhurst to the Meany service area to ease crowding in the north won't bring more balance.

The District won't be eligible for state matching funds if the construction project exacerbates segregation. This work probably would not qualify. That's going to cost the District millions.

With those demographics comes some predictable academic outcomes. It's enough to make you wonder if APP students living in the Meany attendance area will choose to leave it for Washington.

On the whole, I can't help wondering if it wouldn't it be easier and cheaper to manage the middle school capacity in the Central Region by building an addition at Washington and, if necessary, shifting Muir into the Mercer Service Area. Then we can save a lot of money by leaving NOVA and SWS at Meany but spending some money to fix it up properly, and we would have TT Minor and Mann available for lease, interim use, or expansion.

37 comments:

sad south end parent said...

I tend to agree that they are creating a Mercer middle school to serve the affluent students in the north end of the central district. I looked at Hamilton last year and was shocked at how nice it was compared to Washington middle school. The district does not even try and create some kind of equity in the buildings. I'm sure that the new school they are proposing in South Lake Union will serve white middle class students.

Lisa said...

Sad South End Parent, yes, Hamilton is lovely. But did you also tour McClure or Whitman? These north end schools are quite run down. If McClure can ever get its academic and social act together enough to attract kids from its assignment area its deficits will really start to show: not only is it ugly and run down, but it is lacking facilities. No performance space, for example, not even a makeshift one in the gym or cafeteria. Very teeny library. Only one music room, and not a huge one at that. Not enough lockers even for its current depressed population.

The Eckstein building seems to be in reasonable shape, but you have to wonder whether so many years of overcrowding are taking their toll on the physical plant.

Even pretty Hamilton has issues, I've discovered since sending my kid there: the gym, music rooms and art rooms can't accommodate the current population. The stage is an add-on in the cafeteria and is acoustically crappy. I went to a performance in the old, unattractive Whitman auditorium and felt a bit envious. You could see and hear the kids really well!

Anonymous said...

Don't judge a book by it's cover. While spiffy looking buildings look impressive, it's what happens within the walls that really counts.

Current SSD staffer w/ child in modest private school building

mirmac1 said...

I've always felt, it is not the physical plant, but the robust, supportive environment for learning. But that's just me growing up near White Center.

Anonymous said...

Sad South End, what are you talking about? Mercer doesn't serve the "north end of the central district". Maybe the north end of the south end, but it's still the south end. And Cleveland, well it's a palace compared to lots of north end high schools. The biggest boondoggle of all is Garfield HS. But if they crowd it up enough, maybe they can justify the spending and cost overruns. Been to Ingraham? SSD staffer has it right though. It's not the buildings.

-parent

Syd said...

Your demographic data seems off. White vs. FRL? It could be non-FRL and FRL or white, hispanic, African-American, native-American, asian, but not white v. FRL. A lot of people do make the assumption that FRL means non-white, but that is not the case. There is often a strong correlation with some groups and FRL, but I don't think you can really analyze the data in this way and be sure of your conclusion.

Anonymous said...

Charlie's main point is correct that the a new Meany middle school will serve a wealthy less diverse population than Washington does. The big question is, are the resources best used that way. He brings up some good points about how to spend the limited resources that the district has. Though, from my understanding, Washington is at or above capacity and the district has to think long term.

Po3 said...

Sad South End Parent -

Garfield, Cleveland, South Shore and the old AAA (not sure what it is now) are four beautiful schools serving central and south end students.

HIMS is the ONLY rebuild in the northend.

Po3 said...

oh and Ballard. But since it's over 10 years now I forget that is is fairly new.

erik t said...

Syd,
He is not saying vs, he is saying free and reduced and white.
Though he does not include Madronna and since Lowell is split with app it is currently 220 kids with half free and reduced( not sure what the racial make up is,but feels pretty mixed).

Charlie Mas said...

I did not include Madrona because it is a K-8. I did not include TOPS for the same reason.

I am not saying that there is any correlation between race and poverty (although those correlations are there). I am saying that the two middle schools will have dramatically different demographics BOTH racially and economically. They are two separate measures.

I think sad south end parent wrote "Mercer" when intending "Meany".

Charlie Mas said...

Here is a district document that shows that the total cost of fixing up the Meany building to serve both the SWS and NOVA would cost a total of $28 million.

