Thursday, June 22, 2017

Stevens Elementary Trying to Fight Cuts

From Stevens parents worried about their school.  Understand that if the Board does not act on policies that are broken/bent/ignored, then YOUR school community could be next.  

I can see what the district is doing - clearly, if they got Madrona's enrollment up near building capacity, they are trying to fill schools.  But it is just wrong to then leave other schools twisting in the wind.  (I think staff believes that more people will eventually move near Stevens and it, too, will fill back up but meanwhile they are ridiculously below their capacity.  And, I think the district is triaging schools by student population.  Again, that might be okay except that the policy doesn't state that.) 
We've been asking the District to move the Stevens waitlist to no avail.  The big picture includes:
  • Stevens is being targeted for reduction while all the other schools in our area are growing or maintaining their enrollment.  (Comparing building capacity and 2020 projections, Lowell is expected to be at 125% of building capacity while Madrona is at 96% of building capacity and Stevens is at 57% of building capacity.)
  • Stevens had 16 classroom teachers 2 years ago (in 2014-15).  Next year it is slated to have 11.  Three years from now (in the fall of 2020) it is expected to have 8 (and that number may be optimistic).  Cutting a school's enrollment and teaching staff in half over six years is a recipe for disaster and the district needs to ACT NOW and MOVE THE STEVENS WAITLIST in order to slow this train wreck.
The Superintendent told our PTA in email that the District is artificially limiting choice assignments to Stevens in order to increase enrollment at surrounding schools.  That violation of Board policy makes zero sense in light of the enrollment projections above.

From PTA letter:


Our message is simple: Save Stevens! Follow Board-approved assignment policy, allow choice assignments where space is available, and MOVE THE STEVENS WAITLIST.  It is NOT FAIR to artificially limit choice assignments to Stevens in order to increase enrollment at Madrona or Lowell given the District’s 3-year enrollment projections for each school: Stevens is projected to be at 57% of capacity in 2020, Madrona at 96% and Lowell at 125% capacity).  

*We have been told repeatedly, including by the Superintendent in an email to our PTA, that choice assignments to Stevens are being artificially limited in order to increase enrollment at Madrona and Lowell.  That is a political choice that is completely out of compliance with approved Board policy, which allows choice assignments to schools where space is available.  We had space last year, we have it again NOW!
 


Please take up one or more of these actions, listed in order of importance:

                  WEDNESDAY, JUNE 28                      SPS Board Meeting, 4:15 p.m., John Stanford Center
                                                                                          Bring kids and signs, and wear your Stevens t-shirts!
                                                                                          If you are willing to testify, sign up at 8 a.m. Monday morning; directions here:
                                                                                          https://www.seattleschools.org/district/school_board/public_testimony
IMMEDIATELY                                       Email the Superintendent and School Board to tell them to follow the Student Assignment Plan, admit our waitlist and slow Stevens’ decline:
llnyland@seattleschools.org; scott.pinkham@seattleschools.org; rick.burke@seattleschools.org; Jill.Geary@seattleschools.org
sue.peters@seattleschools.org; stephan.blanford@seattleschools.org
leslie.harris@seattleschools.org; betty.patu@seattleschools.org
SATURDAY, JUNE 24                          SPS Director Stephan Blanford Community Meeting
10 a.m. at Douglass-Truth Library
SATURDAY, JUNE 24                          SPS Director Betty Patu Community Meeting
10 a.m. at Raconteur, 5041 Wilson Ave. S.
 

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

Although there is merit to the intent of this - staff should not be implementing something that is a clear departure from policy until it has been vetted and approved by the board.

2boysclub

Anonymous said...

It is a fireable offense for the Superintendent to act in violation of board policy. We all know the board has zero interest whatsoever in enforcing its policies. But the courts might care. A lot. And so should the public.

Parents should demand the policy be enforce - or Nyland be immediately fired. You won't get what you want by playing nice. *Do not* ask nicely. Be firm and strong and show these bullies you won't stand for it.

Fire Nyland

kellie said...

It is important to note here that the district is intractable on this issue. Director Blanford has been quoted that these families with split siblings are just trying to avoid other schools and that it is an equity issue to allow families to avoid schools.

