Friday, December 18, 2015

City Council Committees

Just an FYI, courtesy of the Stranger Slog.

Next year, along with becoming council president, Harrell will chair the Education, Equity, and Governance Committee, a new spin on what's now called the Education and Governance Committee. 

Bruce Harrell is the new president of the City Council AND will head the committee overseeing education.  The Vice-Chair is Lorena Gonzalez, Debora Juarez, Member and Tim Burgess, Alternate. That is not the line-up I would want to see if public education in Seattle is to continue operating independently, but in partnership with, the City.

Harrell cares about public ed but between his new presidency and the fact he's not the most active City Councilman, I worry about who will really be directing that committee.  Given that the Vice-Chair is closely connected to the Mayor, I have to wonder.

I also wanted to mention the conversation I had with the Mayor recently.  It was at a holiday event so it was not lengthy. 

I mentioned that I felt very good about the new Board and how varied their backgrounds are.  I also mentioned the return of Noel Treat as head of Legal, telling the Mayor that Treat had previously been in the district but had left to be manager of Mercer Island.  He asked me Treat's name, twice. 

I told him that I hoped he was not going to consider going down the ill-advised road of the City trying to become "more active" (I thought that phrase better than "takeover") in the district.  He got a bit agitated and said it was a moral duty to do something and that, in the years he was in the legislature, the graduation rate in SPS had never changed.  (I'll double-check but I think he's wrong.) 

He left me before I could make two points. 

One, the legislature never did fully fund education until recently when the Supreme Court stepped in (and it's still not a done deal.)  I'll have to also double-check what he was doing for public education all those years he served in the legislature.

Two, I wanted to ask him to consider what has happened to many big-city mayors who thought taking over public education would be an easy task.  I wanted to point to the example of Chicago's mayor, Rahm Emanuel, who has manage to make enemies in all directions in his city but especially among teachers and parents.  His ratings have tanked and there is mass agitation for him to resign.

I welcome the City's help with our public schools but there is a line that should be respected.  School Board members are every bit as much elected officials as any mayor or city councilmember.

But one example of help from the City is that I would want to ask them to redouble their efforts in permitting for district projects as I noted in one recent district report on capital projects that there was an issue of permitting delays.   At least that's what the district says.  I'd be interested to know the exact issue as the City says they have cut red tape for the district and yet the district still complains.


Watching said...

As expected, the city's park department has joined in providing prek. The city's parks department will be partnering with Tiny Trees; an outdoor preschool. They will work in conjunction with the "community". "Community" partners has not been explained or defined.

The city's program involved P3 or P5 alignment. Is it the intention of the city to partner with SPS to align the work of Tiny Trees with SPS?

"Tiny Trees is a non-profit start up. Our goal is to launch a total of 20 schools in parks across Puget Sound by 2020. Each school requires fundraising to build and is then sustained on earned income. Each school would start with 16 students and would grow with demand while still maintaining an adult-child ratio of 1:5 and a licensed teacher-student ratio of 1:8.

We are an official partner of Seattle Parks and Recreation and together we are opening 9 preschools in Seattle. Six in September, 2016 and 3 in 2017. Locations and enrollment information will be announced in January, 2016."

Anonymous said...

The permitting delay is for the contentious Loyal Heights Elementary School project. SPS is planning to build a 660+ student elementary school plus a stand alone preschool on a 2.8 acre lot. Not only would this be in violation of city code (City code recommends 35% lot coverage for the neighborhood, but in some cases allows for up to 45% lot coverage. The SPS design requires 48% lot coverage.), but is also unhealthy for elementary school students. It has been demonstrated over and over (and recently supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics) that recess is crucial not only for physical and emotional development, but also for academic learning. The proposed building plan would leave a playground about the size of half of a soccer field, and a school with enough "flex rooms" that it could hold almost 900 preschoolers and students. The parents and the neighborhood were against this plan and tried to get involved from the beginning - asking instead for a 500-student school remodel and/or the removal of the stand alone preschool. But SPS just plowed ahead without offering any meaningful concessions. As a result every single departure from city code asked by SPS was rejected by the neighborhood departure committee. This is the cause of the current delay.

