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Thursday, June 29, 2006

I am part of the problem

(Posted by a former Seattle parent)

On May 5, I became part of the reason for school closures. That was the day we moved out of Seattle. When people talk about the hidden cost of families leaving the city, it often sounds like a theoretical threat. I am proof that it isn’t.

My husband and I loved living in the city. I liked seeing the mountain while I took the bus to work; he liked walking with my daughter to the grocery store. We loved our Greenwood brick tudor so much that we arranged financing to build a room for our infant son.

Like many parents with children about to enter school, I began touring schools early and read every article I could find about the school district’s plans for the future. I was dismayed by what I saw. The Seattle School District didn’t just not work to keep us, they actively pushed us away.

Of the five schools we toured, not one had a principal who had been there more than two years. We had no idea which schools to apply for because we didn’t know which would be open or what their mandate would be. We had no idea whether we would even be given a choice when our son was ready. And, we had no idea what the vision was for providing an education to our children.

So, rather than expand our home, we moved. We would have been a great family for the school district; I have two bright kids with no apparent special needs, we donate money and time, and, most importantly, we strongly believe in public education and neighborhood schools.

I asked Beth if I could post because I think it is important for my story to be heard. I am not pointing fingers. I don’t pretend that I know the answers to the very difficult problems the school district faces. What I do know is that part of the district’s budget trouble is due to families like mine choosing not to send our kids to its schools. The solutions being offered now are going to exacerbate the problem by forcing more families into the suburbs or private schools.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

For me personally, we wanted to support public schools and did not want to leave Seattle, so I researched schools before we bought our current home - we left Green Lake, which we loved, because we weren't thrilled with the school options. We moved to a neighborhood where the school has a clear vision that fit our likes, and everyone I spoke to was very happy with the school. Many parents who send their kids can afford private school, but choose to send their kids to this school.

I agree I know lots of families who have moved to the suburbs for the schools - this is unfortunately how it is in every metropolitan city (at least every one I can think of). I am not saying it's a good thing, and I certainly wish that I didn't have so many friends sending their kids to private - I purposely did not tour private schools so not to be tempted.

My daughter starts kindergarten in September. There is no guarantee we will be happy with the school, but I really did do my research and I feel good about our decision. I'm also admitting we are saving our money for private school once we hit middle school "just in case"

Through this whole school closure process, I see hope in the Seattle School District - so many passionate parents out there that don't want to bail - they want to help change things.

I'm not blaming you for your decision - you made the decision you felt best for your family. My friends on the eastside are currently looking at private school because so much development over there has caused their schools to be overcrowded - another issue of its own.

I have to be honest and say I didn't like your comment about your children being perfect for the SSD because they don't have special needs. Being a parent of a visually impaired child, I'm offended because it feels like you are saying my daughter will not be welcomed because she costs money.

Good luck in the burbs.

GiGi said...

Jen-

I’m very sorry if I offended you. As clarification, I didn’t use the word “perfect,” I said “great”.

I can understand why this is a difficult issue for many, but from what I have read, part of the problem Seattle faces is that they are not getting the children who are less expensive to educate. I was thinking specifically of this controversial article that linked the budget problems to some of the special ed programs offered in the district: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/259303_specialed13.html

Certainly, I feel that diversity in a school is a benefit to all students, and that includes students with all sorts of needs. I would never want any school, teacher, or parent to not want a child in the school just because they may require some extra resources, including potentially, your daughter. However, I stand by my statement that Seattle needs to attract and keep families whose children do not have any identified special needs in order to stay financially solvent.

Anonymous said...

The fundamental problem with Seattle Public Schools, the fault at the root of all of the district's trouble, is the fact that the District is structurally and culturally incapable of responding to the needs of the community it purportedly serves.

As a consequences of this fundamental failure people are choosing alternatives when the District does not meet the community's needs.

woodlandmom said...

I agree with the OP.
We actually moved to Seattle- from Medina when we had kids, because I didn't want to live on the Eastside forever ( I grew up in Kirkland).

However, we didn't investigate the district at all before we moved- our daughter was only one, and where I grew up, you just went to your neighborhood school.

When our daughter was found to fall on both ends of the academic spectrum, gifted but with special needs, we were told by the district and teachers at our neighborhood school that she did not fit, and her needs would not be addressed.
So we were forced into private schools K-12, although we did periodically revisit the idea of public schools for her.
I am very glad we did, although I also wonder if we had stayed in the suburbs, whether we would have gone private.

My younger daughter attended private K-2, a public school that attempted to serve her gifted yet Ld needs but didn't come close for 3rd- 8th and a public comprehensive high school.
I have quit my job to volunteer and deal with the district, and while I still want to remain in Seattle, I wish for my daughters academic life, that we had remained in private school.
While the school did receive extra money from the federal govt and the district to serve students with IEPs, they did not legally do so, and in fact made blatant efforts to reducing her IEP ( they erased addtions that I suggested , after the IEP was agreed to and signed by all)
Her IEP basically came down to " allow extra time on tests". That was what they were getting extra money for, and why SPED has a reputation in the community to using more money.
In the SPED community, Seattle has a very bad reputation, and many families move to get away from the district.