This is such a sharp contract to all of the years of conversations around the NSAP. As the district transitioned from a 100% choice system to a limited choice system, the critical component was a promise to keep families together. In the 100% choice system, families really did vote with their feet and avoided many schools, as Director Blanford has stated. However, in our current system, the challenge is much more nuanced.

At this point in time, the vast majority of the families that were split, starting with the NSAP in 2010, have worked their way through the system. Last year's split sibling report showed that there were only 200 split siblings looking for choice assignments district wide. The vast majority of these are related to the boundary changes made after the NSAP, (aka Growth Boundary Changes).

The critical component for elementary school boundary changes has been that these changes "roll up" with new families and that families currently invested in an elementary school will continue to be able to stay at that school.

Steven's boundaries were shrunk significantly a few years ago. This was in large part because the original boundaries had been planned around 300 seats in Lowell being set aside for HCC. When HCC was moved out, that left a lot of extra capacity in the area.

Steven's boundaries were shrunk so substantially with the expectation that grandfathered siblings would continue to fill the building. However, since the district has arbitrarily decided that it is just perfectly fine to split families, this school is shrinking fast.

Capacity issues have lots of moving parts. The district's decision to violate their own policy has many unintended consequences, not the least of which substantially lower than expected TOTAL enrollment in the areas where this policy has been violated.




Melissa Westbrook said...

Ditto on all that Kellie said.

I still find myself wondering what exactly Director Blanford does except make pronouncements.

Anonymous said...

I emailed Nyland and the school board. I have a student at Lowell, and filling her school to 125% of capacity while the next school over is half empty is not acceptable.

Mom of 4

kellie said...

There is one big capacity mystery that seems to repeat itself, without a solution.

Sometimes downtown does something with a good intention to solve Problem X. That thing has an unintended consequence of creating a brand new Problem Y.

Whenever families try to highlight the unintended consequence of Problem Y, the only thing that is heard is an attack on Problem X and then families are labeled as uninformed, uncaring or something else.

This then escalates until there is NO possibility of a real conversation or a real solution. During the closures there was lots of very compelling evidence that there was no need to close schools, because of overall growth inside Seattle. All of this evidence was dismissed as nimby'ism and self interest.

The simpler answer is that by the time communities had organized compelling information, the conversation was already too polarized and the district needed to close schools, simply because that is what they said they would do.

Capacity problems on Capitol Hill are not new. Capitol hill is one of those places where poverty and affluence are adjacent and it is reflected in the schools. This is not the first year, that the district has refused to admit siblings into Stevens. However, it is the first year that the board has taken an interest in following policy.

The Steven's community has compiled compelling evidence that the unintended consequences of not following policy are significant. But ... the district is now entrenched with no way to say ... Oops.

Zone Whisperer said...

This Stevens issue seems to be an admission by the district that some schools are not as good as others. If they were all equally good, why not let people just go wherever and send the staff where the people are? By not letting anyone go anywhere but their geozone school everything is so much more fair. Now families have to spend more money to live within the zone for "better" schools. Bingo--complete fairness? Not.

Did you see this article about Dallas, where they are setting up schools where, "Half of their seats are reserved for students from middle- or higher-income families, and some are set aside for students living outside the district." Interesting that Dallas is pursuing well off families. As if there could be some benefit to that. Huh.

Madrona Parent said...

I cannot understand how SPS does enrollment planning but I think it is really unfortunate that the result of their inability to plan for growth in SPS results in families being pitted against each other as they attempt to save their schools. Madrona is most certainly not at 96% enrollment and the PTA has been working hard to increase enrollment and to overcome outdated and untrue beliefs about the school. I have a lot of sympathy for the parents at Stevens but making this about Madrona is pretty inaccurate. It is about SPS.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, what I would like to see happen is that the district allow the enrollment process to play out. Then, they look at where underenrollment is happening and figure out how to better support those schools to get more enrollment. It's not just a school's responsibility to seek out new parents; it's the district's.

Anonymous said...

