Thursday, January 31, 2013

Updates for Today's Seattle School Board Meeting

It appears that a couple of people dropping off the speakers list so there is at least one spot open if you want to call in to claim it, 252-0040.   As well, they will have a waitlist in case any of the scheduled speakers do not come forward.

Also, Director Peaslee has put forth her own amendment.  I agree with her thinking. 

Basically, she is asking for two things:

- wait a year for implementing the new JA Middle School with planning for it ongoing and a planning principal in place by September 2013
- reassign Laurelhurst students to Eckstein to take the pressure off of Hamilton (and fit in those APP students). 

As well, it asks for the Superintendent to support an effort to recruit students for JA K-8, Pinehurst, TOPS and Salmon Bay. 

Over enrollment at Hamilton can be relieved with minimal disruption by assigning the 6th
graders from Laurelhurst to Eckstein. Pressure on Eckstein and Hamilton can be relieved by
District supported recruitment effort of new 6th
graders at Jane Addams, Pinehurst, TOPS at Seward and Salmon Bay.  Transportation from Eckstein service area to Jane Addams, Pinehurst, TOPS and Salmon Bay is already in our budget. 


This amendment also delays assigning students from Sacajawea, John Rogers and Olympic Hills
to JAMS for one year, giving time to redraw boundaries and adequately plan and implement a
quality comprehensive middle school.  Students from those schools will be encouraged to
voluntarily enroll at Jane Addams for school year 2013-14, but their assignment to Eckstein
Middle School will not be changed until school year 2014.


Students in the NE will be permitted to attend Eckstein as planned and promised, while
boundaries are redrawn and a quality comprehensive middle school is planned at JAMS.


She explains the alternative:

Adopt current staff recommendation.  This is not desirable because it abruptly reassigns students
from three schools to a comprehensive middle school at JAMS that has not been planned. 
Parents doubt that it will be equal in quality to Eckstein.  If 17 portables are located at JAMS
(shown as Roll Up Option B in the Fiscal Analysis document), it will likely prove unacceptable
and will result in moving the two K-8 schools to John Marshall in a year or two.  This move will
prove unacceptable to many families who will withdraw their students and place them in
neighborhood schools, thereby weakening both K-8 schools and increasing capacity problems in
other overenrolled NE schools.


 By forcing a small group of 6th graders into a new (and quickly planned) middle school, the district does NOT significantly reduce the enrollment at either Hamilton or Eckstein.

What it does is tell those families a couple of things.  One, we will tell you over and over at public meetings that nothing will change for next year and then abruptly change our minds.  Two, we will favor one group of students over another. 

I do want to point out that shared pain is better than targeted pain.  It is better to wait, plan and then have every share the pain of boundary redraws as a region/district, than to focus on one small group of students.  And if it were your student, you would not like it one bit.

20 comments:

Annoyed NW parent said...

Salmon Bay does not need any more kids recruited into it, it already has a waiting list. And certainly it doesn't need kids bussed to it from the NE, who already has THREE option schools to choose from. That needs to end asap.

Anonymous said...

It seems like wishful thinking at best to think 6th graders who would normally go to Eckstein will want to go to these other programs, of which some might be considered less desirable, much farther away (thus less desirable), or already full (thus how are they even going to get in).

The reasons given to wait or to not wait are all hypothetical, except for reassigning Laurelhurst to Eckstein. So, since we're enetertaining hypotheticals, bear with me with this hypothetical. We do nothing. 6th graders who would normally go to Eckstein don't go to Pinehurst, JA, TOPS, or Salmon Bay as Peaslee hopes, so Eckstein is even more crowded. APP grows and it is determined that they cannot be accommodated at Hamilton, even with Laurelhurst students going to Eckstein. The only group that can be pushed out is APP because they're just a "program". So Hamilton and Eckstein continue to bust at the seams for one more year because we did nothing, or a group is specifically targeted (something we're trying to avoid by doing nothing) and is the group that takes the hit.

I understand the need to slow down and be thoughtful about making important decisions. I just want to know what happens if my hypothetical becomes the reality and not Peaslee's wishful thinking? What is the effect? Is it OK because the pain is shared between two schools? Or because of their demographics?

It's easy to imagine the worst when you don't like the idea (opening a new middle school) and then think the best of something that appeals to you (waiting and doing nothing for a year). I want to know what is the worst that can happen if Peaslee's amendment passes.

-Frustrated in Seattle

Anonymous said...

From what I have read on this blog, both Eckstein and Hamilton principals have said they can cope with crowding for one more year, and the JA principal has asked for more planning time. If that is true, and the principals have worked it out among themselves, then I feel that Peaslee's amendment is is as reasonable as it gets in the face of an epic mess.

