Saturday, June 17, 2006

A New Tag Line

Tonight, I changed the tag line for this blog.

It was, "We need to come together across Seattle to stop the overly ambitious and flawed school closure plan.

Now, it is, "Joining together across Seattle to fight for public schools that deliver academic excellence for all."

I still believe the school closure plan is flawed and overly ambitious. On the positive side, it seems we have already helped many School Board members realize that the proposed plan closes too many schools at once. A scaled back closure plan will leave many more options on the table for positive change district-wide, which is definitely a good thing.

But when the closure debate is over, Seattle Public Schools will still be woefully far from realizing a vision of academic excellence for all. Parents and community members need to continue to fight for significant changes in how the district is run. I feel like a sleeping bear that has been prodded into action by the poorly planned and executed school closure process. Now that I'm awake, I don't plan on going back into hibernation any time soon.


Anonymous said...

Ah, the stirrings of a newly-hatched education activist. Welcome! It's always interesting to be doing this work in this district. You might want to read the Moss-Adams report from a few years back (created because of the Joseph Olchefske mismanagement of the district's finances). It really is helpful. Also, the district has a book on the history of every school building in the district, also interesting and informative.
Make friends with the education reporters in this town; they can't be everywhere and see everything. If you can give them insights they might not otherwise have, they will listen to you. Will they print what you have to say? No but them listening to you helps provide a perspective you want them to hear.

We'll have to see about the closure plan. I don't get the same read that you do on the School Board members (and I know most of them). Board members have a tendency to say they understand which some people interpret as "oh, they are going along with what I am saying". Not so, they are just making you know that they heard your comment/complaint.
I think the Board has a couple of problems, ones that faced the CAC and Super. One is that they may want to change the list and drop one school but add another. We are, after all, still in a preliminary phase. But can they give a newly-identified school time to present its case? Two, there's always a ripple effect. If they change the list, how does that affect the schools in that area? For example, at the last work session there was discussion about merging Rainier View with Emerson (supposedly a community-generated solution which neither the CAC or Super ever got wind of). Well, then, what would happen to New School?

Also, the Board seems to realize (although, it seems, no one else because they are too bent on complaining), that there will be a closure in the Central area and possibly in the North end. The southeast seems to think that they are taking the hit when the list isn't complete.

I think the Board may drop either the New School plan (although it does look very bad to build a $47M building when we are closing others) or Graham Hill because they can't seem to "get" the rationale. They possibly might leave Pathfinder where they are (although the monies are very likely to be found to fix up Boren and very unlikely to be found to fix up Genesee Hill - be careful what you wish for). And, they will close another school in the NE/Central cluster.

Anonymous 1

Beth Bakeman said...

Thanks, Anonymous 1, for the advice and the welcome. I'm happy to listen to and learn from people who have been working in education advocacy for years.

I agree with your assessment of the problems the Board faces, particularly the difficulty of adding a new school to the list at this point.

I know you disagree with my assessment of the closure process, but one of my many problems with how it was handled is that if a school got on the closure list because of bad data collection/analysis, there is no easy way for the superintendent or Board to remedy that and still meet their goals for number of buildings closed. I think this makes them more reluctant than they should be to change their minds about some of the recommendations.

Two follow-up questions.

1) What do you mean "may drop...Graham Hill because they can't seem to "get" the rationale?"

2) Why do you think "monies are very likely to be found to fix up Boren and very unlikely to be found to fix up Genesee Hill?"

Anonymous said...

I think Graham Hill might be dropped because the Board doesn't get deep data analysis and may listen to cries of "unfair" over the use of data broken out by the Montessori program versus regular. (The school has them set up separately so I can't understand why they should get lumped together for data analysis.)
I think money would be found for the Boren fix up simply because last spring the district was going to - in its closure plan - "repurpose two K-5s for K-8s (including Pathfinder; I find it interesting that Pathfinder thinks a K-5 can be repurposed but not a middle school. Not a great argument to use with the Board.) The money was going to be found then to support that closure plan and I think it would be found for Boren (particularly because you would need a playground and lower restroom facilities for elementary kids). The District would have a harder time convincing voters to vote for a levy to rebuild Genessee Hill. Repurposing sounds better than a total rebuild.

Anonymous 1