Sunday, October 05, 2014

Seattle Schools This Week

Monday, October 6th
Growth Boundary meeting from 6:30-7:30 pm at Mercer Middle School

Tuesday, October 7th 
Community Meeting with Director McLaren from 6:00-745 pm at the West Seattle Branch Library

Growth Boundary meeting from 6:30-7:30 pm at Rainier Beach High School

Wednesday, October 8th
Executive Committee meeting from 8:30-10:00 am.  Agenda.  Reading over the agenda, I find it exceeding vague/cryptic.

There's an interesting notation on the agenda which is "items requiring Board Action on October 15 and/or Nov. 5th."  This stands out because at the Executive Ctm meetings, they normally go over major items on the agendas for upcoming Board meetings (and that is on the agenda for the Ctm meeting).

So I wonder about this notation that perhaps there might be Intro/Action items on those two Board meeting agendas.  If so, what could be so urgent that it couldn't have been introduced last Wednesday?  I recall Director Carr saying (a couple of Board meetings back) that she wanted to present a resolution in support of "preschool."  Since she and Director Martin-Morris (and former director Michael DeBell) are all out stumping for Prop 1B, maybe it will be specific to 1B.

Under "Special Attention Items" there is: field trip procedures. 

As well, under "Government Relations" there's this: "follow-up to Director's meeting with King County official."  What's that?  With who?

Work Session -Federal Reserve Downtown School, 4:30-5:30 pm.  Agenda.
 This appears to be a review for the entire Board of what was presented at the Operations Committee meeting on acquiring the Federal Reserve building. 

Of interest:
- The agenda says "downtown school K-5" but I absolutely believe that is an error and it should be Pre-K-5.   It seems to me that district staff want this building for Pre-k-5 but it could be used for the World School.

It's pretty funny that the argument is that they will need more space in the Central district and, as well, the World School being downtown would be an excellent placement.  But instead, they are doing the opposite - using TT Minor for the World School and wanting to open a Pre-k-5 downtown.

 - They do give cost estimates for the Federal Reserve building to be changed to a high school or an elementary school.

- The presentation has a map of "projects" downtown which I assume may be for both business and living spaces.  I would bet that any buildings slated to be apartments are unlikely to have a large number of apartments that are family-sized.  

- Then they have maps of major cities and where schools are located near downtown.  First, the Seattle one seems very off to me.  Hmm.  Second, nearly every city has a water challenge so that might be the reason there aren't more downtown schools.

- the agenda also says: "identify funding sources."  First, the district HAS done that and the options aren't good AND, if they pick the obvious one, they will be putting themselves in a somewhat precarious position.

The obvious choice (because it's the easiest) is to get non-voted bonds.  The Board can do this on their own, the district would get the money right away and could get started.  Speed of renovation and the opening of the school is essential as the building has to be up and running in three years.

But does the district really need ANOTHER situation like the one at headquarters where we are still paying off bonds for that building?  Staff doesn't say it in the presentation but they are banking on paying off those bonds with BTA IV money.  I am so against this idea.  If they do it, I can only say that staff and the Board will be endangering BTA IV because I find it hard to believe everyone who has been waiting for help for their building will hold their nose and vote such a huge sum of money just for one new school.  And, if they continue to use BTA as an expansion of BEX and add in $100M for a new high school and now nearly half of BTA would go to renovating/building two new schools, I won't be voting for that BTA.

At the last Board meeting, there were several speakers telling the Board how badly downtown needs a school.  (But, if you look at the Downtown Neighborhood Association analysis of how many students there are, it's quite the stretch.)  One speaker, Steve Gillespie, said that "plenty of people downtown will give resources."  Great, where are they and why haven't they spoken up yet?  Because not one single business has ponied up any dollars for something that would benefit businesses downtown. 

- And would you look at that; the presentation has an entire timeline mapped out to do the renovation.  Staff certainly isn't let grass grow under their feet.  But I think this project could end up costing more because staff is already pretty busy with BEX projects.  Will anything be put on hold or will they hire more staff?

- of major interest is page 38 of the presentation which is 2022 Enrollment Projections for high school.  Houston, we have a problem.  Every single high school is projected to be at least 400 over capacity with Ingraham being a whopping 1300 students over capacity.  Cleveland may need to be pressed back into service as a regular school (and house STEM as a separate school).  When you add up all the capacity, both regular and option, it comes out to the district being about 1900 seats over capacity. 

Then the agenda has this cryptic item, "Review/prioritize enrollment capacity needs 2."  No idea what staff really means here.

This meeting has a hard stop at 5:30 pm as the Board will then go into Executive Session over "labor negotiations."  The presentation is quite length so I imagine there will be little time for Board questions. 

One last thing - the agenda says there will be a "recommendation" but it is not in the presentation. 