But why is this amendment being put out there so late? This process has been beyond ridiculous in the whipsaw back and forths. How many NE residents have any idea this has been posted? For that matter how many NE residents knew yesterday that the staff had changed their minds again and were willing to start JA middle school next year? This is planning at its worst and is guaranteed to rattle everyone's cages.

SavvyVoter

Anonymous said...

Is Peaslee saying that the SAC, JR and OH 5th graders will go to Eckstein in 2013-14 for 6th grade and them move to JAMS for 7th grade in 2014-15? Is that what the parents want?

Now is it Harium's turn to propose a last minute amendment to help Eckstein?

- This is beyond ridiculous

Melissa Westbrook said...

What is the worst? That Eckstein and Hamilton are overcrowded for one more year. That planning -for APP, for new boundaries and for yes, a new JA Middle school - takes place.

The worst in the other direction is a small group of students taking a hit after they were repeatedly promised they wouldn't. Lesson learned - don't believe the district.

The worst in the other direction is that the district will STILL pay out mitigation costs to both Eckstein and Hamilton because no, opening the new middle school will not negate all those costs.

Ridiculous, that is a good question about where next year's 6th graders will end up in 7th grade since the boundaries are going to be redrawn for EVERYONE. Can they seriously assign sixth grade and then grandfather them all in for 7th and 8th? I have no idea and I have never heard that answer yet.

Anonymous said...

@This is beyond ridiculous:

Since Martin-Morris hasn't done anything about the problem in 5 years except to say "we need a new middle school" (duh) don't expect him to boldly move forward at the last minute. He'll simply vote Carr's amendment and keep serving the same select group of parents he's answered to for the past 4 years. As far as I can tell, his interests start and end with the Eckstein service area. If someone out there can show otherwise, feel free.

Disgusted and Done

Anonymous said...

Salmon Bay doesn't need anymore students recruited to attend middle school ... it had 67 students on the wait-list last year for 6th grade. It is the only choice for Ballard students who don't feel Whitman is a good choice. Many NW 5th grade families thought they would have a chance to enroll at Salmon Bay for next year because the Thornton Creek preference was supposed to end. Now, in addition to Thornton Creek, they're going to open Salmon Bay up to the whole NE Cluster? With transportation?

NW families haven't been given the chance to contact the board about this ... once again last minute changes that aren't vetted.

NW Family

Anonymous said...

The K8 at Jane Addams should be reconfigured. It is not an alternative program, even though it enrolls by option. It was implemented as a stop-gap measure in that a middle school was needed, and the District had a middle school building, but in order to avoid putting portables (or more portables) out to K5s in the north NE, they implemented a hybrid elementary/middle in a middle school building. As a result, the existing middle school's enrollment steadily climbed to a new peak, and so now we have 3 comprehensive middles schools north of the ship canal, one has 15 portables, one has 11 or 12, and the other is on a two acre site and can't take any. Meanwhile, a building on 18 acres that was built as a middle school and that could be configured for 960 has less than 600 students in it, and no portables. The K8 has firmly rejected the notion of interim housing at the John Marshall building, so, the elementary children will continue to be housed at the middle school while the middle schoolers twist in the wind. This is bad for everyone, and this is a symptom of simply lacking space. We need to pass BEX IV. Olympic Hills has 4 portables, Thornton Creek has 6, Laurelhurst has 6, Viewridge has 7, and on and on. Portables in the NE are now the norm, and so K5s in the NE without them, or who just have 1, are likely headed for them. Implementing the K8 at JA was an attempt to avoid more portables elsewhere, but all it did was shift portables to middle schools. The bottom line is we need new capacity, and, that is why BEX IV is essential.
-frustrated

Lori said...

The worst in the other direction is a small group of students taking a hit after they were repeatedly promised they wouldn't. Lesson learned - don't believe the district.

Despite the risk of being misunderstood, I will comment. I guess after having lived thru the Lowell eviction in the May-July 2011 time frame, I'm surprised there's any community that still thinks the district's word is its bond.

I'm not in favor of any community "taking a hit" or being singled out for unfair treatment. But I'm having trouble with the "we were promised X but given Y" defense, if that makes sense.

We are clearly in unprecedented financial times, with dire capacity challenges. As much as I'd love to take the district at its word, there's just too much evidence that we can't. And with all the swirl and chaos going on around enrollment, buildings, levies, well, promises are going to be broken because there are too many moving pieces.

No matter how things turn out tonight, there are NO winners in all of this. Our decision-making process is badly broken. And in its attempts to please everyone, the district ultimately pleases no one. I'm so angry at what this whole thing has turned into, and we need to all figure out a way to make this process work better when the boundaries are redrawn for 2014/2015.

Gotta go meet a kid at a bus stop now. And hopefully that will be a bright spot in my day because honestly, this whole middle school thing has become unbearable and I'm not even looking forward to the nominal "resolution" that will happen tonight.

Anonymous said...

