Wednesday, December 04, 2013

New Seattle School Board Leadership Elected

Sharon Peaslee has been elected President of the Seattle School Board by a vote of 4-3.  Sherry Carr was also nominated.

Betty Patu was elected unanimously to be Vice-President.

Marty McLaren was elected unanimously to be Member-at-Large.

Superintendent Banda conducted the elections.

I'll have a longer wrap-up of the Board meeting but a few notes.

  • Blanford recused himself from two votes that involved his wife who works for the district in CTE.
  • Blanford, Martin-Morris and McLaren won't be having any December community meetings (for various reasons - Martin-Morris was unable to find a space).  They all said you could contact them via e-mail.  
  • The majority of public testimony to the Board were on three topics. 
  •  One, allowing current 7th graders at Hamilton to stay on and finish 8th grade there.  One speaker said that they had been told there was not space but now the finding is that there would be space.  As well, they said Laurelhurst 7th graders are being allowed to grandfather and stay so there is a precedent.  Several Board members - in Board comments - did seem sympathetic to the situation.  
  • Two, students at Rainier Beach feel their walk to school is too difficult and want Orca cards.  I think the district would have to think long and hard about this because it would set a precedent if they give cards to students who live within the walk zone.  I think specific hardship cases could be addressed.
  • The Cascade Partnership (the home school resource school) needs a home.  They have been at Wilson-Pacific and the district seems to be slow to find them a new home.  Van Asselt has been thought of but it is too far south for most of their students.  Another option is the North Queen Anne building but they need to find $1-2M to reopen it.  Carr said they do have a community fund and thought this could be considered.  
  • There were two speakers speaking in support of bus drivers and their health care.  One was from the Teamsters union (which now represents those drivers) who said the health care plan was dismal and allowed how a stoppage could happen.  Meaning, they could strike and that would mean no bus service.  There was no timetable given.

54 comments:

Po3 said...

I think with shuttles running to Ingraham and yellow bus service from Magnolia to Ballard a couple of RBHS kids could have an Orca card.

I wonder how many channels they have gone through before coming in front of the board.

The goal is to get all kids to school.

ben said...

Out of curiosity, how many board members seemed sympathetic to the 7th graders @ Hamilton?

Ben

Anonymous said...

@Ben
I watched off and on. Sue Peters and Sharon Peaslee seemed sympathetic.

BTW, I didn't hear any mention of grandfathering the Eckstein 8th graders who will be moved to JAMS. I'm pretty sure that at least some of those kids are also in advanced band, orchestra and sports at their current middle school, as well.

- North-end Mom

Anonymous said...

There is a difference between the Eckstein and the Hamilton APP students though.
Eckstein students went to a K-5 elementary and then to Eckstein while the most of the Hamilton APP students went to a school for kindergarten, then Lowell where after 2nd grade their cohort was split, then after 4th grade they were moved to Lincoln after school ended and then they went to HIMS for 6th, 7th grade, and the plan is that for some of them, yet another middle school for 8th grade. I don't think we can call this a
- Fair Share?

mirmac1 said...

I think President Betty would have represented the heart and soul of this district. My consolation is that her big heart will influence the direction our district takes in the coming year.

syd said...

@Po3 - my thoughts exactly. :P

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ben, I think it was at least 3 but those were the ones who spoke up. Frankly, I think if it's 67 kids for one year AND there is room, then just do it.

Anonymous said...

@Fair Share
8th graders are 8th graders, no matter how many schools they attended previously, if they spent 6th and 7th grade at the same middle school, going to a new school for 8th grade is painful, no matter if they are APP, GenEd, SpEd, or ELL.

It could be especially hard for at-risk kids who may have developed ties to counselors, teachers, etc...

NNE/Lake City families have been jerked around for decades. We didn't get a guaranteed seat at a NE middle school (Eckstein) until the NSAP in 2010. That's only four years of "guaranteed" assignment to Eckstein, and only those who entered 6th grade in 2010-11 and 2011-12 will end up being grandfathered at Eckstein for the full three years of middle school.

- North-end Mom

Anonymous said...

