Friday, September 27, 2013

Horace Mann update

I attended the final meeting of the Horace Mann African-American Community Task Force this evening. The meeting was not as well attended as the last one I witnessed, but it was productive. They have a deal.

The ACIC is still in the building and operating, but they will leave peaceably so construction can begin. The District would like them out by the end of next week. You may be surprised to learn that they have not made any preparations to move. They haven't even begun to plan their exit. They asked if they could stay until December 31. The answer was no.

Africatown may lease space at Columbia or Van Asselt for a year and they may lease one of the portables at the Mann site until February. That remains to be seen. They don't want to cease operations, but I don't know if their financial resources will extend to leasing District property.

The deal, such as it is, was actually made between Mark Perry and the NOVA community and the Africatown community. The District is merely going along with it. In the deal, the ACIC will get dedicated space in the renovated Mann building for administrative offices and for storage. They will also get to use some of NOVA's space - classrooms and larger meeting space - when NOVA isn't there: before school, after school, weekends, and summers. That's when the ACIC programs will need the space anyway since their students are in school during the school day. Those will be shared space.

This deal, as I wrote, was struck between Africatown and NOVA. Wyking Garrett, and others, were very clear to say that they have no trust issues with the NOVA community. In fact, they praised Mark Perry and the NOVA community for reaching out and seeking partnership. The community does, however, distrust the District and they want something clear and in writing about what the District is committed to doing. The District has been vague and non-committal, not granting anything in writing nor promising anything that they wouldn't offer a stranger. The District is not giving Africatown anything. No space at Mann. NOVA gets it all as far as the District is concerned. NOVA can share if they want, but that comes from NOVA, not from the District.

Wyking Garrett made an important statement. The activities of the ACIC wants to see at the Mann building are district activities. The District has already stated their intent to engage families, to deliver culturally responsive curricula, and to provide professional development towards cultural competency. These are all things that the District says they want to do. These are all things that are in the Strategic Plan. The ACIC wants the District to commit to doing that work - instead of just talking about it - to do it at Mann, and to start doing it without delay. The ACIC wants to partner with the District on developing these programs and curricula. They believe that they have what the district needs to accomplish their goals. Will the District partner with them? Authentically? We'll see.

That work starts with the formation of the Success for African-American Students Advisory Committee (SAASAC) which the superintendent has directed his staff to form. The Advisory Committee will be charged with reviewing academic and disciplinary data for African-American students district-wide, looking at the curriculum for black history in America and making recommendations for programs. It's unclear if that charge includes the work that the ACIC wants to do with the District. It's unclear if the District will actually allow the Advisory Committee to do any of the work that they are charged with doing.

The immediate conflict is resolved. The District has yet another opportunity to build trust - or destroy it. The NOVA community has showed their open-handed generosity, their humanity, and their commitment to social justice. And the ACIC will have space for their programs at Mann.

Their programs include before-school and after-school educational programs, a summer educational program, some extra-curricular programs, a homeschool resource program, and community building activities.

22 comments:

mirmac1 said...

Sounds like a win-win! I wish them success in their endeavor.

Mary Griffin said...

Thanks for going to the meeting and providing an update.

I am really looking forward to the district following through on some of these issues. I'm not sure that the formation of yet another committee is the answer. The district has to make changes that matter in terms of cultural competency, disproportionate identification of black students for special education and disproportionate discipline this year. These are all issues that have been simmering a very long time. The issues of disproportionate identification of black students are also a point that the state is forcing the district to move on and one of the reasons that I believe they hired our new Executive Director of Special Education, whose expertise lies in that area. The issue of disproportionate discipline is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights. The district needs to make these types of issues a top priority.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm sorry but principals can now make outside deals on the space in their buildings? The State Auditor might want to remind the district that it would be considered "gifting" of public resources (as they did when a couple of principals allowed use of their buildings to outside entities without telling the district).