Growth Boundary meeting from 6:30-7:30 pm at Fairmount Park Elementary.

Thursday, October 9th
Audit&Finance Committee Meeting, 4:30-6:30 pm.  Agenda not yet available.

Math in Focus "Family University" from 6:30-8:00 pm.  Locations:
  • Eckstein Middle School Auditorium 
  • Washington Middle School Lunchroom 
  • West Seattle High School Auditorium 
  • Whitman Middle School Auditorium
  • Van Asselt Elementary School Auditorium
Friday, October 10th
Professional Development Day - No School

BEX Oversight Committee Meeting from 8:30 am-10:30 am at JSCEE.


mirmac1 said...

Wow. More smoke. Extra mirrors.

mosfet said...

"Every single high school is projected to be at least 400 over capacity with Ingraham being a whopping 1300 students over capacity."

1300? Really? Even 400 is bad enough for high schools -- most of them are really only built to hold 1500-2000 students, so just 400 is a significant number.

SPS has been really saddening for me the last few days. SPED, Title IX, capacity issues, PTAs having to fund staff salaries, racial disparities in discipline of students, recent violence around schools (Ballard, Graham Hill), etc.

It feels like there are so many problems that, if people nag the district to take care of one problem, then it'll just take money and attention away from the others. I know that the district has a lot of inefficiencies, but sometimes it feels like they fix one problem (inefficiently) and neglect other problems instead of fixing the systemic inefficiencies that had a hand in causing most or all of the problems.

Others have mentioned that there's a glut of administration in SPS. I'm tempted to agree. From the SPS website, "We have a staff of about 8,000 which includes about 3,100 teachers." The district needs some administration. It needs nurses and accountants and security officers, none of whom would count as teachers. But more than 2.5x as many total employees as teachers? I really cannot believe that the money for employee salaries -- or any other monies -- is being spent efficiently.

Some of the schools are great, but sometimes it seems like that's in spite of district leadership, not because of it. I know I'm probably being too harsh on district administration here, because they have a very tall order to fill and they do get some things done. The problems that they face are probably more difficult than I can imagine. I know that SPS has always had some pretty major problems, so it's not like it's only dysfunctional all of a sudden (Olchefske budget shortfall, anyone?). It's just very frustrating to watch what's going on right now in SPS and I'm venting a bit here.

Anonymous said...

Where do the capacity projection numbers come from? I was alarmed by the HS enrollment projections, but the projected capacity numbers seem right. However, on page 36 the middle school projections arevery odd - Eckstein's delta is +154 because the projected enrollment is 2606 and the projected capacity is 2760.Since when has Eckstein ever been anything but crowded? All of the middle schools have projected capacities greater than 2000 students with the exception of Hamilton and Washington. Meany's projected capacity is 3125 and Madison's is 3210. I'd believe it if those numbers were projected enrollment, but projected capacity? In this presentation, Hamilton's projected capacity is 1950. In 2011, the functional capacity of Hamilton was 938 - where did Bassetti Architects find 1012 seats? I'm not as familiar as Kellie or Meg with the capacity numbers, but that did catch my eye. Anyone have any ideas as to what's going on here?


Anonymous said...

Agh! I searched on schools - now I see that I was looking at the numbers for the middle school attendance area - not the actual middle schools!


Anonymous said...


Projected middle school capacity for a middle school attendance area would include middle school capacity at K-8s within the middle school attendance area, too.

- North-end Mom

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Sometimes it feels like they fix one problem (inefficiently) and neglect other problems instead of fixing the systemic inefficiencies that had a hand in causing most or all of the problems."


Anonymous said...

So even after Lincoln opens and adds 1600 seats, we're expected to be 1800 HS seats short in 2022. How many seats would that make us short in those couple of years right BEFORE Lincoln opens? 2500? 3000?

I'd love to see some projections that cover the next 5 years. Are these be available anywhere, or anticipated at some point? It seems essential for addressing real, upcoming needs.


Anonymous said...

How can they 'fix' any problem if they first don't ask the most basic questions:

What is the worst capacity problem in this district? What is the second worst?

How are we going to mitigate that? Construction or non-construction solution (i.e., school in shifts)?

If they asked the question, and, it turns out the WORST problem in the entire district was insufficient elementary capacity downtown, then buy and build a new downtown school.

But, it isn't the worst problem. Not even close.

Look at enrollment vs. capacity for that segment (elementary) for that region (downtown/central), and, there is not a problem. (Lowell? yes, it is capacity right there.) In 4 years, if those 620 sq. ft. condos priced at $800k fill with families who stay as their child ages up through adolescence, perhaps, but then, those central-south campuses are NOT saturated with portables the way the NW or NE is.

In contrast, what things are breaking with bodies actually enrolled in the system TODAY?

