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Showing posts from July, 2006

Phase II and APP

Written by Charlie Mas One of the buildings that may be closed in Phase II of the closures and consolidations is Montlake. The Montlake program may find itself relocated, not to Seward as the CAC initially suggested, but to Lowell. Elementary APP, now at Lowell, would be relocated to another building or buildings. Lowell is one of the largest elementary schools in Seattle. The building has a planning capacity over 500. Because Lowell is home to a low-incidence special education program, would be room there for no more than 350-400 students in a general education program. Lowell could house all of the students at Montlake plus 100 more. That's room enough to provide students from Capitol Hill and Eastlake with the access to a neighborhood school they now lack. This neighborhood sends a higher percentage of their children to private school than any other neighborhood in Seattle. They use private schools, to a large extent, because their cannot gain entry to any of the public schoo

Press Coverage on Tonight's Vote on School Closure Plan

I made it to much, but not all, of the final Board meeting on the school closure plan. I need to process some of what I heard before I'm ready to post, but meanwhile here are links to some press coverage: From the PI: Seattle board closes six buildings---Three more could be targeted this fall From the Seattle Times: Board's vote on school closures may be only first of major changes and Seattle board votes to close seven schools From KING 5: Seattle School Board votes on final school closures And here's a link to the agenda, with all the proposed amendments listed and links to the text for each of the amendments: July 26, 2006 Board Agenda . Two amendments passed --- the one to postpone deciding where the Viewlands programs will be placed, and the one protecting "receiving" schools (ones into which other school programs are being merged) from being considered for closure in Phase II.

Final Board Vote on School Closure Plan

Today is the final Board vote on the school closure plan. Open questions in my mind include: - Will any Board members propose amendments to the plan? Or will they just vote on the plan as it currently exists? - If any amendments are proposed, will Sally propose to drop the Viewlands/Greenwood merger? The Viewlands community has been continuing strong advocacy work, with some solid facts about the effectiveness of that school in serving low-income and special needs students. - Will any details finally be provided about what is happening to the programs at the John Marshall building? I don't see how the Board can vote to approve the plan without more details on that aspect. - Will any more information about Mary Bass's alternative plan come out? - Will the Board have a united or divided front at tonights meeting? I probably won't be able to make the meeting tonight. If you attend, please post comments and let me know what happens.

Too Small? Too Big? or Just Right?

Yesterday, the Seattle Times ran an article called " For schools, does size matter? It begins with a mention of Viewlands, one of the small elementary schools in Seattle that is currently on the closure list. The author suggests that while small schools are preferable, there is such a thing as being too small. And, similarly, while schools shouldn't be too big, desirable elementary school size is between 300 and 500 students. A few resources to check out on this topic are: - Small Schools Project , a website for the Gates Foundation-funded project - " Bill Gates Guinea Pigs ," a Seattle Weekly article on the small schools idea applied to high schools in Washington. - " Are Small Schools Better ", a research paper by non-profit WestEd, which includes this quote: "...researchers focusing on the interaction between poverty and enrollment size offer a rule of thumb: The poorer the school, the smaller its size should be."

Low Income and Low Enrollment

This brave and honest comment from Gigi helps highlight real issues faced by schools with high concentrations of low-income children. "When I was first looking at schools, my friend, who is a social worker, showed me the Seattle Times School Guide. She showed me how to find schools geographically and how to look up and compare test scores. Then she showed me the “subsidized lunch” statistic and she told me that when she and her husband were looking to buy their first home outside of Seattle (not because of the school district, but because the rising cost of housing makes it difficult for two social workers with two children to buy a home within city limits) they did not look at any homes where the school had more than 45% of students qualifying for subsidized lunch. Children living close to the poverty line have more (and different) needs than children who don’t. No one is in disagreement that additional resources should be allocated to them (well, maybe someone is, but I’m no

Advocacy Guidelines

During the last week or so, several people have made comments that I feel are worth highlighting. The one below is by Charlie Mas on advocacy. "1. Always, always, always frame your statements from the perspective of what will benefit the students. You won't be effective speaking in support of programs, buildings, community good will, or policy. Your only chance is to speak in support of students. 2. Similarly, compel your oppopent to frame their remarks from the perspective of the students' benefit. 3. Do your research. If you have mistaken the facts about any element of your position it will discredit your whole position. 4. You can challenge people, but you cannot require them to accept your challenge, so do it very sparingly. The District staff do not like it when you point out their lies, contradictions, broken promises, and acts of bad faith. Calling them liars or cheats will make you appear rude or angry and will give them the opportunity to change the subjec

