Sunday, February 17, 2013

Whiplash over at the Times

If you were someone who had moved to Seattle in the last year, you might be forgiven for trying to figure out what it is that the Seattle Times is doing in support of public school levies.

Most of the time, according to them, the district can't do anything right (and this is over, say, the last two years when, coincidentally, there has been a majority power shift on the Board and we have a new superintendent who has received tepid support from them).

First, the Times writes an editorial in support of them but with a lot of finger-wagging especially around leadership (and not, as you might suspect, around transparency of dollars spent).

Then the Times has an article on the levies that mentions only one group opposing BEX.  Meanwhile there have been at least three sets of people going against the BEX levy.  Three sets.   And yet, the Times, in its reporting, said there was only one (until today that is).  

Chris Jackins, a long-time district watcher, did mount a small-scale campaign against BEX and was the only one to put signs (which got a lot of notice) around the city.  He barely got a mention.  The group from Thorton Creek got more attention which is odd given Chris wrote the con side for the Voters Guide.

Then, just days before the election, they release a story on how the district spends more money on buildings than neighboring districts.  Again, the story is true but the timing is suspect.  (I'm not buying that it just happened to get done days before the election.) 

Then there's an op-ed Jan. 22nd in favor of the levies, then one on Feb. 10 against them.   That's two weeks between op-eds with the one against the levies coming just days before the election. 

Then, Lynne Varner at the Times, pens what looks like a hasty "no really, vote for the school levies" editorial statement on Feb. 11th (the day before the vote and after this blog asked the question "Does the Times want the levies to fail?).   What is amazing is that she really gets it right (for once) and even points out to readers who might not know, that school capacity is greatly influence by programs especially special education.

It makes sense then that Seattle plans to build elementary schools far larger than nearby districts with similar elementary-school enrollment. A wide spectrum of students means accommodating various learners and programs, for example, special education. 

The district’s special education enrollment is up, currently about 14% of the student body.  Physically bigger classrooms doesn’t necessarily mean cramming in more students, but rather offering a space that could accommodate a range of learners and teaching aides. The district’s vision for special education is to have a level of specialized services in every community. Larger buildings can better accommodate special education serves that require space, including physical and occupational speech or physical therapy.

To finish the cycle, the Times - today - has a story about the overcrowding at the schools.  Where was this story previously as this is the REAL the story of BEX?

What adds to the confusion is that the Times now says there was a few angry Eckstein parents.  A few?  Well, those few certainly tried to reach the many but the Times doesn't mention that.  In fact, the Times doesn't even name those parents.  What happened to reporting?

Key statements from the story:

“The next couple of years are going to be the hardest,” said Lucy Morello, the district’s director of capital projects.

Glad to hear that being acknowledged.

How fast Eckstein and other schools will get relief depends, in part, on whether the district decides to use some of its mothballed or half-full buildings as temporary sites while the new schools are being built.

One example is John Marshall, the now-empty former high school near Green Lake. Another is Lincoln High in Wallingford, which has room in addition to the space now used for one of the district’s advanced learning programs.

“The quicker we utilize those buildings, the quicker we can take some of the pressure off other schools,” said School Board Member Michael DeBell. 

I wish Director DeBell would be a graceful loser.  Nothing is going to change the interim plan for next year.  Wishing it had gone your way and trying to make statements like the above are going to change nothing.

Like Bagley Elementary near Green Lake, Rogers also has an old RV that’s been parked on the playground for more than 15 years. These days, the school uses it for small-group instruction in reading. If students do well, their reward is to sit in the driver’s seat.

Just sad.

I wish, as the newspaper of record in this city, that the Times would get its act together on this subject.  You can't blame voters or readers for being confused.  

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow. More special ed pity party. When did anybody give a rip about that? When was there ever a "vision" for special education? There's nobody employed there charged with a "vision". The fact is, you can only practice kick-the-can special ed, when you've got a piece of road to kick the can to. Right now, all buildings are full... so there's nowhere to push students into. Kick-the-can only works when you're at significantly less than 100% capacity in lots of places. What? Are they going to fill up Ranier Beach with special ed kids of all ages? That's one of the only places with plenty of room. Even SPS wouln't do that. And, to top it off, we now have the NSAP, a guaranteed assignment plan. Special ed studets are entitled to the same guarantee. Many are asserting that guarantee (like every other student), and the district caves every time.

Main point. There's no "vision" driving special education policy or placement. Special ed students are entitled to the same thing that every other student gets.

sped parent

Mary Griffin said...

@sped parent,
I agree. The district, the press, and the public need to stop acting like somehow special ed kids are "the problem," that somehow causes ballooning costs, or capacity needs that can't be met. Thirteen percent of all students are Special Ed. They should be planned for in capacity needs just like all students. Their needs aren't optional or extra in any way.

Anonymous said...

Gosh Mr. DeBell, one would think from your comments that you had vigorously supported the 5th grade APP at Lincoln and/or the 6th grade academy at Marshall ideas presented by the District as ways to manage capacity at Eckstein and Hamilton while the new buildings were being built, instead of your virtually-no-relief-for-Hamilton-or-Eckstein crusade to create a K-5 capacity problem in the NNE by starting JAMS a year earlier than necessary.
What a disingenuous coward you are.
-- still angry

Anonymous said...

I think the Seattle Times is undermining public education with its support of ed reform ideas and confusing articles about the levies. Coming out with the overcrowding story after the election was a disservice to readers. Constant sniping at the new board members and superintendent is nasty.

The Times did not get the hand it wanted in the last election. There is too much confidence in ed reformers like Bill Gates and not enough in the public.

The Seattle District has plenty to do to shore up its reputation, but a levy failure would have been terrible. Parents were smarter than the Times.

S parent

word said...

Well stated, S parent.

Disgusted with the Times said...

I wish the Seattle Times would give SPS a break and cover other districts in the area. How about Highline, Shoreline, Bellevue or Renton? Anyone under a microscope will fail.

Finally, the Times and it's constant negative reporting of the district undermines public education.