Elementary in the south NW and in the south NE. There is NO MITGATION FOR the Ballard/Phinney Ridge area. Enlarging Loyal Heights is merely keeping pace. Adams/Whittier/West Woodland, those schools are saturated. Wallingford? Bursting. Greenlake Elementary can only take so much. BF Day is now effectively full. Bagley is a portable farm. And SpEd students must be directed to their home campuses, shunting them to Pinehurst/AS1/Licton Springs was not acceptable.

The southern NE? Saturated. Adding a new school at Thornton Creek simply keeps up with all of the growth in a region/segment of saturated capacity. Exporting students to Lincoln is the only thing that keeps Bryant, Wedgwood and Viewridge from breaking.

West Seattle: middle school segment is going to break in a couple of years. The bodies are there and rolling up. To fix it, a solution must be identified and implemented now. Perhaps co-locating Denny/Stealth wasn't a good idea. At least they can rebuild Denny on old Denny. If only they had money, like $44 million. Oh but wait, they want to take the first chunk of new money and apply it to a downtown elementary school!

Middle school in Queen Anne/Magnolia is set to break in a couple of years. McClure is capacity constrained, and as the community perceives the strength and quality of that program, it will break. The bodies are there, they just have been escaping, but, that is changing rapidly. There is no where to go. That's a problem. And, they are missing a high school. Lincoln won't come on fast enough. That's another problem that is going to break.

The capacity problems that will break first need to be identified and discussed. Construction solutions won't be available to fix them because construction solutions take time (and $), and the District and Flip Herndon are NOT planning and executing the solutions right now, and our Board is not even asking what they are. Elephant? What elephant?

Thus, entirely predictable, in 3 years time, those solutions won't be available, so, it will be

1) School in shifts (6am - noon AND noon - 6pm)

2)Extended day high school (try 10 periods to get through-put)



West Seattle, you know it is coming, you have to advocate to get this fixed.

Queen Anne/Magnolia, you know are bursting, you know you need a high school. Don't count on Lincoln: the north all by itself will absorb that capacity with nothing left over for you. A downtown school is not going to be a solution for the problems.

And the north? You know you are screwed. Your own Directors, Martin-Morris and Carr, are focusing on preK, which is not part of their mandate. You should ask them why they are not questioning about high school in shifts for your kids. Ask how they will take care of Ingraham so it can be staffed up and relieve Hale, Ballard, and Roosevelt.

Ask Questions

kellie said...

I just took a look at the presentation. There are few other concerning points in the high school numbers.

This is based on Rainier Beach being full at 1150. That would be double the size of today's enrollment.

This is also based on full enrollment at Lincoln of 1600. I still have real concerns that they will ever get all the interim students out of Lincoln long enough to make Lincoln a high school. There are currently 4 programs in Lincoln.

West Seattle Boundary issues?? WSHS is apparantly perfectly right sized but Sealth. Eeek.

While 17,888 is more high school students than current enrollment, if we used the elementary cohort size as average, high school enrollment would be closer to 20,000. That would be another 2,000 students. As such, I think 17-1800 is a very moderate number and still includes significant attrition and drop outs.

tt minor said...

The other thing that is missing is an analysis of TT Minor. Adding TT Minor as an elementary school would add more capacity at significantly less cost, because it is an elementary school. Pretending that is an option is simply disingenuous.

The World School is a non-geographic program that could go anywhere.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ask Questions, you are right. This is a train going down the track and only the Board and parents have the ability to stop it. Seriously.

The good news is that President Peaslee is very tenacious on this point of (1) what's the greatest need and (2) what are the costs.

Joe Wolf was really true to the data when he said - twice - at the Executive Committee meeting that the greatest need is not downtown but high school.

TT Minor, my question also. TT Minor is out the mix? I would say I am surprised but then again, the director for that region is Blanford.

kellie said...

TT Minor is a good point. Using buildings as they are designed saves lts of money. Ultimately, that was why Hazel Wolf and JAMS were shuffled. You can expect the same conversation in West Seattle regarding the Boren.

Anonymous said...

Downtown may not been the worst capacity problem in the district, but I believe long term it will be a capacity problem. And right now they have an opportunity to obtain a suitable location. I agree that there are huge capacity problems up North. I don't know of any suitable Northern locations. (Roosevelt Resevoir has potential, but if it is declared surplus that won't happen until 2015, and district would have to pay FMV.) If you have other Northern location suggestions, please share.

I see the district being proactive with the downtown school. Aren't we always accusing them of being behind the ball?

Northern Mom

Anonymous said...