We hope the city will support the parents and the neighborhood and ask SPS to provide plans for a smaller remodel on our small neighborhood lot.

-Concerned LHE parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Watching, I like this idea of outdoor pre-ks but the problem is that there has to be an indoor part. So...where? Community centers? Will City pre-ks displace existing ones? And what a coincidence that the head of Parks is married to the deputy head of DEEL.

Concerned LHE, this is an issue I am hearing about (and, you'll be glad to know was mentioned by one Board member at the Work Session with the entire Board and some senior staff including the Superintendent.)

I think you truly need to rise up and go to City Council members as well as the Board.

Anonymous said...

I believe that true outdoor preschools do not spend any time indoors. They meet at park shelters and use park bathrooms. No other buildings are required. Kids are outside rain, snow or shine all day. It's like Waldorf on steroids, at least for the outdoor portion.


Joe Wolf said...

Reaponse to LHE parent and Melissa:

The new LHE facility includes a gym of 6200 SF. A size that supports all 660 kids getting 100 minutes of Phys Ed instruction/week, per WA State law.

Because of our climate covered, heated space is as (or more) important as outdoor space relative to keeping kids active and healthy during their time at school.

FYI, Loyal Heights folks do not seem to be behind your (LHE parent) narrative 100%. See comment thread at the link below.

Joe Wolf said...

It took SPS 18 months to get a Departure permit to place a 900 SF portable at Laurelhurst.

With that placement the lot coverage is something like 39%.

Waging a "neighnorhood values" war with one's public school district seems, to me anyway a sad and toxic approach. But of course I'm not an unbiased party here.

Joe Wolf said...

All you need to know re. graduation rates.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious about what is happening in NE Seattle. Joe Wolf mentions the portable at Laurelhurst. My understanding is that View Ridge, Wedgwood, and Bryant elementary schools are very overcrowded. What is going to be done as the overcrowding gets worse?

And when will something be done?

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

reprinting for Anonymous (next time give yourself a name per our policy):

We are thrilled about a new gym and look forward to its added benefits. However neither I, nor our teacher's union, nor the American Academy of Pediatrics feel that gym class is an adequate substitute for recess. Unfortunately in Seattle gym class only happens once every 3 days where recess (even in our climate) is twice a day. I asked my kid how many inside recesses he had this week and he said zero.

Anonymous said...

Joe Wolf - The link you posted was from an article that was posted back in February. The first community meeting at which SPS presented the plans to the public was in March. Those of us who attended that meeting were blindsided by the extremely oversized plan for our school. Until many parents and neighbors started spreading the plans and explaining what is really happening, most people were completely unaware of the extent of the project. The community's (parents and neighbors) extreme opposition to the project was evidenced at two different Departures Meetings during which SPS asks for exceptions to the 5 city codes they would violate.

Additionally, unless you have a child who goes to LHE, then I don't think you are qualified to attest to the appropriateness of their indoor time in PE. My child does attend LHE, and I can tell you that she does NOT receive 100 minutes of PE each week. So go ahead and cite any requirements you want, but that does not mean they are actually being followed.


Ballard Resident said...

Years ago, parents spent an enormous amount of time and energy to assure Loyal Heights elementary had a partially grass covered playground. It is my hope that grassy areas are not paved. IMO, kids need to be connected to the earth-not asphalt.

Ballard Resident said...

Loyal Heights elementary is nestled in a small neighborhood and I"m not convinced the neighborhood can handle the traffic. Why not buy back Crown Hill Elementary?

r.l.werner said...

I see a number of comments from Joe Wolf. Is this the same Joe Wolf who is the K-12 Planning Coordinator for Seattle Public Schools?

If so, it would be nice to have that information revealed in his profile and posts.

dw said...


Joe Wolf is indeed from SPS, and I think almost everyone here knows that. He is a semi-regular commenter, and his inside knowledge is greatly appreciated. I don't feel like he needs to fill in a blogger profile any more than I feel the rest of us need to fill out profiles here to comment.

