Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bad Priorites -> Bad Process -> Bad Results

I have never asked the school district to do anything that they didn't promise to do. The fact that I have to ask them to do things so often is a testament to how rarely they do what they promise they will do.

We hear - all the time - about how there is a division of authority with the Board focusing exclusively on policy and governance work while the administration and management decisions are delegated to the superintendent. If that were true, then the school assignment decisions should never have been subjected to a Board vote. Drawing attendance area boundaries is clearly an administrative or management decision - not a policy decision - and should have been delegated to the superintendent. Policy 3130 is nearly all that the Board should have to say about student assignment.

One mistake leads to others. Putting it before the Board for a vote made it a political decision. The more political the decision, the less it is based on data and reason, the more it is influenced by factors other than data and reason, and the poorer the quality of the decision,

The Board should have delegated the decision to the superintendent from the start. The only thing they need to add to the policy would be a reminder to the superintendent to live up to the District's stated values like transparency and community engagement, and to direct him to comply with laws and policies. But since the entire thing was going to culminate in a Board vote, and since Board votes are political decisions, the data, the reason, and all of those values and rules became subordinate to the political process. The staff didn't need to adhere to data or reason, they didn't need to be transparent or engaged, they didn't need to adhere to policy, because the whole thing would be dumped in the Board's lap in the end and the Board would be responsible for all of it. That's part of the reason that community engagement for the decisions was poorly conducted when it wasn't completely non-existent. The Board's charge to the superintendent should have put more emphasis on talking to the people who are directly impacted by the decisions.

This could have been done well if it were not politicized. It could have been done well if the focus had been placed where it belonged instead of on the politics.

A de-politicized process could have started with a round of meetings held with one to three school communities at a time to inform them of the issues and to gather their input. Smaller meetings with a narrower focus would facilitate a deeper conversation in which the staff could have described the needs, the facts, and the factors that shape the problem and must be addressed by the solutions before any decisions were made. Smaller meetings could also have provided the community with an opportunity to provide better input, more clearly express the unique factors in their area, their needs, their wants, and their concerns, to gain an understanding of the requirements for a solution, and to not only feel like they are active participants in forming that solution, but to actually be active participants in forming that solution. These meetings would have been focused on communicating the needs and generating some ideas for solutions that meet the requirements of the problems.

Then, as the staff researched possible solutions, they could have stayed in close communication with the impacted communities, keeping them informed about the solutions as they were developed, and continuing to gather their input, the benefit of their collaboration, and allowing them to continue to feel involved in the development of the solution. All of these meetings would be smaller, calmer, and more conversational. Think of the "Let's Talk" meetings that Tracy Libros held. They weren't filled with demonstrations or drama. They felt collaborative. People around the table kicked in to help form workable solutions.

Then, after the solutions were formed and the decisions were made, there could be a final round of meetings - held in the same small groups - to present the decisions. These meetings, like those before, would be conversational. Members of the community who participated in the process would be present to say how their needs, wants, and concerns were addressed. There would be buy-in because the people impacted by the decision would be invested in the decisions because they helped to craft them. There wouldn't be the sort of uninformed, knee-jerk opposition or bumper-sticker sloganeering in opposition because people would be informed, they would know the larger needs, would have had a chance to think things through, and would have a sense of the context.

Instead, the process was political from the start because everyone knew that it would be political in the end. Therefore they handled it as a political process: there were mass meetings where no one felt heard, decisions that fell out of the sky without any explanation, and then sudden reversals of those decisions with no explanation.

An example of how the politicized process failed to deliver a good decision, consider the middle school assignment of students living in the Wedgwood attendance area.

The first version of the plan didn't include any change in the Wedgwood middle school assignment, and the families there didn't participate much in the process. They didn't feel any need to participate because they didn't feel that it impacted them. Same for the second version. Then, in a third version, presented very shortly before the Board vote, the middle school assignment for Wedgwood was changed. Then this community exercised their political muscle.

A vocal group of Wedgwood families didn't want their children to be assigned to the new Jane Addams Middle School because it was too far away (just over two miles). Instead, they wanted the District to assign other children to that school, students who lived six to eight miles away. Someone should have talked to them like adults, but that never happened. Instead, they were handled like children throwing a tantrum, and handled badly. The District gave them the slice of cake they wanted and put 300 other children on a long bus ride.

And who did that for them? The Board. Two members of the Board wrote an amendment to the plan which usurped the superintendent's authority to place programs and services, and the rest of the Board adopted it. Worse, they did it without any community engagement at all, they did it in violation of their program placement policy, and they did it without regard for the data. Had this decision not been politicized that could never have happened.

I'm a little hard on the Wedgwood families, but I don't blame them. They were set up to behave that way. While they didn't consider the impacts on anyone but themselves and their children, their reaction to Version 3.0 was as much to the suddenness of the change in plan as to the changed plan. What else could their reaction be other than outrage and righteous indignation? If someone had met with them from the start and began the conversation with "We need to assign about 900 middle school students to Jane Addams. Here are the rules that guide our work. Here is the data on where students live. Please work with us to determine middle school assignments in the northeast." I think we would have seen a better solution with less drama.

This is just one example. There are many. The decision to make Dearborn Park an option school with a language immersion program was made without talking to the Dearborn Park community at all. Not once. Not at all. The gerrymandering of the Washington attendance area was done to appease opposition. Mercer and Aki Kurose swapped Wing Luke and Hawthorne for rather poor reasons, but when Hawthorne went back to Mercer it was, inexplicably, Kimball that came out and it went to Washington instead of Aki Kurose. That made no sense.

The District's process was designed around the knowledge that it was a political decision, first and foremost. As a result, it became a warped process to suit a warped set of criteria.

For contrast, regard the series of meetings that Director Carr held with families in her district to find reasonable solutions to small changes in their attendance areas. While these meetings and decisions came very late in the process, they are examples more like of the sort of process that should have been followed from the beginning and they resulted in a better outcome. You didn't see anyone protesting her amendments at the meeting, did you?

While you may not think well of the process that I have outlined here, the point is that the process is a manifestation of the political nature of the decision and that a less politicized decision would result in a less political process which would deliver better results. The decisions for next year have been made. The political process calls for these decisions to be re-fought for each of the next six years. That's six chances for the Board to do the right thing and delegate the decisions to the superintendent.


Anonymous said...

Amen. Couldn't have said it better, Charlie.

-District, do your job

Anonymous said...
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BS on WW walking said...

Anonymous at 10:30, not much of Wedgwood attendance area is actually across the street from Eckstein. I suggest you look at a boundary map. Regardless, your tantrum worked so you should probably be quiet and express some sympathy for the kids you are getting yanked from HIMS and Eckstein.

Greenwoody said...

I understand what you are saying, but I think it is unrealistic. The Board's job is to provide democratic oversight to the school district's operations. School boundaries are a fundamental aspect of how our schools operate, and given the high level of importance placed on them by parents, it's a certainty that the Board will get involved. I also think it is appropriate for them to get involved, since they are the people's representatives.

