This meeting turned out to be more interesting than I thought but that was mostly due to parents who asked some fairly pointed questions about the waitlist.
Ashley Davies, the director of Enrollment, was the lead for the evening. (Flip Herndon was at a Work Session and it will be interesting to see if he handles any of the other community meetings.)
There were about 50 parents who came to Ingraham for the meeting. There was an issue right from the start because Ms. Davies had brought copies of the Board-approved 2009 SAP and the 2013-2014 Transition Plan which are the documents the district is attempting to combine AND streamline. The issue was there was no current document available and Ms. Davies did not convey that point to parents. She did not say when it would be (but the board was told "before Friday.")
She said did not explain why the district thought they could put forth such a hacked-up document to the board and not have questions raised. She said that the "descriptive information" in the SAP was "helpful" and yet didn't explain why they tried to do away with it beyond "streamlining."
She did say there would be NO changes to the 2009 SAP. What she didn't say (and I forgot to ask) is about this issue of "clean up language" which was repeatedly brought up at the C&I meeting on Monday with the board. PLEASE someone, at the other two meetings, please ask her to define "clean up language" because I perceive this could be a key element to watch over.
She made a couple of statements that either were not true or she improperly phrased her reply. She claimed that there are "no pathways" in the 2009 SAP. Yes, there are. She also said, in response to a question about boundaries, that there were no boundary changes. A couple of us told her, yes, there just recently were boundary changes in West Seattle.
I think this is yet another key topic - boundaries and the SAP. She didn't say it but I think most parents know that boundaries will be adjusted over the next couple of years as new buildings - Lincoln, the Wilson-Pacific buildings and others - come on-line. Trying to divorce the two is folly.
As I said, the biggest issue was the waitlist. Key problems raised:
- why does it have to be May 31st and not closer to the start of school like August 15 to dissolve the list? Ms. Davies said that other districts have a May date for dissolving their waitlists, it would move waitlists faster and provide more information earlier on to schools.
She seemed to get tangled up in this issue of moving the waitlist faster, saying there would be "more seats." One attendee, Heidi Bennett who is another long-time parent/activist, asked how there could be more seats in an already over-crowded district. Ms. Davies could not clear this up but I believe she was trying to say that there would be more clarity sooner with an earlier dissolve.
- why can't there be TWO waitlists? This got asked several times in several ways and it primarily revolves around two concerns.
Concern #1 - Option schools not filling because the waitlist gets dissolved too soon. Meaning, shifts AFTER May 31st could leave open seats that would not be filled even though there may be people willing to take those seats. This could lead to understaffing at these schools.
It was pointed out, and Ms. Davies, agreed that dissolving the waitlist would not solve staffing problems.
Concern#2 - That any open seats - at any school - could be claimed by any new-to-the-district student after May 31st. That new student's parents could come in,and basically say, "What's open?" and claim that seat.
This jogged my memory as I recall that former School Board director, Don Nielsen, during a previous SAP discussion (probably around 2002), had stated that it was wrong to allow that kind of thing to happen. He spoke of parents "investing" in Seattle Schools and so THEY should have first dibs, not people who just got here.
Should people moving to Seattle Schools (especially those coming from local private schools) get assignment to just their attendance area school?
Should there be two waitlists - one for attendance area schools that dissolves on May 31st and one for Option schools that dissolves on August 15th?
There is also another concern around dissolving the waitlist sooner and that the gamemanship that could go on which would become a major equity issue. It may be possible, unless definitively prohibited, that a parent could wait to see if spots are there AFTER the waitlist is gone and then move their child into one. That would only be something that someone with the time to keep checking and then, get down and claim a spot, could do.
Kellie LaRue asked a major policy point - what is the problem the district is trying to solve? I had to leave before the answer came but that's a good question. Is moving the waitlist date so that more families/schools know their enrollment situation sooner? Is it an accommodation to make life easier for the district more than families?
Here's what it looks like - that all of this is a capacity problem, not an enrollment problem. Rather than just admitting there is no space, they need to have control of the Enrollment plan to fit everyone. Having to go to the Board for approval may slow them down.
There did seem to be a belief that Enrollment isn't doing much during the summer and Ms. Davies hastened to dispel that belief. She talked about the "clean up" that Enrollment must do during the summer. But, if the waitlist moves earlier, wouldn't that clean up happen earlier? Why, of all the SPS departments to close (or power down) in the summer, would Enrollment be one of them?