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Friday, June 16, 2006

Pathfinder Says "No" to Boren Building

From a letter by Pathfinder parent, Tracy Burrows at http://www.seattleschools.org/schools/pathfinder/letters.html.

The Boren Site is Not Appropriate for the Pathfinder Program
The Boren site was designed as a large middle school -- it has never been a successful permanent site for a program that includes K-5 grades. Its bathroom facilities are not appropriate for younger elementary student, it has no playground, it is located on a very busy street, and it is not a secure site. The School District's own report states that the facility has not aged well and needs a complete upgrade of systems and finishes. This proposed move does not address our need for an adequate facility, rather it moves us from a small facility needing some repair to a LARGE outdated facility needing many more repairs.

Move to Boren Doesn't Meet District's Principles For Closures
It does nothing to "Improve or Sustain Academic Effectiveness" - The stress of this transition will have a negative impact on Pathfinder’s academic effectiveness for years to come. The School District cannot demonstrate the benefits of this change to Pathfinder students and families.

It does not "Minimize Disruption to Students, Families, and Staff" - This move maximizes disruption to the Pathfinder Community!!

It does not "Promote Program Quality" - This move does not improve the quality of any programs. This move is likely to have a negative impact on Pathfinder's quality, as many current Pathfinder families will look elsewhere for a school in a more suitable location.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Pathfinder parents wanted to move.

It's interesting that a K-5 site (one not built for middle schoolers, one that would have to be retrofitted -as Boren would need to be) was okay with them twice . Boren is an interim building, no thing of beauty but not unsafe.
It's also interesting that the Native American educational community has been asking for a site and here are two programs (Pathfinder does have a Native American focus) that could blend well but yet you don't hear one Pathfinder parent even making that consideration.
The academic benefit would be to allow the entire Pathfinder population to be in one building and operate in unity.
Disruption? Pathfinder either wants to be moved or not. How this maximizes disruption is unclear.
Both having a larger space and the co-house with the Native American community is how it promotes program quality. It takes looking beyond a first (high-pitched) glance to see the benefits. It may be Pathfinder parents in the north don't like the idea of going further to the south.

The district would put money into this effort, given how many students it would benefit and support and expand the only K-8 in the SW. It also doesn't displace any students from a building which I thought I had understood to be a Pathfinder parent goal. Probably misunderstood that.
In the end, though, the district might consider moving High Point to Fairmount Park (instead of vice versa) and give Pathfinder High Point's building (so High Point gets the crummy end of the deal as High Point is the better building and they lose their building - but hey, it works better for Pathfinder).
No matter where you move Pathfinder, it will cost money. The district is NOT going to build any new K-8 buildings (it would be folly to ask in BEX III for those kinds of monies - the CAC did suggest not building a K-8 for New School because of the disconnect between building new buildings and closing schools) so the only way to have a K-8 is to repurpose an elementary or middle school. And, it's easier to do the middle school to elementary because you can build a playground easily and lower sinks/toliets more easily than you can enlarge a libary/hallways/gym to accomodate larger middle schoolers.

Anonymous 1

Anonymous said...

What site does the Pathfinder want?

Anonymous said...

Let me try that again.

What site does the Pathfinder community want? Fairmont Park? High Point? Cooper? Genessee Hill?

It is not enough to criticize the choices that are made, you need to offer alternative solutions.

Does the Pathfinder community want to move, or does the community want the district to invest money in the Genesee Hill building?

I don't remember the Pathfinder community complaining strongly about the move when the Superintendent suggested Cooper for the program last year.

Here's the joke: if Pathfinder did not move, and the district fixed up the Genessee Hill building instead, Pathfinder would be moved to Boren as an interim location during the renovation. Would the community object as strongly to a temporary move to Boren? Wouldn't that be exactly the same disruption plus an additional disruption when the school was moved back to Genessee Hill?