Or maybe Mark Perry is the fall guy. Maybe the district is allowing him to say this, fully knowing he has no power to allow anything in the building.

I note that Charlie doesn't mention rent or other costs. Troubling.

I believe this is a way for these groups - without a real partnership without a publicly visible plan - to try to keep their foot in the door.

I really wonder what it is that is keeping the district involved in this particular conversation (around Mann, not around their lack of progress around the achievement gap). I believe there is more to this than meets the eye.

I also don't believe it will end well.

That's just me.

Eric B said...

Actually, I think this fits in fairly well with the District's new policy on use of space in schools. It's now clear that PTAs can use space for free outside of school hours for school-related activities (clubs, enrichment, etc.) provided that it doesn't go beyond the hours when a custodian is normally in the building. The work that this group does would fall nicely into that category. I don't think the District even has to monkey with policies to make that happen.

The only possible sticky points are insurance and storage. I would think that principals can make decisions on what outside groups (such as PTAs or child care providers) can have what storage areas in the school. Insurance is trickier, but a NOVA PTA might be able to slip it in under their insurance.

Now that I think about it, the NOVA PTA could be the "manager" of the entire program and the District couldn't say boo about it.

Kudos to the NOVA community and Mark Perry for working out a deal.

mirmac1 said...

Naw, I see Mark Perry as the problem solver.

The district and ACIC must write up an MOU, formalizing this arrangement. I see this as not much different than any other "School-Community" partnership that the district professes to want. Except that rather than a LEV or Social Venture Partners, it's a real community effort.

Now, all that is needed is Gates to step up and hand over $500K, to a bonafide grassroots group, not one co-opted by $$$. Yeah, like that will ever happen.

joanna said...

Charlie, thank you for the update. I hope it works out. I assume that the agreement will include some type of standard use of facility agreement.

Anonymous said...

"The district has yet another opportunity to build trust". I have to say, what is the basis for trust with a group that has been illegally occupying a District building? They may be offering the best services possible, and their actions definitely got the attention of the district, but I'm skeptical that they won't just do this again if Nova determines they're not meeting the goals of the agreement.

Again, I think this creates a blueprint for any group trying to get the attention of the District. My kid is being forced to move out of her building next year - let's refuse to go and watch the District suddenly pay attention!

- Bad Precedent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Bad Precedent,my point exactly.

It's not the cause or the goal - it's the process. If the district does not follow its own process (and state law), then it's open season for anyone else.

mirmac1 said...

The state law cited in the audit was for joint usage involving youth sports.

Procedure 4260SP would seem to allow usage for "school-related activities" (including among others: PTA, Youth character-building activities such as Scouts, Campfire, Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA youth activities,and other organized youth club activities, approved student groups with local school affiliation etc) for no fee. This is for non-exclusive use during regular business hours.

Anonymous said...

But it's NOT a new precedent in Seattle. See the history of the Daybreak Star Center http://www.unitedindians.org/daybreak.html

Or El Centro DE La Raza http://www.elcentrodelaraza.org/AboutUs/history.htm
El Centro, by the way, was originally a SPS building so yes, there IS a precedent.

Then of course, there is the NW African American Museum. http://015ada3.netsolhost.com/History.html

Yes, all three were not in at the time. But does Seattle have a history of occupied buildings turning into cultural centers? Yes it does. And in the case of El Centro and Daybreak, the leaders of those occupations went on to be revered Seattle icons.

Whether or not one agrees, this method of getting attention and improvement for a community is NOT new.

History Buff

Anonymous said...

That should say "...not in USE at the time."

History Buff

Anonymous said...

Are weekends considered regular business hours?

HIMSmom

Melissa Westbrook said...

History Buff, no one is talking about turning Mann into something else. This is about building usage when the building is currently a school.

Mirmac, all the uses by these groups noted by Charlie are not covered under this policy. As well, the district has a very good home-school resource center. Why would it need to be duplicated?

TechyMom said...