This document also shows that some of the work has been done, which means that it would now cost LESS than $28 million.

The BEX IV plan includes $13 million to fix up a building for NOVA and $14 million to fix up a building for SWS. That means that fixing up Meany for them would be cheaper.

This would free the entire $23 million planned to fix up Meany as a middle school as available funding to create an addition at Washington.

Anonymous said...

Po3, add Roosevelt to that rebuild list...

-another Southender

Charlie Mas said...

Again, let's think about the problems we're trying to solve here. There are three:

1. A suitable permanent home for the Seattle World School.

2. A suitable permanent home for The NOVA Project.

3. Expanded middle school capacity in the central region.

The current solutions presented in the BEX IV plan are to spend $14 million to fix up T T Minor for SWS, $13 million to fix up Mann for NOVA, and $23 million to fix up Meany as a 850 seat middle school for the north half of the region. The total cost for these solutions is $50 million and three buildings.

Moreover, $14 million is not going to be enough to renovate T T Minor so it can be used as the site of the World School.

I propose a different solution:

Spend about $24 million to fix up Meany as the site for both the World School and NOVA. Spend about $20 million to create additional permanent space for another 270 students at Washington.

My proposal not only saves about $6 million, it also saves two buildings - T T Minor and Mann - creates less disruption for these communities, and doesn't create two middle schools with significant racial and economic demographic differences.

The District will be able - if needs be - to use T T Minor to relieve overcrowding at Bailey-Gatzert (the downtown elementary) and will be able - if needs be - to use Mann to relieve overcrowding at Garfield. Or they can continue to lease these buildings for income.

How is this not a better solution all the way around the track?

Anonymous said...

Charlie -- APP kids living in the Meany reference area have always gone to Washington. This was true before Meany closed, and is the plan for when it re-opens. APP kids will not leave the program to go to Meany. They never did in the past. In fact, the reverse was true in the past. Kids from the Meany reference area (such as those coming from mcgilvra) used to try hard to get into the good academic programs at Washington. Families in APP south have already chosen a racially and socioeconomically diverse school (TM), and are unlikely to leave APP to avoid another school with similar demographics. Look at all the APP families leaving montlake, stevens and McGilvra for TM. These families are looking for strong academic programs, not rich white schools.

The racial divide that will be exacerbated by Meany re-opening is not good, but it is a return to the old assignment before Meany was closed in the first place. The reality is that racial and economic divides in the city are exacerbated by the NSAP. Your Lowell numbers are in fact very different from actual Lowell demographics. Stevens is also more diverse now than those numbers show. So hopefully Meany will be a bit more diverse than those numbers show. Meany will also be more diverse because so many white, affluent kids who go to montlake, mcgilvra and Stevens for elementary leave the district for private school in middle school if they don't qualify for APP. I can count on one hand the number of neighborhood kids from mcgilvra who started Washington in the general education program this year. Meany won't look like mcgilvra. It will be more diverse, just like it was before it closed. Check out the old numbers for Meany.
- Meany area mom

Charlie Mas said...

@ Meany Area Mom,

I don't think the new Meany will be like the old Meany.

I don't think as many students will leave for private school when the new Meany promises this kind of demographic.

I don't think even APP students will leave Meany when it promises this kind of demographic and it has a Spectrum program which will allow them to retain their eligibility for Garfield.

The old Meany didn't have Spectrum. The new Meany will have Spectrum. The old Meany had a poor reputation for academics; the new Meany will have an AMAZING reputation for academics. Have you seen the test scores from McGilvra?

The old Meany had a lot of students from the southeast who were bussed in. The new Meany will be strictly neighborhood kids.

The new Meany will be VERY different from the old Meany and your memories will not apply.

Yes, Lowell's numbers are not like they were when APP was there. Yes, Stevens is more diverse than people might assume.

Nevertheless, Meany, as currently planned by the District, would be significantly Whiter and significantly more affluent than Washington. There will be significant differences in academic achievement which are correlated with those demographics. It will have a Spectrum program. It will not have students bussed in from the southeast. It will have a cohort that comes predominantly from Capitol Hill, Madison Park, and Eastlake. Yes, there will be some Madison Valley students and some from south of Madison, but there will be no resemblance to the demographics of the old Meany.

This new Meany, if created, will be the jewel of the city. And it will deplete Washington of resources.