Help me to understand what you believe would be best for this community.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate these questions/comments. In response to "anonymous", there actually have NOT been any monies attached to the proposed move to the Boren site, at least none were outlined in the Superintendent's preliminary recommendation (outside of $350,000 to relocate our onsite childcare program and money for moving staff). I believe that if adequate funding came attached to this proposal, to help make the space appropriate for our program, Pathfinder would be willing to work towards making the space "right". As of now, there is no such commitment and we are not willing to make a "leap of faith" and hope that money will be forthcoming. History has shown that these promises are not fulfilled. For more information on why we are concerned about this proposal, please visit our website: www.seattleschools.org/schools/pathfinder

Anonymous said...

Pathfinder wants a guarantee of monies? Well, good luck with that. The district is putting together BEX III now and Pathfinder would be well within its rights to expect to be named on it if they moved to Boren. But in SPS there are no guarantees. And if the district says it's Boren for Pathfinder, what will Pathfinder do?

Anonymous said...

Just looked at the materials at Pathfinder's website. Not one favorable comment about the possibility of interacting with Native Americans or the enhancements the interaction might have for Pathfinder. Just, "too little time". It's sad that in this process so many look for the bad and not any of the good.

Lisa said...

It's not a very funny joke Charlie. Obviously there would be disruption with an interim move but who wouldn't be willing to suffer that for a better future?
We fully understand the reason for school closures is that THERE IS NO MONEY. No money to fix Boren, no money to fix Genesse Hill, no money to support a Native American Education Community, no money to keep Fairmont and Highpoit open either. SPS set out to close schools under pressure from Olympia. Remember,the merger of those two shcools was simply a recommendation from the CAC (although app. by Manhas) That is no guarantee that they are off the hook. And, Cooper is not out of the woods either. The criteria that got them on the radar is still there. And when the dust settles and the schools are closed and moved...what programs are going after that buiding? Charlie?
First and foremost, what we want is to move to a facility that adequately houses our current program. We do not wish to move to a run down, facility that NOBODY wants on promises from a district that has a history of broken promises to us.
We reserved comment last year on the Cooper move because we did not choose to rejoice during others time of misfortune. We are not picky folks over here....come spend some time in our building and you will see for yourself the conditions. We are criticized if we stand up against Boren and we are criticized if we point fingers at locations that work for us. We have a team of dedicated, highly competent and diplomatic parents working tirelessly crunching numbers about any given building and the ability for our program to find a residence. We have been housed in Boren before, many years ago. WE CRAWLED out of there. This is not a facility that will attract new families and that "is what it is." It is an undesireable building in need of massive repairs.
How do we take potential Kindergarten parents on tours and ask them to ignore the boarded-up parts of the building along the way? I believe it is easy for folks outside of our community to have all the answers for us when they are not the ones to send their children to school in a sorry building housing many programs that may or may not work nicely together.
We are not opposed to considering the idea of a Native American ed. community. However, why don't we have the right to stand alone like every other school? This is a decision that should not be made in a few weeks under such pressure. And, there are other buildings besides Boren that can adequately house such a plan.
If the district says it's Boren then that is sad news for Pathfinder and the future of Alternative Education in Seattle. We will move there and some who are dedicated will go along and do the best they can to salvage what is left. MANY people from all over Seattle will not send their childern there. And for the comment about North end parents... I live few blocks outside of White Center and the neighbord Boren is in is the least of my concerns.

Anonymous said...

I think the main points in this issue keeps getting lost or hijacked. Pathfinder is a K-8 Alternative School with emphasis on Expeditionary Learning, Environmental Education and Native Studies.

If my history is correct, 8 years ago the K-5 program was mandated to become a K-8 school. The staff was given $4,000 to do this and the promise of an adequate building in the future.