What about NE students who join APP at 8th grade? Where do they go? It's a slippery slope and screams of inequity and elitism. Without the APP 8th graders, there probably won't be enough students for a full section of Algebra 2, advanced band and/or orchestra.

And, how about the current APP 6th graders? They've had exactly the same experience as the 7th graders, why do they not get the option of grandfathering?

It's not a great situation for anyone, but everyone needs to be treated the same. It's only fair and equitable. And BTW, my kid is one of the 67...

NE APP

mirmac1 said...

I question the statement that they have room. Too often people just look at the total enrollment, not realizing that special education students require classrooms. Confirm that with admin.

Anonymous said...

Is there anything to prevent the involved 7th grade Eckstein parents/students to go to the next Board Meeting (if they were not there yesterday) and make a public testimony the way the HIMS community did?
- Just asking

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa Westbrook said...

Just asking, of course not. There were numerous students last night and, in fact, may have outnumbered the adults who spoke.

dw said...

mirmac1 said: I question the statement that they have room. Too often people just look at the total enrollment, not realizing that special education students require classrooms. Confirm that with admin.

Are you talking about Hamilton?

There is most definitely room to do this, if there is support. The plan is to pull about 280 APP kids from the building next year. There are more incoming 6th graders next year than outgoing 8th graders, but nowhere near 280! If they allowed the 68 8th graders to stay, they'll still gain back at least 2 or 3 classrooms, and then the following year those kids will be gone (not replaced) and they'll gain back 2 more classrooms (minus any 6th grade bump).

Bottom line is that when the original vote took place, and Kay pleaded to let these few kids stay, the staff lied about it not being possible. Would the building still be crowded? Maybe. But it would be at least 2 classrooms LESS crowded than it is right now, and better yet the following year.

Lynn said...

Current enrollment at HIMS is 1,101. Functional capacity is 973 and projected enrollment is 890. I think there should be an enrollment preference for any 8th grade students currently assigned to the school for any empty seats at Hamilton and Eckstein.

Does anyone know how the district decides how many "choice seats" there are at a school? Will they allow Eckstein and Hamilton to be at 100% capacity if enough students request those schools during open enrollment?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Lynn, it's fine to print the capacity but it all depends on what programs are in the school. So that figure is not so useful if we don't talk about the program placements at the same time.

The only "choice" seats are in high school. I think you mean extra seats.

I think that both Eckstein and Hamilton would not be at 100% (and I don't think they should be).

One, people move during the school year and it's important to have those seats available.

Two, the schools have been running so full, it is probably a good idea to give them some breathing room.

Three (and probably most important) is ramping JAMS up. If they don't get a full compliment of students, it will not start off well. It needs to start off well.

Leanne Galati said...

From a capacity standpoint it is likely both schools would be fine if current 7th graders stayed.

I believe the driver of the decision to not grandfather either NE APP nor Eckstein 7th graders was to provide chance of creating a successful, comprehensive 3 year middle school.

I am the parent of an Eckstein 7th graders who could be significantly impacted by this change..from an academic (small Spectrum cohort moving), music, sports and most importantly to her, community standpoint. That being said, once the decision was made, I have turned my efforts towards working with the planning principal, other parents, and teachers I respect at Eckstein to try and make this new school as successful as possible. Pulling out a small organized group is frankly discriminatory. There are undoubtedly compelling arguments for many of the general ed students who are moving to stay...however, it is impossible to organize a cohesive critical mass of parents to speak out as there is no way to even comprehensively identify who is involved due to privacy issues. I know this in my attempts to just identify Eckstein band students who are moving.

At this point, a decision needs to be made to grandfather ALL 7th graders or to band together for a successful launch of the new school under the board approved plan. The princial has already launched significant planning efforts around what she believe to be her known populatin.

This is a public school and with the exception of at risk groups, should not show preferential treatment to any one group of students.

Lynn said...

Melissa,

I guess I do mean extra seats. I was reporting the capacity numbers and enrollment projections used in the growth boundaries process. I know they're not perfect - but they are a start.

I agree that some seats should be left open for students who move to the area - but how many? How does enrollment services determine how many out of area students can enroll when a school is not at 100%?

mirmac1 said...

