Friday, June 23, 2006

Positive Change Likely in Closure Plan

At yesterday's Board work session, I heard three likely changes to the closure plan, all of which I consider positive:
  1. Graham Hill to remain open. The main issue seemed to have been how many different schools the students would have been dispersed to, along with the point that Raj made that the students live south of Graham Hill, but most available space would be north of Graham Hill.
  2. Emerson to remain open with Rainier View merging into that building. According to district staff, both school principals and staff support this idea, which is consistent with what I heard from Emerson staff at the last Board meeting. I also heard the New School was supportive of that idea, not wanting to displace a school program to get its promised space.
  3. Pathfinder will not move to Boren building. I even heard a Board member say that suggestion never made any sense. The problem, of course, is what will happen to the Pathfinder program. The current Genesee building is in horrible shape and the middle school students have been in portables for years.

None of this is definite, of course, but all of it is positive. For more details, read today's Seattle Times article, Hint of changes in plan for Seattle school closures.


Anonymous said...

Fine by me if the Board wants to change the Super/CAC's recs. However, GH has a very unequal, unfair environment that well serves the minority Montesssori kids over the regular ed kids. This is reflected in the exchange of e-mails at their Yahoo group site where some regular ed parents express concern over the focus on Montessori, don't even know they don't have to pay for it after pre-K and one Montessori parent opines out loud if the Montessori program moves, would a new school's PTA mind if they take over it? A healthy school environment? I don't think so.

Great if RV and Emerson merge but it still is going to cost a great deal of money to built a facility for New School (as we close other buildings). Plus the SE will end up with 3, count 'em 3, alternative K-8s (African American Academy, ORCA and New School).

Pathfinder is in Genesee Hill, not Cooper. Cooper is a fairly decent building and so I am unclear what Education Advocate is saying. They can't close Cooper just to give Pathfinder a building. They could move High Point to Fairmount Park (they would all fit). But then, of course, all the Pathfinder middle school kids wouldn't fit (too big) into a K-5 building. I mean if a middle school building is too big for elementary kids, doesn't it follow that a K-5 is too small for middle schoolers? Or does that argument only work on a building Pathfinder parents don't like?

Anonymous 1

Beth Bakeman said...

Anonymous 1,

Not sure why you are so hostile towards Graham Hill. The Graham Hill parents are having an open, healthy discussion about the divisions in the school (via the Yahoo group and in person) and are working towards increasing school unity. Closing Graham Hill would have been most detrimental to the students in the traditional/regular program as they would have been dispersed among at least 5 different schools, many of which would not have provided them with as good an education as they are getting now. (By the way, I'll extend the offer again to talk with you directly via e-mail bbakeman@comcast.net or phone if you want to share more or your perspective on this issue or learn more from the perspective of a parent who has been at Graham Hill for several years.)

As for the Southeast getting 3 K-8s, I say "hooray"! It's about time the SE got first in line for something parents all over the city are requesting. Technically, as you know, the New School is not an alternative school, so you're a little off with that comment, but I agree with the general idea. Especially with the unpopular middle school choices in the SE, having more K-8s is one way to keep more families in the public school system.

Finally, I just goofed when I typed Cooper. I meant Genesee Hill. I'll correct it now in my post. And I can't speak for the Pathfinder community, since I am not yet part of that world and those discussions. However, in previous comments on this blog, Pathfinder parents said they just want a building in decent shape so they can be successful in attracting new families, which is essential for an alternative school where no students are assigned. They also, of course, seem to want a decent building so they can have appropriate spaces to continue their excellent educational programs. Doesn't seem like a lot to ask after years and years of promises with nothing being delivered by the district.

Anonymous said...

I'm not being hostile. I am just mystified at how okay you are with a very separate situation within your own school. Parents don't know the differences between the programs, the PTA is run by one group as, it seems, is the stop the school closure effort. I note you have nothing to say about the parent who was considering taking over whatever PTA the Montessori would land in. And, just for the record, all the schools those kids would disperse to are just as good or better than Graham Hill; that was part of what I understood the CAC charge to be.

What I meant about the K-8s in SE is that most parents want a regular, not alternative K-8. African-American Academy has a wonderful building that it has never filled in 10 years. ORCA is going to be a pretty small K-8. Also, my information (from the District) about New School, speaking of Kindergarten first choices states, "As an alternative K-8 school this program is not directly comparable to others in the district." It's an alternative school like TOPS is which means, not really but there is some reason they are classified that way.

Pathfinder parents don't "just" want a decent building. It is clear that they want what they want and nothing else. Fine but they may just end up in their current building for many more years. The district is not closing Cooper to serve Pathfinder; it will never happen.

Anoymous 1

Beth Bakeman said...

Graham Hill parents are not okay with a separate situation within their school. Some parents have been working for several years to change the situation. The closure process has given that iniative and big boost and I predict wonderful changes and increased unity school-wide.

This year has already brought good changes. The PTA president is a parent in the traditional program, many more parents from outside the Montessori program have been active in the PTA than in previous years, and the main theme of the PTA president's work this year was to create "one school, all working together."

