The big winner is K-5 at Boren, soon to be K-8 STEM at Boren.
The big loser is Pinehurst K-8, soon to be closed and clearly treated with bad faith.
APP breaks even, getting everything expected, most of it where expected, some of it in difficult spaces but with an extraordinary accommodation that should prove very beneficial in the long term.
There isn't likely to be much fighting over the boundaries, the fight will be over the transition plan that dictates who goes into interim sites, when, and for how long.
With regard to STEM, the District staff showed itself to be surprisingly reasonable and open to discussion. With regard to Pinehurst, the District staff showed itself to be dishonest and downright mean.
With regard to the APP sites, the District staff showed itself to be surprisingly thoughtful.
With regard to the transition plan the District staff showed itself to be timid, but politically savvy.
The Board, at every step, showed itself to be un-focused and a bit clueless.
Here's the presentation.
Some details and thoughts after the jump.
STEM at BorenThe K-5 STEM at Boren community didn't like the original plan for their school to re-locate to the Schmitz Park building. That building is too small for them now, doesn't allow for growth, and is too far north. They made an excellent case for remaining at Boren and expanding into a K-8. That would allow them room for growth, pull students out of Denny, and provide equity of access to alternative programs for students in the south end of West Seattle. District officials heard the argument, saw the sense of it, and agreed. This is an incredibly positive sign. This is evidence of a District process that actually did listen to the community and actually did change their plan when a good case was made.
Pinehurst K-8 (AS#1)Pinehurst K-8 loses everything. They lose their building, their program, and their dignity. After delivering a beat-down on Pinehurst at the Board presentation, I think Ron English is going to visit each member of the community at their homes to abuse them individually. The presentation included a series of slides that began with the lie that no decision has been made yet, although Mr. English said that the decision will be announced today. We're supposed to believe that the night before the announcement the decision still had not been made. Really? The slides then listed a number of ideas for where Pinehurst could go and a bumper-sticker rationale for why that solution won't work. It reminded me of the GEICO commercial featuring Dikembe Mutombo blocking shots. There was a grim sort of joy expressed in rejecting every one in a long series of ideas for saving Pinehurst. The District showed itself to be completely closed to any reasonable discussion of the fate of Pinehurst, but they are cruelly pretending to be open to talk. This is exactly the sort of bad faith that damages the District's credibility and public trust. Just be honest with people about what you are doing and why you are doing it.
Let's not kid ourselves, though. Pinehurst isn't working. People aren't choosing it. Other alternative schools are having no trouble attracting students, but Pinehurst's enrollment has not grown. Thornton Creek is bursting at the seams. Salmon Bay is fully enrolled. Jane Addams K-8, a school with no more assurance of continuation than Pinehurst, has grown dramatically. Pinehurst, on the other hand, is a K-8 with an enrollment of 150. But the staff didn't confront these facts directly. They didn't come right out and say "There isn't sufficient public demand for Pinehurst to justify continuing the program." Instead, they acted like they would like to keep the program, but - oh dear! - they can't find a building for it. That's just false. It's as false as their claim that they haven't decided yet.
APPThe APP recommendations fell out as expected in general terms: two north-end 1-8 pathways (Wilson-Pacific and Olympic Hills-Jane Addams), one south-end 1-8 pathway (Thurgood Marshall-Washington), and an alternative 1-8 pathway for West Seattle (Fairmount Park-Madison). This is exactly what we have been told to expect since presentations in April, May, and, especially, June. The predictable details - that Wilson-Pacific would be one of the north-end pathways and that Thurgood Marshall-Washington would be the south-end pathway - rolled out as expected. Even the choice of Jane Addams Middle School as the top half of the other norh-end pathway went as expected. The surprises were the other choices. In hindsight, though, they aren't really all that surprising when you realize the real key to APP placement - move no neighborhood student. APP is already in Thurgood Marshall and Washington, so those placements don't push anyone out. Wilson, Pacific, Fairmount Park, and Jane Addams don't have any students yet, so no one is pushed out of those schools. Olympic Hills is getting a big addition that will double the capacity of the school and APP students will go into the new seats there. Madison is under-enrolled and has space for the APP students who might choose it, and the students who might choose it probably all live in West Seattle anyway.