Hamilton has five self-contained classrooms, staffed at ratios of 8:1 or 9:1, so that reduces available general ed seats by around 117 seats. Keep in mind SpEd students are also general ed students.

Lynn said...

Leanne,

I wouldn't suggest guaranteeing seats to any group. It is possible to request enrollment at an attendance area school other than your own. Unless the new student assignment plan is amended, that option will be available to students assigned to JAMS next year. It would make sense to me to give preference to current 7th grade students.

Anonymous said...

@Leanne,
I totally agree with what you posted. There was a vote. It was not a vote that made many folks happy, but the geo-split and placement of APP at JAMS was approved, unanimously, by the Board.

What I found amazing during the Board meeting was not so much that there were parents of current APP 7th graders advocating for their kids to be grandfathered at Hamilton (and kids also advocating to stay at Hamilton), but that not one Board director mentioned the Eckstein kids who were in the same boat.

If there is any reevaluation of the Growth Boundaries vote concerning the grandfathering of 8th graders, then it really should include the Eckstein 8th graders, as well.

From what I could tell, the Board was looking at JAMS implementation as a model for the future openings of Wilson-Pacific and Meany. If that is the case, we will probably see more geo-splits in the future, and I hope that if the Board decides to change the JAMS implementation procedure to include the grandfathering of 8th graders, that they will grandfather ALL 8th graders, and not just those enrolled in APP, with the intention that ALL 8th graders would be grandfathered in the Wilson-Pacific and Meany start-ups, as well.

- North-end Mom

Anonymous said...

I find it encouraging that so many parents, students and supporters are writing about the 75 APP student's anticipated hardship from unnecessarily moving to a different north end School for APP students. That kind of advocacy is what has provided these students with the specialized support they have.

I find it less encouraging that the all African-American students whom stood up last night and pleaded for assistance in simply getting to school are been characterized as simply "students at Rainier Beach feel their walk to school is too difficult and want Orca cards." , all be it one of the lowest performing schools in the city they still want to good to school! This conversation about the importance of the privileged, high performing students school preference and the lack of importance of the issues raised by the less-privileged under performing students situation is strikingly tone deaf. The Rainier Beach students are pleading for help just getting to school, never mind the quality of the school once they get there. The students that spoke are generally coming from two different homes depending on the day of the week. The district only recognizes transportation needs from one home. Some of the students described traveling 5 to 10 miles to school with no support from the District and having to beg a ride on Metro just to get to school, one of the lowest performing schools in the district.
The students end up choosing between paying for the Metro bus themselves or eating lunch. The Students described getting on the Metro and asking the driver if they could "ride for free" because they have no Orca card. They said some drivers understand they are not bums they are just trying to get to school, but some drivers are real jerks, embarrassing the student by telling them to get off the bus.

"Only 46 percent of children in the United States will reach the age of 17 living in intact homes with married biological parents."

The district's policy of not accommodating a second home situation is the real problem. Only recognizing one home affects communication with home and transportation.

Not being able to continue with the students favorite advanced orchestra in an APP program in one of the best schools in the city because of being transferred to another one of the best schools in the city VS. Not even being able to get to school. One of the lowest performing schools in the district.
Please, at least acknowledge the tone deaf conversation going here and the myopic description of the issues raised last night's board meeting.

Rainier Beach area
RBDad

Anonymous said...

Melissa, responding to your comment at 10:35am:

But it is NOT just about 67 kids. It's about the whole school, and how the district intends to start up new middle schools.

The district made a decision to start JAMS up with robust classes at each of 6th, 7th and 8th grades. To now grandfather the current HIMS APP 7th graders only leaves a big whole in the 8th grade and is not fair to simularly situated kids at Eckstein. It is also effectively a 6-7 rollup for APP, which is not fair to them.


To grandfather all current 7th graders is not fair to the current 6th graders - they don't get to go to a robust middle school, as was promised by the board when configuring JAMS this way.

I am the parent of a 6th grader at HIMS who will be moving to JAMS. While the outcome of the board vote on Nov 20th was not what I wanted, we are moving forward and working to make JAMS the best school it can be.

Frankly, I am pretty angry that the board is even considering grandfathering the current HIMS 7th graders given all that was said about a geo-split, equity, etc.