Anonymous said...

I think you're kidding yourself if you think people will forego private school for the promise of spectrum. Does anyone count on spectrum being delivered effectively at this point?

Mcgilvra families are already fleeing to private school due to the complete unpredictability brought on by NSAP. Will my kid be in a split-grade class? Will they be in a classroom of over 30 like this year? Who knows.....the district has no idea until the first day of school or later. People who can afford to leave are already doing so...they're not waiting around for middle school. And mcgilvra is much more diverse as a result as more kids from outside the NSAP lines are brought in to pack it full...which will make Meany more diverse. Yes, Washington will be more diverse, but it won't be as bad as you purport.

No longer at mcgilvra



Anonymous said...

And mcgilvra is much more diverse as a result as more kids from outside the NSAP lines are brought in to pack it full...which will make Meany more diverse.

ohhhh the horrors! So sorry you had to leave!

-parent

Anonymous said...

They could always feed some of the capitol hill area - the Lowell service area into McClure. McClure is under enrolled and that would take pressure off Washington. They could also redraw the Washington line. The Mt. Baker area really should have been part of the Mercer service area. There are several options to reduce the population at Washington.

-parent

ben said...

I have to admit, my wife and I love to look at houses around Capitol Hill but we always reach the point where we consider Middle School. Currently, it seems much riskier to switch from the Eckstein reference area to Washington reference area. If Meany were spun up and high performing then this would change the housing calculus for us. I wonder if it would have a general effect on housing choices for others like us.

Ben

Charlie Mas said...

Let's talk plainly about why families choose private school or magnet programs.

First there is some snob-appeal. Those folks are going to move their kids to the private school or the magnet program no matter what is happening at their neighborhood school (unless their neighborhood school offers some kind of snob appeal). There's some of this, but not as much as people would presume.

Second there are some who choose them for an academic opportunity they unavailable at the neighborhood school. This is why a lot of Spectrum- and APP-eligible students remain at their neighborhood school if their family believes that they are well-served there. There's a lot of this, but not as much as people would like to believe.

By and large, families don't choose private school or a magnet program because they are running towards something so much as they choose it because they are running AWAY from something. They are running away from something they don't like about their neighborhood school. Usually it's the peer group.

Without reaching any conclusions about anyone's personal character, the fact is that the running away is closely tied to the racial and economic demographic of the school they are leaving. Of course, I could also say that it correlates with the academic achievement of the peer group, but, as we know, that correlates with economic status which correlates with race.

Elementary student participation in Spectrum in the Central Region has been historically low. This may be because the majority of the eligible students live north of Union and the program is located south of McClellan. But it might not just be the distance.

Charlie Mas said...

Interesting side note: If Meany becomes a middle school service area, then one of the four elementary schools will have to be designated as a Spectrum site.

Lowell would be my bet since it's the only one with space available.

What impact would that have on Spectrum participation in the Central Region? What impact would it have on the Spectrum program at Muir?

Why in the world is the elementary Spectrum program for the Washington Service Area located at the least central school?

Melissa Westbrook said...

"HIMS is the ONLY rebuild in the northend."

Uh and Roosevelt. And JSIS. And TOPS. And Whittier.

Maureen said...

I agree with Charlie that a shiny new Meany will attract an entirely different group of families (including those who now go private) than the old Meany and that fewer potentially APP qualified kids will end up at WMS because of that.

But Charlie, you say: I don't think even APP students will leave Meany when it promises this kind of demographic and it has a Spectrum program which will allow them to retain their eligibility for Garfield. Has something changed? This was never the case before--Spectrum enrollment allowed you to retain APP eligibility K-5, but not get the golden ticket to Garfield. I don't see why it matters anyway though since the Meany kids (if your list of feeder schools is correct) would all be assigned to GHS anyway.

I wish I knew if the BEX people are responding to pressure from LEV (formerly New School Foundation) and Seattle U's Youth Initiative people to set up some schools to go charter (or Creative Approach or whatever). In this case by sucking lots of the middle class people out of WMS. Alternatively, maybe they are assuming that a chunk of Central capacity will go charter whether they want it to or not and they had better have some capacity available to cover the families who don't want to enroll at KIPP at WMS.