It's sad to see all the Whitman 6th and 7th grade students say good bye to fellow grade level classmates who are unwilling reassigned to RESMS and also goodbye to many of the teachers who have lost their positions at Whitman. Several teachers are leaving the district.

With friends like SPS, who needs enemies?

WMSP

kellie said...

@ Madrona Parent,

Thank you for chiming in. Your comment about schools being pitted against each other is right on point.

However, it is neither this post nor Steven's families that are making this about Madrona.

The district, including Superintenant Nyland and Director Blanford, have said directly and pointedly that the *reason* for not moving the Steven's wait list is to protect Madrona.

Sharon McConnell said...

Madrona has a wait list, too. And parents who can't get younger siblings in because they are zoned for Gatzert and so are split between two schools. And people who want to come to Madrona but can't get in. We are moving from three kindergarten classes to two next year.
The District policy is to grant families their choice school as long as it doesn't have an adverse effect on the school the student is moving from. Madrona is in a special situation right now. We have lost our middle school. Building capacity is 565. Our numbers for next year are at 260. We have very few services for our high needs kids. Last year, only about 20% of public school families in our boundary send their kids to Madrona, their neighborhood school. That is changing, slowly, with a lot of work by parents and staff. The District is finally doing something to prevent families within our boundary from self-segregating.
I'm really curious about the projections at the start of this thread. Where did they come from? And I'm not clear on the numbers for Stevens. It is my understanding that the enrollment at Stevens was artificially high because of the flight we have seen from Madrona. The District is trying to correct this, rather than continue to add to the segregation we have seen. It isn't pretty and it isn't easy. But it has to change.

Anonymous said...

We are # 4 of 4 on the wait list for Meany while currently assigned to Washington, which itself has a wait list of >16.

We are new to Seattle so the lack of movement is puzzling to us. Typically wait list movement is a win-win for all.

FNH

Anonymous said...

The District is finally doing something to prevent families within our boundary from self-segregating.

There's no need to be a jerk. Your claims about your neighbors's motives are based on assumptions, not data. There are plenty of reasons families would want to send their children to school together and to avoid moving their older child from the school they're already attending. If Madrona parents and staff are advocating for siblings to be denied the opportunity to attend school together or for older children to be pulled out of their current school to provide more resources for your own students, that's deplorable.

So selfish

Sharon McConnell said...

You misunderstand me. Madrona parents and staff are working hard to break through the long-standing assumptions about our school and show people that we have a beautiful school. We are not at all trying to split siblings. I fully recognize what a pain in the ass it is to have kids go to different schools, and how people dedicate themselves to their school, making it heartbreaking to have to leave. But the District does a disservice to families by giving people the false impression that "choice" means a guaranteed spot for a sibling. Using the choice process is a risk.
I'm sorry that it makes people uncomfortable to to suggest that race is a factor here, but it is. It was for me when I felt "brave" sending my daughter to Madrona, when people told me I was sacrificing her education by sending her to a school with so many poor black kids. I have talked to so many parents- white parents- who went through the same process, the same anxiety about Madrona. I don't need to get into all of that, though I'm happy to talk about my education in this process. The larger issue is the fact that our schools are segregated. The District allows parents to self-segregate through the choice process. They are trying to recognize and correct that now. They suck at communicating their reasoning because they are afraid of the backlash. It's unfortunate, but the work they are doing is a move in the right direction.
I recognize that this is disruptive for a number of families. But a chronically under-enrolled school with insufficient services is also a problem for the fifty homeless students we serve with a .8 counselor and a .5 family support worker.

Anonymous said...

As long as people here are content to complain to each other rather than demand the Superintendent and board give you what you want upon pain of losing their jobs or lawsuits, you will NEVER get what you want. Stop whining and start fighting back. You have power. Use it. Force the district to give you what you want.

Fire Nyland

Melissa Westbrook said...

I never did get to go visit Madrona (it took awhile to get permission).

I will say that those "long-standing assumptions" were not all assumptions. Madrona operates in a different manner than the average K-8. That may be one reason that 80% of the neighborhood chooses another school. The district is going to have to figure out if forcing people into Madrona is the way to build up enrollment or perhaps engaging with the neighborhood to find out why that is.

