Yes, I know that there has been a lot of good, hard work on this effort. But because parents were not really included in the planning in a meaningful way, we are now at the point where people are wildly trying to get their own relief. That there IS so much pain, in many areas, says to me that the plan is fatally flawed. (That Director Patu wants the entire SE taken off the table says something.)
I urge you to read the entire thing.
I urge all Board Members to vote the Growth Boundaries plan down in its entirety. Instead focus on a 2014-only plan. I do not make this recommendation lightly. I have sincere and substantial respect for the amazing work of staff, in particular TracyLibros and Joe Wolf for the immense amount of data they have sliced and compiled.
The bottom line here is that we are out of space and this re-arranging of the deck chairs does not make things better for most families. SPS can’t every three years implement a new, disruptive, and costly long-term plan, justifying the costs and pain as ‘paying out in the long-term’.
I simply believe there are just too many fatal flaws in this plan for it to accomplish what it is expected to accomplish. These fatal flaws include:
•Wrong Priorities: Long-term plan that doesn’t acknowledge short-term realities
•Wrong Communities: Failure to put students FIRST
•Disproportionate impact on fragile communities.
•Substantial community feedback to “Go Slow”
•2013 Enrollment Based Updated Projections - Not Available
•Feeder Patterns create un-necessary changes and Gerrymandered boundaries.
Simply put, it is my opinion that this plan effectively re-starts the clock on the gains NSAP was intended to create. This plan is re-boundarying the entire district only 4 years after the implementation of the NSAP, re-creating that substantial pain and cost. The new boundaries are also unlikely to last even another 4 years.
This is re-starting the clock on grandfathered transportation costs and split siblings, right at the moment the sunk-costs into those issues is about to resolve, while also guaranteeing SPS will need to repeat this expensive and disruptive exercise in two years for BTA, and again in 2017 for McLeary implementation.
As always, I am happy to discuss my conclusions. I am also including a longer version below for anyone that is interested in the detailed reasons.
The bottom line here is that we are out of space and this re-arranging of the deck chairs does not make things better for most families. Following is a list of fatal flaws.
2013 Enrollment Based Updated Projections - Not Available
This plan is not validated by the recently-released elements of 2013 Enrollment data and the updated projections are still not available to validate the plan. Due to Rachel Cassidy's resignation and the computer change over the summer, release of enrollment information was delayed. A small piece of 2013 enrollment shows that there were 100 more Kindergarten students in the Eckstein area than projections. Once again, in the area of greatest capacity shortfall, growth is higher than expected. We still do not have the full projections available for next year.
Feeder Patterns create un-necessary changes and Gerrymandered boundaries.
Re-creating Feeder Patterns is a flawed way to build middle school boundaries. Feeder patterns mean that it is a higher priority to keep kids together between 5th and 6th grade, than to have a stable elementary school experience.
The reliance on feeder patterns means that the need for an elementary school to be right-sized for the receiving middle school trump all other considerations necessary for a stable elementary school experience. The cascade effect of going from 9 to 12 middle schools is causing every elementary boundary in the district to be adjusted. Each adjustment represents many dozens of split siblings as well as divided middle school cohorts. Moreover, the necessity of bending and twisting the elementary schools into the feeder pattern means that many neighborhoods are needlessly divided.
Split Siblings - the new normal
SPS and its families are now 4 years into the NSAP. We are finally at the point where most schools have only a handful of split siblings. Overall capacity problems have grown to the point that very few split siblings are getting Choice assignments, as very few schools have Choice seats available.
At the moment when the impact to families of the NSAP feeder patterns is about to resolve, this plan will to start the process all over again and re-divide families all across the district. The split sibling issue was sold as a temporary and transient element of NSAP that would be resolved once NSAP worked through the system – but it’s now apparently a permanent feature of SPS assignment plans.
Wrong Priorities - 2014 is more important than 2020
In this time of capacity shortfalls it is much more important to families to get 2014 right, than to build an unrealistic 2020 road map, given how much change there will be in the next 18 months. There has been powerful community feedback about how confusing and damaging this plan is. Even a subject matter expert like myself is routinely baffled attempting to explain who goes where when. Explaining ‘why’ is simply not possible.
