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Showing posts from October, 2006

School Board Meeting Agenda on Wednesday

The agenda for this Wednesday's School Board Meeting is interesting. I'm sure the turnout will be smaller than it would have been if Phase II were still under consideration, but several people are still signed up to talk about school closures. The merger of Broadview-Thompson and Viewlands with an expansion to a K-8 program is on the table for Wednesday night. This is the one recommendation from Phase II that seems to have support, and so it is being brought up again for discussion by the Board. Two other school closure and consolidation issues are: Proposed changes to the student assignment plan for 2007-08 , which seem to be just a matter of putting into policy the promises that were made during discussions around Phase I consolidations and closures about enrollment preferences for children in the affected schools and their siblings. The extension of several one-year changes to the student assignment plan for another year, with the exception of the Orca preference for e

APP Update

I was recently asked, on this blog, if I had any direct experience with the threat of school closures. The person asking the question was aware that I am father to a student at Lowell, but wasn't aware of the changes pending at that school and in Advanced Learning programs. So, just in case anyone is interested, I will bring everyone up to date on what is going on in APP. The Program Placement Committee has made an initial recommendation that, starting in 2008, both Hamilton International Middle School and Washington Middle School will offer APP. The program at Hamilton will start with sixth graders in 2008, will have sixth and seventh graders in 2009, and will have all three grades of APP starting in 2010. It has not yet been determined how many APP students will be a Hamilton, how they will be chosen, or how they will be served. It has not yet been determined which, if any, of the APP teachers at Washington will transfer to Hamilton. It is not clear whether the community at Hami

A Little Blog Business

I started this blog a little over five months ago out of frustration with Phase I of the school closure plan, and a desire to keep communicating with others I had met around the district during Town Meetings and public hearings. Now, the blog has gotten large enough and has enough traffic (150-250 different people with 350-500 hits per day during weekdays of the last few busy weeks) that it is time to take care of a little blog business. 1) I have invited several people to become Contributors to the blog, which gives them the ability to post items directly, without having to send it to me first. The benefit of this was clear on the day Raj resigned when I was in a 3-hour meeting as the news was announced, but Johnny Calcagno was able to post the news and initiate the conversation. I also cannot continue to spend as much time every day on this blog as I have been doing recently, so it will be nice to share the posting load with others. My goal is to have 8-10 contributors, connecte

Press Coverage on School Closure Issue

The coverage by the press, especially the Seattle Times, has been very frustrating over the last two weeks. Below is an excerpt from a letter sent by Pathfinder parent, Jennifer Giomi, to the Seattle Times, expressing very clearly some of the problems with the coverage. ********* ...in your column today you portray Raj as a great man whose been given the shaft. A recent editorial also spoke of our "effective" Superintendent as have many other articles. I too think Raj Manhas is probably a lovely, caring man with many skills and abilities. Though I'm not personally familiar with all aspects of his leadership during his career with the public schools, I'm sure he's made some achievements. However, that does not mean he/the District is infallible. Why has the Times not devoted any space to independent analysis of his recommendations? Could it not be that some are better than others? Could it not be that the Board supported Phase I of schools closures because while d

Enrollment Declines and Financial Chaos

Marguerite Roza, from the Center on Reinventing Public Education at UW, and a member of the CACIEE, wrote an interesting piece recently for Education Week called Must Enrollment Declines Spell Financial Chaos for Districts? She writes, "The crux of the problem is that while some revenue streams are dependent on student counts, expenditures are not...The idea proposed here is that a much larger share of district resources be allocated on the basis of enrollments, not only to schools, but also to departments, services, operations, administration, or other district functions." The following excerpt seems quite relevant for Seattle schools: "Budgeting per pupil might seem harsh when enrollment is declining, since schools can end up with fewer dollars than they had the previous year. But this approach, when coupled with a choice system, also puts decisions about how to handle declining revenues and whether or not to close or merge schools in the hands of the parents and t