One can and perhaps should question how this played out. It seems to me there were better ways for the staff to handle this and for the Board to handle this. But I don't think it's realistic to expect the Board would act as a rubber stamp, nor do I think they ought to do that. We live in a democracy and we the people do have a right to make these decisions, either ourselves or in this case through our elected representatives.

Much must change the next time boundaries are adjusted. I am sure there are things SPS can learn from other districts up and down the West Coast. The Board will be involved in this and have the final say, as they appropriately should. I hope and expect they'll find a better way to do that,

Anonymous said...

Amen to that, Charlie. This is what the Seattle PTSA should be using as the basis for the next campaign, and if they are smart, they will start that campaign NOW for next year's arguments, to try and get that better process in place in time.


joanna said...

Even it were in the Superintend's purview, more time with communities and real conversations with communities about the various details of how things actually play out is necessary. Portland has taken two years. This means outreach to the communities, not just with current parents who may rightfully act to protect their child's right to be grandfathered or guaranteed a pathway and not have the time to be concerned with the experience of future students. Certainly the experiences of parents of current and past students should inform the process, but the families who will live with the plans, along with community members who understand the how profoundly community stability and cohesiveness is affected by a neighborhood school or a lack of one should be actively engaged.

Anonymous said...

Nicely said.

It was very difficult to advocate for a Spectrum feeder school for JAMS, when the opposition was so loud and so highly - political.

Some politicians seemed to have forgotten that their District includes Lake City, as well as Wedgwood.

Northenders are not very happy with the politicians, or the Board members, that many of us, too, voted into office.

The least they could have done is put Wedgwood back into bed with Eckstein via an amendment, which would at least have had to pass board approval, but they wimped-out on that, too.

- North-end Mom

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...


What you are describing sounds like what happens with appointed school boards in New York and Chicago. The community is patently ignored by appointed directors.

Why do we elect directors to represent different districts if not to provide a means of democratic input?

Ann D.

Anonymous said...

A good part of Wedgwood AA is actually closer to JAMS than to Eckstein. It's been said before, and I agree, current school feeder patterns don't make sense.
But then again, is the new SPS plan that does?
--Nonsense rules

-sorry for the bad grammar! said...

thank you for this, charlie. last nights board meeting caused my heart to sink. I am sad that the board gave attention to the loud kid in the class instead of the other good kids doing their hard work quietly. I am disappointed that the Superintendent didn't just put his foot down. I am sad that the growth boundary info- wasn't printed in any other languages.
i live in the wedgwood reference area. the wedgwood parents at the meeting do not speak for me. i live above 85th and I want my kid to go to JAMS so that she can be a part of a budding program that will undoubtedly get lots of programming immediately. I am psyched because my child is at Sacajawea and will (hopefully) feed into Jams ( if not maybe I can opt in?). I am disappointed in the wedgwood community for being so quickly against being pulled from Eck.I am offended by that. think big people. what you don't realize that the incubation of Jams is already happening at JAK8- many selected it for middle school this year and you can see the community is already being built, and it is an amazing thing. My middle schooler is happy as a clam there- I hear the new principal is great and it's going to be better than just 'fine'. and hey, we have the APP parents so you know, the needs of the school will be heard. a growing community is exciting, i just enjoyed watching it at jak8- each year the auction got bigger, the people got excited, the sky's the limit for what it can and will be. we think we have problems? think about the people who had no voice in this- they are your neighbors too- just 1 mile away.

cpvmac said...
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Wishing4BetterDistrictLeadership said...

Great piece, Charlie. I can't believe parents and taxpayers don't have any recourse to this obvious bad faith action on the part of District "leaders". This, in so many critical ways, violates the District's Strategic Plan, the assurances the Superintendent has made - in writing - to student programs and groups, and McCleary. For those of us who do not want to continue to watch the District squander funds and resources and mismanage the school district, but who also do not want to give up on public education, what are we to do? And I HATE that the District is pitting schools and parents against one another in a scramble for fairness. What can we do?

aparent said...

to "-Sorry" : I loved the optimistic tone of your letter, but I must dissuade you of one misconception. Your words "and hey, we have the APP parents so you know, the needs of the school will be heard" .... let me assure you that the District treats APP very very poorly. The public perception is that APP kids have it good. They are just kids with different learning styles but the same issues that kids have everywhere. But the District throws us under the bus every time someone has to move or be split up. We do not get any additional funding for programs, we get less per capita than at any other school in the district. Just to be clear.

Skills said...

The political meddling of the Board doesn't help, but why do you think the district staff would do any better and be less political if the Board was less involved?

My understanding is that the capacity planning office does not even use a demographer. My understanding is that much of the staff doing capacity planning was not hired based on expertise and is overwhelmed by the task. My understanding is that a lot of the decisions on capacity are political calculations made by district administration staff, often attempting to appease various interest groups, not providing capacity and expanding successful programs where it is needed (especially in the north).

You say this is entirely because of the Board, but nothing you say would correct any of it. The Board would have to not only delegate the decision to the superintendent, but also fire the superintendent if the superintendent failed to run a competent organization. There would have to be real, serious, and swift consequences for failing to follow policy, without that nothing will change.

Anonymous said...

I have a different take.
I can find nowhere in the entire USA where boundary changes and a worse case: school closures aren't hideously divisive.


There are always winners and losers in these decisions. Does not matter what process you come up with.

I do not dispute that this process was uglier than necessary. Better answers were available. Still, there would have been pain.

Anyhow, the root cause of the issue looks different than yours.

Strong Community>Weak Downtown Planning>Weak Superintendent>Weak Board>Bad Results


mirmac1 said...

reposting my comment. I feel it is necessary for parents to have an avenue (talk to the board) when district staff ignores them, which has been pretty much the case since I can remember.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree that it's hard to believe the outcome would have been substantially better w/o Board input. Maybe "slightly" less politicized but that's doubtful - such sweeping changes will always have some of that kind of behavior/backroom deals feeling.

I know it's total heresy but there have been more than one day recently when I wondered if it was time to just bite the bullet and find a way to split up SPS into separate districts (north, central, south) - though yes, I know. There's no easy way - it just seems to big, too unwieldy and far far too dysfunctional to continue as is. Though maybe it's really the dysfunctional part that really matters. What a circus.

Anonymous said...

Apparent, APP does get some state AL funding. The per capita funding comment is misleading in that you need to look at the SPED, ELL, FRL populations in the school makeup. Those populations get extra fed and state dollars beyond basic ed. Suggest you take a quick look at your school's demographics first, then look at your school WSS and budget.

another APPer

SB said...

Bravo Charlies. Well said. This Boundary plan is not based on logic and what is best for kids. It is based on the parents that whined the most and screamed the loudest to school board directors to get their way (like some Wedgewood parents) and in some cases to raise their own property values. It is not based on what is best for all students.