The "stop the school closure" effort has included parents with children in the bilingual program, the autism program, the traditional program, and the Montessori program. Yes, many more families of children in the Montessori program are either self-employed or have one parent working in the home, so more Montessori parents have had time to fight the school closure fight. Notice however that the Montessori parents never considered fighting only for the fate of the Montessori program. The CAC and the superintendent made the offer to the Montessori program to be relocated intact, essentially saying save yourselves and don't worry about the rest of the kids at Graham Hill. But that idea was rejected as morally and ethically wrong.

And I had "nothing to say about the parent who was considering taking over whatever PTA the Montessori would land in" because I have never heard such a thing. Are you on the Yahoo group?

I started that Yahoo group because I wanted to improve communication among all parents at Graham Hill and community members. I do not limit who can join, but I certainly do not expect to have lurkers who use the information shared in a spirit of open dialogue as ammunition against the school.

My older children will be at Pathfinder next year, not Graham Hill. I've made that decision because that is what is best for my girls. Where parents send their children is a very personal decision, with all sorts of factors. However, despite all I know about Graham Hill (the good and the bad), I have been defending that school because I am completely convinced that it serves many, many children and families extremely well.

I'm not sure where you have gotten your information about Graham Hill, but I can guarantee I know more about the program and have talked with many more parents than you have.

I'm happy to continue debating school closures and school reform issues with you. And I hope to work with you on building a stronger Seattle Public school district in the future. But you need to become better informed about Graham Hill.

I'd love to address your other comments on southeast K-8s and Pathfinder, but I've used up my time and energy on this comment. Hopefully, others will tackle them.

Anonymous said...

Regarding anonymous' comments: "Pathfinder parents don't "just" want a decent building. It is clear that they want what they want and nothing else. Fine but they may just end up in their current building for many more years."

All I can say is that comment is really unfair. You don't identify yourself so I don't know where you're coming from on this one. Have you attended the hundreds of hours of meetings, email correspondence, and conversations with Pathfinder's Facility Advocacy group (including conversations with board members directing us to look at certain facilities as possibilities) since January of this year? Have you looked at the research we compiled which considered just about EVERY school in West Seattle from a purely numbers-driven perspective to compare square footage, classroom space, and building condition to see what might be possible, well before any recommendations were made? Did you read the comments and feedback we received from over 130 families, plus staff, about what our community wanted in a facility and why, and how they felt about advocating for a better home within our West Seattle community? If you had, I don't think you would have made such a mean and unfair comment.

Anonymous said...

I was debating whether to answer back since it is clear you believe I am being "mean" or picking on your schools. Part of writing is to play devil's advocate because you will need to be very tough when you go the Board because staff (especially Facilities when speaking of Pathfinder) will pick your arguments apart.

When I said Pathfinder wants what it wants well, it seems that way because there hasn't been one note of willingness to the Boren idea. Not enthusiasm about working with Native Americans, what that extra space might mean or the understanding that it IS easier to convert a middle school to K-8 than a K-5 (again, I'll let the Facilities people explain that to the Board when it gets used as an argument).
Pathfinder would not be moving any farther away than say Cooper (Boren is about 2.76 and Cooper 2.50 miles away) which had been an issue for parents (although someone has to live farther away).

One thing I would caution is that I note that Pathfinder parents say that they need a proper physical environment for middle school with electives, foreign language, science and sports. I was part of discussion with Carla Santorno, the new CAO of the district, and she was asked about K-8 versus middle schools. She said she had no particular opinion, only that parents should understand that K-8 are usually smaller and cannot have the full complement of electives including foreign language and sports because of the size. There are trade-offs and benefits to both types of schools and she said if more parents were asking for K-8s they should be aware of these issues. The district will, of course, provide science but the other things are not part of the curriculum and without the money that larger numbers of students drive to a school, a K-8 may be limited in what it can do.

As to Graham Hill and the Yahoo group, well, you can call it lurking. However, others might call it research. The person who suggested taking over another school's PTA (and suggested "investigating" any relationship between Zion Academy and CAC members) would be David Goldstein (who is a Graham Hill parent who has a liberal blog). The interchange between he and another parent at Graham Hill on his blog about a month ago was very intense and instructive and certainly doesn't point to unity at Graham Hill. (You might want to ask him to just stop before he totally hurts the Graham Hill effort because it isn't helping. By the way, did you know he posted a picture of last year's Montessori 4th graders on the web without parents' permission?) The idea that Graham Hill has all the Montessori classes in one area, refers to both the students and teachers as Montessori (thus cementing the differences rather seeking unity) don't serve that unity point well. Lastly, the CAC didn't say to the Montessori students save yourselves; it looks like it was trying to keep a successful program (for the kids in it) intact and offer as good or better possibilities to the other Graham Hill students. It's all in how you interpret it.

I have done a large amount of research and read and sat in countless meetings. But I absolutely defer to your knowledge of your schools. I think no one - not the Board or staff - know a school like the parents, staff and children who inhabit it. I applaud your loyalty. But sometimes you have to step back and try to see what an outsider (like say a Board member) would see.

Anonymous 1