Redefine Roles for School Board and Superintendent

Maybe the biggest problem with the Seattle School Board is not who is on the Board, but instead how the role of the School Board is defined , including, of course, the relationship between the superintendent and the School Board. A popular reaction to School Board dysfunction around the country is to turn to the Policy Governance model as defined by John Carver . In this model, the School Board defines the vision, providing clear policy direction, and then holds the Superintendent and district staff accountable for making it happen. The Mercer Island School Board received training in and adopted this model in 2004. Many other urban school districts around the country, including Austin, Texas, have adopted this model in recent years as well. "A radical redesign of the function of school boards, Carver explains, would include (1) a focus on educational results rather than on the methods by which they were achieved, (2) newly defined relationships with the general public and paren

The Danger of Ignoring Issues of Race

The PI has a thoughtful piece today, School closures bring out worst in us , by columnist Robert Jamieson, which directly addresses the racial issues involved in both school closures and the recent turmoil at School Board meetings. If the new superintendent continues down the path of ignoring racial and cultural issues, including the history of school district interaction with different groups in Seattle, efforts at substantial system change will continue to meet strong opposition. The problems of the district cannot be reduced to numbers --- test scores, and dollars and cents --- and solutions cannot be that narrowly focused either. I am appalled that activist Sakara Remmu has faced threats because of a combination of her work opposing the school closures and the racial tensions in our city that won't go away, even if we ignore them. Going forward, our work to improve Seattle schools has to acknowledge and address this distressing reality.

Whose Fault Is It Anyway?

During the last few days, I've been involved in several conversations about whose "fault" it is that the district is having such large problems. The argument has tended to divide people into two camps: the people who believe it is Raj's fault, and the people who believe it is the School Board's fault. I certainly lean heavily towards the side of blaming Raj, but obviously, there is plenty of shared responsibility and blame to go around. Discussing the "Whose fault is it anyway?" question doesn't necessarily help us move forward with improving Seattle Public Schools. Yet, it is important to understand what has gone wrong in order to work on "fixing" it and preventing similar problems in the future. On that note, I share this message from Charlie Mas: ********************************* I read Lynne Varner's editorial in the Times today and she and I have exchanged email about it. The end result is this question: How much leadership s

Today's Events

Two interesting Seattle Schools' events today: - At 12:56 pm, the Which Way Seattle? Series: Inequality in Public Education on the Seattle Channel, cable channel 21 or live on the web by clicking the Seattle Channel Live link. - Tonight from 7 pm to 8:30 pm, the Third Annual Forum: Arts Education in Seattle Public Schools at the Nathan Hale High School Performing Arts Center . A free event sponsored by the Seattle Arts Commission, the Mayor's Office of the Arts & Cultural Affairs and Seattle Public Schools. Chief Academic Officer Carla J. Santorno will discuss next steps to putting the arts back in education, and Superintendent Raj Manhas will present a 2005-06 progress report. For more information call (206) 684-7171 or send a message to arts.culture@seattle.gov .

Support for BEX III

I think the district made some mistakes when they put together the list of projects for BEX III. I agree with comments by Charlie Mas, Mel Westbrook and others about some of the problems with the proposal. But, I believe we should still support passage of BEX III. Why? I met with Fred Stephens (Director of Facilities), Don Gilmore (BEX III Manager), and Kathy Johnson (Facilities Planning Manager) last week and had my questions answered satisfactorily. I was favorably impressed with the staff, their knowledge, and their willingness to share information and background on the project. My sense is that defeating BEX III would just delay the much needed repairs to and rennovations of many buildings around the district.

Public Relations Campaign for Seattle Schools?

I was on the Dave Ross show on KIRO from 9 to 10 am this morning talking about Seattle schools. It was an interesting experience. I got woken up at 7:15 this morning with a phone call inviting me to come in and talk about the issues facing our city's schools. As part of that conversation, Dave suggested that parents get together, raise money, and do a public relations campaign on behalf of the Seattle School District, communicating why we stay in Seattle and in the public schools, and telling the stories of the fabulous teachers and programs that are available. I wonder if this is something that either Communities and Parents for Public Schools (CPPS) or Alliance for Education would take on. And would it make a difference?

Finding a New Superintendent for Seattle Schools

Now that Raj has resigned, it's appropriate to revisit two recent posts on this blog: Hiring a New Superintendent (10/14) Seattle Needs a Superintendent Who Knows Schools (10/9) What do you think the criteria should be for a new superintendent? My top critieria is leadership.