If you speak with district staff in the enrollment planning department like I have they will tell you that this boundary plan makes no sense. It is an illogical plan based on elected officials (school board directors) pandering to the screamers and whiners in their communities to get themselves re-elected.

The board should not have voted on this as it became an illogical decision based on getting themselves re-elected. The enrollment planning department should have made the decisions with the superintendent’s approval only. They know what they are doing

Also, most people don't realize that the elementary changes in NE Seattle won't even happen until the new NE elementary schools are built, which won't happen until fall 2017. So some schools will continue to be overcrowded for years to come while others will be under enrolled. This was a change the board made to the timeline based on the screaming parents. Enrollment planning wanted to make some shifts from overcrowded schools to under enrolled schools before 2017, but not anymore thanks to the school board and the screamers

Lori said...

What else could their reaction be other than outrage and righteous indignation? If someone had met with them from the start and began the conversation with "We need to assign about 900 middle school students to Jane Addams. Here are the rules that guide our work. Here is the data on where students live. Please work with us to determine middle school assignments in the northeast." I think we would have seen a better solution with less drama.

This, Charlie, a thousand times this! When they voted in January 2013 to delay JAMS until fall 2014 because they needed time to plan for success, why didn't this happen?! That time has been squandered.

Why didn't the conversations about roll-up versus geographic split happen in the spring of 2013 rather than as a frantic part of a rushed process this fall?

Why didn't we as a district, as a broader community, have any idea at all about what starting a new middle school should look like and require from stakeholders?

Why didn't the communities in close proximity to JAMS get brought into conversations months ago, knowing that anyone within a certain distance of the school would be likely to go there?

I want JAMS to succeed. I'm cautiously optimistic that there is still enough time to make it an attractive option that families will choose with enthusiasm instead of trepidation at open enrollment. But did they have to put us all through the ringer to get to this point? Wouldn't it have been nice to lay the groundwork up front and get us all to buy in *before* embarking on what turned out to be a tortuous and torturous process that pit us all against each other?

I need a few days to recharge, but, after that, I am looking forward to doing whatever I can to make JAMS successful. All of our kids deserve nothing less.

Anonymous said...
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apparent said...

"Apparent, APP does get some state AL funding."

Another APPer,

Just to avert any confusion, posting here mainly to say that I did not write the comment signed by the new moniker 'aparent' just above at 11.24 a.m., and that I always sign my name just like the word with both Ps and in lower case. Any hope the poster above could maybe throw in an upper case letter or something so we don't always get mixed up?

While I'm here, although it's not why I posted, doesn't the state funding for advanced learning all go towards identification (i.e. testing, etc.) and transportation, but none into the classroom?

signed: the original "apparent"!

Anonymous said...

Yes, none in the classroom. I have been wondering if the state highly capable funds have any directives attached to them, or if they are allowed to just be used for testing and transportation like this.


joanna said...

My concern is that when a process is so fast and so political that it discourages many families and community members from being involved. The details of exactly how it would play out for comment did not begin until September for passage in November. It does not lead to many feeling that they have the time or energy to be involved.

It is sort of like voting. Cynicism leads to people not voting. Constant dysfunction discourages people. Long ballots and candidates that are not well-liked or well-known all discourage voting. Among those who become discouraged are the many who could be real contributors. But, it is not in every body's nature to do the politics at any level.

Amy, formerly known as aparent, sorry for confusion said...

Robert Vaughn emailed me last year in response to my question about this, that all extra state funds to towards testing. Therefore, I was surprised to read, in the District's most recent grant for the extra funding, the following language (page 5 of the grant): Allocations for the highly capable program are based upon providing an additional 2.1590 hours per week of instruction for a class size of 15 student FTE......" Now this language is taken from the Joint Committee report on McCleary. (McCleary describes our kid's constitutional right to education, and what an adequate education should be. Those Civil Rights are being Deferred, by the way. )

Anonymous said...

To clarify -

All of the communities near JAMS were encouraged to participate months ago. There is a design team with JAMS future families on it that started last spring. There was a community meeting at the Jane Addams building on Nov. 7th so people could meet the principal and see the building design team's work. This meeting was after Oct. 17th when the proposal was presented by the district to use JAMS as a N Seattle APP site and, I'm quite sure, was announced on this blog and the school district sent an email out to JAMS area families directly.

For any of you now interested in participating in a conversation about the design/programming of JAMS, there is a blog for that purpose at:

JAMS area parent

Charlie Mas said...

Isn't it the Board's job to get involved in a matter with so much public interest?

No. It isn't. The Board's job is policy and governance. Their role should end with setting the policy. If they think that the superintendent mucked it up then they should express that in his performance review.

They are the people's representatives, but this should not be a politicized process or a matter of majority rule.

If the Board restricted themselves to policy and governance issues they would not necessarily become a rubber stamp. First, they could aggressively engage those issues (which they have neglected) by really discussing policy fully and by enforcing that policy. They don't do either of these things. Second, they would not be a rubber stamp if they really demanded accountability from the superintendent. Their management oversight is almost completely absent as well.

Not meddling in administration and management is not synonymous with rubber stamping those decisions.

Other districts don't have such a politicized process. We shouldn't either.

joanna said...

FYI The last amendment passed unanimously. Families south of E. Madison, north of E. Cherry, and east of 14th will be assigned to Madrona in 2014.

joanna said...

my last comment with some further explanation should be on the other thread.

Charlie Mas said...

Skills raised a great question:

"The political meddling of the Board doesn't help, but why do you think the district staff would do any better and be less political if the Board was less involved?"

The removal of Board politics would not completely remove external politics from the equation and would still leave the possibility of overwhelming influence by the internal politics of the district staff. What about that?

Good point.

This is where the Board would have a role - in policy enforcement and management oversight. If the Board were strong and consistent with policy enforcement and management oversight, then the staff would not fear external political consequences and we would see some relief from the crushing weight of the internal politics that dictate every decision in Seattle Public Schools.

It is up to the Board and the superintendent to quash the influence of the internal politics of the JSCEE. Their failure to do so is their greatest failure. If the Board wants to get active and involved, that's how they should do it.

Anonymous said...


District outreach to the communities closest to JAMS has been sporadic, at best. After the transition plan vote last winter, all things JAMS-related went dormant, until parents started writing in, asking what were the plans for JAMS, when would we have our planning principal, when would the SDAT be formed, etc...

Then, in May, I believe, an email letter was sent out to the families of John Rogers, Olympic Hills, Sacajawea, and Olympic View, informing us that JAMS would be opening for 2014-15, that they would soon be hiring the planning principal, etc...

Towards the end of last school year, another email went out requesting SDAT members for the JA building repurposing project. The SDAT met several times over the summer. There was a design-reveal meeting earlier this month.

The JAMS planning principal was hired over the summer, and worked with the SDAT.

The SDAT team focused on the building re-purposing, and not on programmatic issues. Those types of discussions were being put off until the boundary decisions were made, and they knew who would be assigned to the school.