Inequity in School Fundraising

An article called " Cashing In, Getting Extras " describes inequities in school fundraising in Chicago. But you could replace "Chicago" with "Seattle" througout the article and have a pretty accurate picture of what is happening here. I'd like to explore the idea of pooled PTA fundraising, with some percentage of funds raised by each school put in a district-wide pool that is divided and sent back out to schools on a per-student basis. Palo Alto explored this option. Read " School-based fund-raising must be curbed " for one perspective on this issue. And an article called " Can Parent Groups Do Too Much " raises additional interesting issues on this topic. When parents are paying teacher salaries and providing essential classroom materials, does that let the state off the hook for adequate funding of schools? Offerings like art and foreign language, which are funded by parents, contribute to a public school system that provides u

Public Hearing on School Closure Plan

After a few days of camping with my family near Mt. Adams, I jumped back in the school closure discussion by spending the evening at the public hearing tonight on the school closure plan. As was the case last week, the majority of the speakers were from Viewlands speaking passionately about the value of their school and the case for keeping it open. Below is a short summary of what I heard tonight. Please post your comments and reactions . Viewlands - Current problems at Greenwood that will be exacerbated by having Viewlands community arrive like "uninvited house guests." Concern over the welfare of Aspergers and Autism students located in the same building with EBD (emotionally/behaviorally disabled) program. Success of Viewlands in serving children who are from families that qualify for free-/reduced-price lunch. 90% of staff at Viewlands more than 10 years. High parent involvement. The other school communities with multiple speakers were Rainier View and Orca. Rainier

Thoughts on Effective Advocacy

At Wednesday night's Special School Board meeting on school closures, 18 people spoke, the vast majority from Viewlands Elementary. I continue to be disturbed by the recommendation to merge Viewlands into Greenwood, and the lack of details on what is going to happen with the John Marshall programs, so I spoke to those concerns as well as my concerns about Phase II of the closures. (see my previous post on this topic) Several people presented the arguments that: No school should be closed. The closures unfairly impact non-white, lower-income children, and children in special education programs. As I listened, I realized that these were the same arguments I started with back in May, but that I have changed my mind. I have also changed by tone --- I was definitely one of the "angry" presenters when I started speaking at the Town Meetings, and I was speaking mostly to the community trying to create community-wide opposition to the closure process. Now, I find myself speaki

Examples of Principal Assignment Problems

Looking through articles over the last couple of years, here are a few examples of how the principal assignment process has been mishandled: - Principal move upsets West Seattle High - Seattle school district pays principal to resign - For school leaders' sins, golden parachutes - School-principal transfers cause some upset My guess is that there are many, many more stories about problems with the principal assignment and selection process that aren't documented in the press. For example, the process (or lack of process) at Graham Hill Elementary as seven principals in six years have been assigned to the school is truly appalling. Please post your school's principal assignment stories as comments on this blog. The more we know about what is going on around the district, the stronger our collective voice will be.

Tommorow's Special Board Meeting on School Closure

The Superintendent's Final Recommendation on School Closure and Consolidation is the sole agenda item for tomorrow night's Special Board Meeting. (7/12, 6 pm at the Stanford Center) Only 7 people are currently signed up to speak, but up to 13 additional people can sign up at the door. Of those 7 people, one is from Viewlands. Any other people plannning from Viewlands to speak? Anyone from John Marshall?