It sounds like there's some community-building that should probably take place but it's not going to happen thru "prevent families within our boundary from self-segregating. "

Choice doesn't mean a guaranteed spot but sibling has always been the first tie-breaker (like for more than a decade). You can go back and see the district's language around keeping sibs together. And the belief was if there was room for that sib, they could get into the same school as their older sib.

I don't think it is about race; I think it is about how the school operates. That many white parents did make an attempt to send their kids to Madrona years back and it turned out badly may be some evidence of that.

If you are suggesting getting rid of the choice process in favor of strictly neighborhood assignment except Option Schools, that's a whole different thing.

And, if the district wants to "correct" the self-segregation, the process should have been open and transparent and part of the enrollment plan. It is not.

If they have the courage of their convictions on this point, they should not fear backlash. And now they are digging themselves a hole.

Fire Nyland, I think if this issue is not straightened out soon, there will be some angry parents rising up. Of course, it's clever that staff waited out until the end of year when they know parents are going off in different directions.

It's really on the Board now.

Sharon McConnell said...

Please stop telling people that Madrona operates differently from other schools. Your information is wrong. I have asked you to come to the school to see for yourself. Our principal told the District you are welcome to come and tour the school and talk to us, but you have not done it. The experiences you are referring to happened three principals ago. People listen to you and you are spreading misinformation. I am happy to sit down with you and talk about this. I am the president of the PTSA and I can speak for our organization. I can't tell you how exasperating it is to read this over and over again.
Yes, the District has dug a hole. They need to be more transparent. But every change brings angry parents, parents who want what they want and want to fire those who won't give them what they want. We need to work as a community to do what is best for our kids, all of them.
Please look at Madrona's website. madronaptsa.org. We are working our asses off to inform people about who we are. And if you think this isn't about race, then site a ten year old issue that white parents had when the principal wouldn't give them what they demanded, and refer to the District "forcing" parents to send their kids to our school, I think you're missing something.

Anonymous said...

Madrona has evolved and been through many changes over the years, just like other schools. It is not the school that was victimized by white flight ten years ago, but it is still subject to its effects, some of which Sharon McConnell has eloquently and graciously addressed in her posts. The hostility to Madrona school casually exhibited here and by those who seek to avoid their assignment there in favor of Stevens, calls into question the motivation behind such hostility and how little value integrated education matters in a city flagged by Black Lives Matter placards.

For progress

Mom of 2 said...

Has anyone read the communications coming out of the district these last years? It’s all about “closing the achievement gap.” And what is the easiest way to close the achievement gap in a given class where a lot of students score 1s and 2s and fail the SBAC and there is another group that scores 3s or 4s and pass? Where do you think the focus and effort goes in the classroom? I’m not saying it’s wrong, but I would never judge a parent for doing what they believe is best for their own child. Middle class families of all races are making similar decisions. Which schools do you think the kids of the teachers, and principals, and administrators attend? On the whole, they are no different than any other parents when it comes to their own kids.

Anonymous said...

Your new website continues the theme that parents who don't send their children to Madrona must be racists. As a morally superior person, naturally you value the diversity of its students above all else.

Oh and many parents are turned off by this kind of teacher. "She then explained her model of peer and differentiated learning wherein the students help teach and learn from each other." It's not racism, it's the insistence that valuing academics above diversity makes one a terrible person that drives parents away.

Self-righteousness is not going to draw people to agree with you.

Still unconvinced

Anonymous said...

The Stevens vs. Madrona enrollment numbers are based on data from the District's website (see links at end of this paragraph). They show Stevens with a building capacity of 353 and a projected 2020 enrollment of 202 (57%). The district shows Madrona with a building capacity of 352 and a projected 2020 enrollment of 338 (96%). The data sources are the district's 5-year projections (https://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/Enrollment%20Planning/Projections/5%20Year%20Projections%202015%20to%202020%20%28Feb%202016%20Update%29.pdf) and the district's building capacity numbers (http://www.seattleschools.org/cms/one.aspx?portalId=627&pageId=9498085).

