Due to the persistently low achievement scores after Emerson was designated a state “priority school” the superintendent has now designated Emerson as a “superintendent intervention school”. The designation allowed teachers the choice to continue teaching at Emerson or displace themselves from Emerson. Many chose to leave the school and apply for other teaching positions around the district. School administrators and remaining teachers are heavily recruiting experienced, distinguished teachers from around the country to fill vacant positions.I have asked the district if any other schools are now in this classification of "superintendent intervention school."
I also attended the public hearing on the SPS budgets for 2016-2017 last week (you could weigh in on all four - General Fund, Capital, ASB and Debt Service - I spoke to three of them.)
To my great surprise/pleasure, the room was almost full. I was happy because usually it's me, Chris Jackins, Cecilia McCormick and maybe one or two other people. (And again, I believe the district should schedule these required hearings after the end of the business day.)
But, of course, the room was nearly full for a sad reason - it was a crowd of teachers, staff, parents and students from Chief Sealth International High School who had come to protest the staffing cuts at their school (3.0 FTE.)
What made these cuts so egregious - beyond losing the staff - was that the staff and principal had already worked very hard on other cuts to their budget, only to get this notice of 3 additional FTE. On the Friday before the last days of the school year. After business hours. That's the kind of BS that the Board should take steps to stop. There is no reason to treat communities in this manner. (How would the Board stop this? Tell the Superintendent it is unkind and unreasonable and that the Board might have a hard time voting on the budgets with these kinds of actions.)
All the Board members were there save Patu (at a family graduation) and Burke.
What did Sealth community members have to say?
- they had already made cuts to their budget including student services like Link Crew
- Boundary changes (in order to balance/drive enrollment to West Seattle) have reduced their population but they still have a waitlist of students who want to go to Sealth. They were not permitted to enroll international students this year.
- The auditorium had hand-written signage up from some previous meeting about the SMART goals. The Sealth community used what was written to back up their pleas. Goal #2 - "improve systems to improve outcomes" and then their school gets cuts. One speaker said it was "death by a thousand paper cuts and these students will pay the burden."
- Sealth is the most racially diverse high school in the system. Sealth has the highest number of Sped students in the district. Sealth has the highest Latino population. Ditto on Native American students. Ditto on Pacific Islanders.
- The students worried about the ever-reducing number of electives available.
- At the same time the hearing was going on, so was the Sealth staff appreciation party. There's some irony there.
- One teacher pointed out another irony - the cuts included their truancy officer who was there to make sure kids were in school. And the district loses money for every kid who isn't in school.
- Students said their academies at Sealth made a difference and one noted she would be the first in her family to go to college.
- One teacher quietly stated that she had had .2 cut from her time and that she was just told that day that her entire job had been cut. The day before the end of school. Where is the humanity and common decency in that?
Then we came to parent, Lynn Odgon-Perrine, who in a controlled but tense voice told the Board:
I can't wait to get the hell out of Seattle Public Schools.
She had been in the district 19 years and volunteered every year. She said the boundary changes had seen a drop in donations from $8K to $736. She said they have destitute students at their school. She said teachers are breaking copyright laws to copy textbook passages because they don't have textbooks. She said that we don't live in a third-world country so why does it feel like it in SPS? She called the treatment of Sealth "unconscionable."
Parent Eric Blumhagen put forth what he called "a radical notion."
Why doesn't the Board prevent cuts if there is a waitlist at a school. Why not let them in - if staff says there is room - and reduce the cuts?He congratulated the staff for finding the underspend and asking out loud what to do with it. But he continued saying that the district motto is "Every student, every classroom, every day" and not testing or central administration. He said the district should fund the programs that they started and fund CTE programs like the woodshop at Sealth.
On the ASB budget, Chris Jackins asked a good question - the district accepted a large grant for the athletic program at least a year back - what were the outcomes of that grant money?
Jackins also asked a good question about why roof replacements - partial or otherwise - are happening on roofs less than 20 years old (see Ballard High School.)
On the Capital budget, I pointed out that:
- the district loves to say they are always on-time and on-budget for their projects. That is just not true (latest example: Genesee Hill.) They are mostly on-time and on-budget but they need to be honest with taxpayers.
- I weighed in on the reopening of Cedar Park and their rather interesting boundaries that will create a school with high ELL and F/RL students.
- I put in a plea for maintenance (which seem prescient as the subject came up about Schmitz Park.)
This was not good to hear about, either. Turns out that the district has to have a hearing if they close a school. While Schmitz Park appeared to be just moving to another building, the budget doesn't reflect it even exists. So if Schmitz Park doesn't exist, why aren't they having their public hearing?
That's one whopper of a mistake.
Guess who that didn't sit well either? A granddaughter in the Schmitz family, Vicki Schmitz-Block. In case you are not aware, the Schmitz family gave the district the land for the school and threw in land for a park. She said when BEX IV came along to move Schmitz Park to the old Genesee Hill buidling, the family was fine with that and were promised the name would remain. And, if it's not in the budget as a school, that raises questions. She worries about the safety and maintenance of the building.
Another Schmitz Park parent, Michael Godfrey, worried about the old building and why it was even being closed. He noted that SP's new playground had, at one point, been torched. He recalled that another closed elementary building had found its copper wiring stripped out because the district had not kept watch on the closed building. (That would be Viewlands.)
After the meeting, I spoke with Ms. Schmitz-Block and Mr. Godfrey. Both wondered about the idea of closing the building entirely given the growth happening in West Seattle. They thought the district could use that building as a K-1 school. To note, if the district chooses to take SP building off-line more than a couple of years, it will be much more expensive to reopen as city regulations would require them to update the building seismically as well as updating fire suppression systems.
Ms. Schmitz-Block also said that she had hoped more philanthropists would step up to help the district but noted that donors will not appear if they get treated like her family has been.
I think the Board was quite moved by the testimony. What they will do is not clear but, as I reported in a previous thread, the budget for 2016-2017 will be discussed at Thursday's Audit and Finance Committee of the Whole meeting. I will be attending that meeting.