Pathfinder has a successful program. It's one major constraint to fulfilling its potential is its facility. Pathfinder loses many of its 5th graders to other middle schools because families don't want to send their kids out to the portables. This is not just because of the portables, but because there aren't any lockers, study hall or adequate spaces for electives, the library is a converted classroom that has to accomodate books appropriate for K-8 kids, etc. We lose potential families in younger grades, as well, because the building doesn't make a great first impression (and many families make their school decisions after a two hour tour). Please remember, people choose to go to this school. If families don't choose it, there is no program!

If Pathfinder is moved to a facility that doesn't remedy this constraint, it has gained nothing but disruption. If it is moved to a facility less adequate than the one it's in, the program will be put in jeopardy.

In response to families that live in N. West Seattle not wanting to move South, this comment is way out of line. Pathfinder draws from all over W. Seattle (most not in the North end), Columbia City and White Center, many from the Delridge corridor. High Point, Boren and Cooper schools are all located along the greater Delridge corridor. The reason Pathfinder was supportive of previous recommendations was because those buildings remedied the constraint we face. Boren does not!

This is not about, Native, White, African-American, Chinese or any other race, as it appears some are alluding to. It is about making a move that will strenghten the K-8 Alternative Program program in W. Seattle and not dismantle it.

Anonymous said...

I get the message that the Pathfinder community wants the district to keep its promise to provide an appropriate facility.

I get the message that the Pathfinder community does not believe that the Boren building - in its current condition - is an appropriate facility.

I also get the message that the Pathfinder community does not believe that the Genessee Hill building - in its current condition - is an appropriate facility.

None of the facilities now in West Seattle that have been mentioned for Pathfinder - Boren, Genessee Hill, High Point, Cooper, or Fairmont Park - would work wothout some renovation. Lisa Gluckman (Hi Lisa!) says that the community would accept an interim location while this work is done, and I believe her.

And no, it isn't a very funny joke that Pathfinder would probably be housed at Boren if the district renovated Genessee Hill, but there is a world of difference between going to Boren for a year or two and then returning to a great building than going to Boren permanently without any hope of getting the space upgraded.

While it is true that there is a severe shortage of money in the operations budget, the district's capital budget is actually pretty rich. Not as rich as the district thinks it is - they overspend on every project. IF the district is able to pass BEX III - and that's a pretty big IF in the current environment - there will be money for this renovation - although probably not until 2009-10 or later.

So the question remains the same: What does the Pathfinder community want?

Lisa says "First and foremost, what we want is to move to a facility that adequately houses our current program." Since there is no facility that now meets that description, what is your second choice? Would you accept a building that doesn't work for you at the present along with the promise of a renovation in BEX III?

I strongly encourage you to work with the district on this. This may be your best chance to get that promise and maybe even get the district to keep it - presuming BEX III passes.

Until then, ask yourself if you would be better off staying at Genessee Hill than moving to Boren. I think staying would be better for the program and the distict because it avoids a disruption for the program and preserves the Boren building for use as an interim site.

Is this the line you are following? Is there a group from Pathfinder working with district staff on this outcome? In addition to coming to public hearing, are you also scheduling smaller meetings with people in facilities and with the education director?

I'm not saying that it will work - I can't say that I've ever seen anything work - but I think it is another path you should follow.

Lisa said...

We, at Pathfinder, have been working together and individually meeting with district staff and what we have gotten is "the run around." We are told one thing and run in that direction then we are told something else from someone else. Meanwhile, folks accross the board are offended or confused by what seems like our ingratitude or lack of decisiveness and direction.

We are not interested in moving into Boren and waiting for money for improvements. We would rather stay put and wait for money for our current location. We have no desire to move from one lame building to another. Based on our Facilities Advocacy group's reasearch there are buildings in W. Seattle (that happen to be currently occupied) that would suit our program splendidly. Do we want or expect to boot our fellow citizens out of their school? ABSOLUTELY NOT! And, we certainly are not thrilled to benefit from our neighbors misfortune. We did not create this situation. The district has determined to move us and we are simply advocating for a sensible decision.