I worked with many of these parents in trying to get 6th and 7th graders grandfathered at HIMS. The vote didn't fall the way we wanted. Now I feel like the parents who are continuing to pressure the board on this issue are throwing the rest of us - the current 5th and 6th graders, and the Eckstein 7th graders who will go to JAMS - under the bus.

Please be aware that not all parents of current HIMS 7th graders affected by this support the efforts to grandfather.

A decision has been made and we need to move forward. I agree with the comment that to grandfather this one group of kids at this point sets a very bad precedent for the board, and is not equitable.

I intend to write the board and express my viewpoint. I feel like all they have heard so far is from those who support grandfathering, when in fact most of us who are directly affected were unaware of this issue until today.

Please write the board, growth boundaries, etc. and express your view, whatever it may be.

Move Forward






Anonymous said...

Ditto what Move Forward has said. We are not happy about a split, but the decision has been made. We will be putting our energy into making the best of it at this point.

another NE parent

Anonymous said...

And, the cost to transport those same 67 students to HIMS would be much better spent on the RBHS students who are trying to get to school for an education.

Also, I wanted to comment on the 'precedent' of the Laurelhurst GenEd students continuing at HIMS. Either they go to HIMS or Eckstein next year, not JAMS. So, that argument is like comparing apples to oranges.

NE APP

dw said...

RBDad,

Thank you for taking the time to write your comment here. It's enlightening, poignant and important for others to understand.

I did not see this last board meeting, so I was trying to understand why kids would be pushing for ORCA passes and this makes good sense to me. I would totally support recognition of multiple homes and will suggest this to our school board, as you should do as well (if you haven't already). Of course it does bring up potential abuse as knowledgeable parents try to push their way into their schools of choice, but I think it can and should be managed.

The bitterness in your tone aside, I don't see this as an either-or situation. None of this will diminish my advocating for north-end kids, APP kids, SpEd kids I know and anyone else I know that needs help, but your words here will help me ALSO advocate for RBHS kids' transportation needs. Again, thanks.

Melissa Westbrook said...

RB Dad, I did hear what was being said last night but two things.

One, if you are asking why I didn't write every single thing said, I would urge you to consider that I do this work for free. I sat through an entire 4+hour school board meeting. Did you do that? Did you take notes the entire time?

Two, if RBHS students do live that far away, they ARE eligible for an ORCA card. I heard one young man say he was registered for school through his father's nearby address but he now lives with his mother. A change of address would change his status to use the bus. The district has a 2-mile limit for bus service so if someone lives 5-10 miles out, they would get an Orca card. I found this a bit confusing and I wish the Board had asked for clarification.

I have been very supportive of RBHS and I stand by that record.

Also, I said if there were room at Hamilton maybe those students could stay one year. But I have said that JAMS needs to roll out properly and I understand the issue that the district needs to be consistent.

NE APP, I will gently point out that ALL students are going to school to get an education. We can differ on whose situation is worse.

Lynn said...

APP transportation funds are specially allocated by the state. If we're not transporting those APP students, the money isn't available for general ed transportation.

How does the Laurelhurst situation differ from the request to grandfather 8th grade APP students? I think the current 6th and 7th graders are being grandfathered at HIMS while their younger schoolmates will be assigned to Eckstein. Is that not true?

It seems obvious that we should provide ORCA cards to high school students when their parents have joint custody and one lives outside the walk zone. I hope that rule is changed.

mirmac1 said...

RBDad,

I was at the meeting and heard the students. I wanted to high-five each student for their heartfelt testimony. They have my full support, and should have the district's.

Anonymous said...

Lynn-
The state hasn't given money for APP transportation in a few years.

Current Laurelhurst 6th graders are at Eckstein this year, so it's only the 7th and 8th graders that are at HIMS now from the old NSAP.

Yes, all students are trying to get an education, Melissa--I wasn't implying anything else. Sorry if my comment came off as such.

NE APP

Po3 said...

RB Dad -

I was the first to post on this thread about RBHS students coming to the board asking for Orca cards fully supporting their request and wondering how many channels that have gone through up to now!