As a Stevens parent, I want to echo the sentiment above that the only reason Madrona and Lowell are mentioned here is that the district keeps TELLING us that Madrona and Lowell are the reason they won't move our waitlist. That justification is not supported by the Board's policy. Someone said above that "The District policy is to grant families their choice school as long as it doesn't have an adverse effect on the school the student is moving from." That may be the district's PRACTICE, but it is not the Board-approved policy, and in fact it violates the Board-approved policy, which is that choice assignments are to be made on a "space-available" basis.

I also I want to say that everyone I know at Madrona is happy there. It seems to be a great community, a great PTA, and a great school. I don't think that anybody in either of our respective sweet neighborhood schools means or wishes to be "pitted against" the other. It's just that families that have older kids at Stevens don't want to move them or have siblings at two schools. (I'm sure the Madrona families on the Madrona waitlist feel the same way!) Anyone who is an engaged, active public school parent knows that keeping up with the needs of one school is plenty of work, and two (or more!) seems daunting. So having the District arbitrarily tell our families that they aren't eligible for choice assignments is a bummer. And seeing our school slated to go from 16 to 8 classrooms in 6 years is no picnic either--it's easy to lose great teachers and families and resources fast, and slow to build them back up again. So to hear that the district is intentionally artificially depressing Stevens enrollment even further under these circumstances is confusing and disappointing.

--Disappointed parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Sharon, as I said, it took awhile to hear back if I could go see the school. There's a protocol to these things. As well, I do have a life that included tutoring at a nearby school so that, along with the blog, was my focus. I will go to Madrona in the fall.

It is hard to discern anything when the last parent newsletter on the website is from 2016. If it's hard for parents (or anyone) to find info at the first source (website), you can see how people may not know much about the school. Madrona does have uniforms which sets it among the few schools that do require them. Many parents associate uniforms with a more structured/rigid type of school. Is that an issue for some? It might be. Maybe a good question to ask on tours.

I did see the PTSA website which is exceptionally good but I'm not sure enough people would know to click thru to it for more info on the school. (One irony - the garden program which was a source of conflict several years back.)

I'm not saying nor have I ever said Madrona is not a good school. But perception is everything in this district and why the district - in the face of falling enrollment - hasn't tried harder to change that perception is hard to understand.

But Sharon, you are upset because some people still believe Madrona is the same school it was several years ago. I think that period of time really made an impact (clearly) but forcing people into the school isn't the way to build enrollment. It is all a shame and frankly, I think the blame falls on the district.

I don't see hostility here; I see some pushback and questioning.

Disappointed Parent is right; this pitting of schools against each other - even just by numbers - is not helpful. And "practice" is not policy and the Board should say no to that.

I believe it very hard on parents with elementary children to have them at two different schools if they didn't choose that course. It will water down involvement and breed resentment. Of course, the school the younger sib gets assigned to might be so great that the older sib joins them. But we all know how friends and familiarity are for young children; many kids would probably not want to leave the school they already know.

I also do not like the district saying that they don't want to hurt one school for another's sake but that's just what they are doing.

kellie said...

When I first got involved in capacity issues, I was shocked at how schools were pitted against each other.

Anyone remember the plan to move TOPS to the Thurgood Marshall building, close Montlake and then make the TOPS building the new Montlake for neighborhood families?? That plan causes lots of conflict between neighbors, because it was nearly impossible to even discuss the plan, without simple statements about pros and cons turning into us vs them shouting matches.

All these years later, I understand that this tactic is so effective because it is just too easy for conversations about neighboring schools to turn into us vs them, particularly when the district already set the parameters for the conflict.

The district has unequivocally violated their own policy. The plan to keep families intact is about strong schools and strong communities. The failure to respect families ultimate hurts every school. They are splitting the sibling at Stevens and Madrona and dozens of other schools, that have more than enough space to keep the families together.

The district needs to change boundaries fairly regularly as Seattle grows. A plan that creates a modicum of stability for families in the midst of lots of change is just common sense.

The entering K cohort in 2005 was one of the smallest K cohorts ever. This was in large part because the "plan" that year was that you were only picking a K and your K student was going to be re-assigned to a new school with the dawn of the NSAP. This enrollment drop was so sharp that a foundation of the NSAP was the students would be allowed to finish at any school they start to the highest grade. This is why board approval is required for geo-splits for new schools.

