Friday, December 12, 2014

Queen Anne Interagency Meeting

Notes from an attendee who seemed to think that it was mostly calm.  The upshot is the district will need to have real plans for those who have major concerns but Interagency is going into the Queen Anne gym.

From this person's notes:

Overall it was largely what you’d expect. There was a phalanx of SPS employees, plus a row of the school’s partners from KC Mental Health and Chem Dependency dept. Kaaren gave a fine (though slightly rambling) presentation about the school, and the floor was opened to questions/comments. I would say there were more there in support of the placement, but it’s hard to say for sure.

The District’s communications director controlled the mike.  (Editor's note; probably interim Communications director Peter Daniels but I'll check.)  Initially he insisted on holding the mike, instead of letting folks hold it themselves. But more annoyingly, at the beginning he tried to simply go from speaker to speaker, without allowing any sort of response. This was both awkward and, for those who had questions, enraging. Eventually he began to allow responses. Time was loosely kept, but folks were largely tolerant of longer-than-a-minute speeches.

Some of the questions were along the lines of “how can you double/triple/ensure that no harm will ever come to anyone because of this program placement” and by the way I’m not going to listen to your answer. 
  • Some people asked specifically how students were selected, Kaaren explained that they have to want to be there, then there’s a week of testing/analysis to make sure the placement is appropriate, etc. 
  • How would people be dropped from the program: That would be done on a case by case basis dependent on the specific circumstances, but a relapse alone wouldn’t result in a reassignment. 
  • How will you prevent felons from accessing the program: We have an obligation to educate every child, a conviction, even for a violent offense, won’t preclude placement here or at any other school.
Someone raised a very specific safety issue, that the recovery school is scheduled to get out at 2:30, but that the 1st grades have recess then.  Kaaren responded that she would expect to work with the principal of John Hay to identify and address specific issues like that. Schedules were not set in stone.

Twice people asked the District to promise, or somehow reassure them, that this particular Interagency school won’t be converted into an Interagency school for students in detention. Twice Kaaren explained that they sited their programs largely based on where their partners were, and the Queen Anne facility wasn’t located near any other partner, and she just didn’t feel it would be appropriate for any other Interagency program.

Christine Economou and many of the other anti-placement group tried hard to repeat their overall support for a recovery school, that it was only the placement they objected to.  Their attempt to thread this needle was undercut by some statements from folks who appeared to be quoting internet research that chemically dependent students had all sorts of mental health and criminal issues. And by people who seemed to be challenging the very idea of recovery, claiming, for example, that a person isn’t in recovery until they had not used for 5 years.

There were lots of heartfelt testimonials from a student who had been saved by a recovery school in Bellevue, by that same school’s Exec. Director, buy parents who had lost children to overdose or whose path to recovery would have been easier with a high school like this. There were plenty of examples of recovery high schools situated in the same building as preschools, and how communities had been built between the populations. 

One speaker asked the audience to raise their hands if they were unaffected by dependency in their life.  Not a single hand went up.

In response to “how can we help this program” Kaaren responded that they were genuinely touched by the outpouring of support from the community. She said that folks should check back in 7 months about other ideas, in the meantime she would work with the principals both to address specific questions and to address other communications needs.

The best QA came when someone asked “is there any chance that this placement will be changed?” Answer, “No.”


Anonymous said...

I wasn't there in person, but from the news coverage, it looked like the person with the mic was Tom Redman (Capital Projects Communication).

- North-end Mom

Charlie Mas said...

The meeting could have been done in fifteen seconds:

“Is there any chance that this placement will be changed?”


Meeting over.

Anonymous said...

It was a good meeting overall and it actually helped to change my mind about this issue. Largely because of the testimony of both the young man and the other parents who had children with chemical dependency problems and how they talked about the need for this kind of school.

I would say the crowd was 2/3 for and 1/3 against. There was one woman in the "against" crowd who was extremely rude but everyone else was pretty civil. And the crowd didn't allow her rude behavior.

IMHO It's time to get behind this school and the kids and help it to succeed.

- QA Parent

cmj said...

I support the recovery school placement in the QAHS gym, but I'm still a bit disturbed by the way that SPS has acted throughout the whole business. A caveat, though: I'm not a JH parent and have only been following this in the news. I haven't read all the press releases. I don't have the experience that a JH parent (who is obviously more affected by IRS than me) would have.

