Sunday, April 13, 2014

Seattle Schools This Week

Basically, it's Spring Break week so no meetings.

Saturday, April 19th
Director Blanford finally has a community meeting.  It's from 10-11am at the Douglass-Truth library.

I attended both Director Carr and Director Martin-Morris' community meetings yesterday.

Director Carr had about eight parents in attendance (and one little girl who was reading her book and laughed out loud a couple of times - good to know there are books that make kids laugh like that).  I came a bit late but the discussion was around issues with Wilson-Pacific.

I had brought along for Director Carr a copy of what a very basic auditorium (in Menlo Park, California) looks like.  I had also communicated with their Operations director who said, they had thought about a cafetorium but felt, for the acoustics, it was better to have a separate auditorium.  He also said the auditorium, which has a retractable, elevated seating system, was in near constant use as they use that extra large space for teaching multi-classes, events (like art showings) and sometimes (although not often in California) for eating space when it rains (that actually might be useful here in Seattle).

Director Carr, a careful person, was taking notes about what each person said.  She said we should go see how Madison uses its space (they have no auditorium) and wondered if it would be fair to build an auditorium in the north end when they didn't in the south end.  I will go back and review who has an middle school auditorium and who doesn't.

But I can say that Denny-Sealth are co-joined and Denny has ready access to Sealth's auditorium.  As well, when parents and community realized how co-joined the buildings were going to be AND that Sealth was not getting a new building, they raised a ruckus.  That uprising resulted in more capital dollars flowing to Sealth. I remember this and thought,"Good for them."

I have checked the BEX numbers and there have been more projects done in the south end than the north end.

It was also noted that because of the increased traffic pressure on the area around Wilson-Pacific, it is likely one or two stoplights will be installed by the City. 

There was also discussion about what will happen to the Decatur building.  It's unclear but I think the City may be eyeing it for pre-K use.  I doubt that will happen given the district's needs but it's clear the City is pressuring the district on the issue of pre-K placement.  Someone also asked why Pinehurst could not have been placed there.  

Update on Pre-K issue - Apparently the push is on to get the Board to "see the light" on Pre-K.  I don't know why - because the capacity issue has been front and center for quite awhile - but the Board is being pushed to support the City's Preschool for All initiative.

As President Peaslee and all the other Board members have stated - they, individually and collectively - support this idea.  They, along with SPS staff, want to work to make this a reality.

BUT, the reality is that there is no room at the inn and yet, that reality does not seem to be making its way to City Hall (or LEV who is pushing this hard).

To whit, a passage from a letter about this issue:

Several new elementary schools will open in Seattle over the next few years, and we have an opportunity to include high-quality preschool in these new schools.

Folks please, if you see a city councilmember or the Mayor (or any other elected official), please let them know that there is no room at any elementary, new or otherwise, for preschool.  I wish there was and I know the Board does as well as the Superintendent.  The reality is otherwise. 

This could get decidedly nasty if this kind of misinformation continues to get out there.  It's not a matter of holding onto space in our school buildings just for K-5 or K-8 students - there is NO extra space. 

End of update.

Director Carr said that placing Pinehurst at W-P did have costs as did the "greening" of the building. 

There were also issues raised about one bus less for McDonald next year.  One parent from Wedgwood asked about the later start issue and Director Carr went thru the issue.

There were also concerns from Greenwood parents about their 4th graders going to three middle schools and then at least two high schools.  It is a valid concerns and the district should have some mitigation for this issue.  I did point out that when Lincoln does open that parents should know that there are scores of Lincoln alum who will come out of the woodwork to celebrate and support the school.  It won't be like opening a new school; Lincoln has a rich history.

Director Martin-Morris' meeting was a cozy one as it consisted of just him and me.  As first, I didn't think it was going to work out. He was very dismissive of the idea of an auditorium at W-P but then we went onto other subjects.   We had a very useful and thoughtful talk about several issues but mostly about the need to have a conversation about race in our schools and our city.   We shared some of our personal backgrounds and experiences.

He also talked about being in an urban school district group and the discussions they were having.  One fascinating issue is that Seattle is only one of two or three urban districts that are growing.  He said other districts are surprised to hear about Seattle's explosive growth.  

He was warm and open and this is the person I remember voting for six years ago.

I asked him about his reports from the various education conferences he has attended and he told me that several of them are at the bottom of his School Board page


ConcernedSPSParent said...

Thanks Melissa,
could you expand a little on what Ms. Carr meant be 'and wondered if it would be fair to build an auditorium in the north end when they didn't in the south end'. Did she mean new schools are being built in the south with no auditorium or did she mean a new school in the north must have parity with existing schools in the south?.

Anonymous said...

So the board is concerned about making sure all the school buildings are similar? Are there also schools in the south end where they're cramming so many different schools into one building, and where K-12 will all be on site (for school and/or practice)?


Melissa Westbrook said...

I think she meant that not all the middle schools in the south end have auditoriums.

Anonymous said...

What was the story behind why Pinehurst isn't moving to Decatur? That was one of the plans floated before it was "settled" that the program would move to W-P.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Reader, Sherry didn't have an "explanation." Just that it had been an idea. How it got dropped in favor of W-P is not clear to me. I think it may have been part of Pinehurst/Native American program joining forces. The Native American program wanted very much to stay at W-P because of tribal links AND wanted to be on a direct bus route.

I suspect the fine hand of President Peaslee but I don't know.

But leaving Decatur in a limbo zone does allow the City to eye it for pres-school uses.

ben said...

The most rational plan for the Decatur building would be to tear it down and replace it with something 2-3 stories in the long run given the overall capacity needs. Although I know that wouldn't thrill the neighbors given the already rising number of students on the site.

Anonymous said...

Is there any reason why a family would not yet have received back neither their child's ALO test results, nor their assignment for open enrollment?

Also, totally dismayed to learn from a friend how her first grader, who can comfortably read Harry Potter Book 3, tested for Spectrum in ALO testing last year, and was 95% or higher on MAP ELA testing -- was assigned to a reading group at his neighborhood school and his latest report card cited that he read "it" as in "sit". This mom had raised the issue with his classroom teacher, reading teacher and the principal and was told that sometimes parents were overly optimistic about what their child's actual comprehension level is. Why the hell does the district do all this testing if this type of abuse of students is allowed to occur?

What recourse does she have at this point?


Melissa Westbrook said...

GMG, to the first question - go to Tracy Libros (Enrollment) and Stephen Martin (AL) directly. There is no recourse at this point.

As for your second issue, I'd call in an executive director for a sit-down with principal. I wouldn't use the word "abuse" at this meeting. Calmly explain your confusion. Act confused and let them explain what testing is for, what happens if the testing is in direct conflict with in -class teaching observations and how to reconcile these issues.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Melissa. I will pass it along.


Anonymous said...

Does anyone know when open enrollment letters will be sent?


Seattle parent

Anonymous said...

I don't know about the letters, but I know that you can now find out your student's assigned school/waitlist information on the Enrollment page on the Seattle Schools website. You will need their student ID#.

already checked

Anonymous said...

@Already checked-

Thank you! I hadn't known about that tool, and was able to locate the info for my kids.

-Seattle Parent