Any plan that builds one school by destroying another school is not good for any school.


Madrona Mom said...

Melissa, you need to be accountable for spreading misinformation about Madrona. ‘Different protocol’ is overstating wearing uniforms (you could call it: different dress code than *some* other SPS schools). If you have a comprehensive list of the differences in ‘protocol’ between Madrona and other schools, let’s get a full list together of all schools in the area, including Bailey Gatzert, Stevens, McGilvra, Lowell, Montlake, etc and use facts, not hearsay. And small samples sizes of parents who didn't click with Madrona (this happens at all schools, for one reason or another). Otherwise, please stop. Singling out Madrona as a school, using second-hand, unsubstantiated, out-of-date information and it is perpetuating a reputation that Madrona does not deserve. Please be mindful of the impact.

Anonymous said...

I am thrilled to read that Madrona is a great school and that parents, kids, and families are happy there with a thriving school community. If there is misinformation out there or out here about Madrona it would be helpful if the Madrona PTA, Madrona Mom, Sharon, or others could dispel some of those myths and write about what prospective parents can expect, what the PTA sees as the benefits to a Madrona education, etc. If uniforms are a problem for some folks, explain why it is not for you or why it is a positive at Madrona. Please, instead of saying "you don't understand" or "it's great" give specifics so that folks are informed. And you are right, Madrona has a pretty strong reputation on Cap Hill that dates back to 2005, a different community of parents, and a different principal (Kaaren Andrews). Here is your opportunity to clear the air. I also want to add, in case it was in any way unclear, that this is an honest request and not someone trying to be snarky.
-NP

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm not singling out Madrona and sorry if you feel that way. THe information on the uniforms is at the website so that's not second-hand.

It would be interesting to hear why Madrona parents think other neighborhood parents aren't enrolling.

But understand, if people are not enrolling in numbers at Madrona, there is a problem. And it's the district problem, not Madrona's or Steven's.

Sarah Kent said...

I, too, am frustrated that, as someone with such power to influence what other people think of various schools, Melissa is continuing to re-hash a 10-year-old story and suggest that Madrona is "different," in spite of the fact that many many many of us who are actually there, and therefore know better than you, are telling you otherwise. Please do come visit in the fall, and until you do, please stop giving out misinformation in your very persuasive, public platform.

Regarding people's motivations for choosing one school over another, I think we can all agree those reasons are as varied as the people making the choices. Those of us at Madrona know race is one of the many factors considered because we've all had conversations with people who didn't choose Madrona in which they've said so, either overtly or in racially coded language. And I can't tell you how many white people have told me how "brave" I am to send my kids to "that school." To deny race plays any factor is absurd. Of course it's not the only factor, but, then again, nobody here said that.

Regarding academics, I can tell you that my HCC-qualified child has been consistently challenged and engaged at Madrona. All three of my kid's teachers have been very skilled at differentiation in the classroom. I know this because I see it with my own eyes, when I volunteer several times per week. If you're worried about academics, please consider giving Madrona a shot. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. Test scores have been consistently improving, and test scores don't paint the whole picture.

As I've said in other, similar threads, my heart goes out to the Stevens families whose kids are being separated by the district right now. That sucks, and there has to be a better way than pitting one school against another. I don't know who is telling so many of you that whatever enrollment is doing with the Stevens waitlist is Madrona's fault, or that we are at capacity when we're less than half full -- or why they would tell you those things -- but those are alternative facts that should be ignored or, at the very least, not repeated as actual facts in a persuasive public forum.

By all means, keep pushing the district to be accountable and do the right thing by your families. But please stop scape-goating Madrona in the process. We are not your enemy. In fact, if there's something I can do to help, please let me know. We are all in this together.

Anonymous said...

@ Sarah Kent.

Superintendant Nyland and Director Blanford have stated that the Steven's waitlist is not moving because of Madrona.

This district is pitting the schools against each other, not the families.


- cp

Anonymous said...

