Friday, January 08, 2016

Friday Open Thread

Update: I left out that the one community meeting on Saturday is with Director Sue Peters at the Queen Anne Library from 11am-1 pm. 

end of update
Did you get the latest oversized "save our charters"ad?  I think more than one reader has pointed out that the money going to save this lousy law could probably help these kids a lot more.  I also don't like the name of the group, "Act Now for Washington Students" because I think most people would think it's a group supporting all public school students, not a small group of them.

Here's a thought - via Representative Gerry Pollet - to fund McCleary, close some tax loopholes.

The proposal would do away with the following giveaways:

  • $120 million for the next biennium for fuel used by agribusiness on farms, heating chicken houses, and farm machinery replacement;
  • Nearly $50 million for interest on real estate loans for some banks
“Agribusiness shouldn’t escape paying for roads and schools it needs, and expect everyone else to pay” Rep. Pollet noted.

Heating chicken houses when some schools can't get comfortable heating?  Hmm.

Reminding you of the SPS event, Understanding the School Budget, on January 25th at JSCEE from 6-8 pm, I now see another SPS event on the calendar that might interest you.

It's the Option School Admission Fair on Saturday, January 30th from 10 am to 2 pm at Mercer Middle School.  Further details here.

Former City Councilman Nick Licata has a good piece over at Crosscut about ALEC and its legislative agenda for every single state.  (I weighed in on how the now-defunct Washington state charter school law was practically lifted from their charter school law template.)  FYI, he is speaking at Town Hall on January 19th in support of his book, Becoming a Citizen Activist.

Wondering how you can support education?  Here five education activist tips that I endorse (especially picking one thing you are passionate about.)
Figure out what you can do. For some people it’s cyberactivism, such as sending a letter to an elected official, signing on to a petition and sharing it on social media, or writing a letter to the editor of their local newspaper. For others it might be phone banking, door-to-door canvassing, attending meetings and rallies, or face-to-face conversations with members of your community.  Whether big or small, inside your school or outside your home, every action counts. And remember to rest and recharge.
What's on your mind?


twistjusty said...

This is a long post. This is Part One:
I'm failing in my activism. I'm sure I have blind spots in my pattern which goes something like this:

Situation Representation: School of which I'm a member of parent community has neither fiscal support from JSCEE, local admin exhausted funding retaining one FTE, PTSA is doing fundraising but reported only 30% of families participating (I was one of those, haven't seen a receipt yet). Staff post on if they want their projects funded. I post on Twitter, I engage local forums and group (I need to find more, don't know how) and DonorsChoose. I ask for help promoting the projects.

In fall 2015 I had this problem with an earlier DonorsChoose project from a teacher I wanted to see fulfilled. She's the most responsive and active teacher I've met at the school, so I was passionate to have this fulfilled as a sign of my appreciation for her work.

blog post with a few paragraphs of what I'd post here if not for character-length constraints.

I feel that I went to the appropriate online areas, but those appropriate areas are not populated with people richer than I, who care as much as I about this project.

Because I have no interest in having a Facebook account, I can’t even get people in a community of “let’s support our teachers!” to contribute to a project that wouldn’t even go to if the school district hadn’t made staffing budget cuts, if the state legislature fully funded state education.

I've sent letters to State Legislators. Only one State Representative in my district responded. I've sent letters to city council members. One did not answer my letter, yet ten days later invited me to an inauguration.

I choose my words carefully, present only facts, write in a respectful tone. I am sure to show the benefits or harm of proposed policy. I feel people like me need a resource to organize and strengthen a populace of common and shared passions and opinions so we as taxpayers and donors can collectively do good for our schools.

Maybe there's a city groups and local cultural organizations or underserved populations resource guide I don't know about. Is it worth writing to the cultural groups in other clusters to get projects relevant to their mission or vision promoted?

If the Seattle Public Library can tweet about how "diverse books" are needed, and promote Kevin Powell's presentation at the Central Branch, why can't a request for African-American literature get funded at a northeast Seattle School? An acquaintance, whose partner has kids at the school my kid's at, commiserated with me about how the cluster seems to be affluent, but we wouldn't know it by the teachers' requests that are fulfilled only because Google or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supply 98% of the funding if they're fulfilled at all, nor by the 30% participation of a PTSA drive.

