Sunday, May 01, 2016

Center School to have School Walkout Tuesday

From Soup for Teachers:
The Center School, an arts-based public choice school is under threat of losing fine arts classes due to budget constraints.  (Editor's note; if this happened, it fundamentally changes what this school was created to be. Website description of the school: The Center School (TCS or Center) is a small public high school with a focus on the arts and community engagement.)

Tuesday, May 3rd at 9am students will be walking out of school (this will be an unexcused absence), over to Westlake, then taking the light rail to SPS in SODO. They will then protest and chant outside until someone comes to meet with them. Their goal is to let SPS know how upset they are with the budget and to demand action from the district to get all the fine arts classes back. 

Parents are welcome and encouraged to join for any or all part of the walkout. Please share about it on social media and spread the word! Any press would be great. 

Wednesday, May 4th students and parents from Center will be at the School Board meeting. Some will be giving public testimony. Again, it would be great to have support at the meeting. Thank you!

13 comments:

Po3 said...

This is odd to me, did Center have a drop in enrollment? Why else would they be losing a teacher under the WSS formula? I looked at three years enrollment and they did drop from 278 to 268 a couple of years ago, but seem to be holding at 268.

I know it doesn't take much of a drop in enrollment to start slashing staff - and small schools are particularly vulnerable. Would be interesting to know what the 2016/17 enrollment numbers look like.

Paul Tumey said...

In a recent meeting I attended, the principal said they did have a significant drop in enrollment for the coming school year. She said enrollment is down in many high schools for the coming year. It truly is a matter of trying to make money stretch too far. I believe she said Center's enrollment for 2016-17 was 240 -- but please don't quote me on that as my memory is famously unreliable. Is there a link where this can be confirmed?

The thinking is things will get better in future years, but that's not a good answer for the upper classes attending next year. Some of these students (who were also at the meeting I went to) said they chose Center because of the arts-based focus.

Josh Hayes said...

With the demographic bulge we have in SPS, and traditional waitlists at nearly every high school, we're supposed to believe that "enrollment is down in many high schools for the coming year"? This doesn't pass the smell test.

Jet City mom said...

Five yrs ago according to OSPI, Center school had 299 students in fall and 270 students in spring.
Each yr seems to have a good portion of the kids disappear, I hope the district is doing follow up, cause I want to know where they are going.
It supposedly has lots of resources given the lication so why is it getting smaller every year?

Charlie Mas said...

I believe that The Center School does not accept transfers into the school after grade 10. Is that correct? There will always be attrition, but other schools can gain students to replace the students that were lost. The Center School, by not accepting transfers, cannot.

Also, the District created the Center School, in part, to address the absence of a high school for Queen Anne and Magnolia. Since the new student assignment plan, students have a guaranteed assignment to Ballard and there is reduced demand for a local option for students who couldn't get into their neighborhood school.

Also, you have to wonder how the political struggles at The Center School - teacher and principal conflicts, teacher transfers, etc. - have harmed the school's reputation and reduced family interest.

Laura Bermes said...

I hope things work out for the center school, and applaud the kids desire to engage in pro-political action. From personal experience, this is a gem of a school. My kid, who was otherwise home-bound because of a serious anxiety disorder, has found herself at home. The classes are as large as our home school, but with fewer teachers and fewer students overall her needs (as expressed in her 504 plan) are being met with care. Her siblings attended the local high school and benefited from a wider variety of study, but they would have thrived at the center school as well. I think the goal should be small classes in elementary, and small schools in secondary. It helps assure proper advising, easier communication, and connection between the students and their teachers. And frankly, the outcomes at the Center School speak for themselves. The only thing lacking here is maybe promotional advertising and adequate district support.

Lynn said...

Laura, you posted while I was writing a long comment and confirmed some of my thoughts.

The Center School has always had a decrease in enrollment over the course of the year. The real problem is that they are now under-enrolled at the beginning of the year.