From month to month (or week to week, at times), the feeder pattern would change. John Rogers and Olympic Hills were pretty much guaranteed a ticket to JAMS, but at first we thought the feeder pattern was going to include Olympic View and Sac, then it was just John Rogers and Olympic Hills (with APP), then Wedgwood and Sac were put in, then Wedgwood was taken out. APP was in, then out, then in again. It was incredibly difficult to form any kind of advocacy group for JAMS with so much flux.

- North-end Mom

Anonymous said...

I personally think that JAMS will be better off without the WW contingent in the long run. We have a kid there now, and are not a typical white family, and I do not connect with most of the parent community there at all. The majority seem very focused on their immediate needs, they ignore the SPED kids at the school, and there is real division between Spectrum and non Spectrum families, which has gotten downright nasty at times. I cannot imagine that they would react any better to other communities that were not exactly like them.

If this particular group of parents were forced to send their kids to a school that they wrongly thing of as less desirable, then I fear they would carry over this same small mindedness and divisiveness that is currently in their own school.

JAMS will have enough on their plate without having this bunch stirring up trouble. Our solution is to move to the Eastside at the end of the year, as we have had it.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Reposting for Anonymous breaking the rules.

Frequent Reader

Anonymous said...
All decisions made by Senior Administration at SPS are based on politics, personal financial or career gain, who is friends with whom, who walks the most popular line, etc. Decisions are not made based on logic, what's best for the kids/community, knowledge or experience, research, etc.

Nearly every day there are events that are created or occur within SPS Senior Administration that are questionable, illogical, secretive, and downright sneaky. Integrity does not exist in this organization.

Is anyone really surprised when new issues are brought forward? NO!

Rehasing the same issues and corruptions within this district will not bring change. It takes a village.............

HIMS2JM2WP said...

Is Chris Cronas the planning principal for WP still? Is he the person for elementary and middle, just middle? Thanks.

Carol Simmons said...

Thank you to Director Peaslee for her amendment of combining the Indian Heritage SchoolProgram with AS1. Thank you to Directors McClaren, Patu, Smith-Blum and Carr for supporting this necessary and important amendment. Now, AES 1 will be able to continue their extremely effective Program and the Indian Heritage School will be revitalized and returned to its sacred site at Licton Springs. Our School Board is to be commended for insuring equity for so many underserved students.

Anonymous said...

So was the big rift between Spectrum and gened resolved to any degree by cluster-grouping a couple of years ago? Do you have any info on how rigor is at the school now vs. before eliminating self-contained Spectrum?


Anonymous said...

i saw this in the comments after the article in the Times;

Can someone please point me to a succinct list of decisions that were taken? This article is a little light on those details, and when I tried to figure it out from my head almost exploded.


Sorry to say, but I am having the same experience. When I read these amendments one at a time, I cannot see the big picture, including where my 5th grader will be next year.

Does anyone know where a summary of the decisions may be found? A map of the exact boundaries that passed?



Anonymous said...

I'm with reader47. This proves it's time to split the district.

Mag mom

Anonymous said...

My observation:

For such a contentious process there isn't much being posted in today's aftermath. Why? Because Eckstein got its way.

It's back to being a not-crowded island of insulated, largely white, largely economically privileged happiness. The Bryant, Ravenna, Wedgwood, View Ridge neighborhoods are gulping deep breaths of the sweet air of Manifest Destiny and note that life today doesn't seem so bad.

Oh sure, it might have to take a couple of APP kids back into its mix, but it doesn't have to host the program and those kids come from the "right" families anyhow.

Yes, welcome to the neighborhood where we focus on Us! And only Us! Aren't we glad we're Us!

We won't hear another peep out of the entire region until high school lines get drawn and someone gets their nose out of joint for not going to Roosevelt.

Meantime the rest of us have communities to build and ground-up learning to address. We'll be busy for the next decade or so. Probably no time to socialize, but since we weren't on the invite list with the rest of Us! that is ok.

Northeast Unpopular

Melissa Westbrook said...

Wishing, you said:
"For those of us who do not want to continue to watch the District squander funds and resources and mismanage the school district, but who also do not want to give up on public education, what are we to do? And I HATE that the District is pitting schools and parents against one another in a scramble for fairness. What can we do?"

Ah, the big question that Charlie and I have struggled with for years.

One, keep asking questions and get answers. The more the district realizes that yes, they WILL have to listen, the more they get used to it. Don't let it be the usual suspects.

Two, find an area that really matters to you and learn about it. You don't have to know everything about the district. But be able to speak with some knowledge and it will (a) give you credibility and (b) allow you to know when you are being fed nonsense.

Three, those of us who voted for Sue Peters did one of the most important things you can do - vote for someone for school board who has a good solid base of knowledge in our district. Dale Estey didn't and would have taken a long time to even get up to speed.

And, get rid of people who refuse to provide oversight. I'll say right now that if Martin-Morris runs again - and there is no one credible to run against him - I'll do it. If only to have a real race and talk about this issues, it would make it worth it. (Yes, and those of you who would never vote for me in a million years don't need to chime in. I get it.)

Four, since apparently there is a kick-ass group on the SCPTSA Board, support them. Get your PTA to follow their lead. That's the main way we are going to get better community engagement. (FYI, the President of the SCPTA? Know what she does for a living? Community engagement.)

Five, sign up for the State Auditor's reports on the the district. A great deal of info in those. As well, if you can, occasionally try to go to any Board committee meeting - that's where the real action and forewarning of issues is.

Veteran, you are right. When I went through the closure process and people kept saying, "there has to be a better way", I did some research. For some things, like closures and boundaries, there are always winners and losers and discomfort.

Reader 47, they have that in Tucson and frankly, it seems a mess to me. We may get some inkling of what that could mean with our new district elections for City Council. Things could get ugly.

To note, there are those up the food chain that are watching the district. Does Banda not realize this (or the Board)? There are some who want Ed Murray to have some power over the district. I am very frustrated myself but, in the end, is that the right course? I doubt it. The more the district frustrates parents, the more leverage comes the City's way.

Danger Kitty said...

To Puzzled (re list of changes and map):

My best guess is that someone in the communications department is frantically trying to put together a final list of changes but has to run it through several layers of bureaucracy to make it virtually impossible to understand.

This alone demonstrates the real value of independent blogs and news sites. They often have accurate and b.s.-less updates than the bureaucratic mumble jumble that comes out a government agency under the gun.

Anonymous said...

Well if you want to do the splits, want magnolia &QA to be south. Kidding (though capacity wise, kinda makes sense and would give those downtown school folks a bit more real bodies to stuff their figures with).

Personally, I don't see advantages for this city to further segregate neighborhoods with balkanize mini-school districts.


Anonymous said...

I heard FACMAC referenced a few times last night.

Wasn't that group supposed to be disbanded or reconstituted? Or did I miss a beat?

Also, does anyone know whether the district will be now be hiring a demographer after this "interesting" data gathering and feedback process?


Anonymous said...