I also wonder if anyone is looking at feeder patterns for the Middle Schools. Will newMeany actually feed to Garfield or to NewLincoln along with McClure AND Hamilton (minus APP and immersion)? Will Pacific feed to Ingraham or Ballard or Hale or Roosevelt? Do BEX people talk much with enrollment people?

Interesting that no one seems to be targeting Pinehurst (AS#1) so far this year. When Cedar Park went historic, I expected people to start talking about moving them there and rebuilding their lot for JA K-8. Maybe it's too small?

Anonymous said...

re: why parents leave mcgilvra for private school

right now, if you're in 3rd grade, your choice is a class size over 30 or a split 3/4 class.

if you're in 4th or 5th grade, you're in a large split 4/5 class for 2 years.

that's the reality as mcgilvra keeps the lower grade classes small and single grade so they can intervene early.

some people like split-grade classes. however, many families that have the means have left mcgilvra for private school have done it to avoid split grade classes or large class sizes in the later elementary years. they LOVE the peer group --- they don't like current structural reality of the classes.

No longer at mcgilvra

Anonymous said...

My child is in that 3rd grade class (of 29). It's really fine. The teacher is wonderful, and there's a part-time aid. The 4/5 classes are an intentional choice on the part of the principal, not because of crowding. McGilvra now has an ALO, which they seem to be pretty serious about.

And, btw, those new students are all from within the attendance area. Lots of people coming back from private school. Lots of kids who were at another Central Cluster school under the oldSAP. Lots of kids moving into the neighborhood, particularly families renting in Madison Valley to access McGilvra. That's what happens with a neighborhood plan.

I like the idea of a newMeany. I'd much rather see smaller middle schools in general. I'd like smaller elementary schools too, but that's a different question. I think that adding Laurelhurst (with bigger boundaries) and maybe Sand Point would take pressure off Eckstien. SLU and Belltown could be assigned to Lowell and Meany (or downtown elementary and Meany) insteasd of Hay and McClure, which would really help with crowding at Hay.

My biggest reservation about Washington, and SPS middle schools in general, is the size of the schools. If Meany were small and had Spectrum, that would be a more attractive option than Washington is currently. I bet I'm not the only McGilvra parent who feels that way.

--still at McGilvra

Anonymous said...

Yes, the NSAP embeds racial imbalances, segregation, etc., as already happens throughout society by economic class. But is it worse than the damage done by uprooting and fragmenting communities throughout the city for the sake of diversity? Both have their positives and negatives, and we tried that for a long time in Seattle, with mixed and questionable results. If we want strong communities and neighborhoods, then there isn't a better central community asset to build community around than your local public school, regardless of the neighborhood's composition. I would argue that the community fabric is as important, or more important, than how diverse the local school appears to be.

So, Meany might look like a lot like the neighborhood that surrounds it? Okay...And...What's inherently wrong with that? Shall we condemn Laurelhurst & View Ridge then? Is Bailey-Gatzert TOO non-white?

Aren't well-educated people less fearful, more tolerant, and more appreciative of what diversity offers than lesser educated people? Yes, I'm generalizing, but it seems to me that we should not hand-wring so much over appearances, but focus on substance.

Rather than construct school populations that appear diverse and harmonized by the numbers, how's about we focus on what really counts: Great educations for all, no matter where the schools are located and who goes to them.

Yes, poverty challenges education at every level and opportunity, but simply putting poor & minority kids together with more affluent kids, without addressing the underlying challenges and disparities doesn't suddenly convert them into great students, does it? Sure, we can pat ourselves on the back and say we've done something about the "opportunity gap" (love that "shirky" phrase, btw) because, heck, we've got all the great classes at School X, but what good is that to a struggling kid behind grade level, for example? I guess if we've allowed them the opportunities, we've done our job, right? No. Wrong.

Conversely, getting extra resources, more tutors, more counselors, nutrition services, after school programs, etc., to children at the school closest to their home, where their parents can most easily get to, makes the biggest impact.

So if Meany has "more" than average when it reopens, that means it will need "less" title one money, for example, which can then be sent to schools and kids that really need it.

My kids go to very diverse schools and the experience has been great. But I don't think they'd be much different had they stayed at their neighborhood schools, or gone private. Through sports, scouts, the local YMCA, summer camps, etc., they've experienced diversity their whole lives, and probably derived more respect for diversity from the YMCA camps, soccer field or basketball court than from the fact they go to school with kids who look differently than them.

