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Monday, August 14, 2006

Community Meetings for Phase II of School Closure

From Seattle Public School notice:

On July 26 the Seattle School Board voted to consolidate and close a group of schools. At the same time, the Board directed Superintendent Manhas to develop an additional set of school closure recommendations. During "Phase II," the Superintendent is asked to identify one additional school for closure in each of three areas of the city: North (North/Northwest/Northeast clusters), Central, and West Seattle; evaluate the feasibility of closing Wilson Pacific; and to work closely with the communities in West Seattle to identify a more appropriate location for Pathfinder K-8. A preliminary recommendation is due on September 18, with the School Board scheduled to vote on November 1.

(Note: A list of potential schools in North, Central and West Seattle to be included in the community discussion will be posted at www.seattleschools.org by Friday, August 18.)

A series of meetings are scheduled to discuss the process for Phase II and to gather input from the community. Interested community members are encouraged to attend, and to be a part of making Seattle Public Schools the strongest district it can be.Meetings, all planned for 6:00 - 8:00 p.m., are scheduled as follows:

West Seattle - Tuesday August 22
Denny Middle School Cafeteria
8402 30th Ave SW

Central Area - Wednesday August 23
Washington Middle School Cafeteria
2101 S. Jackson

North Seattle - Thursday August 24
Eckstein Middle School Auditorium
3003 NE 75th

For additional information call the hotline at (206) 252-0600. Those who cannot attend the community meetings but would like to provide input, please email feedback@seattleschools.org or write to Mail Stop 11-010, P.O. Box 34165, Seattle, WA, 98124-1165.

4 comments:

Charlie Mas said...

I must admit that I am a little disappointed that the District will not announce the list of schools under consideration for closure until Friday the 18th. Why not disclose? Why be secretive?

Also, I thought that the principals and communities of the Central Area were going to get together and work it out among themselves which school would close. Wasn't that the plan? How do these community meetings coordinate with that plan? Will only one Central Area school be named, the one that the communities have selected through their discussions? When were these community discussions? Who attended? If there haven't been any community discussions, then who has met and talked?

I don't have a clear picture of this process.

Beth Bakeman said...

Per usual, the district is doing a lousy job with communication around this.

From e-mails I have gotten from Pathfinder parents, I know that for West Seattle, there is a meeting today with a principal, a PTSA representative, and a staff member or teacher from each of several schools in West Seattle.

The goal of the first meeting is to strategize and brainstorm about the District goal to close one school in West Seattle and find an appropriate home for Pathfinder.

Then at the August 22nd at Community Meeting, the goal is to evaluate the proposals developed from the first meeting.

A third meeting is tenatively scheduled for the following week for the same people who are meeting today.

I assume, but don't know for sure, that the process will be similar in the Central and the North.

Charlie Mas said...

The Community Meetings Have Been CANCELED


Three community meetings related to Phase II of school consolidations and closures, scheduled for August 22, 23 and 24, have been cancelled to allow more time to develop options and alternatives about which to have meaningful public discussion. However, there will still be multiple opportunities for public input to Phase II of the consolidation and closure process.
The Seattle School Board announced Phase II of Consolidation and Closure on July 26, asking the Superintendent to recommend at least one additional school for closure in three geographic areas - North (Northwest, North and Northeast clusters); Central; and Southwest. The Board also asked that the Superintendent evaluate the feasibility of closing the Wilson Pacific Building, and identify a more appropriate site for the Pathfinder K-8 program.

An ambitious timeline was adopted, with a preliminary recommendation due from Superintendent Raj Manhas on September 18 and a board vote scheduled for November 1. This aggressive timeline has not changed.

The first step in the Phase II process brought together a group of principals, Seattle Education Association representatives, and parent leaders from schools in each of the geographic target areas - North, Central and West Seattle. Those initial meetings took place on August 14-16. Participants reviewed data, discussed options, and advised on next steps.

In addition to public hearings that will be scheduled for October, community members are encouraged to comment about consolidation and closure in any number of ways: email to feedback@seattleschools.org; send your comments to Mail Stop 11-010, PO Box 34165, Seattle, WA 98124-1165, or provide testimony at School Board Meetings.

Recorded information is available on the district's consolidation and closure information line at 206-252-0600.

Charlie Mas said...

The decision to cancel the community meetings regarding Phase II of the closures and consolidations was a bad decision and representative of a dysfunctional culture at Seattle Public Schools.

While it is possible that other community meetings may be scheduled for October, as the web site indicates, those will not be the same sort of meetings. The meetings next week would have come BEFORE the Superintendent's preliminary recommendations on September 18. The community meetings in October - if they are not also canceled - will come AFTER the Superintendent's recommendations are issued. There is a huge fundamental difference.

Meetings in advance of the recommendations would have allowed the community to be proactive and would have invited ideas and shown an interest in a collaborative, cooperative process. Meetings in the wake of the recommendations puts the community in a strictly reactive role, invites criticism and complaints, and shows how the District remains tied to a top-down decision making process and opposed to true community engagement.

Why couldn't the District have the meetings? What were they lacking? They didn't need to bring anything but the data that they already have and their ears. The meetings were supposed to be an opportunity for the District to LISTEN. In order for community engagement to be authentic it has to come early in the decision making process. Cancelling these meetings demonstrates how the District has failed to reform its culture, has failed to take to heart the advice of the CACIEE, and continues to be structurally and culturally incapable of responding to the needs of the community it purportedly serves.

The District plays these stupid games all the time. They don't allow you to provide input until after they have put forward a recommendation. The community's view, if provided before the recommendation, would be input and part of a collaboration. That same view, provided AFTER the recommendation, is a complaint and criticism. Then the District whines about how the community members do nothing but complain. The community members complain because that is the only input they are allowed.

Here's another game they play. If you give advice for a program that your child is in, they say something snide like "You certainly are a strong advocate for YOUR child, but we have to consider the needs of all 47,000 students in the District." If, however, you give advice for a program that your child is not in, they basically tell you to butt out of matters that don't concern you.