Melissa, am I allowed to chime in to say I would vote for you? I know you don't like my point of view on certain issues and I have some questions about how big self contained programs need to be before they harm Gen Ed, but I can see what a hard worker you are and your deep knowledge of issues in the district would be an asset (that doesn't mean I will never ask a question you don't like again).

Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

When will we start to get more information about planning for WilPac elementary & middle schools? Who should we contact to get this info? (after the dust settles...)

When can we start the process of drawing the new high school lines? Isn't that 3 years out? Seems we need to start those conversations soon too.

Is it Tracey Libros? She needs a long vacation after all this work! I mean that in a good way.

Looking Forward

Anonymous said...

Can we order our yard signs yet?
Gened mom just brought a tear to my eye!
Go for it Melissa, if only all my pseudonyms each had vote.


Anonymous said...



"I was surprised to read, in the District's most recent grant for the extra funding, the following language (page 5 of the grant): Allocations for the highly capable program are based upon providing an additional 2.1590 hours per week of instruction for a class size of 15 student FTE......" "

Does the grant actually say that this is what the money is being used for? Am I reading that wrong? The grant is to provide funds to support a 15 kid classroom? Where is that happening?


Joe Banda said...

So why so much hate for Wedgwood here?

Just saying said...

The board provided the district with a strong message--listen to the community!

Anonymous said...

Eden, I could be wrong but my read on that figure is that it's how the stated determines our allocation--NOT how we use it.

And for the record, according to our highly capable program application to the state, this is how we supposedly intend to use the funding:

"The budget for Advanced Learning is monitored by the Director of Curriculum and Instructional Support to ensure that expenditures enrich and expand opportunities for HCP students through staff development, curricular enhancements, and parent involvement." Since AL teachers don't seem to get any special training in working with gifted kids, and since there still isn't an APP curriculum, and since the only district-level effort to involve parents (other than to have them set up new programs themselves!) are via the much-ignored advisory committees, I'm not sure there's much truth in that statement.

Then again, the highly capable program grant application seems chock full of BS.


Amy, formerly known as aparent, sorry for confusion said...

This is the language in the State Grant application that was filed for 2013-2014, for the Highly Capable Program funds. This is McCleary/Joint Committee language about what HCP kids should be getting under the constitution but aren't (all WA kids are not getting what McCleary and the Constitution say they should get)

Application says: Estimated Allocation
Allocations for the highly capable program are based upon providing an additional 2.1590 hours per week of instruction for a class size of 15 student FTE. The enrollment basis for this calculation is 2.314% of current year total enrollment with running start. The resulting enrollment figure is used to calculate the number of teachers needed to provide the additional instructional time to those students. Funding is received as salary and benefits for the number of teachers generated by the formula.

Last year Vaughn told me in an email that these extra state funds all to go eligibility testing, but since that is the MAP that kids take anyway, Wazzup there? Go figure. At least at APP Lincoln, kids get the lowest per student funding in the District.

Anonymous said...

Oh I know splitting up SPS is not really a feasible solution - but there are just days I think it just can't possibly be worse, more poorly mismanaged, screwier than it is right now - and might, in some situations, be better.
If nothing else, this city seriously needs to look at charging developers an impact fee to offset the population growth of multi-family housing.

dw said...

Oliver asked: So was the big rift between Spectrum and gened resolved to any degree by cluster-grouping a couple of years ago? Do you have any info on how rigor is at the school now vs. before eliminating self-contained Spectrum?

Funny question. The rift wasn't resolved by cluster grouping, it was exacerbated (a lot) due to the elimination of (self-contained) Spectrum. That action pitted parents against parents and in some cases teachers against teachers. It was terribly divisive, which was presumably not the goal, but in fact the real outcome.

Wedgwood has always had minor tension between GenEd and Spectrum, it's simply a matter of different needs for different groups of kids in the same building. But so much depends on the principal and staff's attitudes. A few years previous to Chris Cronas, Veronica Gallardo was principal and there was very little tension between programs because she was a strong leader and advocated for all the kids' needs, regardless of program. That is the kind of building leadership we need all arond the district, not someone who comes in and tears up programs and pits families against each other.

As for the rigor in the building now? It's a good question. But one clear fact is that many APP-qualified kids who were previously satisfied with self-contained Spectrum classrooms at Wedgwood have fled to APP (overcrowding that program). I'm not sure how that could be interpreted as beneficial to the rigor at Wedgwood, and my presumption is that it is probably far worse than it used to be.

Anonymous said...


Qa/mag going with the south is fine with me. The comment was directed to the ineptitude of admin, not wanting to segregate. I think admin clearly can't do their job with the size/scope of district as is. How about you keep them, qa/mag will split with south and we get whole new admin? That sounds wonderful.
Mag mom

Anonymous said...

dw has an accurate read on WW. Almost all the APP eligible students left two years ago, so that caused a slight culture shift. It seems a little more cohesive now to me, but that's because it's a lot less diverse these days, particularly in terms of parent interest in strong academics. There's more emphasis on student social interactions, and not always in a good way. We've had more bullying incidents, and popularity issues seem bigger these days.

I can't speak to rigor in previous years, but I've noticed a huge increase in test prep time in the classrooms. WW is definitely focused on test scores. Some years we've had teachers who supplement math, other years not, and the underlying Discovery math is poor. Science is poor for the most part, but there are a few efforts to improve it. I dislike R/W Workshop, and it's popular at WW (I've heard the principal wax poetic about it).

Overall, the school seems to be headed towards Reform mediocrity, with everybody in a lock step mentality. That style's rubbed me the wrong way since I was a school child. I was deeply saddened by the process in 2011 that felt, to me, deliberately designed to run off the APP and Spectrum students. We've only a short time left there, so we are hanging on for a few short months.

I think the adults who are already in the "cool kids club" don't see or feel the changes as keenly, which is part of the problem and also something of a shame. As several posters have mentioned, it's not an easy crowd to break into, particularly if you don't share their views. But I've seen similar communities in Seattle, so I pretty much chalk it up to the infamous "Seattle Freeze".

Overall, I think WW is worse for the changes. But then again, I'm not in the "cool kid club". From what I can see, they seem to like it. C'est la vie.


ArchStanton said...

I'll say right now that if Martin-Morris runs again - and there is no one credible to run against him - I'll do it. If only to have a real race and talk about this issues, it would make it worth it.

How did I miss this? Aw, hell yeah! Put me down for a dozen yard signs.

I'll even Photoshop tacky, anonymous campaign postcards for this. Hmm... Melissa in Harry Potter glasses fighting the Gang of Four as Dementors. Ooh! The gears are already turning.

Anonymous said...

DK, did you mean Bryant? Could've been written about us, except it was no different several years ago.


Catherine said...

IF the current administration can't deal with the size of district we have, there are two choices, split the district, or hire new admins. I believe the inept admins will fail to effectively administer whatever size district they're given, so really, even if we split the district, we still have to fire the admins.