See how each paragraph has facts? You see where I've identified some setbacks when I've tried suggested roads of activism? If you know of avenues of support I don't, it's worth sharing. I am not the only hand-wringing, frustrated SPS parent out there. I don't write letters this long either, I usually make them three to five paragraphs.

This is a long vent, but it's relevant to the topic and I hope people will connect with me, even if it is only to suggest abandonment of this cycle of failure and to offer direction on how better to help a near-penniless school. I'll even entertain serious FTE job offers to steadily donate 5% of my net salary to the school my kid attends.

Anonymous said...

Twistjusty, contact Friends of SPL. Once a year, public school teachers come in and get books to take back to classrooms. I sort thousands of discarded library and donated books. Tell them, teachers are interested in certain types of books and we can sort to include. You can tell your teachers to contact this organization directly so they can get info and relay their needs.

I don't know if KCLS operates similar thing, but contact them to ask.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Twistjusty, thanks for that story and thanks for your efforts. Do you think your PTA is trying to do too much and there is fundraising fatigue? Do you think your PTA is trying to backfill issues (like maintenance in your building?)

Reader, thank you for that input.

Charlie Mas said...

I read an article today on Crosscut about the EEU Kindergarten getting cut and now maybe getting restored.

The article ended like this:
"Now, with a seeming commitment of support from the Seattle School Board and district, it appears that the EEU is situated to find a solution. Schwartz is hopeful that fresh thinking on funding may allow them to 'think bigger' about the kindergarten and its future.

"But other challenges remain. Moving forward there will need to be efforts to rebuild trust between the program and the district. It is still unclear who made the decision to cut the kindergarten in the first place.

"'And we may not ever know,' Schwartz says."

That's a pretty poor assessment of the level of transparency and accountability at Seattle Public Schools. The answer, of course, is that the Superintendent, Dr. Nyland, is responsible for the decision. He is the only person who can be held accountable for it.

Anonymous said...

I'm disturbed by the buddy buddy relationship several of the new school board directors seem to have with Nyland. The two biggest tough gal acts are falling flat. They made it seem like they were ready to hit the ground running, but they look confused. I see no measurable improvements coming, I hope I'm wrong.

Same old

Anonymous said...

Heads up:


The competition asks students to write an essay about an individual or group of individuals from Washington state who have demonstrated civic courage on an issue of importance to the community at great personal, political or professional risk.

Essays must be submitted online between January 1 and March 15, 2016. (more)


CascadiaMom said...

Just FYI: I got a message from KidsCo that the school board is considering kicking out all after school programs from numerous elementary schools as part of the classroom expansion. It was discussed at the school board meeting this week.

I am sympathetic that those classrooms belong to students first, but it would seem that most elementary schools should be able to manage a system where afterschool programs could share some school space or something. Honestly I don't know what I would do without the before and afterschool resources that we have at our school.

Here is the letter text I got from KidsCo:

"Seattle Public Schools' School Board Members will be reviewing a proposal to cut 19 on-site child care centers for the 2016-2017 school year. We need your help.

Last October we learned that the Seattle Public Schools (SPS) might take over the space Kids Co. uses in schools throughout the city. Kids Co. along with several other on-site providers have been meeting, in good faith, with SPS staff to find creative solutions to the space needs so that parents will not lose their on-site child care.

Today we found out that at tomorrow's school board meeting (time/place) there will be a proposal introduced to re-purpose 19 child care spaces for the 2016-2017 school year to homerooms in order to support the mandate to reduce K-3rd grade class sizes amongst other recommendations as part of this plan. The school board will vote on this proposal on January 20, 2016.

We need your help to make sure that this doesn't happen because, if it does, we will have as little as 90 days to find a new location."

Has anyone else heard about this?

Eric B said...

If this is all accurate (and I don't doubt it is), KidsCo and the others would be losing dedicated classroom space. That doesn't mean they couldn't exist at the school, just that they would have to find other solutions for their storage and space usage needs. One alternative that may or may not work at the school is to have their materials kept in a storage area and then use the lunchroom or gym space for the actual child care time. It's not great, but before and after care still isn't the District's responsibility. The unfortunate reality is that parents complain a lot less about moving child care than they do about more portables or larger buildings.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant. Get rid of the safe and low cost on site childcare, most of which offer homework and tutoring help, because SPS couldn't get out ahead of itself to forecast and build more classrooms. That's going to help close the achievement gap!

