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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Phase II Community Meetings Canceled

Notice that Raj's preliminary recommendation on September 18 now comes before any chance for input from the general public.

Can they make it any clearer that they don't really want community input?

After the SPS announcement, read an excerpt from a comment Charlie Mas posted today elsewhere on this blog.

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News item on SPS website

August Meetings on Consolidation and Closure Cancelled

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.

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Comment by Charlie Mas:

"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."

3 comments:

Charlie Mas said...

I wrote to Holly Ferguson about the canceled meetings. She wrote back to tell me that the decision to cancel the meetings was based on her discussions with principals, parents, and teachers in the affected areas. She told me that they believed that having meetings so close to the beginning of the school year, and without specific recommendations, would be detrimental to their communities. Because the principals, parents and teachers felt so strongly that these meetings would not be productive, the District agreed to cancel the meetings.

Beth Bakeman said...

That is consistent with what I heard from the Pathfinder parents.

However, the district, as usual, did a lousy job with this. In most places was there no rationale listed for why the meetings were canceled. And when there was a reason listed, it was quite vague.

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