As mentioned earlier, TCS used to draw kids from Magnolia and Queen Anne who couldn't get a seat at Ballard High School. It also used to draw kids who wanted a small school environment with a college prep curriculum. Students have always been relatively wealthy and white. (Demographics are more in line with the city as a whole than most schools.)

Option schools (and particularly the small ones) are attractive to students who don't find their place in larger schools. TCS's enrollment appears to be weighted more heavily toward these students than it was in the past. Over the last five years (from fall 2009 to fall 2014), the special education and 504 plan rates at the school have increased significantly (from 12% to 19% for special education and from 2% to 7% for 504 plans). In comparison, Ballard's numbers are 10% and 8%. The staff is focusing their professional development this year on helping students deal with anxiety. That's not something I've seen at other schools which indicates it's a larger issue at TCS. A year or so ago, there were a couple of security incidents related to student behavior that caused lockdowns.

I think the school is transforming from a defacto neighborhood school for Magnolia and Queen Anne to a school that serves students who need a smaller, calmer environment than a comprehensive high school offers. This is not a problem. We need to provide every child with a school that works for them. This transition will probably affect the school's curricular focus. Maybe they should offer PE now. A yoga class would be really helpful for anxious kids. That would require hiring a part-time PE instructor and would mean some other class could not be offered. Maybe the current student population would be better served with more advanced math classes in place of some of the arts. A school should adjust to the needs of it's students.

On the other hand, if TCS wants to maintain all of its arts classes, they need to attract more students.

Anonymous said...

When my son went to the Center School years ago in its first class, the focus on arts was a big draw. The kids worked on drama productions with the Seattle Rep and it was a wonderful partnership. The relationships between students and teachers were also very positive.

I hope more families check out this school. The District has never promoted it and it is a nice alternative for students wanting a more personalized experience in high school.

S parent

Jet City mom said...

We consdered The Center School, but at the time they were very upfront about lacking resources for students with IEPs/ 504's, which we needed.
It seems that allowing transfers after 10th grade could mitigate the underenrollment.
IME, students become much more interested in where they are attending school after they turn 15/16, and I don't understand why they wouldnt allow transfers.

Anonymous said...

To be honest, it doesn't necessarily surprise me that it's in danger of losing its Fine Arts program. Our child originally went to TCS on the strength of the Arts program - it was integrated into all aspects of learning, from Math and Science to Spanish and more. The last few years it has drifted away from its roots and is becoming more and more focused on being a college-prep institution - almost STEM in nature. We've seen some of those original gifted teachers - who our child couldn't wait to engage at school - choose to leave. We decided to leave TCS because of what we perceived as a creeping paradigm shift in the direction it was going, and some of the parents we still dialog with at the school have also expressed these sentiments.

I'm sure my opinion will be in the minority relative to others posting here. It is a fact that when you look at the school phone book, the freshman and sophomore classes are somewhat large but it drops off noticeably for the junior and senior year - a sure sign of students going elsewhere. Why they're leaving...you'll have to ask them.

Anonymous said...

My experience with the Center School was years ago when it was founded and it had a strong relationship with Intiman Theater and then it ended when Intiman folded its tent.

At that time I think the paradigm shift occurred and the drama happened in the school versus on the stage. It has struggled to find its voice and address the diversity that a true art school should have.

There are many aspects to an arts school and Center House has little of it. And they could easily incorporate PE as the Armory offers Yoga two days a week. So it is only a matter of scheduling.

There is some odd undercurrent there that could be related to the staff turmoil but hard to know.

It was a cool school but no it is not equipped for SPED but then neither is NOVA which is also a school focused on the arts so maybe we have to choose which program lives.

- Curious Native

Anonymous said...
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Jet City mom said...

We also looked at Nova, but they seemed more flexible regarding disability and learning styles and were interested in making the program work for students who were generally mainstreamed but needed afditional support.

The Center School was very point blank about not offering extra support, and even twelve yrs ago seemed to consider themselves a private school alternative with a STEM focus, which they used to explain why they would not be a good fit for students needing help in math( mainly due to previous gaps in instruction)