Offer no help toward finding other solutions or suggesting in-building innovative solutions. (See EEU, rinse, repeat.) Don't give the community any notice whatsoever as to exactly which schools will be affected. Don't give school principals the information either. Wait to be skewered in press and in parent community. Oh, and don't offer a cogent breakdown of how the space grab will solve any of the enrollment issues that just keep coming. Hey, how's that high school capacity issue coming?

Meet 2016, same as 2015, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, big zero.


Anonymous said...

@ Eric B. I'm normally with you but in this case your own experience clouds the reality that working, single, foster, low income, homeless parents 100 percent count on and need the onsite service. "Most" parents to you = parents with the wherewithal to come up with other solutions. Many many SPS parents do not have that capacity.

And if you think SPS will be helping school site staff come up with other ways to serve their kids' needs in this critical arena, a place where kids are safe, warm, fed, taught, engaged, I've got a nice Green Lake shores, complete with territorial views, school building site to sell you. But hey - no doubt Kids Co, CCA and the others will have the deep pockets to procure space nearby these buildings and keep taking care of their 1000s of kids. Or to work through the SPS bureaucracy to share space within the buildings. Because SPS always alleviates roadblocks to serving our community's children!


Lynn said...

I don't understand the outrage. We've been hearing about this possibility since last spring at our elementary school. It is probable that the before and after school care providers will be using the cafeteria next year as the space they're currently using will be needed for classrooms. It's not ideal - but still a workable solution. Selfishly, I worry that we won't have room for the afterschool enrichment courses my child enjoys if aftercare takes up all of the free space in the building. We don't need full time after care but the enrichment program provides a bit of schedule flexibility a couple of days a week most months of the school year. This will be more important next year when school ends at just after 2:00.

I do see that this will create a problem for many families but I don't think it's reasonable to expect the district to provide dedicated space for child care providers. Planning for dedicated storage space makes more sense and allowing use of common spaces in the buildings seems reasonable,

The city could solve this problem. Community centers should have space for preschool programs that could then be used for after school care for nearby elementary schools. This would remove the cost of providing child care space from the district budget.

Anonymous said...

I haven't heard about this. Is there a list of the 19 schools somewhere?


Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie, when I write about the Board member, I'll include the funniest clip from the EEU discussion.

Same old, my Tennessee granny taught me that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. I'm seeing great movement in the right direction.

Cascadia Mom, this was indeed discussed this week at both the Board meeting and Ex Ctm mtg. They say they need the space and I hope it's not a ploy to get pre-k space since the order of importance for space is classroom, pre-k and before/after. It may not be 19, they just aren't certain but they want to give providers and parents time to consider options.

NE Mom, I don't think the list is yet available.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused. If there's enough room for all the kids to be at their school during the school day, why isn't there enough room for a subset of them to also be there before and/or after school? There should be plenty of room for childcare, tutoring, and enrichment. Is the issue that teachers won't let them use their classrooms? I know schools where they do, so it would seem they could work something out.


CascadiaMom said...

Thanks for your comments. I understand that afterschool care is, of course, not a priority compared to before school care.

Just wanted to vent since once again, I have the uncomfortable feeling that decisions are being made that will affect my kids and their well being, and made in a manner that allows for very little planning, input, or reasonable consideration of the costs and benefits.

It must be an SPS dream to know that just by yanking aftercare they can make 19 classrooms appear overnight. But, as DistrictWatcher noted, it would be a lot more work to come up with a plan that could actually meet needs in a proactive manner.


Melissa Westbrook said...

HF,I think they are saying the growth will continue such that there WON'T be enough room during the day. I think most teachers do not like to give up their classroom for another purpose. Doesn't hurt to ask, though.

CascadiaMom, you must be channeling Directors Peters and Harris because both expressed concern that this info get out early so that people are prepared to find other options. Peters, mentioning the NW Center, said she hoped there would be "sound rationale" for these changes and Director Harris asked if any of the spaces were being taken by pre-ks and Herdon said, "Not that I know of." Harris said that would be important to let people know that the before/after care was not being pushed out for another program.