I hope somebody from the board follows up with these students as I believe all kids need to get to school, safely and on time.

I agree with you on the myopic view here in the comments. You do get good at skipping comments with certain poster names, LOL!

I have to defend Melissa and the original blog post, she covered the meeting well. She can't control the conversation in the comments.

Anyway, I hope your students prevail on this. The cost to the district is really nothing versus the benefit to the students!

Melissa Westbrook said...

I would absolutely concur with Po3. If students - high school students - are trying to get to school on time, the district should help them.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Reposting Anon with no name because you will be deleted soon. Please read the commenting rules before you post next time.

Anonymous said...
Responding to the issue of populating a new middle school at JAMS -- if it was the high priority of the District, then why did they first move out of the building the rising 7th and 8th graders there now as part of Jane Addams K-8? It would have been far less disruptive to ask students to remain in the same building than to import them from another one. Many of these comments suggest that rising 8th graders should give up their final year of middle school so that those behind them will have a better education. Will anyone suggest why it is better for these rising 8th graders, who have been moved twice already. How is it in their best interest to make 5 school transitions in 10 years?

12/5/13, 5:11 PM

"How is it in their best interest to make 5 school transitions in 10 years?"

And how is this fair and equitable?

- Fair Share?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John Sullivan said...

Anonymous, quoted by Fair Share -

Because those rising 7th and 8th graders are students in Jane Addams K-8, not Jane Addams Middle School. They're two different schools. JAK8 is moving out, JAMS is moving in. Some people will choose to switch, but the programs are distinct.

I really wish people would stop proposing dismantling Jane Addams K-8. It's an excellent program.

Anonymous said...

I think the 2.5 mile walk zone for high school is a problem. It is not realistic for a high school student to walk 2.5 miles to and from school every day (so 5 miles total). That's a 45 minute walk each way. I have a friend who lives 2.4 miles from Garfield, and it is a financial hardship for them to have to purchase a ORCA card for their child.

Jane

p.s. I double checked on the district website and you have to live 2.5 miles away from the high school to qualify for a bus pass - not 2 miles. I think the requirement should be changed to 1.5 miles.

http://www.seattleschools.org/modules/cms/pages.phtml?pageid=191481

Lori said...

It sounds like a few of the Board members are willing to reconsider the issue of grandfathering some middle schoolers next year.

My question is how does this work procedurally? A Board member writes an amendment first, submits it for consideration, then it's voted on 2 weeks later? Is that the normal process?

Also, at which work session would something like this be discussed?

If the Board is serious is about revisiting this issue, they should be open and transparent about it and let all relevant stakeholders weigh in on the matter. The case that 7th grade parents are making is compelling but it could equally apply to 6th graders who went through moves and splits too.

On the other hand, a number of the current 7th graders joined APP only at middle school and never went through a split or a move before. Yes, it's terrible that they are being split from friends, but so are the kids at Eckstein.

So which kids "deserve" to be grandfathered and which don't? I would argue that before the district overturns any part of the November 20th vote, they need to consider ALL of the affected kids.

If the issue is really about minimizing disruptions to "the same kids" who've been through splits and moves, then they need to grandfather the subset of current 6th and 7th graders who have been in APP long enough to have gone through the first split from Lowell to TM and/or who were at Lowell prior to the Lincoln move.

But if the issue is about letting 8th graders finish their 8th grade year at their current school, then it needs to apply to Eckstein too. And whatever is decided now should be what is done when Wil-Pac and Meany open.

And please note, I'm not advocating any particular position here. I'm just trying to bring up other relevant facts that weren't part of the testimony Wednesday night. In the end, I hope the Board and district give as much deference as possible to the JAMS planning principal about what it's going to take to make the school successful. And I have no idea where she stands on this particular matter.

Leanne G said...

Thanks Lori. Well said on the considerations.

I am curious, in general, what the board's role is in setting policy and determining specific criteria related to its implementation. Can they basically approve an amendment at any time to policies/procedures proposed by the Superintendent and previously approved by the Board? Are there any rules/bylaws that govern the roles/powers of the Board and of the Superintendent?

Melissa Westbrook said...