Back when the NSAP was being crafted thousands of families from all areas of Seattle united to ask the Board to include language in the NSAP to guarantee a place for siblings at schools when boundaries changed.

Tracy Libros even said a guarantee for siblings would make her life easier. Turns out that siblings are a predictable group to plan for as families are more than willing to share information about upcoming siblings in exchange for guaranteed enrollment.

The guarantee language didn’t end up happening. The compromise was very strong wording about every effort being made to keep families together, sibling being the first tie breaker for all schools, etc. For many years this promise was kept.

About a year or so after the NSAP was implemented there were planned boundary changes for Stevens. Then Director Kay Smith Blum sought language in the transition plan that would guarantee siblings from Stevens would have a guaranteed assignment to Stevens. That was not enacted as it was not deemed equitable to have a policy on the books for only one school and not all schools. The compromise enacted was that the new boundaries were drawn in a manner that would most certainly allow room for siblings at Stevens.

Today the strong language about siblings has been removed from the transition plans. Enrollment is openly taking action in conflict with policy. And, many families have been experiencing the pain inflicted by these actions, or lack of action in the case of siblings.

In the current climate where policies and promises are openly flaunted I think it is time again to seek a codified guarantee for families in regard to siblings when boundaries change.

Watch out QA/Magnolia. You’re in the cross-hairs with your upcoming boundary changes. Your communities are next up to experience years of split families if current practices by Enrollment are continued.

-StepJ

Megahoch said...

Madrona mom here-

I recognize that Stevens is upset. I can understand why. What can we do to support? How can we avoid being pitted against each other?

I'm feeling at a loss.

Has anyone compared the wait lists to see where kids are assigned and where they want to go? I admit that I have not, but wonder if someone has identified certain swaps that would ease the tension?

Lastly, I ask that we all take care to avoid making disparaging comments about schools. We all work hard to support our schools. We can't control what the district says and does (apparently). So lets take care of how we treat each other.

I'm also on the Madrona PTSA and glad to collaborate with other schools.

Megan

kellie said...

Thanks StepJ for reminding everyone of the details about split siblings.

Thanks Megan for the call for collective action.

I have done most of the analysis regarding specific wait list moves and I have communitcated this information to the board and senior staff. The analysis has only caused downtown to dig their heels in deeper.

The pressure of no state budget and the strong probability of a $50M budget deficit when or if a budget is passed, seems to have made conversations impossible.

I have done multiple scenarios where I have been able to show that many of these wait list moves are cost neutral and in many cases will bring more total dollars to the district. While multiple professionals, who have checked my work, concur ... it has not been persuasive enough to cause action.

The truly challenging part is that this is Year 2 of this problem. Stevens had the exact same problem last year. The 10 split siblings resulted more in that 10 students leaving the district for other options. Somehow I have been unable to persuade the district that when you force families into a corner, a significant percentage of those families just leave the district.

Anonymous said...

This is sort of related, but if not close enough I can move it to the Open Thread... King5 ran a story about the state budget Friday night. They talked to SPS concerning the impact to school districts. An unnamed SPS spokesperson was quoted in the story as saying that enrollment is up in all areas of the District. (This should be a good thing, right? That would mean more monies from the State.) But, later in the report it was also stated that SPS issued 47 pink slips to teachers this week and blamed it on the lack of a budget deal in Olympia.

This seems contradictory to me -- Enrollment Up/Fire Teachers?

I can share that our elementary school is up in enrollment (even without waitlist moves) and we are still having two teachers cut.

It seems that Enrollment Planning is sticking to the February staffing forecast no matter what. It is also apparent that not even budget neutral waitlist moves were made. The question is why? What would prompt not even making budget neutral moves?

From personal experience I know Kellie's statement about families leaving SPS to be true. If they have the means they won't be forced into involuntarily splitting their elementary age kids. They go private, move to another district, homeschool, online school, some even rent in boundary and move. For those that leave outright that is fewer funds for SPS. For those that move that is unpredictable enrollment patterns for SPS.

-StepJ

kellie said...
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kellie said...

StepJ,

I think your comment is right on target because BOTH of those contradictory items are true.