I predict that plenty of parents will choose for their kids to go to Jane Addams for 6th grade, thus helping with the overenrollment at Eckstein. It will be by choice, rather than forced.

But if it does not work, there is a better chance that the last minute solution will be to assign kids there from OH, JR and/or Sac. Not a reassignment of APP students.

Hamilton will lose Laurelhurst thus decreasing enrollment there. If anything the APP numbers are high, not low, as they have significantly more coming in at 6the grade than teh last two years.

-lots of fun

Anonymous said...

I don't want to be cynical, but are there examples in SPS of longer planning time leading to better implementation?

-rip the band-aid off

DemocracyMom said...

I honestly have no idea what is best to do and am waiting anxiously to see what the board will come up with. I have a 3rd grader, so I have time. But I WILL say that the board has appeared really unprofessional, waffling this way and that, making promises it couldn't keep, and whether intentionally or not, attempting to pit one group of parents against another. I almost think parents would be more willing to accept the difficult decisions if we didn't have to be subjected to waffling and empty promises.

Anonymous said...

@Frustrated in Seattle:

The worst that can happen is that parents start @ Hamilton, Eckstein or Jane Addams this year because there is pressure to "do something", then learn that they have been reboundaried to a different middle school next year. Ditto with all grade school enrollment patterns.

Then everyone will be fighting about current student patterns, sibling grandfathering, transportation and whether their property valuations will be going up or down.

Doing nothing this year will stink, but moving kids around, then moving their families around again in a year? I fear it will tear support for the district apart once and for. I really do.

EdVoter

Anonymous said...

We are discussing next year quite a bit, but don't forget that we will have quite a crunch until any new buildings come on line in 2016 or 2017. Even if Eckstein enrollment decreases by a few hundred in 2014, it will back up in 2015 and huge again in 2016. Who knows where all the extra elementary kids will go? So be prepared for plenty more portables in the next few years. And hope that BEX passes.

-vote for BEX

Anonymous said...

And to be clear, the board did promise Eckstein parents they would deal with the overcrowding, so keeping this pretty sweet deal with Jane Addams is them breaking promises to lots of other people. Dunno why just one group gets to expect promises kept no matter the cost to everyone else.

Fed up too

Anonymous said...

@ EdVoter

I don't think it has ever been suggested that a student is in 6th grade at one school and then is reassigned to 7th at another. (Unless a program moves.) If boundaries are redrawn, that is just for new 6th graders.

-vote for BEX

A-mom said...

Peaslee has put some thought into this. I can't believe I'm saying it, but it actually seems fair and reasonable!

Anonymous said...

I'm not going to offer an opinion on what the right decision is, because the only part I've been paying attention to is the APP component, which is the part that affects my family. I certainly don't know what is best on the whole.

My thinking is that even if they are correct on APP enrollment projections, and the program remains housed at Hamilton for another year, APP will be moved the next year. And that would be disruptive to our rising 6th grader. So do the benefits of the program outweigh the likelihood of disruption, either at the last minute this year or in the 7th grade year?

I'm kind of thinking "no", especially because our neighborhood MS allows kids to take 7th grade, 8th grade math or Algebra in the 6th grade, if their teacher thinks they are qualified for it. There's also Spectrum LA.

Might other parents contemplating moving to APP think like us? All the instability is not appealing. Maybe people turning up for APP will be fewer than would otherwise be the case.

The one thing I do believe is that all of this has been clearly looming for years and heads should roll somewhere for getting, once again, to the crisis point.

APP not-sure-I-wanna_be

Melissa Westbrook said...

"I predict that plenty of parents will choose for their kids to go to Jane Addams for 6th grade, thus helping with the overenrollment at Eckstein. It will be by choice, rather than forced."

Why is that? It's a big statement to make without explanation.

Fed Up,absolutely true. The district and the Board have ignored Eckstein for years (and that's because of their stellar staff). But you will not see the relief you seek opening JA Middle School next year. You won't.

I also note that the principals at both Hamilton and Eckstein have said they are willing to wait a year.

Anonymous said...

Melissa - Jane Addams has attracted a lot of students the last few years. I don't see why that can not continue. It is not just "wishful thinking." I've talked to plenty of parents who are interested in JAK8 for middle school. But there are others who don't, so keeping a choice for another year is fair for all.

I imagine many OH students going there. Let's say about half for about 20. You have to pass JA to get to Eckstein, so it's a no brainer. JR is right next to JA so lets say half again for another 20. SAC and OV stretch a little further south so lets say a few less that half for 15 and 25. WW is very close to JA at the north end so how about 15 from there. I'll bet a few come from ThCr - so I'll go with 15. So that's 110 students. There's 113 5th graders at OH, JR, and SAC right now, so that's a wash. Seems doable to me. It just takes a little effort.

-lots of fun