First, Jane, thanks for that update. I thought it was still 2 miles and yes, 2.5 is pretty far. I'm wondering how to advocate for a change and if maybe the district is thinking kids get rides or have cars (which is probably NOT the majority of kids).

Lori, I hope I didn't make people think that the Board WILL change anything. All I said was that a couple of Board members expressed sympathy. You'd have to ask them what they think (or maybe I will).

There is a Work Session next week on Facilities where they could cover it (but I don't see an agenda so I don't know).

I don't believe anyone on the Board could write an amendment after the plan has been approved. It is likely to have to come from staff first. Again, I could ask.

Leanne, yes there are very specific rules about policies the Board makes and procedures that the Superintendent makes. They are available to view at the School Board's home page.

I am with Lori in not advocating anything. I can see IF there were room, to allow some students to finish. However in the name of "fairness" and because so many middle school students are affected, then shared pain might be the fairest thing to do.

Lori said...

Thanks, Melissa, for the information.

And, no, it wasn't your post that made me think they would revisit this issue. I caught part of the Board meeting on TV, and my recollection was that Sharon Peaslee said they "should" revisit this.

Whether they will, I don't know. And maybe I read too much into the comments. But that's really why I was wondering how the process would work, because it sounded to me like they might want to reconsider it.

And, we've seen how communities can be blind-sided when plans change suddenly and without warning (eg, Wedgwood getting pulled from Eckstein at the last hour in draft proposal #3), so I just don't want NE families to wake up in January and find out JAMS is back to being a 6th grade roll up.

It seems unlikely, but then again, we can't underestimate the potential for last minute surprises when it comes to enrollment. I expected my kid to still be at Lowell right now, finishing up elementary school, but we all know what happened there. The price of being an SPS parent is eternal vigilance.

Leanne G said...

Thanks for the information Melissa. While I hate to see my child's pain, I agree with move forward and others that its time to focus on the future. There will be things lost but undoubtedly things gained at the new school as well...and how cool is it to be in the first graduating class of a new (well sort of) Seattle Middle School!

Joe Wolf said...

from dw:

" ... Bottom line is that when the original vote took place, and Kay pleaded to let these few kids stay, the staff lied about it not being possible. Would the building still be crowded? Maybe. But it would be at least 2 classrooms LESS crowded than it is right now, and better yet the following year."

The staff - otherwise known as me and my co-workers - lied? Nice.

I hope everyone reading this agrees that it's name-calling at besr and on rhe way to slander.

dw said...

Hi Joe, and thanks for weighing in.

The wording might have been too strong, and I do appreciate you and Tracy's work in particular among all staff as standout quality -- especially in communication with families. But the response to Kay's question was grossly misleading at best.

The question was: would there be room in the building for those few kids for one year. The answer given was a flat out No. But the planned numbers for HIMS next year in aggregate (losses minus gains) removes substantially more kids from the building next year than the 68 kids in question, which means that even if those kids stay, there will still be significantly less kids in the building than there are this year. And no one can deny that all students attending HIMS this year really do safely fit in the building, even if it is crowded.

I respect your knowledge of the details, and I'm willing to take it on the virtual chin if I'm wrong about the above, but my take on this is that your staff member answered a different question ("would the kids fit based on ideal metrics for the building?", rather than what was asked, "would the kids fit?"), thereby misleading the Board. Many buildings in the district are operating above their ideal capacities right now, which is why that kind of answer feels disingenuous. Better?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I, too, appreciate Joe weighing in and I would ask people to use "misleading" or "inaccurate" rather than lying. If you know 100% that the intent was to lie, then don't say it. Sometimes the truth is in between there.

I will put one thing out there that seems to get confused.

Libel is written.
Slander is verbal.

There is a legal difference.

Anonymous said...

Stretch it, parse it, muffle it all you want dw.
Answer: nope.
You used "lied" as is written, virtual or otherwise. Verbal gymnastics abounds all around here.

weekender





dw said...

weekender, I have no idea what point you're trying to make.

Melissa said: Sometimes the truth is in between there.