The ultra conservative Feb budget allocations have caused schools to release teachers. But the reality is that many schools have waitlists and have post open enrollment numbers way above the Feb allocations. Regardless, downtown was unwilling to make adjustments. I think this policy is going to cause big problems down the road. Typically schools don't fight conservative Feb allocations because they trust there will be a post open enrollment adjustment.

As far as I can tell, there were 1500 MORE students actually enrolled post open enrollment than students allocated in the budget. This would match the statement that enrollment is up.

As we all know, actual post open enrollment numbers are not the same as the expected October projected enrollment. Some schools have much higher enrollment in the Spring and the numbers drop significantly by October. Other schools gain substantial enrollment in August and September.

Because of this one should never expect a 1:1 correlation between post open enrollment numbers and budget allocation but ... that gap is really large. This means that the budget office was being very conservative and providing staffing allocations that are significantly less than the enrollment schools are expecting.

For example, Whitman was allocated 500 in the Feb allocation. They had about 570 post open enrollment. We were all told that the waitlist could not move because of staffing allocation. In the big June adjustment .... Whitman was given two more staff, to match the post open enrollment reality. Not enough to move the waitlist and way too late to save the teachers. I have heard from Whitman families that many of these teachers went to other districts.

IMHO, these ultra conservative budget practices combined with the pure disrespect being shown to both families and the school board, is likely to drive enough families out of the district that by the time October rolls around, enrollment will drop from these post open enrollment numbers.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Regarding people's motivations for choosing one school over another, I think we can all agree those reasons are as varied as the people making the choices."

But motivations aren't really the issue in this case because these parents have one motivation - to keep their kids together in the school the eldest one started at. Every single parent can understand that reason especially if you have already been thru the process.

Race could be one reason people are not enrolling in Madrona when their first children. Various Madrona parents seem to believe that.

From my own experience at the school I tutor at, this school is very diverse and yet has many white parents. So why some parents enroll their child at a diverse school and others don't is a good question and would lead to me to think even if race is an issue, it's not the only one.

But I think equating this particular issue with the overall issue of underenrollment is a bit of apples and oranges mixing.

Anonymous said...

" Middle class families of all races are making similar decisions. Which schools do you think the kids of the teachers, and principals, and administrators attend? On the whole, they are no different than any other parents when it comes to their own kids. "

Yea- agree with Momof2. Interesting that Blanford does not send his own kid to his own high free and reduced lunch, high special ed reference school. Lots of white families sending their kids to racially diverse, but not socio-economically diverse private and public schools. Research has also demonstrated socio-economics is the main driver of achievement gap currently (see Reardon @ Stanford), not race.
-K

Anonymous said...

From the agenda, this is the staff presentation to the Board for Wednesday's waitlist work session: http://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/School%20Board/16-17agendas/06_28_2017/20170628_Presentation_WS_Budget_Waitlist.pdf

It looks like the Board is being asked to choose between 2 options, both of which ignore the Board's policy of allowing choice assignments on a space available basis. There is no mention at all of moving waitlists with corresponding staffing adjustments for elementary schools.

Here's hoping the Board chooses Option 3 (not in the presentation): follow Board policy and move waitlists to allow siblings to be assigned together & families to have choices where schools have space available.

This is the full agenda: http://www.seattleschools.org/cms/One.aspx?portalId=627&pageId=23435721

--worried about waitlists

joanna said...

(I know it is a done deal and probably behind closed doors was done long ago. I am trying to let go of the situation but there are reminders that make it difficult.)I just want to say that many of the families affected are families (800+ students for ever bused) who could walk to TT Minor in a neighborhood whose students now are used to keep other neighborhood schools open. First assigned to Stephens until it was decided that students south of Madison should not be assigned to Stephens and be bused to Madrona. Of course, there is and was plenty of room for these students at Stephens and so families who had the option of not taking the bus opted to continue with their friends and siblings. This community had been disrupted many times first with Sloane program, then finally a neighborhood school, next the closure of TT Minor and assigned to Stephens and then reassigned to Madrona. Who represents the parents, families and community? We are a neighborhood too in need of stability and predictability. The district has made a mess of the Central District and school assignments.