I can't recall who came up with the culture of lawlessness phrase to describe what sometimes feels is the predominant culture of SPS administration... but we personally saw that just a few weeks ago with a staffer. Not kinda, not sorta, not an awe shucks is that really a law, but blatant violations. Notes to staffer's bosses' and the super were blown off. We got attorneys involved. We got a board member involved, and now we've got progress. Glacial, but progress. It should not have been this hard. It shouldn't have cost us the money it did, to get the district to follow the law.

The SPS Administration brings the involvement of the board into administrative tasks upon themselves. And thankfully, the board is willing to step into the manure that the administration creates and put on some patches. I just wish the board would demand the super clean house.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if more mini-districts are going to do anymore than duplicate admin, get another Supt. another school board and what's the guarantee that's going to be better? It's not as if new buildings are going to pop up with all the doo dahs, smaller class size, better teachers and principals. Sure the northend might be able to ditch the poorer south, and parts of SW, but still leaves very little wiggle room for buildings. You still got to get voters to vote for your new district's BEX. Unless you want to do away with CBA, you'll have to deal with all that too. ok you can get rid of MAP, get a new math text so that might help. Though some schools are doing their own math thing and getting good results so they may just want to be left alone there. Then there is still CC and all those OSPI required stuff.

Some things have improved for my kids. Or maybe they are just getting older and rest reliant on me now. At least in this district, there is AL, LI, option/alt schools, K-8, homeschooling resource, etc. I guess I'm not as freaked out by all this. I don't know why. I'm probably a bit mentally deficient this way. I figure the summation of my kids' lives will be weighed not based on the 13 years in school or for that matter what university they get in (and I sure hope the pinnacle of their lives won't rest on their college admission if that's their choice pathway). It's what they go on to do and the way they live their lives that will measure who they are best (and indirectly how well I did my job).

ConcernedSPSParent said...

Carr did not arrange the community meetings she attended, big thanks to the PTAs for stepping up. I have asked Carr several times to take a leadership position and arrange community input on critical matters. She could not be bothered to answer my repeated requests.

Anonymous said...

Am now sort of hoping there are no other "viable" candidates so Melissa does run against HMM when he's up for re-election. You can count on our votes, Melissa, and probably a bit of campaigning, too!

-Maple Leaf Mama

Anonymous said...

This bitterness toward and stereotyping of Wedgwood families is really saddening to hear. The most vocal/passionate voices from Wedgwood that I heard were:

-Those who lived south of Wedgwood (or even South of Eckstein), so attending JAMS just didn’t make sense from a walkability perspective. My understanding is that, in addition to a greater physical area of WW AA being closer to Eckstein, there is a denser population of students in the south end of the WW attendance area (at least this was the case when my students attended). Thus, a large majority of students in the attendance are live closer to Eckstein.

-Those who have current 6th and 7th graders at Eckstein, with students who would have to switch middle schools. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know at least some WW area families (myself included) spoke up for non-WW 6th and 7th graders, especially the most vulnerable ones, who would have to move schools. We weren’t all just advocating for Wedgwood.

Walkability and school stability are very reasonable considerations, and no more selfish than other similar requests made across the district. Is Wedgwood a privileged community? Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean that their hands should be tied from advocating for things like walkability and not being moved to a different school. And that doesn’t mean that they weren’t advocating for other less privileged kids during this process. And it doesn’t mean that they won’t try to help provide support for kids and programs at JAMS (there are conversations happening about this already!).

From what I heard, a lot of Wedgwood families who lived closer to JAMS and who didn’t have current Eckstein kids who would be moved out of their school would have been fine with JAMS; an elitist view didn’t seem to be the driving force here… walkability and school stability (grandfathering at current school) were. Please give these families the benefit of the doubt.

One final note: In the post above that outlined the outreach of the district to communities that would move to JAMS, please note that Wedgwood was not included in this conversation until 11/1. There was no mention of Wedgwood being brought in to JAMS until version 3 was released. The community was taken by surprise and reacted in a very natural manner.

Please stop the Wedgwood bashing.

-former WW parent

Charlie Mas said...

I don't think anyone has been indulging in any "Wedgwood bashing".

Let's be honest and clear.

The vocal members of the Wedgwood community weren't opposed to children being moved from Eckstein to JAMS in the 7th or 8th grade, they were opposed to their children being moved from Eckstein to JAMS in the 7th or 8th grade.

They weren't opposed to children having to travel two miles to JAMS when Eckstein is closer, in fact they wanted over 250 children to travel six to eight miles to JAMS when Eckstein is closer. They just didn't want their children to have to make the trip.

Pardon me if I find that self-centered. What do you call it?

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately you are WW bashing and assuming the worst. No, I don't want to bus or drive my child to school when I can walk the 3 blocks to Eckstien. The kids several miles away are already on a bus. Why would I advocate everyone busing? Walkability can't be created, only destroyed. Everyone said WW were whiners? Who were the Whiners in version 1 map? Who were the Whiners in version 2 map? Seriously, WW are whiners. I've read questionable and debatable posts before, but this is just cray-cray on your part. I hope a good night's sleep will leave you more level-headed and practical tomorrow! Cheers.
Bryant mom

Anonymous said...


I, too, am saddened by the apparent bitterness directed at the WW parent community on this blog lately.

I'm also curious: if there are children who live 8 miles away from JAMS in the NE region (because no other children are currently assigned to JAMS, right?), where in the NE do they live?

thank you!
N Ravenna parent

Lynn said...

Laurelhurst APP students?

Anonymous said...

Charlie's right. Many current WW parents were adamant that the entire school go to Eckstein, even those that live closer to JAMS. These same parents insisted that the attendance area not be divided, even if it improved walkability for those in the northern and western parts. They were very keen on naming other schools that should be assigned, so WW could all stay at Eckstein. *Very* strong opinions on this in the hallways and at the meetings, and there were no conversations at all about how this would affect other schools. It was all very Wedgwood-centered.

One of the sadder things I heard stated by some parents was how awful JAMS was, and how they would be "denied their traditions" by being assigned to a new school "without resources", and how it would break up the WW cohort. It really felt classist to me, especially since we're one of "those families". Not a lot of people immediately recognize us as such, so I heard the whispers and the nasty comments in unguarded moments, and some of the things said aloud are shocking to me.

No one that I heard even thought to talk about how a new community could be built there- it was all about how poor the existing school and resources seemed to them, and how they deserved more. It was also the exact opposite of the arguments made when some of them defended and supported the blended Spectrum model and breaking up that cohort. There was also no real support for the former WW students at Eckstein who are being moved to JAMS next year, so they were just left hanging.

I understand that the current and former parents at WW feel strongly about Eckstein. It is a good school, and those living nearby should be able to go. And many of the parents at WW put on a nice front. But there is a deeper, nastier, and quite disturbing undercurrent at Wedgwood that has been there for some time now, and it is not at all equitable, or fair, or open to all. Perhaps it used to be different there in the past, but the current Wedgwood is not a very nice or welcoming place, and the arguments they make rarely take others' needs into consideration.