I completely agree, and in case it wasn't obvious that the above was an apology, let me make it very clear: Joe, I do apologize for excessively harsh wording. I don't want to understate how appreciated it is that you have chosen to come here to this board and participate in recent discussions, and at times it's easy to forget that this is not a private parents' gripe area. Fair or not, if you personally had given that answer to Kay I'm sure I would not have made the same comment here, but I can understand the offense taken.

Over many years we have seen staff respond to hundreds of questions from the Board. Occasionally we've seen blatant lies (I'm thinking of previous administrations), occasionally we've seen honest mistakes, but as Melissa points out, sometimes the truth is in between or difficult to ascertain. Data can be presented in many ways, depending on how we would like it to be perceived. And to be fair, the vast majority of the answers are reasonable, helpful and clearly in good faith.

This particular answer given to the board in response to a specific board amendment proposal does feel misleading, for the reasons stated earlier. You've been pretty forthcoming with information, and I think many here would appreciate an informed explanation. The building is full, but functional and safe, this year. How is it that less kids next year would not be possible?

Anonymous said...

Mr Wolf:
Thank you very much for your presence here, I really appreciate your time and energy to keep us informed this way. Would it possible to provide us the details of this argument between you and dw? The facts (the numbers) in question?
Thank you very much.
- Fair Share?

dw said...

I would really rather not characterize this as a personal argument. I'm not even directly affected, though I know lots of kids that would be.

This is more about clarity. If there is no political will to let a few kids finish out their middle school experience without splitting them up from their school and friends again, then so be it. But we should be very clear about the reasons, because political will is very, very different from capacity data, which should be relatively straightforward to generate and analyze.

kellie said...

dw

I am deeply sympathetic on this geo-split issue. In addition to the APP split there are also 12 students (from 7 different elementary schools) that are scheduled to go to Eckstein next year.

IMHO, I think your characterization of Hamiltons' enrollment is not correct. There are only 170 students scheduled to move. The projected enrollment number for next year is very low. It is based on historical averages and for the last few years, Hamilton's enrollment has been higher than projected, not just for APP, but for all categories of students.

I have two students at Hamilton this year and while Cindy Watters has worked a miracle getting everyone in the building, I would not say they safely fit in the building. I would say that staff is going to extra-ordinary measures to keep things safe and that staff can only be expected to do this for a short time.

In addition to the part where several of my student's classes are over the contracted limit. Not one teacher has a prep period in their class room.
My son has a medical issue and so I spent an unusual amount of time in the nurse's office. There is only so long the school can function at this rate.

I wish it hadn't gotten this far. We needed a new middle school at least two years ago. But nobody was willing to make the bold investments into future growth.

We are going to have the same pain with high school.

dw said...

Hi Kellie,

First, let's make sure I've got the approximate numbers correct.

Roughly 280 APP kids are slated to start at JAMS next fall, with those numbers based on NE kids who are either 6th/7th graders at HIMS right now or incoming 6th graders who would otherwise have been slated for HIMS next fall. So we're pulling 280 kids out of the current equation. But the incoming 6th grade class for next fall is substantially larger than the 8th grade class that's leaving, so we need to add those kids back in to come up with aggregate numbers. My understanding was that would be about 100 or so additional kids, making about 180 student decrease as compared with this year. If this is the 170 student decrease you're talking about then it sounds like we're on the same page, and I'm happy to work with 170.

That means that even if the oft-quoted number of 68 kids was able to stay to finish out their middle school, that there would be more than 100 less students in the building next year than this year! Are we still on the same page? I believe this is factually true, but I would like to hear it backed up (or not) before running too much farther down this path.

As for the building itself this year, I too spend time in the building on a regular basis, and while I might characterize it as "uncomfortable", I very much disagree with the notion that they do not safely fit in the building. It's a nuisance for for teachers when they don't get prep in their classrooms, but this happens all over the city. It's part of what happens when every building is over-capacity, and as you well know, it's going to be happening for the foreseeable future in many buildings, not just HIMS. I'm not hearing safety-related tales from students or parents, as we have heard from students/parents at Eckstein recently. The HIMS building is, IMO, very much maxed out, but safe.