If a site becomes vacant-other than Boren- then we would expect the district to recognize the equity issue here and fulfill the promise to us. Our location at Genesee is only inadequate for our upper grades. Frankly, it's disgraceful. Orca has been promised $2.5 million to convert to a K-8! promises, promises.

Anonymous said...

Lisa, I strongly recommend that you make two contacts.

The first contact you should make is with Alma Clark in Customer Service. She is a very nice woman and I strongly encourage you to be very nice to her. You might also want to get in touch with Peter Daniels, the district's Communications director. Tell them your story about how you got the run-around and that you want to talk to the decision-makers.

Your second contact should be with Holly Ferguson, one of the last remaining human beings in the district's central staff. Holly is one of the people on the Superintendent's Strategic Implementation team - or whatever it's called. These are the three people charged with making the CACIEE's recommendations come true. I believe they now carry more authority on facilities than anyone. Get in front of her and tell your story as plainly as you told it here:
"We are not interested in moving into Boren and waiting for money for improvements. We would rather stay put and wait for money for our current location. We have no desire to move from one lame building to another."
Ask her why the district wants to move you when the move isn't a positive for the kids and you don't want to move. She's a reasonable person and is likely to understand and be open to doing the right thing. She is also a lawyer, so she won't make you any promises she can't keep (that's the Superintendent's job).

Anonymous said...

Anon 1 - thank you for your post, could you please identify yourself? You seem to have a great deal to contribute to the conversation. We would appreciate your insight. I am a Pathfinder parent that values education, especially alternative education and wishes we could quit pitting folks against each other for space and resources. It would be my huge hope to see High Point & Fairmount Park as an arts based school with the resources to make it a draw. Which I understand the High Point community has been advocating.

My understanding of the numbers/facilities is that both Fairmount Park/High Point fit at Fairmount Park and that Pathfinder does not fit at Fairmount Park but does fit at High Point.

How can the SW Schools work together instead of being pitted 'against' each other and make it a win/win - how can we get the funds to really turn FPark/High Point into a draw Arts based curric. school so that everybody wins and our kids have the benefit of a system that works?

With respect to Anon 1's comments "don't hear one Pathfinder parent even making that consideration . . . " displays an interesting understanding of a process/system that did not take us (parents & staff) into account of the process, indeed of the "idea" itself. Is my understanding that the CAC in its closed meeting did not tour Boren nor understand that not even "one Pathfinder parent" had been consulted nor advised this was indeed, an idea, let alone an option - This after we worked faithfully with the rules of the game as first explained to us - transparency, etc.

"[E]ither Pathfinder wants to be moved or not" and looking beyond a first (high pitched) glance does require us to give our best efforts that we owe to our kids, staff and a superb program that Alternative Ed in SW is being strangled when the district professes and the CAC recc'd more attention to Alternative Education and K-8.

Ideas for win-wins appreciated greatly.

Cordially, Leslie

Anonymous said...

I would like to weigh in on the Pathfinder/High Point/ Fairmount Park debate. I think it is imperative that people take more than simple student numbers into consideration. When someone wrote that Fairmount Park and High Point could merge at Fairmount Park they obviously do not understand everything that is involved in making a school run well. If Seattle schools moves High Point to the Fairmount Park building- which can hold a total of 332 students, including portables (which I think everyone, especially pathfinder families, does not make for a convenient, cohesive learning environment) for a total of 334 students, every single classroom will be used as that, a classroom. If every singe crevice is filled with students, which it would be if HP and FP were to merge at FP, then where would space be for things like the resource room, ELL (because unlike pathfinder, there is a huge bilingual population in both the FP and HP schools), a library, study/work groups, math lab, computer lab, tutoring, music and art? Where would support staff such as the psychologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, speech-language pathologist and family support worker have their offices? Where would the many programs at FP and HP go? FP houses two bilingual orientation center programs in addition to their ELL program, a developmental preschool, an intermediate EBD program and an after school program. The HP building has a head start program, a self contained classroom and an after school program as well. Where would all these things fit if every single room (and portable) is filled with students? Yes, perhaps the district will find alternative placements for programs not central to either school, such as the developmental preschool, head start, self contained and EBD programs, but there still won’t be enough room for the other programs and services listed. Perhaps the CAC took all that into consideration when deciding where the High Point/Fairmount Park merge should occur. By the way, this same argument could be made for why Pathfinder would not “fit” at High Point. If High Point is stuffed to the gills with students, there would be no room for all the programs and support staff that is needed to make Pathfinder “run”.

