From the Times:
The candidates who were there had some tough talk for Seattle Public
Schools. State Sen. Ed Murray said if he were mayor, he would forge a
new partnership with the school district to increase the graduation
“The school district has to change,” he said, vowing to make
improvements in the graduation rate and how money is targeted — or, he
said, “Please yell at me and vote me out of office.”
Usually, the school district blames the state Legislature for district problems, so it was interesting to hear that.
Ed Murray is my senator and yes, I am a bit surprised to hear him say this. He hasn't said a lot about Seattle schools in any pre-mayor bid venue. His advocacy has been limited (and appreciated) to the Legislature. Without specifics, this isn't much (and I'm still waiting to interview him so we'll see).
Also, note to the Times, the district does not blame the Legislature for all its problems; just the funding ones.
Mayor Mike McGinn talked about his work on the Youth Violence
Initiative, and Harrell talked about problems with institutional racism.
And all the candidates were clear that out-of-school suspensions are a
problem, and the city needs a program to keep kids in trouble in school.
There were several speakers at this week's Board meeting about this issue of school discipline especially around suspensions and expulsions (especially well-done by Dr. Carol Simmons, a long-time - much, much longer than Charlie or me - public educator and advocate for at-risk students).
Then there was this:
In one interesting exchange, forum moderator Kwame Garrett — a
candidate for mayor himself in 2009 and the director of the Umoja Peace
Center — asked a leading question about the building where the forum was
hosted: the historic Horace Mann school near Garfield High School.
Seattle Public Schools owns the building and has money to remodel it and
put the Nova program back into it. Garrett, and most of the room it
seemed, are opposed to that plan. They’ve been using the building as a
community center and want to keep it that way. What would you do as
mayor about that?, he asked.
One by one, the candidates carefully spoke about compromise.
Socialist candidate Mary Martin was an exception; she said she’s ready
to fight the school district. “Sure,” she said. “I’ll march with ya. But
it’s gonna be a fight.”
Murray said he would seek a compromise that considered not just
school needs but community needs. Staadecker said the school district
has rights as the owner of the building, but perhaps something could be
worked out. Kate Martin said she would create “community schools” that
are schools during the day but open in the evenings and summers for
community use. McGinn said he would meet with the superintendent.
Only Harrell was willing to say just what the community didn’t want to hear.
“I don’t know if that’s the right thing right now,” he said. “I’m not sure this is the brick and mortar for our community.”
The Mann building has not been out of use as a school building for that long and I'm surprised at the expectation that any other use would be long-term. I agree with Kate Martin's idea about shared uses of school buildings (but that would likely preclude using it during school hours for anything other than a school).
But Harrell is also right about finding the right space for a community center. What might have been good - as was advocated awhile back - is to allow the MLK, Jr. building to be turned over to the community - not a private group - for community uses.