SPS could have done a much better job communicating the school's nature to the public from the beginning. Unless you lived in Queen Anne or managed to get the right person from SPS on the phone, it wasn't very easy to get information about exactly what sort of program the school was offering. I believe that there would have been less initial community opposition if they'd made it more clear what the program was about. Before the Queen Anne News article (11/28?, I think), most people didn't know much about exactly what sort of program this site would host. They only have the 2012 Seattle Times article that spoke generally of all Interagency sites and talked about students with gang affiliations.

I don't think that SPS was trying to sneak the program in. I think that they just dropped the ball on communication or thought that they didn't need to notify the community.

SPS often has an attitude of "we know better than you and we don't care about your concerns" towards parents and I saw a lot of that here. I may agree with their decision, but the attitude bothers me. SPS administration has a culture of disrespect towards parents and terrible customer service.

I do not wish to argue that a community should be able to veto a program placement, but I wish that SPS had taken the anti-IRS people's concerns seriously and actually addressed them. The FAQ posted on the John Hay Partners website did some of that and provided a lot of helpful information, but it was quite vague on some Q/As, and there was also a lot of "we welcome community input (but we'll completely ignore it)".

I wish that SPS had come out and said:
- there's no danger in having a high school next to an elementary school/K-8. Here's a list of high schools next to elementary schools in SPS. Queen Anne residents haven't had a high school in decades, so some of them see any high school as a danger.
- students at regular high schools drink and do drugs. Check the student health surveys on our website if you don't believe us.
- Interagency and John Hay will communicate about security. Contact X if you want to learn more or have suggestions. We do actually care about your security concerns. Once we come up with a plan, we will post it publicly

There were a few things that SPS did well:
- they pointed out that South Lake, which is rather similar to the IRS, gets along quite well with its K-8 and elementary school neighbors. The Board did this during the 11/20 (?) meeting.
- they pointed out that two of the first students to enroll were Queen Anne residents (I saw this in a comment on this blog, I'm assuming someone in SPS mentioned it in a press release).

Anonymous said...

It seems like an important service and has many locations.
More information here starting about page #7 :


cmj said...

PSP, thanks for the link. Lot of good information about Interagency and the different sites.

Interagency is good program and a very necessary program -- I'm just frustrated about the district's poor communication here. Of course, the district communicates poorly all the time, so it's not as if they were singling out Queen Anne.

Anonymous said...

Your comment is very dismissive. It sounds like progress was made, and some education and communication (albeit late) about the program was given to the neighborhood.

I get it, you're burnt out. Understandable. But I'm not sure you have any objectivity left at all. If the District made a great move in ANY area (hey - it could happen!), would you even recognize it? I doubt it.

Maybe it's time to step away for a bit. Such a downer to read you all the time, though I agree with your points. In the meantime, I'll try to skip to the comments from others. Thanks. :)

-Rare Commenter

cmj said...

Rare commenter: Charlie and Melissa are actually both quite supportive of the Recovery School on Queen Anne, based off their posts and comments on posts.

Ed said...

Don't let anyone get you down Charlie. WE APPRECIATE YOU!

Ed said...

Especially not a District PR person "trolling" as a commenter.

How lawless!

Melissa Westbrook said...

Look, Rare Commenter isn't necessarily a staff person (I doubt it). Again, people are entitled to their opinions but I think Charlie meant that the district could have made it clear - a long time ago - that it was a done deal.

That said, people like to be heard and I totally agree with CMJ's suggestions (and this person should be working on the new "communications" plan the superintendent has in mind).

Anonymous said...

I'm not a staffer, and Melissa knows my name as I've emailed her privately in the past. I'm just voicing an opinion that maybe Charlie is a little too burnt out to be objective. Seems like it was a good meeting, even if the decision was final. There is nothing like face to face engagement, and maybe some of the neighbors learned something.
-Rare Commenter

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link!! I am really happy to see so much more information of IRS. Really interesting to see the "Looking Deeper" slide on p. 15.

I live on QA and have been a supporter of the placement. Seems like a good use of the building and it is good place for the students (especially that there aren't a lot of HS students on QA during the day, even private school kids). I thought that SPS fumbled the ball, but that isn't news.

QA mom, and active school volunteer

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