Current WW Parent

Jan said...

Current WW parent -- and Charlie -- the problem, as I see it, is that regardless of how correct you may be as to individual WW parents, they are not a monolithic, borg-like group. It may well be that the minority voices (for going to JAMS, for taking into consideration the trade-offs other kids would have to make for WW kids to continue at Eckstein, etc.) were not very loud -- or that they had been silenced completely by a more strident "in-group," as it is called (don't know the group, so I am basing this on what others have posted). But it is still inaccurate, and unhelpful, to tar all of the school's parents with a brush appropriately applied to only some.

I can no longer count the times when "less loud" populations have been forced out of "established, popular" schools into brave new worlds -- only to discover that they have freed from entrenched, cliquish interests in the schools they have left behind -- and have been freed to create new, energetic, vibrant school communities in the places they are sent. I don't mean to minimize anyone's pain over pending disruption (or the hours of hard work that will be entailed in getting JAMS up and going) -- but I think JAMS is going to totally rock as a middle school -- I mean out-of-the-part home run rock -- and that great strength and resilience can come out of this. I think the middle schoolers who start there next year will one day look back with incredible pride at being able to say that they were members of the founding class of one of the city's

And Charlie -- thanks for the excellent post on governance. You have rarely been clearer or more persuasive. But I do agree with the posters who point out that the process you suggest was not likely to work with THIS staff -- because they (with major exceptions like Tracy, etc.) seem to embody their own bad brew of political infighting, ineptness, etc. If the process (by those who SHOULD be running it) is tainted due to staff's inability, or unwillingness, to conduct it in a fair, intelligent manner -- then access to, and interference on the part of constitutents by, the "politicians" at the top is the only hope people have of getting a reasonable result (or a second look at plainly bad decisions).

I hope Mr. Banda starts -- now, today, on a process for next year's decisions, based on your points. But I guess I think that while the end process here was too much like sausage-making -- Given the current state of the staff (and the fact that Tracy Libros is human and cannot do EVERYTHING), how can Mr. Banda, with this staff, move towards a staff-based process that is closer to what you describe?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Not to add to any "bashing" but just my own experiences and observations.

I live in Ravenna (right on the border with Roosevelt so not the "heart" of Ravenna). My sons both went to Eckstein (and 1 to Hale and 1 to Roosevelt). I served on the PTA at the schools.

When I moved to Seattle, I was quite struck at the loyalty among alums of high schools. I'd seen this in college (and it made more sense to me).

But in the lower NE there really is this "our kids need to be together" mentality that is pretty heavy-duty. It's almost as if they either don't want their kids to make new friends or believe the friends they make in elementary school will be their friends all the way to high school. (And, in my head, I always wondered "What will happen when they go to college?)

Eckstein IS a great school but I would venture not for everywhere especially if you didn't go to a far NE elementary. I suspect a number of kids might - after a couple of weeks/months at JAMS - be very happy.

So Wedgwood's reaction doesn't surprise me in the least. But someone has to start up and go to JAMS. It seems like it would have made sense to end the kids who live in northern Wedgwood to JAMS and the ones in the southern ed to go to Eckstein.

It would have been a kind of fairness to all considering that other school communities all across the north end (east and west) will be experiencing splits. A kind of shared pain.

Just as we want shared equity, maybe shared pain would have brought the most fairness and understanding that we are all in this together.

kellie said...

I doubt anyone wants to hear this but ... there is no "right to a walkable school" anywhere in either the Washington State Constitution or anywhere in this assignment plan. This plan has "assignment schools" not neighborhood schools and walkability is one of 8 criteria for creating "assignment areas."

Quite understandably, folks that live within a few blocks of a school and folks that live in the neighborhood shares a name with a school, have very strong emotional ties to that school. I understand that. I think most people understand that.

However, what many folks don't understand is that if every student was assigned their "closest" school, there would be a crazy imbalance throughout the district. Moreover, feeder patterns make this much worse because that means you either make a reasonable boundary for Wedgwood or a reasonable boundary that evenly divides Jane Addams and Eckstein.

I don't blame WW for wanting Eckstein. I blame the district for setting up such a byzantine system where linked criteria pit school against school and neighbor against neighbor.

Now all that said, there is no reason to expect that Wedgwood will get to keep Eckstein in the long run. For NE Seattle, there is just simply more students than space at schools. This is going to get much worse before or if it gets better. I would fully expect that the boundaries for Eckstein continue to shrink and that the boundary for Eckstein is as controversial as the one for Ballard and Garfield.

Simply put, we need a huge capital infusion for building new schools. BEX is just scratching the surface and only adding a little bit of capacity.

Anonymous said...

I know that SPS is mandated to find seats for all its kids (elementary, middle school, and highschool), but is there anything mandating that there be a certain number of K-8 and/or option schools?

I'm asking, because option schools managed to escape this round of boundary and assignment changes relatively unscathed (sorry, interim housing while waiting for a brand new $40M building doesn't count for much when kids are getting ripped out of existing school communities in order to start a middle school completely from scratch).

- politically incorrect

David said...

So you're mad that option schools emerged relatively unscathed? What would you rather have happened? People protested roll ups (fair, i wouldn't really want my sixth grader to go through one either) so that means some 7th and 8th graders will have to move schools. Not sure why you're blaming option schools for that.

You know JA K-8 built their program from scratch only a few years ago. And they did a pretty bang-up job. Now they get rewarded for their efforts by being ripped out of their building and put into a smaller one.

Anonymous said...


I remember people protesting the unsupported roll-up of APP at John Marshall. I also remember people protesting about co-housing a 6th grade roll-up of JAMS with the full JA K-8 at the Jane Addams building, using 15-20+ portables in the parking lot.

A JAMS 6th grade roll up with a decent feeder pattern for JAMS and with the JA K-8 grades 6-8 in place (as an E-STEM option program within JAMS) was never presented - even as a temporary, interim scenario - so there was never the opportunity to gauge the pros and cons of that particular scenario.

This "program within a program" scenario was proposed for Pinehurst (in interim, and perhaps permanently, if placed at Wilson-Pacific). In fact, didn't one of Sharon Peaslee's amendments have Pinehurst/AS-1 split K-5 and 6-8 at the Wilson-Pacific site?

Programs within programs seem to work pretty well for language immersion, Montessori, APP, and all those very successful high school academies.

The JA K-8 has a strong middle school program with a traditional curriculum. I'm frankly surprised that splitting it into an E-STEM option K-5 (relocated in interim) and an E-STEM academy within JAMS wasn't at least considered. To me, it makes more sense than pulling kids out of their established middle school communities to form JAMS.

1. Comprehensive offerings for both the E-STEM and JAMS MS kids.
2. E-STEM middle school staff could stay in place.
3. E-STEM MS kids could be served in their neighborhood, by their teaching staff.
4. Co-housing an option program is apparently easier, capacity-management-wise than co-housing two programs with guaranteed assignment (i. e. JAMS feeder and APP).
5. JAMS would have a Spectrum feeder school (grades K-5 of the E-STEM program).
6. Portable village not necessary.
7. Avoids tearing adolescents out of their established school communities.