Thanks for your continued updates here Joe.

Anonymous said...

I say this respectfully as someone who has been a long time MyBallard community member - but putting your eggs in that basket as being demonstrative of what the "local area" thinks is a big mistake. The site has lost much of its connection to what's really happening in this area. I think LHEParent is probably much closer to what neighbors feel than SPS would care for.

The area has grown exponentially with single family homes torn down every day for 4 and 6 packs of townhome/condos. Traffic is insane pretty much everywhere in greater Ballard. Sure the school needs to accommodate more students because of that, but not at the expense of letting kids have outside time. A giant gym is NO substitute for grass and sky.


Anonymous said...

Our school - we are neighbors of Loyal Heights - had two rainy-day recesses last week. Office personnel decides and I think think teachers are on the losing end. :) Indoor recess = in-class recess. We live in a wet climate. Put on the galoshes and go outside. At least that's what my mother used to tell me. I've course I'm only suggesting this on drizzly wet days. Not full-out rain days.

I asked once why elementary gyms are so large - full-size and equivalent to middle and high school gyms. Turns out they are supposed to be emergency community centers. I've come to appreciate the large areas since I see so much good use. Watching kids on unicycles and bikes in the gym makes it worthwhile.

When you think about two recesses a day and a half-hour in PE that's a pretty fair amount of time spent on physical activity. At my school, PE is one of three specialties but art and music are important too. We have to keep it all in perspective.

my 2cents

Lynn said...

my 2cents,

Not every school provides two recesses. Unless I'm mistaken, 100 minutes per week of PE is required by law in grades one through eight but there is no equivalent requirement for art or music.

Anonymous said...

Lynn, are you saying that there are schools that do not provide a lunch and either an AM or PM recess? That they either get just lunch recess and no other? Or no lunch but one in the AM or PM? I haven't heard of that in Seattle and that would surprise me.

Second, I didn't say PE wasn't required nor that that art and music were. That was not my point. I understand you are a by-the-letter poster. I'm not. I appreciate that my school with the permission of the parent constituency agrees and supported a waiver.

my 2cents

Jet City mom said...

The West Seattle principal is quoted as saying if kids are out for longer than 15-20 minutes, it is problematic.
Seattle apparently did not have a district wide policy, until the teacher strike this fall.
Now, they have 30 minutes a day.

Lynn said...

my 2cents,

Maybe I'm unnecessarily concerned with schools following state law - but I wonder where you heard that an elementary school can get a waiver and how parent approval fits into the picture. As far as I can see, there is no process for a school-wide health and fitness waiver. Here's the law:

Physical education in grades one through eight.
Every pupil attending grades one through eight of the public schools shall receive instruction in physical education as prescribed by rule of the superintendent of public instruction: PROVIDED, That individual pupils or students may be excused on account of physical disability, religious belief, or participation in directed athletics.

My elementary student's school clearly doesn't meet this requirement - as students have PE only every third week. We don't have a waiver though - this is just one of many laws that neither SPS or OSPI cares to follow/enforce.

Charlie Mas said...

Culture of lawlessness...

KC said...

All we want is a safe, healthy environment for our kids. I find it far more "sad and toxic" that we are having to fight so hard for that. It's been a hugely depressing experience. No one wants a fight. We just want the district to listen to the community, because we are going to have to live with the results.

r.l.werner said...

"dw" - When I posted that Joe Wolf should have his information about his employer in his profile, I neglected to list that I am an LHE neighbor.

If Joe Wolf and other employees of the SPS are proud of the work they are doing they should let us know their position as employees of the Seattle Public Schools. Being a new viewer of this site, I don't have the back information that you have to connect Joe Wolf to the SPS.

Knowing the credentials of people posting information on this site helps put their comments in perspective. At a minimum, anyone who is an employee of the Seattle Public Schools should disclose that information in their posts.

Rich - Loyal Heights Elementary School neighbor and taxpayer.