Principal Assignment Process and the 5 Year Plan

Tonight I read through the Detailed Action Plans which spell out how the district aims to accomplish everything in the 5 Year Plan. For the issue of principal assignment , which I posted about yesterday, here are the details: Meet with Superintendent, CAO, Education Directors and HR to debrief the 2003-04 Principal Selection Process and Timelines. (HR Director) Meet with the PASS Resolution Team (5 PASS and 5 District team members) to review 2003-04 Principal Selection Process and Timeline, review recommendations from Superintendent committee, determine what worked and what needs to be changed, and develop recommendations. (Labor Relations Director) Take PASS Resolution Team recommendations to PAL Committee for review, discussion and possible development of a public review process. (HR Director) Implement 2004-05 Principal Selection Process and Timeline. (Human Resources) All of this was to be completed in 2004/2005. Did any of it happen? I certainly can't find any evidence of it

Principal Assignment Process

Below is an excerpt from the district's five-year plan , last updated in May 2005. ************** To Improve District Leadership, We Will: Recruit, develop, retain, and promote highly effective and diverse leaders system-wide by: - Increasing the number of leadership staff who reflect the diversity of the student population; - Developing a targeted and coordinated professional development program that includes cultural competence; - Revising the principal selection, assignment, and transfer process to enhance family and community involvement and make the process smoother; - Improving morale and working conditions (environmental health, physical health, and emotional health); - Working with our higher education partners to improve their teacher and leader training programs for urban school districts; and - Developing and implementing a staffing plan for Seattle Public Schools that includes, but is not limited to, workforce diversity, staff recruitment, staff retention, staff reco

Recent News Articles on School Closure

The proposed Viewlands merger (which is strongly opposed by that community) and the lack of details on what is happening to the programs at John Marshall are the two most troubling parts of the Superintendent's final recommendations for me. Here are some recent news articles that touch on both of those issues: --- School seeking options to avoid closure --- Final list of school closures released (text and video) --- Manhas trims school-closure list to seven --- Up to 11 Seattle schools to be closed (can post comments)

Finalizing Phase I & Moving on to Phase II

At tonight's School Board meeting, I requested two things as Phase I of the school closures is finalized and we move on to Phase II: - Legitimate community involvement : not just asking for public response to plans, but actually involving community members when generating suggestions. The district is aiming to identify 3 more school buildings for closure by a September 18th deadline (one in the North, one in Central, one in West Seattle). Those decisions (called "Phase II" of the school closure plan) will be extremely difficult to make and need to be handled in a collaborative manner, with a focus always on what is best for the children and families involved. I still question whether 3 more closures are needed, but if the process is going forward, it needs to have grassroots involvement from the start. The district is also going to begin discussing changes to student assignment and transportation plans. Get the community at the table from the beginning , in a real and

Superintendent's Final Recommendations

The Superintendent's final recommendations are out and posted at: --- Summary --- Full report No real surprises to me. It follows what I suggested in my post " Positive Change Likely in Closure Plan " and what was suggested in a related Seattle Times article that day. - Graham Hill stays open. - Rainier View merges with Emerson in the nice, new Emerson building. - Pathfinder stays where it is, pending further discussion. - Viewlands merges with Greenwood. (I think this is the least well thought-out recommendation, and would like to see more details on how the district thinks this will work.) All other items from the preliminary recommendations remain the same. I have only looked at the summary, but will post again later today when I have read the full report.

Mary Bass Proposal for School Closure

Mary Bass is very focused on the impact of school closures on her district. Read " Bass Has Alternative Proposal For Seattle School Closures " in the Seattle Medium for details on what she is proposing. I don't know enough about the proposal to know whether or not it has merit, but I appreciate that Mary is thinking creatively and considering options outside of the strict parameters imposed by the current school closure process. From the School Board perspective, her proposal is probably unwelcome since they are trying to move to agreement, closing off options, rather than considering new ones.

An MLK Viewpoint

Excerpted from public testimony at the 6/27 MLK site closure hearing . "My name is Mike Moore. I'm a volunteer at MLK. A proud volunteer at MLK. I been here since June of '04 through the present, two years, 24 months. And I am in favor of the consolidation. And I got to tell you a little bit as to why. And to do that, I got to give you a brief brush on 24 months of volunteerism here. And that is, when we first started, we had 170. We went to 134. We went to 115, actually 107, and bounced to 115. That's our enrollment numbers. So what we had to do when we got here, under Barry's direction, was build up our enrollment. And that was number one. So Barry and I created a job for me, which was enrollment, try to recruit people, try to get community support, try to get parent support, and raise money. And to that end, we put together a committee, a marketing committee that would have blown your socks off. We had parents, partners, some staff, and everybody on it. And