Nyland said, "Everyone wants answers and advance notice and we can't tell in every classroom and every building in advance" what the enrollment will look like and the needs for each school.

Anonymous said...

It's not just childcare rooms that are being re-purposed. They need to add 65 classrooms, and they are only planning to add 22 portabes. There are 20 "support" rooms that are to be converted to homerooms. Are these PCP space (Art, Music, Tech, etc...), ELL/Specialists spaces, library spaces, gyms? All of the above? Do schools have any say in what rooms are being taken away?

- North-end Mom

Anonymous said...

It's also complying with McCleary. Reduced class size (yay!) means you need more classrooms. They have to do this now to meet the deadline. Or get portables which 1) expensive=cost, 2) huge dislike 3) no space for portable placement and 4) take away play area.


CascadiaMom said...

Needing to add 65 classrooms sort of sounds like 4-5 new elementary schools to me.

22,000 people moved to Seattle last year - has anyone considered where their kids will go to school?

This blog is the only place I hear about capacity issues being addressed.


Anonymous said...

The University of Washington's DO-IT program is an incredible resource for students with disabilities, both at the UW and at the high school level in SPS.

They're offering a summer program for high school students with disabilities, see info here:

Do-It's website is here: They also have resources for teachers working with students with disabilities. Many of our SPS teachers could learn from their tips and best practices.

A remarkable UW Bothell student with a disability, who also worked at DO-IT, told her story in this oral history archived in the UW Libraries digital collections:

Hope this will inspire many of you, as it has inspired me!

All Students

Anonymous said...

The EEU? Wyeth Jessee overstepped his bounds when he took on the University of Washington. What a foolish move - and it revealed him as a liar. We, special ed parents know that there is no truth ever in anything that comes from the mouth of a special education administrator at JSEE. They ALL lie, and the ALL say something different. There isn't even much point in talking to them. But now, the whole board, the superintendent, and the community know him to be a liar, and an incompetent one.

Wyeth lied that there was an "audit" problem with the EEU - NPR interviewed the state auditor who said there was never an audit problems at EEU. He lied when he stated that there were special inequities at EEU - the district assigns all the students to the EEU so the only "inequity" is of the district's own creation. He lied when he told them there was a special "autism" favoritism in the EEU kindergarten. He knows darn well that the EEU preschool has the autism programs, not the kindergarten. Wyeth Jessee knows all this BECAUSE HE WORKED AT EEU!!!!! I guess once he got his training - it's time to close the door, and start climbing the career ladder - on the backs of disabled families footing his ascent.

The thing Wyeth hates the most - good service to families with students with disabilities. Wouldn't want them to start expecting anything good out of SPS. That's what the EEU represents: hope. And that's what he wants to kill.

Now, he's lost all credibility with the board. The EEU petition had over 2,000 signatures in about a week. You don't take on that kind of wave. He should be fired.

Offwith Hishead

Miranda said...

Hey Offwith...

It seems that "liar" is a qualification for HQ jobs.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes the good guys win.

Community: 2,000
Wyeth Jessee: 0


Adele said...

I think they have a clause saying that after you lose the confidence of the board, you remain on full salary for at least two years.

Sonetka said...

I'm glad to hear the news about the EEU kindergarten, but a little confused -- is it *officially* on for next year, or not? Considering that Jessee appears to have done this without feeling the need for consensus or even, you know, an actual concrete reason, I'm wondering what's to prevent it happening again. I'm still boggled at the sheer stupidity of this move.

Anonymous said...

Sad news, a Roosevelt freshman commented suicide. Apparently bullying was involved.

Time for the civil rights officer to earn her pay check!


Anonymous said...

Offwith -- but did the good guys really win? Has this been confirmed? To me the real win would be the Board insisting on a Supt to push through actual services for kindergarten students. As was attested in one of the presentations by the public to the board the other night, that person's child had NO ACCESS to typical peers at all. Only at the EEU did that family find a context where the child could mingle.


Anonymous said...