There was a pitch to make K-8 STEM at Boren the APP pathway, but it was rejected. The Fairmount Park-Madison pathway is no different from the other pathways - APP co-housed with an attendance area program. And, frankly, there's enough demand for STEM to fill the building without APP.
The Board noticed that some of the middle schools have five or six feeder schools while others have only two or three. You may have noticed that as well. The reason is APP. Because the District needs to allow for the possibility of as many as 500 APP students at Washington, the school can only draw from three elementaries: Thurgood Marshall, Leschi, and Muir. To allow for a large APP cohort at Pacific, that middle school only draws from Wilson and Northgate. Broadview-Thomson is also in the service area, but B-T is a K-8 and I don't know how many students will leave it for Pacific. Jane Addams, likewise, has only four feeder elementaries to allow space for the APP cohort in the building.
Oddly, the Board seemed surprised and upset by the split of the north-end APP cohort. You'd like they had never heard about this idea before. They heard about this in June and didn't blink. Have APP families been contacting them and saying that they want to keep the cohort together? This Board reaction was unexpected. But the Board didn't react to the elements of the plan that they should have found objectionable.
The Board is supposed to focus on policy and governance and is supposed to stay out of management and administration. The decision to split the APP cohort in the north is an administrative decision and the Board should stay out of it. The placement of those programs, however, needs to conform to policy. The policy that governs program placement is Policy 2200, Equitable Access to Programs and Services. That policy sets the priorities for program placement. Among them is this one:
3. Place programs or services where students reside;Take a look at the heat map for where APP students live on slide #44 of this presentation to the Board in April. The APP students don't live anywhere near Olympic Hills, which is at the northern city limit. The northeast elementary program should be much, much further south, closer to the hottest part of the heat map in the Sand Point attendance area. The political reality of not displacing neighborhood students with APP - which is NOT a criteria for program placement - has trumped proximity for students, which IS a board-directed priority. A compromise is available. The northeast APP location can be changed to Decatur. That building will hold 300+ students and is about halfway between the north and south edges of the draw zone. The Decatur building will be vacant when Thornton Creek moves into their new building, and it is already a K-5, so it will be available for immediate occupancy.
Strictly speaking, Jane Addams is also too far north, but there is no way to trim Eckstein's attendance area down to only two or three feeder elementary schools. That's a practicality that cannot be overcome.
Dr. Libros did note that in the south-end the middle school location closest to where the students live would have been Meany, rather than Washington, but, she noted, that would have create a dramatic demographic imbalance between the schools. This is absolutely true. If Meany were the APP site, then it could only have two or three feeder elementaries, and they would have to be Montlake, McGilvra, and Stevens. That would have concentrated a lot of affluent and White students in Meany while concentrating a lot of minority students from low-income homes in Washington. Under the proposal, Washington will be about one-third APP and two-thirds neighborhood students. This District projections assumes 130 APP students stay in West Seattle taking the alternative route to Madison. While I see the sense of this choice and I absolutely support it, it puts demographic balance - not a policy 2200 priority - over proximity - which is a policy 2200 priority.
The Board asked whether there was a decision made to co-house APP with attendance area schools rather than to co-house it with an option school or to create a stand-alone APP site. Mr. Tolley said that it was, in fact, a decision, but he didn't offer any rationale for that decision. When asked by the Board for a rationale for the decision he answered that the decision had been made earlier in the year (he didn't offer the name of the person who made the decision or their rationale).
The Transition PlanI don't expect a lot of fighting over the boundary changes - the changes are small and necessary. I don't even expect much fighting over the school and program changes (STEM, APP, Pinehurst). The fighting will be over the transition plan. Decisions need to be made about when the new schools will start and where they will start. Who will go into John Marshall and when will they go? Will Meany start at Van Asselt a year early or will it wait until Meany is ready? When will the West Seattle APP alternative start? The Staff gave the Board some choices - option 1 and option 2.
The Board should check itself. This is a perfect time for the Board to say "Our focus is policy and governance, not administration and management. The choices for the implementation of the transition plan are clearly administrative decisions, not policy decisions. Therefore we will not interfere with this decision, but delegate it to the superintendent and his staff." The Board should stay out of this fight entirely.