I'm sure the JA K-8 crowd could come up with an equally-long list of cons.

The harsh reality is that it is difficult for most of the attendance area schools to gain the respect of a Board that seems to put option schools first. Our kids tend to be treated as widgets...easily manipulated, because they can evidently be assigned anywhere the Board sees fit.

I heard, for instance, the JA K-8 parents said that they need a large, 3-up configuration for their program, and a large-enough building to accommodate it, so that they can provide adequate differentiation of instruction for their students. Are there any other 3-up K-8s in Seattle?

Meanwhile, the JAMS community can't even score a Spectrum feeder school to sustain their middle school's Spectrum program.

Sorry for the sour grapes, but there you have it.

- politically incorrect

Lynn said...

Politically Incorrect,

Olympic Hills will offer Spectrum.

Anonymous said...


And when, do you suppose Olympic Hills Spectrum kids will start feeding into JAMS?

It doesn't seem like they will have much room for Spectrum during their interim period at Cedar Park, since it is such a small site. So, maybe the Spectrum program won't start at Olympic Hills until at least 2017 when they are in their new building? Will it start at all grade levels, roll up starting with 1st grade?

- politically incorrect

Lynn said...

politically incorrect,

I understand what you're saying; I was just sharing the district's response to this issue. I think the most important factor in a strong middle school spectrum program is a principal who offers honors level classes rather than mixed-ability classes where some students opt to do more work. That's something you can work on with the JAMS principal now.

kellie said...

@ politically incorrect,

There is no obligation to provide option schools. However, the assignment framework is to have one option / K8 in every service area because different kids, need different things. There are lots of advantages to having option programs.

That said, there is pretty of pain and misery to go around. I tend to say that capacity issues are equal opportunity and sooner or later, everyone is going to get hit with this in one form or another.

Option programs tend to get the first hits. Since they are options, they can be moved or re-assigned to make space. So there is plenty of misery in the option world and option schools all got hit very hard last year in the BEX planning process.

Attendance area schools tend to get him much harder in this boundary re-draw process as well as getting hit in the post open enrollment "oops" there are more kids and we have to serve them scramble.

kellie said...

I don't agree with everything in Charlie's thread, but I do agree with headline. Bad Priorities -> Bad Process -> Bad Results.

I know some folks interpreted my "you-need-updated-enrollment-information-or-you-are-flying-blind" as some sort of code for let't just not do anything. But it was really a plea for some sanity checking in the midst of all the pain and misery.

All of the decisions were being made with projections based on 2012 enrollment data. Because the aggregate enrollment numbers were in line with expectations, everyone just marched forward. However, the school specific 2013 enrollment info was in many cases very very different from the projections.

Because of this, many of the "results" in this process are not going to be easy to implement and in some cases may just not work. When (not if) that happens, you can be certain that many things that have the illusion of being resolved may not be as solid. Option schools tend to have a much rougher shake in that window.

Several folks have mentioned the theoretical 500 extra seats of capacity that will be floating around north end middle school next year. My expectation is that the updated enrollment projections will cause that number to drop to about 100 seats. That is not enough extra seats for a whole lot of cushion and would not be at all surprised to find the either Hamilton / Eckstein or both are still too full and the band aid gets ripped back open.

Lynn said...


Can you share why you expect that?

Anonymous said...

@Lynn - I would think that whether or not separate honors level courses are offered at JAMS (in addition to those reserved for APP?) would depend upon the size of the Spectrum/honors cohort at each grade level. For that reason alone, it would be nice to have a Spectrum feeder school for JAMS, in addition to the one that will eventually be in place at Olympic Hills.

Kellie, I get what you are saying, but it boggles my mind that SPS is moving out one middle school cohort with a traditional pedagogy and pseudo-comprehensive offerings, only to move in a patch-worked comprehensive middle school population.

At least it appears that JAMS will have a strong principal. That is a good thing, because JAMS will need her leadership to tie it all together.

Meanwhile, Thornton Creek, with an alternative pedagogy remains a K-5 program, instead of morphing into a K-8, and continues to receive enrollment preference to Salmon Bay.

This is a decision that the Thornton Creek community apparently gets to make, regardless of how it affects the NW families who don't live within the Salmon Bay geo-zone.

I get that some families prefer K-8s, and it would be nice to have the luxury of having one per middle school service area, but I really wish SPS would put as much thought into the creation of the new comprehensive middle schools as they do to maintaining the programmatic integrity of the various option schools.

- politically incorrect

Anonymous said...

Maybe the Spectrum program could be moved from Wedgwood to Olympic Hills. Its not been very welcome at WW in the last few years, and it would fix the feeder problems. I am not saying this as a WW parent who dislikes the problem, because I do. Its just that the current loud voices at the school would probably be happier if they left, and another school would be more welcoming.

Current WW Parent

Lynn said...

politically incorrect,

You'd think it depends on the size of the cohort, but Whitman has 79 Spectrum 6th graders this year and they phased out real honors classes for mixed-ability classes with the opportunity to do more work.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"I get that some families prefer K-8s, and it would be nice to have the luxury of having one per middle school service area, but I really wish SPS would put as much thought into the creation of the new comprehensive middle schools as they do to maintaining the programmatic integrity of the various option schools."

So this has slowly been ramping up the last several years.

First, to understand, NOT all K-8s are Option Schools. Blaine, Madrona, and Broadview-Thomson aren't.

Second, I would agree that the district - in its rush to do something new! something different! - took its eye off the ball in two major ways. It forgot about its core schools - attendance area schools - AND it forgot it already had a fairly wide variety of option schools and did not support them. (I don't care what DeBell says, Pinehurst would not have struggled as much if the district had supported it. Neither would Summit K-12, now gone.)

And then they decided to have foreign language immersion elementary schools but some will be Option and some not. Quite confusing. (Yes, I know why they did this but it's still confusing to the average person.)

Now why this all continued as the district struggled to even manage itself (and audit after audit show they still don't have it together) is a mystery.

I still wait for the day when this district is well-managed and the focus can be on teaching and learning. At this point, it clearly is not and yet I suspect a lot is happening in that area that we won't find out about until later because the focus is elsewhere.

The Superintendent and the Board are rapidly playing into the hands of those who would want the City to do more.

Charlie Mas said...

Hey, I wrote "The vocal members of the Wedgwood community" not "all Wedgwood families". I can tell the difference and I would hope that my readers can too.

I did not tar all of the school's parents with a brush appropriately applied to only some.

The District's data shows that the bulk of APP students in the NE live closer to Eckstein than Jane Addams. The heat map shows that the bulk of them live south of 65th.

Let's be frank. It was the decision to place APP at Eckstein in version 3 that pushed Wedgwood into JAMS. The choice is either WW or APP are assigned to Eckstein. Given the locations of their homes, APP is the logical choice.