Seattle Education Association Meeting Today

The Seattle Education Association (SEA) resolution to pull support for school closures will be voted on today by the SEA Representative Assembly at West Seattle High School. The meeting begins at 4:15. My understanding is that it is a public meeting --- anyone can attend --- but only SEA Representatives can speak or vote. Chris Jackins is working to organize parents and teachers who support the resolution to either attend the meeting or at least be present before the meeting starts to show support.

KUOW Report: Raj to step down

KUOW just had an announcement that Raj is stepping down. Here's a link to the P-I article: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/289654_manhas23ww.html and the article: Manhas to resign Seattle schools chief won't seek contract extension. Monday, October 23, 2006 By JESSICA BLANCHARD, P-I REPORTER Seattle Schools Superintendent Raj Manhas, at the helm of a district with a looming financial crisis and deeply divided over closing schools, is leaving his post. Manhas said this afternoon that he will fulfill the last year of his contract, but not seek an extension when his present agreement expires next year. "After careful consideration, I have decided that this year will be my final year as superintendent of Seattle Public Schools," he said. "This is a personal decision I have made in the interests of my family." He said by announcing his decision now, he will give the district a chance to launch a full search for a successor. Manhas' three years in

Board Members Did Not "Back Down"

I'm extremely frustrated with press coverage that suggests that Seattle School Board members who voted to table the school closure motion "backed down" in the face of public pressure or changed their minds about school closures. As I said in my testimony at the Board meeting on Wednesday, I am clear about whose proposal was voted down. It was Raj's proposal. The School Board members didn't like the preliminary recommendations or the process used to develop them, and they were open and honest about that with Raj. Raj was unwilling to change his mind about two of the recommendations or to do what Brita Butler-Wall requested, and pull the entire Phase II recommendation. Wednesday's Board meeting was the first time Board members could discuss the proposal and react to it formally in public. The five Board members who voted to table the Phase II recommendations did so despite the fact that three of them believe in the importance of closing schools . They did so b

Let's Be Clear About What Happened Last Night

Having watched the video now and listened to much conversation on this topic today, I think it's important that we make clear that the discussion about the "raucous" and "violent" and "heated" meeting does not give a clear picture about what happened last night. One very disturbed man acted completely inappropriately and was removed from the room twice by security guards. However, that action had very little to do with schools and school closure, and seemed to be instead a case of mental instability and racial hatred. A lot of other testimony was angry and emotionally --- in my opinion, appropriately so. And some people tried to interrupt the meeting with civil disobedience, which was peaceful. Below is a comment from the United Cooper Advocacy Group on this issue. The United Cooper Advocacy Group would like to make a statement regarding the School Board meeting on October 18, 2006: The United Cooper Advocacy Group (UCAG) is pleased with the Scho

Seattle School Closures on "The Conversation"

Excerpts from KUOW's The Conversation on 10/19/06: Regarding the decision to table the Phase II closure recommendation: Brita Butler-Wall : "I did not feel that the administration made their case for this particular set of recommendations. Nor did I believe that the process that was used in Phase II reflected our values of transparency and inclusiveness, and therefore fairness." Michael DeBell : "Tabling it did not give us a chance to deliberate on the final recommendations. I had hoped that the School Board members could examine what the superintendent had offered and potentially make changes that would make it more acceptable and move forward...We certainly had vocal opposition from communities that were affected...The question is, 'Are the tradeoffs involved worth the sacrifice that community has to make?' and that's what I wanted to get at...ultimately, we still have to grapple with the question of having more buildings than we really need. And w

Board Action to Table Raj's Phase II Recommendation Indefinitely

Excerpts from the Board meeting last night regarding Raj's Phase II recommendations: Irene Stewart: "Move to postpone this particular motion indefinitely...In my view, that does not preclude any one portion of it coming back for consideration, but I would expect it to be done in a far more sensible, open, communicative way, so that we can find some success...I don't see success in this motion. I don't think it can pass, but even if it did, I think we would have so many problems that we would pay a price for many, many, many years to come. Let's do what we need to do, but let's do it right, and that means with the community involved and finding real solutions." Darlene Flynn : "I am supporting this motion and it is not because of the demonstration tonight. I think demonstrations and speak-outs are good things...I'm not satisfied that we have worked out the solution as well as we could have. This will give us the opportunity to have some more o