Kids Co. after school childcare is affordable? Maybe for the wealthy. I can't afford it. I happily share my classroom with one(expensive) outside vendor 3 afternoons per week. I've tried offering it to others and my things (that I buy with my own money) are destroyed or misplaced. It's no fun HAVING to spend 20 minutes picking up your classroom before school starts because it's been trashed (yet again). In my experience, most after school vendors either don't have proper training to manage large groups of kids, or they have too many kids enrolled to manage. I want to be a team player, so I always offer up my room, but it's burned me on many occasions. I understand why most of my colleagues say no. The lunchroom is the best option as there is nothing stored there for them to accidentally destroy. Also, our classrooms are not heated after 3:00.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely good point Hoping. Lots and lots if schools have absolutely restrictive special ed, day care in a room. Evidently, it's STILL aok to have "linked schools" for inclusion. If you live in Washington middle school region, sorry. Your linked school for desegregated education is McClure. What high schools deign to do inclusion? No news is bad news.

While it seems true the EEU won their small battle, it's a pretty dismal story after that!

Hopefully we can continue the wave.


Another Name said...

I've not read all the comments, but I need to agree with Eric.

I support before and after childcare services within our schools. In doing so, young children do not have to endure multiple transfers each day. For years, at least one elementary school has set-up before and after school childcare in the cafeteria. The space is large and pleasant.

Kids Co. is a private provider. Kids Co. also provides prek services and they are connected with the city's prek program.

Our schools are over=crowded and the district must provide space to Seattle's K-12 students-first. Before and after care child services can be set-up in cafeteria space etc.

mona said...

Guess what, cafeterias aren't heated after hours either.

Another Name said...

We have private entities using our schools. I appreciate concerns regarding heat etc., but, maybe it is time for private entities to start paying rent. The district has a long list of repairs, which they can't afford, as well.

Joe Wolf said...

Melissa and all - some backstory and context on 2016-17 capacity management.

The timing of the BAR and when we have the best data to make final new-homerooms-by-school recommedations do not match. The BAR needs approval by the second Board meeting in January; the best data comes after the close of Open Enrollment in early March.

The "65 new homerooms" called out in the BAR is based on the current homeroom-by-school projections from Enrollment Planning. After Open Enrollment closes my team will work with Enrollment Planning to determine what revisions are needed to the initial new-homerooms-by-school list.

The fact that the list used to craft the BAR is, by definition tentative is the reason it isn't shared.

Of the projected need of 65 new homerooms, 27 are related to enrollment growth and 38 to class size reduction. Taking CSR out of the mix our projected need is lower than it has been in recent years.

You can review the BAR here.

Anonymous said...

PSAT scores were released online last week. Some things to know: 1) the PSAT subsections have a max score of 760, not 800 as in the SAT; 2) the "Nationally Representative Sample Percentile" is different from the percentile of those that actually took the test; and 3) the NMF index score is based on a formula of math + 2(reading/writing), so math counts as only 1/3 of the score.


Charlie Mas said...


While I understand how, from the District's perspective, it's a bad idea to communicate anything "tentative" it is exactly that attitude that precludes the desired level of transparency.

The District is always coming to the public saying "Here's the solution" and deeply invested in that solution. Consequently, the community is surprised, feels imposed upon, feels locked out, and any feedback from the community comes as complaints.

It would be better if the District came to the public and said "Here's the problem. Let's work on a solution." The community feels like the process was open and they feel like they have been heard. Then, even if the solution is the same, the public can see why that is the solution and they feel invested in it as well.

The community is going to say what they are going to say. If they say it before the decision, then it is input. If they say it after the decision then its complaints. The District gets to choose whether they get input or complaints by deciding when to allow the community a say.

The question, of course, is how this sort of open work slows down the decision process. People say that it does, but it doesn't have to.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for your response. 20 "support" classrooms are slated to be re-purposed as homerooms. Do you have any details as far as how these classrooms are currently being used? Also, which new BEXIV buildings will have support classrooms re-purposed?

Thank you,

North-end Mom

bubba said...

I agree. It seems odd that it would be expected that a school district would be inherently responsible for providing space for child care. They are responsible for providing educational services during the mandated school day; parents are responsible for determining what happens outside this time... Private and/or non profit organizations are responsible for locating a space. If there is space within a school that can be leased outside the school day and the conditions are mutually agreed upon, bonus. If not, then that is seems fair as well. It's not fair to "expect" that school sites/districts are burdened with "childcare" on top of everything else. As a single parent of a young child, I understand the complexity. As a professional in the field of education, I understand the complexity... It's important for us to be flexible