Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Public Hearings Needed for Cooper and Other Affected Schools

As pointed out by several people in comments this week, the district absolutely needs to schedule a public hearing at Cooper. I also think they should schedule hearings for Summit K-12, Broadview-Thompson and Viewlands. It is ludicrous to suggest that public hearings should only happen at the school buildings being closed. They should happen at each school community directly affected by the Phase II recommendation.

Splitting public testimony time, like the New School did with Emerson and Orca did with Whitworth, is not a sufficient response. All the families deserve to testify at their home schools, where it is likely there will be better turnout. Seattle Schools should go beyond what is legally required and do what is right.

Send e-mail to feedback@seattleschools.org and call 206.252.0040 to let School Board members know your feelings about this.


Anonymous said...

If this school board is about anything, it's about public engagement - why not use your considerable reach (Charlie and Beth) to work with the community at Cooper to schedule its own community meeting and invite the board members? No doubt many if not all of them would come. And invite the district staff, for that matter.

BTW - when it's your community meeting, you won't have to follow the 3-minute, one-way testimony format.

Beth Bakeman said...

I believe (and Melissa or someone else, correct me if I'm wrong on this one), that more than 3 Board members cannot be together at a meeting without it being an official public meeting that is properly announced and publicized, whether or not the community plans it.

I think adding an official Cooper public hearing (and also one for Summit K-12, one for Broadview and one for Viewlands), is a completely reasonable request and, I think, preferable to having a community generated/planned meeting at which only a few Board members could attend.

Anonymous said...

"They should happen at each school community directly affected by the Phase II recommendation"

In that case, meetings should also be made available for Gatewood & Arbor Heights, which are specifically slated to receive the displaced Roxhill students - perhaps close to 150 additional students per school.

Again, might be tough for the district to plan and have to attend all these meetings, but with all the outcry over the process, it would be in their best interest to go beyond the "legal requirements" on this one.

Roy Smith said...

It would be pretty easy to plan and hold the extra meetings, if the district wasn't on an artificially short time table to force this process through.

There was a lot more process than this during Phase 1, but Phase 1 managed to be accomplished without being rushed.

Anonymous said...

Re more than 3 board members together in one place, one of them told me they just have to tell Joan Dingfield where they will be so she can post it on the district website's board calendar at least 24 hours in advance.

Their policy says "special meetings" require 24-hour notice to newspapers and TV stations, but that's probably a quick process they have down pat.

Note: I'm not disagreeing that it would have been preferable for the district to have thought of this first (or if they did and discarded the idea, to know how critical this was/is to any goodwill in the process). But that shouldn't stop us from getting done what needs to get done.

Anonymous said...

Roy - I'm not sure the timeline for Phase 2 is "artificial" if indeed the district is determined to make the decisions effective in September 2007. The longer the final decision takes, the shorter the time for planning and implementation of important transition plans. As it is now, with a 11/1 approval date, that only leaves 9 months (3 of which are during the summer)to think about, plan for, and implement all that will be required to handle the impacts of the logistical, emotional, physical, and contractual changes that will occur. At least the schools affected in Phase 1 have the "benefit" of an extra 3 months.

Bottom line, it's a mess. But what's the alternative - postpone necessary changes until ??? Maybe if there were a clear plan & solid process outlined (we all sound like a broken record on that point) to ensure a successful outcome there could be a case made for implementing Phase 2 & possibly 3 in the 2008-09 school year. But who would lead that charge? The district is on the hook on one hand for not implmenting the CACIEE recommendations fast enough, and then on the other for acting too hastily.

I find it's always tough to balance a sense of urgency and the need for results and the time for thoughtful, thorough and participative processes when undergoing any major change effort. And that's where we find ourselves at the moment.

Roy Smith said...

I guess the real problem is that the district is trying to resolve a decade's worth of developing problems in less than two years, and do it in an atmosphere of crisis.

People have known for a long time that AS#1 and Pathfinder (among others) needed better facilities. The overcapacity problem didn't appear just in the last two years. And so on. But nobody had the political courage to be proactive and develop solutions to these problems before they turned into crises.

Yet again, I find myself ranting about what should have happenned in the past, which doesn't help us at all in the present. As far as the present goes, I think that Phase 2 closings should be delayed until the 2008-2009 school year, and that the superintendent and school board should be finding a way to make that happen. Unfortunately, they probably don't have the political capital and/or the competence to devise an alternative.