So the scenario of having 68 kids stay means roughly 100 kids less in the building next year, which should relieve a great deal of stress on the staff and schedule. That's at least 3 classrooms less than this year, and almost 10% of the student body. If I were a parent in that building next year I would be completely satisfied, from a capacity standpoint, with 100 less kids than this year, and it would only be for one year. That's why I'm fully supportive of the push to make it happen.

If we're working with different numbers or overall assumptions, please correct me.

kellie said...

Dw-

I am not following your math, but I also don't follow district math either.

There are 170 students scheduled to leave. If everything else was the same enrollment would be about 930 next year. However, I sincerely doubt 930. The 5th grade class from the feeder schools is much larger this years so I would expect another enrollment bump that would bring enrollment closer to 1000.

We have to disagree about safe. The school was designed for 800 students. 1000 is a lot for that building. 1100 is just too much.

FWIW, I think families should advocate for whatever makes sense. IMHO this is a leadership failure as this should have been handled years ago.

Hamilton really needs to have access to some of Lincoln to manage overflow. Without the ability to flex, they have to arr on the side of under 1000.

dw said...

800?? Everything I heard during the later stages of construction and just before move-in for HIMS was 900-950 capacity. And of course there have been configuration adjustments since then to increase the capacity (computer labs to classrooms). It would not surprise me if the building's capacity were to be assessed today in its current configuration if it came in at 1000. Not that I'm hoping those adjustments are permanent, but as you've wisely pointed out many times, every school is going to have to share some pain over the next few years.

The problem with capacity numbers is that they're all fuzzy, and we've seen the district make huge adjustments to them almost overnight when it suited their needs. Again, I'm not accusing the current teams because I think they've been doing the best job I've seen over the years, but I'm sure you remember this from previous school closures.

This is why for me it boils down to what I see with my own eyes. The building is kinda-sorta-barely working right now. I agree that it's not a level right now that makes sense for the long term. But if numbers dropped by 100 students next year (which would allow for grandfathering the small group of 8th graders), I'd be perfectly fine with it, given the state of the entire north end. It would be much better than today.

I guess we may have to disagree on the real-world meaning of "safe", but one thing we definitely agree on is that this is a leadership failure. Not just a recent one, but one that has been creeping up for years and should have been on everyone's radar for a long time. There's no excuse, but SPS works a lot like politicians where they just keep kicking the can down the road in the hopes that when the crap finally hits the fan it's on someone else's watch. I think we're just seeing a hint of what's coming over the next 5 years.

kellie said...

dw -

Yup, 800. A whole lot of the infrastructure of the building was designed for 800. There were multiple variances granted by the city during construction and the bulk of them were based on the school having a capacity of 800. (aka, no parking lot, etc)

But as you noted, these numbers flex and move so much, that it can be impossible to follow. The 900-950 was based on the square footage of the footprint. But the original design had a large number of unusable spaces that were designed as deliberately unusable so that the building would only have 800 students. The pull out flex spaces were a trade off for the cafetorium. They could have build an auditorium but instead the design team pushed for all these small group spaces and gave up the auditorium square footage to do it.

So, IMHO, the 900-950 numbers was already a stretch as it pushed into service spaces that were never intended to be used.

The 1100 is only happening because of serious creativity on the part of teaching staff. But what can be invisible to parents is that many of these creative changes were implemented with the idea that they would be one year fixes. When these temporary fixes become permanent features, the student learning experience is what suffers.

Again, current staff is the best I have seen in the last 10 years. But they have inherited a very broken system.

This is a leadership failure, period. The level of staff that is charged with making things work is the not the level of staff that needs to be charged with setting a vision for what SPS could be.

Meg Diaz said something once about opening Jane Addams as a middle school in 2009 that really struck me. She said, ok, what if everyone is wrong and we don't really need four north end middle schools. The worst case scenario is that you still have 4 middle schools in the north end with at least 700 students per school. And this was at a time when the ed spec for middle school was 800 students and 1000 was considered to be a huge school.

That is why it is a leadership issue. We are only getting another middle school when the conversation has reached the point of serious debate of whether or not a school is physically safe and not about student learning. We should never have gotten to this conversation. We should be talking about the student learning experience.

At 1100 students the master schedule is a mess. Many students did not get their electives this year because you can't make the schedule work.