Any school can look diverse and be perfectly racially or socioeconomically balanced. Great.

But isn't the more important question whether or not it's a good school for the kids who attend it? WSDWG

Charlie Mas said...

Where are the folks who want to write in to say that Washington will be better after a split?

Anonymous said...

If Washington has room for option seats after Meany opens, it will likely continue to draw kids from W.S. to avoid Madison, as has happened for years, and continues today.

A bigger scandal is why we spend millions upon millions for sub-par work on the buildings. Much of Garfield's work was substandard, except the library, which was ridiculously overdone, IMHO. (While somebody got rich.)

And then there's the beautiful Quincy Jones Auditorium which has terrible sound. (IMnotsoHO).

Sorry. Somebody had to say it.

WSDWG

Anonymous said...

Hale, Hale was rebuilt.
-Hale Yes

Anonymous said...

NSAP. More segregated schools to reflect the neighborhoods. Oh yes, separate, but equal (must be your reality, it ain't mine). That way you don't have to restrain yourself and your perception gets reinforced by like minded, like educated, like income and even possibly like appearance folks. What can go wrong? Everyone gets a "good" education right?. It's all standardized anyway. Society is like a Forrest Gump tiered wedding cake? So we'll just keep it that way while of course keeping our mind open, but the gates shut. Ok, we'll let the odd few slide back and forth 'cause you got to throw a bone in to keep hope alive.

-coyote border Xer

Anonymous said...

Charlie -- opening meany will relieve overcrowding at Washington. That is good. APP will stay at washington. That is good. APP is growing, so Washington will still have room for those kids, and they won't get moved to another school. That is good. Spectrum probably won't be as strong at Washington after meany opens as a middle school. Many of those kids come from the 4 meany schools. The demographics of the gened population won't likely change all that much. Since so many mcgilvra, montlake & Stevens gened kids go private, the remaining kids who take those classes at Washington tend to have the same demographics as the schools that will feed washington after many opens (less white, less affluent).

Yes, the demographics will change somewhat, but Washington will still be strong, and it won't be overcrowded. Don't underestimate parents willingness to choose APP over spectrum as a stronger long term option for their kids, even if they miss out on a shiny new building for middle school. Washington will also still feed into Garfield, which remains a huge plus for families.

Hopefully a new meany with spectrum will encourage some of these families not to jump ship at middle school. If they stay at meany, they'll likely stay for Garfield, and that is a good thing. Then we'll have to worry about Garfield overcrowding .... A whole other issue.
-- Washington will be fine

Charlie Mas said...

-- Washington will be fine

Yes. Everything you write is either true or very likely.

Opening Meany would relieve overcrowding at Washington. Of course, expanding Washington would also do that.

I agree that Spectrum at Washington probably wouldn't be as strong if Meany re-opened. That's not so good but it certainly isn't tragic.

Like you, I believe that some families that would otherwise choose a private school will choose the new Meany with Spectrum when it is available. I agree that would be a positive for public education and for our community. Like you, I suspect that a positive experience at Meany might encourage them to stay for Garfield as well. That, too, would be good for public education and our community.

Let's set aside the whole matter of who would be assigned to Meany and who would be assigned to Washington. Regard those as entirely beside the question.

The question would remain:
Wouldn't we be better off fixing Meany for SWS and NOVA, expanding Washington, retaining TT Minor and Mann for some other use, saving at least $5 million in capital expenses, and saving several hundred thousands in annual operating expenses?

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Mercermom said...

As the parent of two APP kids (on at GHS and one at TM), I wouldn't love to see Spectrum gone from WMS, as that would mean a more stratified school academically. My child had friends who were in APP, Spectrum, and regular classes, which he valued. On the other hand, the idea of an even bigger middle school isn't very attractive, as over a 1000 for three grades seems pretty big already.

Curious said...

If Meany isn't really needed for MS capacity in the central district - what about putting all of MS APP back together there? That would really help alleviate the north end middle school capacity crunch. I'm not clear on whether the North APP community would prefer to stay north of the ship canal, or would prefer to be reunited with their other half at middle school. It seems like there is still a lot of concern about the programs being unequal - which I think will always be the case to some extent with the program split into multiple locations....