Watch & Listen For Yourselves

The video from last night's School Board meeting was posted uncharacteristically quickly. If you missed last night's meeting, and want to see how exactly the Phase II closure proposal was voted down, go to time point 3:29 in the recording. Today from 1 to 2 pm, KUOW's The Conversation focused on the School Board meeting and the decision to drop the Phase II closure proposal. Go to The Conversation's home page and then click on the audio link that works best for you (MP3 or Real Audio). I haven't watched or listened to either yet, but would love to hear comments from those who have.

Phase II Recommendations Dismissed by Board

The School Board voted tonight to reject Raj's Phase II recommendations. Late in the meeting (around 11 pm), apparently Irene Stewart introduced a motion to reject Raj's recommendations tonight since she knew there were not enough votes to pass them, and they didn't want to "do this" for two more weeks. Cheryl Chow and Michael DeBell voted against the motion. All other Board members supported it. Bottom line, AS#1, Pathfinder, Cooper, and Roxhill all stay put. See the PI article, " Second phase of school closings halted " for more details.

Press Coverage on Raj's Final Recommendations

Here's a round-up of articles today on school closure and Raj's final recommendations: Manhas removes a school from the closure list - Seattle Times Manhas saves Roxhill Elementary - Seattle PI Another school misfire - West Seattle Herald It’s getting ugly - West Seattle blog

Raj's Final Recommendations for Phase II

Roxhill is not going to be closed. The rest of Raj's recommendation as listed in the Board Meeting Agenda remains the same. The relevant text from the Board meeting agenda follows: RECOMMENDED MOTION The recommended motion is: "I move that the School Board take the following action related to school closure and consolidation: 1. Close the Genesee Hill building and expand the alternative K-8 West Seattle program by joining the Pathfinder and Cooper communities in the Cooper building. 2. Close the Pinehurst building and co-locate the AS #1 and Summit programs in the Jane Addams building. 3. Expand the Broadview-Thomson program from a K-5 to a K-8 and merge the Viewlands program, including the autism inclusion program, into Broadview-Thomson. I further move that the School Board endorse the Superintendent’s recommendation that: 1. Affected students will receive notification of their assignment for 2007-08 prior to the Open Enrollment Period (January 16-February 20, 2007).

The New School Needs a Safe & Appropriate Building

From New School parent, Ben Wilson, comes the counter-argument to Pat Murakami's posting on BEX III opposition. - The New School is currently in the South Shore building, which is being held up by braces, leaks whenever it rains, and has a heating/ventilation system that constantly fails. The district facilities people say they cannot keep the building safe/habitable for much longer. - The building's construction quality is so low and its architecture is so distant from current educational standards that renovating it is not considered an option. Scenarios for renovation were prepared by architects, but they result in a school facility that is not desirable. - The community in Rainier Beach is anxious to have a K-8 option. This comes up at all neighborhood meetings about schools in that region. The building as designed could hold either a K-8 or a middle school in the future. - The New School is not an alternative school. It is a neighborhood school. The majority of studen

Board Officer Elections

At the first Board meeting in December, the School Board will be electing new officers. This follows current Board policy on Election of Officers . Brita Butler-Wall has told fellow Board members that she does not wish to continue as Board president. Rumor has it that current Vice President, Cheryl Chow, wants to be President, and that Darlene Flynn wants to be Vice President. In December, the board committees will also be changing. The new Board President will appoint the committees and committee chairs, in consultation with the rest of the board. I'm not sure what this change will mean for the School Board in a time of turmoil, but I'm personally very concerned about the idea of having Cheryl Chow, the Board member who is perceived (rightly or wrongly) as being the least reponsive to community members, as the new Board President.

