I feel this is an important part of the discussion and find no fault with concern on the part of any parent. But when you pit school against school, it does no good. The fine regional group cited in the message is no more but I believe each region should have its own group just to prevent this kind of distrust and unhappiness.
To note: this blog hears from many parents on many topics. If you are planning something at your school or region and believe no one outside the school or region will find out, you'd likely be wrong. It might make sense to step back and ask yourself, "How would this look to outside eyes?"
Mr. Elliot's Message:I want to inform you today about an ongoing discussion regarding the Growth Management draft proposals from Seattle Public Schools and it’s impact on Queen Anne schools in particular. I am writing this for our QAE school community but with the understanding that it will very likely be read by a wider audience. Because of that I am struggling with the content. I am well aware that just about anything written can be understood in different ways and used by others in ways the writer did not intend. However, I have been dismayed that the discussion about the draft recommendations has taken a negative tone in our community and my intention is that this letter will help reverse that.
First, if you are unaware of this discussion I apologize for bringing you into it and you may feel free to stop reading here and go on about your day.
Given that, I want to begin with a statement that my intention with this letter is absolutely to reconcile and not to inflame. If I state something as fact you obviously know that it is how I see it personally and professionally as Principal of Queen Anne Elementary. I will not attempt to argue for or against any point of view, just that we need to be civil, respectful and truly believe that all of us have the best interests of our schools and our children at heart. Years ago I had the privilege of meeting John Stanford when he was the Superintendent of our school district and he shared something with our small group that has stayed with me years later. He spoke about how in his life he believed he had to take every conversation, every interaction at face value. If someone complimented him he took it to heart and would not look for some ulterior motive or wonder if they were trying to get something from him. If someone said “I love you” he embraced it and if someone had something negative he had to try to understand and solve it if he could. The interesting part is that I got to see evidence that he did live that philosophy out. I shared the story of this discussion with a friend and soon thereafter my friend walked into an elevator occupied by Mr. Stanford and his son. My friend is not shy and felt the need to test my story so he turned, looked at him and said, “Mr. Stanford, I love you.” Without hesitation and with nothing on his face but appreciation the reply was “Thank you, I love you too.” I’ve lived with that memory for many years and certainly have not lived by it as I wish I could but I hope the spirit of that can be alive in any of our discussions about what’s best for our schools, our children and our community.
Our school community of Queen Anne and Magnolia has worked closely together for many years, with that cooperation aided by an organization called Successful Schools in Action that served us for about six years. The collaboration between schools was intentional and included principals, teachers and parent organizations. We shared resources, programs and space. When overcrowding issues came up about six years ago and we disagreed with the district proposal the principals developed a solution of our own that included Coe adding a new kindergarten instead of John Hay because of the negative impact another classroom would have had on Hay. I believe that evidence is abundant that our community has a history of working together and that I personally have been committed to that collaboration. I am certainly willing to be involved again.
When the draft proposal for the Growth Management was announced it began discussions for all of us. Every school has been touched by it in some way, either being included or not being included in the recommendations. At QAE we looked at a proposal of 525 students and a significant high needs population on this site and have many questions. The buildings we live in were deemed unsuitable for an elementary school almost thirty years ago and a few bathrooms, Wi-Fi, an elevator and some new floors do not change the basic nature of the buildings and site. Those concerns are of paramount importance to us, to our students and concerns we will be discussing among our community in the weeks and months ahead. I have asked for a site visit from facilities leadership so they can see for themselves our concerns about spaces. At other schools in our region the issues are different but just as real and just as timely.
My concern is how these issues have been addressed. As we were beginning our own QAE discussions it came to my attention that the Coe community was suggesting that changes be made to our Option School status in an attempt to alleviate the overcrowding on Queen Anne. While there may be some merit to this suggestion I was completely taken by surprise that this was advocated in the public forum of the Growth Management feedback sessions and then through a postcard campaign to Superintendent Banda. While I would be willing to meet and discuss this proposal I am stunned that this was done without any engagement with me personally as the leader of Queen Anne Elementary or with our greater community. I believe my history will show that I am willing to collaborate and communicate. I will meet with anyone in any forum to discuss this—I simply ask to be included.
I believe the paragraph above is factual and I want to move on from here without rancor, without name calling, without blame and with a deep belief that we all care about our kids, all our kids. I gave ten years of my life to the students and community of Coe and I still care deeply for the staff, many of whom I hired, and for the parents I developed relationships with. If you don’t know us at QAE I can assure you that our focus is to provide the best possible environment for every child who walks through our doors—to love them and support their academic, social and emotional growth while they are with us. I know the same is true at Coe, John Hay, Blaine, Lawton and McClure. If you are interested in finding out what kind of people we are, what we believe about kids, what we believe about education—you are welcome to visit at any time and come to your own conclusions about our school.
I believe the first step is to continue to inform our QAE community about the realities of our school site, the data that SPS is using to make decisions and long-term projections for our school. We have created a page on our website that reviews the available data. You can review it here.
I will invite a discussion if one is needed about the issues facing us, with the deep understanding that we all care for our own schools and for the greater community of schools in Seattle.Q