I wonder why the groups didn't just contact NOVA in the first place? That's what I would have done. But, I know I'm working from a place of insider privilege, assuming people will receive my ideas positively. I'm curious about what the thinking was here, and whether this idea came up. Can someone help me understand?

mirmac1 said...

I reread Charlie's post and haven't yet divined where the planned uses are not "school-related". Unless the difference is between those being offered now versus those promised by some unnamed other later.

Techy Mom, if you knew in advance of a space receiving a new tenant, would you approach that tenant? or would you engage the landlord directly? Or, in the case of SPS, would you approach some wealthy benefactor? Unfortunately, that is where we find ourselves in this town... I dunno!

Carol Simmons said...

Charlie,
Thank you for attending this meeting. I am not one bit surprised that the NOVA students would share the Mann building. Nor am I surprised that they would not be graciously received by the ACIC students. Given support from the District this shared building arrangement with combined classes and cultural curriculum could be offered. The students have never been the problem. Now, let's dust off the Disproportionality Task Force Recommendations and implement them. We recommended these strategies in the eighties.......they have never been implemented in the Schools.

Anonymous said...

Melissa,

The home school resource center only supports K-8. They dropped high school support. My daughter attended Nova last year but wanted to home school this year. They offered nothing except a recommendation for Insight (Aventa) online. Nothing local. Nothing face to face.

Westside

Unknown said...

They are squatters that have already delayed the construction process. They never had a lease with the District and based on their behavior they never should.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like an efficient use of the building and an exercise in community building. Why are people making mean comments?

L

Mamos206 said...

Melissa,
Why are you so dead set against everything the Africatown folks are doing? What is your agenda here? You write: "if the district does not follow its own process (and state law), then it's open season for anyone else." This sounds like a law and order conservative argument. By that logic, would you say that the segregated southern schools should not have allowed sit ins and protests against segregation because those protests were illegal, and they might encourage other illegal activities? Or that the LAPD and LAUSD administrators were correct in beating up and arresting Chicano/Chicana students who illegally walked out in 1968 protesting corporal punishment and bans on Spanish in the classroom? Where would our schools be today if these folks had not taken direct action? As a good Seattle liberal, I imagine you've attended plenty of Martin Luther King day events and celebrated the man's legacy. But the same things you are saying now about the ACIC were said about him in his lifetime.

Clearly there is a lot of support for the ACIC efforts among the Nova community. This disproves Charlie Mas's previous argument that the occupation would be alienating to the Nova community: https://creativitynotcontrol.wordpress.com/2013/09/08/response-to-the-debate-about-the-acic-on-save-seattle-schools-blog/. It seems that the Africatown folks' courageous actions have actually inspired some NOVA folks to try to live up to the values they themselves profess: https://creativitynotcontrol.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/statement-by-nova-staff-and-families-educational-justice-at-the-horace-mann-building/

Ed Lambert said...

On this thread, the primary argument that I am hearing is that 'this sets a bad precedent' because other communities may copy this tactic.

Given that the district has years of precedence institutionally disregarding the needs of specific communities, it is entirely appropriate for communities to disregard the statutory authority of the district in order to get those needs met.

Those of you that follow the district closely have seen countless examples of the district's failure to take accountability for miscalculations such as the 2009 demographics/closure debacle.

Perhaps it would have been BETTER for the district had the ACIC's approach been used to prevent the closure of Meany, AAA, Summit, Whitworth, etc? Perhaps it should be used to stop the closure of AS#1/Pinehurst?

Over the years, how many great ideas from within communities have withered because of being ignored by the district?

Access to power is tightly and inequitably controlled. IMO, it is a good thing if communities can creatively leapfrog those structures to instantiate their own great ideas.



Anonymous said...

Thank you, Charlie for this accurate account of the last task force meeting, and thank you, Ed Lambert, for your excellent suggestions. To Ed's list, I would add the effort to get TT Minor re-opened as a neighborhood school as an excellent place for the ACIC approach to be used, if necessary.

Leith Kahl