BEX III Opposition

I received the following e-mails today from Pat Murakami, a SE Seattle parent and activist. On Wednesday, October 18th, the Seattle School Board will vote on BEX III - the upcoming capital funding levy. The Board is planning to approve an option which includes $64.7 million for a new school building for The New School. We just went through the very painful process of closing SE Seattle schools in Round One of the school closure process. There are empty buildings The New School can use, or their existing building could be remodeled. Additionally, there are many schools with pressing needs throughout the District that would be a better use of capital funds. If you feel the District should not spend money building a new building while other buildings in SE Seattle go empty, please email them immediately. As a member of the closure committee I know the District has other workable options that won't be such a waste of our tax dollars. In my email I promised to work to oppose passag

Teachers' Union Pulls Support for School Closures

From SEA comes the following: Below is a resolution adopted by the Seattle Education Association (SEA) Board of Directors in opposition to the current school closure plan. This resolution will be voted on by the SEA Representative Assembly on Oct. 23 at West Seattle High School. The meeting begins at 4:15. ADOPTED BY THE SEA BOARD OF DIRECTORS OCT. 9, 2006 Whereas students of color and low income are disproportionately impacted by the Seattle School District's plans for school closures and consolidation, and Whereas the $4 million savings from these closures is less than 1% of the operating budget, and Whereas the Seattle School District has in excess of $20 million in reserves, and Whereas the opposition to school closures by teachers, parents and other citizens has been overwhelming at school board meetings for the past 4-6 months, and Whereas the closure plan relies on the use of portables to solve the anticipated student overflow caused by consolidations, and Whe

Somebody Else’s School

Johnny Calcagno here, parent of a third grader at TOPS, and since Raj’s Reshaping Plan in 2005, a junkie of School District politics, unfortunately. Thanks to Beth for sharing her Blogger toy. Over the last year and half I have been struck by how seemingly easy it is for many otherwise well-intentioned people to attempt to alter, close, consolidate, and otherwise mess with the schools of other people’s children. The reasons given are varied: “We need to close the budget gap” or “Their test scores are too low” or “We haven’t closed schools in a long time, so unfortunately, we have to do so now” or “That school can move to that other building, they’ll be fine.” Not surprisingly, the parents of children affected by proposed changes are not very happy. Parents are angry and protective lions, as well they should be. Who wouldn’t stick up for their kids, in the face of disruption and forced change? Does anyone really think that parents want to hear (or have their children hear) that their

Public Hearing Transcripts posted

The public hearing transcripts for the Phase II closure and consolidation recommendations have been posted on the school district's Investing in Educational Excellence web page. Coverage of the three hearings was non-existent in local papers, so this gives you a chance to see what the affected communities were saying about Raj's preliminary proposal.

Protest Scheduled for Wednesday

I've gotten three notices about demonstrations and protests for Wednesday which I'm publishing below. ********* On Wednesday October 18, the SPS district administration will present its phase II school closure proposal. Several groups will be converging on the Stanford building to voice opposition to the closure plan. The Superintendent's plans to close and consolidate schools are ill conceived, destructive, racist, and illegitimate! The process must be stopped in its tracks and reconsidered until proposals can be rendered that are transparent, equitable, beneficial to student learning and supportive rather than destructive of school communities. These ill conceived plans are already destabilizing school communities and distracting families and teachers from their important work. It is not enough for communities to work to save their particular schools, every community that has found itself on the closure list has tried the same tactics, they lobby and negotiate, plead an

Hiring a New Superintendent

The last time Seattle tried to hire a superintendent, the process, and the result, was awful. But, as most people know, hiring a strong superintendent for a large urban school district is a very difficult thing to do. Take a look at back at what happened in Seattle: Schools urged to call off search, start over - Seattle PI Education: The School Board Flunks Google 101 - Seattle Weekly Interim schools chief named superintendent - Seattle Times Seattle has a new superintendent - Shark blog And read about what happened in Los Angeles on Friday: All Eyes Are on Schools Chief as He Takes Stage And finally, read these two very interesting articles: Turnover at the Top , from the American School Board Journal "An Impossible Job? The View From the Urban Superintendent's Chair," from Seattle's Center on Reinventing Public Education at UW I still believe Seattle needs a new superintendent. But I also believe we need to be realistic about the challenges we face i