Another thing that irks me is that Manhas figured out over two years ago that school closures needed to happen. The fact that he has been so inept politically in making this case and offered such poor leadership during this process makes me think that he is not the right person to be superintendent of a large urban school district. Although I don't think political dexterity is necessarily the biggest consideration in appointing a school superintendent, one does need to have a certain minimal level of political skill and leadership ability in order to do the job.

Beth Bakeman said...

I think the Superintendent should have political skills, leadership skills, a solid vision for K-12 education, or, ideally, some combination of those strengths. Raj has none of the above and needs to go, the sooner the better.

What baffles me is why some school board members are convinced that Raj is doing a great job. He has also received quite positive press from the Weekly, the Times, and the PI. Why?

Anonymous said...

The Board is preparing a performance review for Mr. Manhas this month. This is the time to provide input on that.

I suspect that he is a pretty decent guy, he's just in way over his head.

I can't speak for Beth, but don't have any reach at all. I am not particularly well-liked, well-respected, or even well-heard at the JSCEE. There is no private citizen who pulls any weight with the SPS bureaucracy.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, I was thinking about your reach and influence with "the people" - they're the ones I think could initiate their own community meeting and invite the board and district staff.

A friend noted today that "blunt force doesn't really work with the dsitrict - they're too strong - and it may even reinforce their bunker mentality..."

dead-on, I think.

Anonymous said...

I have been active in School District issues for over five years. In all that time I have only seen three tactics ever be successful in influencing the District: litigation, bad press, and money.

There is already litigation. I have read the Court filing on the SOCKED case and it is a loser. I haven't seen the filings for the "lack of adequate notice" complaint I know that complaint lacks merit. I heard last night that there are two other suits pending, but I don't see how.

The litigation ground is well covered.

As for bad press, forget it. The papers are solidly behind the District on this.

That leaves money, and I'm talking about Stuart Sloan kind of money. The kind of money that allows you to buy a school. We don't have it.

The two things that I have seen have the least impact are emotional appeals from ordinary citizens and families and logical appeals from ordinary citizens and families.

It is extraordinarily difficult to get a bureaucracy like SPS to change course - even after you convince them that you are right and they are wrong. Being right doesn't help you with these people.

Carla Santorno may be different because she does not appear to have assimilated into the Seattle Public Schools culture yet. I think this experience will do it for her.

Here's what I can think of:

For AS#1 - campaign to move to a larger bulding in better condition; McDonald comes to mind. Remind the District that you have a successful program with no excess capacity that should be left alone. If the intention is to have your program "co-house" but not consolidate with Summit, then why not have John Rogers do it? (or whatever elementary school has that reference area).

If the District doesn't want to fill the empty space at Jane Addams with Rogers, they have all of the programs at Wilson-Pacific, all of the programs at John Marshall, and the Secondary B.O.C. all looking for new homes. Let them take the space.

Cooper: I believe that the District assignment policy precludes a mandatory assignment out of a school. In other words, if all of the Cooper students refuse to leave, then the District can't move Pathfinder into the building intact. 185 kids won't fit. A well-organized and cohesive "Hell No We Won't Go" campaign may provide you with a bargaining chip. But what do you want? I know, you want your building and a reference area big enough to fill it.

Pathfinder: You can't be happy about this. Can't the District find some other building for Pathfinder? How about E.C. Hughes? How about Fairmont Park? How about something on the Denny site after Denny moves across the street? Can the Genesee Hill space be totally renovated and made to work? Instead of spending $68 million to build a brand new elementary school in the Southeast (where they are closing buildings) for The New School, why don't they spend that money to build something for Pathfinder? Why will they do it for the New School but not for Pathfinder?

Roy Smith said...

AS#1 doesn't need a larger building, and moving to a larger building would just invite the excess capacity argument to be used against it. In terms of size, Pinehurst is a good fit. Furthermore, the school district's facilities surveys give the McDonald and Pinehurst buildings the exact same (and very poor) scores for both Educational Adequacy and Building Condition.

AS#1 will do just fine if it is just left alone, and according to the district's own report, the goal in the north end is to utilize excess capacity at Jane Addams. Closing the Pinehurst building seems very much to be an afterthought, and in my view, closing the Wilson-Pacific building is a lot higher priority than closing Pinehurst, and would probably be less disruptive, too.

Moving John Rogers into Jane Addams doesn't work any better than AS#1 moving there, from the viewpoint of space considerations - John Rogers is actually slightly larger enrollment than AS#1.