Moreover, as BEX is simply not providing enough capacity for current enrollment, let alone anticipated growth, it is most probable that SPS will be asking the voters for an additional infusion of capital funds via BTA in 2015. This would negate the majority of the Growth Boundary changes post 2015. How many times in a row will SPS implement hugely disruptive and costly plans, only to discover that expected savings and space don’t materialize, and the entire plan needs to be re-worked three or four years later? At a minimum, all post 2015 decisions should acknowledge, they could be changed by BTA IV decisions.
Finally, while State Funding is its own issue, it is a waste of resources to build a plan for post-2017 that does not include the McCleary smaller class sizes. Again, the funding may never materialize. However, even pretending to build a plan for post 2017 should include this decision, or at a minimum acknowledge that all post 2017 changes are subject to McCleary.
Wrong Commitments. - Failure to put students FIRST
While I understand the desire to give people time to know what is coming, the commitment needs to be to the student experience first. This current plan has the 4th graders in the Wilson Pacific attendance area scheduled to attend three different schools in three years.
If we were only focusing on the capacity that is actually coming on-line in 2014, we would be able to divide north-end middle school into four quadrants and give allmiddle school students a comprehensive experience, rather than comprehensive for some and a deeply disrupted experience for others.
At this point, any boundary plans should be based on the premise that WP is a 100% options school purely so that this deeply disrupted middle school experience is not ensured for the predominately ELL and FRL families in the Northgate area.
Disproportionate impact on fragile communities.
The scope of these proposed changes is comparable in to the full change to the NSAP. Communities like Wedgwood that are well organized and vocal have the benefit of legislators writing on their behalf. However, there are many more communities that will be experiencing even more changes with less connection. Because many of the changes to more fragile communities are secondary and tertiary impacts created by the new ‘improved’ feeder patterns, these changes lack transparency.
Ignores near-Universal Community feedback to “go slow”
All across the district, effectively ALL the community feedback is "go slow" or "do only what needs to be done." By and large, families are more than willing to participate in the primary impact of capacity challenges, where the consequences are very transparent. However, they are not willing to sign up for yet another deeply disruptive plan with hidden secondary and tertiary impacts, and vanishing long-term benefits.
Multiple communities are reporting that these capacity changes do not seem to reflect the experience that the "boots on the ground" see. There was similar feedback during the 08-09 closures as many neighborhoods, reporting incredibly full pre-schools, large numbers ofhousing starts that were not included in the projections as well as dynamic housing turnover to families with small children. These reports were mostly dismissed as anecdotal over-reactions but were confirmed to be, in fact, under-reporting the phenomenon in the following years. Once again, many neighborhoods are reporting dynamic increases in density that do not match district projections. Why do we keep repeating the exact same mistake over and over?
There is NOT a place for everyone to land.
One of the reasons stressed for getting this plan in place NOW is that the plan has a place for everyone to land. I think this NOT an accurate assessment. There is not an obvious place for Pinehurst, Cascade Parent Partnership or the Indian Heritage programs.
Moreover, there is also not a place for APP. The extensive debate on APP placement is really just an indication that there isn't room for APP but nobody wants to admit that just yet. APP was always sent South of the Ship canal for capacity management reasons. Bringing Advanced Learning close to home is just not possible as part of this capacity shortfall.
Finally, there is not a long-term location for the World School, despite its designation for placement at TT Minor.TT Minor will be needed as a neighborhood school in just three years, given the central area’s huge density of housing starts and new families. Please do not set the World School up to be moved again.
The World School is the poster child for being placed last. I sincerely believe they deserve a safe long-term location. I was one of the few people who testified in 08 that placing the World School at Meany was short-sighted and that they would be displaced again. In 08, I urged the board to move Summit to co-locate with Meany as the central area did not have enough middle school space and to place the World School at either AAA or Madrona. However, the pressure of the closures was just too much. Please secure a stable long-term location for the World School.
The primary reason, I do not believe this plan is amendable is because of huge burden of amendments. At this point the amendments will determine where siblings are split and which families get the rotating middle school. It is extremely unlikely that the families impacted by this will learn of their fate in a timely manner.
The bottom line here is that we are out of space and this re-arranging of the deck chairs does not make things better for most families.
SPS can’t every three years implement a new, disruptive, and costly long-term plan, justifying the costs and pain as ‘paying out in the long-term’.
Thank you for reading this far.