How to Improve the Seattle School Board

Last spring, Trish Millines Dziko (CACIEE co-chair) wrote an editorial praising Raj and blaming the School Board for not following through on the work of the CACIEE: Seattle schools in crisis . Yesterday, Joni Balter wrote a very negative assessment of the Seattle School Board, Wanted: a functioning school board , which raises the possibility of some school board members being political appointees. And several people, including Roy Smith in a comment on this blog this week, have said they won't re-elect Board Members unless they vote against renewing Raj's contract. That comment raises the question of why anyone would want to be a School Board member. And do the current Board members want to be re-elected? We all agree the Seattle School District is not functioning the way it should be. I tend to put most of the blame on Raj, the district staff, and the dysfunctional organizational culture there. I know that the School Board is also responsible, but I admit to being confused

Raj Still Doesn't Get It

From today's Seattle Times article, Seattle alternative schools say their character is at stake , comes another quote that shows that Raj still doesn't understand what alternative schools are. He continues to confuse alternative structures, like K-8, with alternative teaching philosophies. Manhas said concerns about combining schools are shortsighted. "We're not walking away from alternative schools, and actually we're expanding K-8s," he said, pointing out district plans to add middle-school grades to Orca Elementary and expand two neighborhood schools — Broadview-Thomson and The New School — into K-8s. "I think the demand for alternative K-8s either is constant or has gone down."

What are the Priorities? How were the Selections Made?

Tonight, the district got 2 full hours of public testimony on BEX III. I only stayed for the first hour, but it was interesting. I think Ingraham High School had at least seven speakers. Denny, Sealth and Nathan Hale were all represented, along with Sherry Carr (PTSA), Peter Maier (Schools First) and the usual public hearing crowd (Chris Jackins, Don Alexander, Eric Montgomery, etc.). Since I don't know much about BEX III, I used my few minutes to raise some questions: What are the priorities that got these projects on the list? According to district documents, the choices were based on the facilities master plan, but they don't seem to match to me. Why is the BEX III proposal not discussed in terms of how well it does (or doesn't) fit with other district efforts (school consolidation and closure, restricting choice and transportation, changes in the weighted student formula)? Are the cost estimates for these new buildings accurate ? What is happening with all the BTA I

BEX III Hearing Today

The BEX III hearing is from 6-6:30 pm at the Stanford Center today. Many people, including me, are very troubled by the fact that the BEX III bond decisions are disconnected from other things going on in the district, like closure and consolidation, and the upcoming restrictions on choice and transportation. And personally, when a district staffer tells me there is "no time and no will" to make changes to the BEX III proposal, it makes me mad enough to want to do something about it. In a comment on a recent post, Melissa W. wrote, "Pathfinder, not New School, should get the BEX III money for a rebuild. There is nothing in the written agreement between the district and New School that they receive a new building. Nor is there an oral agreement...I think Pathfinder being the only K-8 AND Alternative in SW Seattle rates it receiving a new building." In a comment on an older post, Charlie Mas wrote, "There is no element in the BEX III levy that addresses the nee

Cooper/Pathfinder Merge Rejected by All Speakers

Tonight the Cooper and Pathfinder parents presented a united and consistent message throughout this evening's hearing in opposition to the proposed merger. The testimony was at times moving, at times hilarious, and always powerful in explaining why a merger of a traditional program and an alternative program does not make sense. I was extremely proud to be among that group of parents, teachers, students and other community members tonight. We stood together against Raj and his current proposal, and I believe our voices were heard, at least by School Board members. Below is my testimony from tonight: I am completely opposed to the current recommendation to merge Pathfinder and Cooper and create a new school, because it would destroy two quality programs, one traditional and one alternative, in an attempt to solve district facilities and financial problems. The district faces real challenges right now. I am not trying to deny or diminish the importance of them. But how we solve

Latest Seattle School Board Meeting Video Now Available

The October 4th School Board meeting video has now been posted at: Seattle Public Schools Board Meeting I missed the meeting, but have heard from several people that you had to "see it to believe it."

Working Together to Fight Phase II Proposal

I am very happy that people are using this blog as a place to "meet" and discuss issues. That is why I created it. And I recognize that open and honest discussion about difficult issues will sometimes lead to hurt feelings and misunderstandings. But, please remember, we are supposed to be "Joining together across Seattle to fight for high quality public schools that educate all students to be come passionate, lifelong learners, respecting themselves and others." As my mom used to say, let's keep our eye on the prize. We need to work together to fight the superintendent's Phase II proposal. And then, once we are successful, work together to demand a new superintendent. Our power is in our numbers. In unity is strength.