The problem I have with that is that using the federal reserve space for an elementary school of any kind (not just moving one there) means you are not using it to add to high school capacity. The high school capacity problem is so much worse than the elementary capacity problem that it is malfeasance to use space for elementary. And I can't think of a place with LESS need than downtown for elementary capacity. It doesn't mean they won't someday need it, just that everywhere else needs it more. So if they get the building, I sincerely hope they use to help solve high school by moving a non geographic program in to free up more high school space elsewhere, or starting an option high school there.


mirmac1 said...

No Northern Mom, we accuse them of chasing after the new shiny things while everything goes down the toilet. Their processes are non-transparent. I can bet that, while bus routes are cut in dangerous areas, the district is gloaming together millions (see latest funds transfer) for a downtown school and City preschools. SQUIRREL!

Anonymous said...

Also they do have the Decatur building. While I'm dreaming I'd rather they right size Thornton creek's program to two classes per grade, and use the other new building for an attendance area school. It's close to some other ones, but that whole area is so child dense it could take it. Or put an option high school there. Something.


Disgusted said...

Have the downtown folks been in touch with Reuven Carlyle regarding funding for the downtown school?

Carlyle is represents Queen Anne and is the Chair of the Finance Committee.

As far as I know, State Rep. Gerry Pollet is the only representative expressing concern/support for capacity issues.

kellie said...

@ Northern Mom,

As someone who has tried to have a proactive capacity conversation to little or no avail for 12 years now, I actually do applaud the downtown folks for getting so much emphasis on their problem.

However, I know that parents have identified several properties over the years, that would have cost less money and had a much bigger impact on capacity issues and none of them ever evolved into even a conversation. The Children's Home Society is a former SPS property that is the perfect size in the middle of capacity crunch area and they would have happily sold to SPS at a great price.

There was no conversation at all and now that property is going to be new family housing.

Charlie Mas said...

This reminds me of something I did in a quick and dirty fashion that I would expect SPS staff to do in a more comprehensive way:
Review the properties in the desired area for a suitable purchase target.

You can do it the same way I did it. Select a zone (northeast Seattle would be a good choice), and scan Google maps for a property of the appropriate size - half a city block to a full city block.

You'll find potential opportunities.

I wish the City would move forward with lidding the reservoir at 12th and 75th because that would be a BRILLIANT location for a school.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Downtown may not been the worst capacity problem in the district, but I believe long term it will be a capacity problem."

No, I'm accusing them of not prioritize for the situation TODAY. And tomorrow. And the next couple of years.

They don't have the money. To get it would put the district MORE in debt and fewer buildings will have needs met that already exist.

I live right by the reservoir. I could go for a school except I think the need for more playfield space is needed. That said, if they wanted to put in a school, I probably wouldn't fight it (I can't speak for my neighbors, though).

Anonymous said...

I drove by the Children's Home Society property the other day. Big piece of land, great location for a school. I didn't know it was a former SPS property.

Another potential property that will be available in a few years is the current SPD North Precinct, near NSCC, which is being relocated to 130th and Aurora. It could be big enough for a school?

- North-end Mom

Patrick said...

What Mirmac1 said. If your house is about to be repossessed, it's not being ahead of the ball to go out and buy a new car because the old one only has seven or eight years of life left in it.

tt minor said...

On another thread, "downtown" mentioned that Lowell might once again become an APP site as the site for Central and Queen Anne. Downtown would probably be much happier with Lowell as part APP again. If that is the case, then many of these numbers are incorrect as right now there are quite a few QA/Mag students being bussed north to Lincoln.

If some of those students are instead bussed to Lowell, then that would dramatically increase the need for another elementary school.

Anonymous said...

Please, when discussing the highschool crunch:

Get SPS to talk about using north end practice fields for portables, and putting practices in Sand Point, with city support.

City wants to help SPS? Tell them to put a couple football uprights in Magnuson for practice fields, so SPS can drop 20 portables at Ballard and Roosevelt and kids won't have to go to school in split shifts, 10 periods or year round. (four quarters covering the whole year, groups A, B, C and D - three going at any given quarter, one off. So 3/4 of the kids in an area are in school, 1/4 are on break. How's that sound? Nightmare.)

City should step up and help with high school capacity before they push SPS to do anything else. The relationship between the two is so ... one-way. Other words fail me.

Signed: no splits

Anonymous said...

Sorry No Splits. You underestimate the support athletics has at the high school level. Athletic field access will win out over portable placement hands down. There is no chance the board or staff will go there.


Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm with DW; sports trumps most everything.

Anonymous said...

Then how about this: the athletes can go to school from 6-9am and 3-6pm, using the time between to practice, work out, shower, eat, rest, have study hall, etc. Then everyone else can have a regular 9-3ish schedule. Works for me!


Anonymous said...

FYI. It's been posted elsewhere, but the work session on the Downtown School, scheduled for this afternoon, has been cancelled.

- North-end Mom