Anonymous said...

I would like to weigh in on the Pathfinder/High Point/ Fairmount Park debate. I think it is imperative that people take more than simple student numbers into consideration. When someone wrote that Fairmount Park and High Point could merge at Fairmount Park they obviously do not understand everything that is involved in making a school run well. If Seattle schools moves High Point to the Fairmount Park building- which can hold a total of 332 students, including portables (which I think everyone, especially pathfinder families, does not make for a convenient, cohesive learning environment) for a total of 334 students, every single classroom will be used as that, a classroom. If every singe crevice is filled with students, which it would be if HP and FP were to merge at FP, then where would space be for things like the resource room, ELL (because unlike pathfinder, there is a huge bilingual population in both the FP and HP schools), a library, study/work groups, math lab, computer lab, tutoring, music and art? Where would support staff such as the psychologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, speech-language pathologist and family support worker have their offices? Where would the many programs at FP and HP go? FP houses two bilingual orientation center programs in addition to their ELL program, a developmental preschool, an intermediate EBD program and an after school program. The HP building has a head start program, a self contained classroom and an after school program as well. Where would all these things fit if every single room (and portable) is filled with students? Yes, perhaps the district will find alternative placements for programs not central to either school, such as the developmental preschool, head start, self contained and EBD programs, but there still won’t be enough room for the other programs and services listed. Perhaps the CAC took all that into consideration when deciding where the High Point/Fairmount Park merge should occur. By the way, this same argument could be made for why Pathfinder would not “fit” at High Point. If High Point is stuffed to the gills with students, there would be no room for all the programs and support staff that is needed to make Pathfinder “run”.

Anonymous said...

Anon -

Thank you for your thoughtful comments - they are greatly appreciated. Would value knowing your identity. Is it true that no CAC member toured Boren prior to the recommendation? Raj Manhas advised in the work meeting last week that the High Point/Fairmount Park meeting was staff initiated - is truly sad that Pathfinder wasn't invited to the table, then, no?

I think the CAC did an admirable job prior to the closed meetings and lack of notice as to impending changes - and probably got bad advice as to that choice.

As to how to fashion win/win changes - what say you?

Do you portend a second round of consolidations/closures since you seem to close to the debate from at least a couple of different levels?

Thanks again,

Leslie

Beth Bakeman said...

I agree completely with the Anonymous who started with "I would like to weigh in on the Pathfinder/High Point/ Fairmount Park debate...

The issue of "capacity" has been a huge one in many clusters during the school closure debate. In the Southeast cluster, for example, full capacity at John Muir would mean kicking out a fabulous non-profit, Powerful Schools, that has successfully worked with families, schools, and the larger community to offer enrichment opportunities to kids in all of the south Seattle schools.

I looked at the list from district of what rooms currently assigned for other uses would become "teaching stations", and I concluded that I have no interest in seeing our schools at "full capacity."

The problem for Pathfinder is that their community is being told by the School Board and others, to come up with creative solutions, when the only solution I see that makes sense is a rebuild of the Genesee building.

And so, while trying to think creatively about where, other than Boren, they can go, Pathfinder has stepped on the toes of other West Seattle school communities.

I think the CAC and the School Board are responsible for putting Pathfinder in its current, very difficult position, and I think they should work to come up with a better solution. After years of broken promised to Pathfinder, the district owes them that much.