This Week's Events

Tonight ( Monday ) is the school closure hearing at Roxhill Elementary , 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm. Sign up to speak about the Roxhill closure recommendation at the door (even though the Seattle Schools website says you need to call ahead of time to sign up) or just go and listen so you can truly understand what it means to a school to be on the closure list. West Seattle residents particularly should go and show their support for this vibrant neighborhood school. Tomorrow ( Tuesday ) is the school closure hearing at the Genessee Hill building, 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm, for both Cooper Elementary and Pathfinder K-8 . Despite repeated requests, the Cooper school community was not given its own closure hearing. The two school communities will share this one site hearing. This has been poorly publicized, so please spread the word. The current merger recommendation would destroy two successful academic programs in an attempt to create a yet-to-be-determined new one, somehow synthesizing a traditio

Seattle Needs a Superintendent Who Knows Schools

In September 2005, David Marshak, Professor of Education at Seattle University, wrote the following in a Seattle Times article: "This new school year will be the seventh year that the district will be led by someone who was not qualified for the job." We are now in the 8th consecutive year, and we are all paying the price. Marshak writes: "Unlike Olchefske, Manhas is evidently a people person. But exactly like Olchefske, he had no prior experience with schools and no particular understanding of or expertise in the issues of urban schooling." In reference to Raj's original school closure plan, he writes: "Manhas' solution to his budget woes was to close schools. Yet, the school-closing plan he constructed had no connection to academic achievement and no coherent rationale for its choices. Academically it was clueless. Politically it was such a disaster that even the mayor felt the need to attack it." The same thing could be said of his curren

Restoring Faith in Seattle Public Schools

I met with Carla Santorno on Friday, and said the purpose of my meeting was to have my faith restored in Seattle Public Schools. During a 30-minute meeting, she did a pretty good job of it. From watching Carla speak at public meetings, I already knew she was smart and talented. What I learned on Friday is that she is a genuine, down-to-earth person, with a clear understanding of many of the issues and challenges Seattle Public Schools faces, a vision for where she wants to take the district academically, and some good ideas about how to start down that path. I also learned that she strongly supports alternative education and recognizes the importance of a network of quality alternative schools in Seattle. That puts her in alignment with the Board position on this issue and is, obviously, particularly important to me given the current proposal for the Pathfinder/Cooper merge. I have high expectations for Carla, which means I will likely be disappointed and frustrated at times. But,

Enrollment, First Choice & Alternative Schools

In a comment on a previous post, Roy Smith wrote: Since school district policy prohibits (with good reason) involuntary assignment to alternative schools, I would submit that only one criteria is particularly useful or should really matter in assessing whether an alternative school remains open: does it continue to attract enrollment? I like the idea, and suggest that first choice numbers, as a measure of what parents think of a school, can be added to enrollment to help complete the picture. Many factors, like being mentioned for possible closure, can affect enrollment and first choice numbers and make this data problematic in some ways. But I think the results are interesting. From the numbers the CAC looked at for first choice requests for elementary and alternative schools , I calculated the following data showing the percentage change in kindergarten first choice requests in 2006 as compared to 2001. (I opted not to include the 6th grade first choice requests here because I&#

Report on AS#1 Site Hearing

Report from Roy Smith on AS#1's site hearing on Thursday: No newspaper reporters showed up at the AS#1 site hearing, in spite of lobbying on our part to get them to be there. KOMO 4 was there and did present a short piece on the 11 o'clock news Thursday. The hearing itself went extremely well. We made a conscious effort to model the values that we as a school teach to our children, and to not let the hearing be a mindless display of anger and frustration. In kidmail that was sent out to all families prior to the meeting, the following was written: "THE SPIRIT OF THE MEETING, THE SPIRIT OF AS#1: AS#1 teaches by modeling, and in the meeting we will model respectful interaction. The intention of this meeting is to humanize AS#1 for the Board Members (we are not just square footage and dollars), and to humanize the Board Members to us (they are not unfeeling rubber stampers). We will show the Board Members what our NORMS are for our students and our parents: 1) Stay Engage