Disqus

Monday, October 09, 2006

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 traditional and an alternative approach to education. If you think this is as ridiculous as I do, come and show your support.

Wednesday is public hearing on BEX III at the Stanford center. It is from 6:00 pm to 6:30 pm. How does the district have a public hearing that lasts only 30 minutes? And if this is a public hearing, how do people sign up to provide public testimony?

And finally, Thursday is the regularly scheduled Finance Committee meeting from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm at the Stanford center. Since money seems to be driving most, if not all, of the district decisions right now, this could be an important meeting to attend.

For all of these meetings and hearings, please send me any notes or reactions you would like to see posted on this blog.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wednesday is public hearing on BEX III at the Stanford center. It is from 6:00 pm to 6:30 pm. How does the district have a public hearing that lasts only 30 minutes? And if this is a public hearing, how do people sign up to provide public testimony

If its like other public hearings that have been at the Stanford Center- not connected to board meetings- 30 minutes has been plenty.
You come a little early and sign up & they allow everyone to speak at the ones I have gone to.
But once Don speaks, and Chris Jackins and Roscoe and perhaps a few others depending .. its over pretty quickly.

Its hard enough to get people involved in issues that directly impact their family "now"., let alone to come out for a hearing that isn't going to get them a response to their comments, isn't going to get them any more satisfaction than sending off an email- and is for something that is huge, and feels too big to address properly.

Anonymous said...

Here is the letter I just wrote to the Seattle School District concerning the projected Cooper/ Pathfinder "merger." Feel free to pull out "talking points" from this letter for tomorrow night's meeting in the Pathfinder cafeteria.
+++++++++++++++++++

Dear Seattle School District:

I am writing to protest the prospective "merger" and/or "closure" (I can't tell which) of Cooper Elementary School for School Year 2007-2008.

First off, let me say the public cannot help but be completely baffled as to the future of Cooper Elementary School because of the lack of information on the subject as recently expressed through the media and the Internet. The Seattle Times (9/18/06) stated FOUR schools were being closed in the Seattle School District while the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on the same day claimed THREE schools would be closed and Pathfinder would move to Cooper. The word "merger" was never mentioned in the Post-Intelligencer article to describe the Cooper/Pathfinder situation, but the term "closure" was also never used either in regards to Cooper. Superintendent Raj Manhas further muddied the waters as a result of his conflicting pronouncements in his 10/5/06 website letter and his interview with The Seattle Times published on 10/6/06. In his website letter, Superintendent Manhas said that "The Cooper and Pathfinder communities will work together to create an expanded vision of an alternative school...." From this, I concluded that an alternative school would result from the merger. But then in his interview he said the merged teaching program of Pathfinder and Cooper "wouldn't necessarily keep two hallmarks of the Pathfinder program: a Native American focus and expeditionary learning." I could only assume from these remarks that the merged school would have a "traditional" program. After reading all this, I am forced to throw up my hands and ask: "Which is it? What is going on?"

Whether the confusing and conflicting statements noted above can be blamed on bad reporting by the press or inept press releases put out by the Seattle School District is unknown to me. But it is clear the Seattle School District comes off looking either duplicitous or stupid for not better clarifying this murky situation not only to the general public but also to the parents, children, teachers and staff affiliated with Cooper Elementary and Pathfinder.

As for the closure of Cooper Elementary School before or after any "merger" with Pathfinder, I want to state categorically that I AM AGAINST IT. Here are my reasons:

1. THERE WILL NOT BE ENOUGH ROOM FOR ALL CURRENT COOPER AND PATHFINDER STUDENTS AT COOPER ELEMENTARY IN 2007-2008. I have been told the Cooper building can hold only 525 students. However, there are four classrooms that cannot be used by either Pathfinder or Cooper because they have already been promised to the autism and bi-lingual programs already in the building. This means there will be a combined total of approximately 635 students (about 250 from Cooper and about 385 from Pathfinder) trying to cram into the remaining space, which will probably hold only 475 students. (These figures are from a Seattle Times article published on 9/19/06.) Assuming that ALL of Pathfinder (approximately 385 students) fill the 475 available slots for students, that will leave only 90 slots for the remaining 250 Cooper students. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that two thirds of current Cooper students will have to be moved elsewhere for the 2007-2008 school year because of lack of space. In other words, to be perfectly blunt, Cooper Elementary will basically be wiped out in the 2007-2008 school year to make room for the Pathfinder students. Why the full extent of this debacle has NOT been revealed to the public is a mystery to me, but it does NOT speak well for the Seattle School District that it has obscured and/or downright bungled its explanations of the situation to the community.

2. COOPER ELEMENTARY FACILITIES ARE SET UP FOR A K-5 POPULATION, WHILE PATHFINDER IS A K-8 PROGRAM. All the Cooper Elementary bathrooms will have to be renovated to bring them up to state code for a K-8 school. What is the Seattle School District going to do about this situation? Where is the School District going to find the time and money to make these facility changes before the 2007-2008 school year? In my opinion, Cooper Elementary is simply the wrong building for a K-8 program; it was built for a large K-5 program.

3. PATHFINDER HAS ALREADY BEEN OFFERED (AND REFUSED) RELOCATION AT THREE OTHER SCHOOLS: BOREN (WHICH HAS THE REQUISITE TYPE OF BATHROOMS NEEDED), HUGHES AND FAIRMONT PARK. It is unclear why Pathfinder refused these offers especially since Cooper Elementary, as is, is inadequate for its needs. In addition, why should Pathfinder be allowed to take over and boot out the occupants of the newest and nicest elementary school in West Seattle when there are empty school buildings (with the requisite bathroom facilities) that the Pathfinder program could easily move into instead? Frankly, in their refusal to consider alternatives, the Pathfinder program comes across as an insufferably greedy institution that really doesn't care who it has to trample on in order to get its own way. I am appalled that such self-serving arrogance is allowed to exist in the Seattle School District.

4. NOT ONLY WILL MOST STUDENTS BE BOOTED OUT OF COOPER ELEMENTARY BECAUSE OF THE "MERGER," BUT MOST COOPER TEACHERS WILL ALSO BE LAID OFF. There will obviously be no need for most of the Cooper teachers if only 90 Cooper students will be retained in the building. In addition, few Cooper teachers have the requisite "Alternative" endorsement on their Teaching Certificate that would allow them to teach at Pathfinder (an alternative school) should a position become open. I find it unconscionable that the Seattle School District is NOT being honest and forthright about the number of teachers who will be riffed through this possible "merger" of Cooper Elementary and Pathfinder.

5. PATHFINDER DOES NOT REALLY WANT A "MERGER" WITH COOPER ELEMENTARY. As Pathfinder supporters made very clear several months ago at the school closure meeting at their school, Pathfinder does not want to "merge" with ANY traditional school. They stated at that time that their teaching goals and methods would not mesh with a traditional teaching program. In addition, merging Pathfinder with a traditional program would take a lot of time and effort, both of which are in short supply since this "merger" is contemplated for the 2007-2008 school year. It is obvious to me that the interaction between Cooper Elementary and Pathfinder teachers, parents, and children cannot help but be antagonistic in the fall of 2007. Both schools are being forced into a merger situation that neither one wants and, in fact, has been lobbying against for many months. For Superintendent Manhas to go ahead with his intended "merger plan" is the height of senseless folly.

6. FINALLY, THE POTENTIAL "MERGER"/"CLOSURE" OF COOPER ELEMENTARY WITH PATHFINDER IS A RACIAL HOT POTATO READY TO EXPLODE IN THE FACE OF EVERY ADMINISTRATOR OF THE SEATTLE SCHOOL DISTRICT. One had only to attend the Seattle School District Board meeting on Wednesday, September 27th, in order to see how outraged the community is over this "merger" situation. Poor black and ethnic needy children are obviously the last people the white, middle-class and upper-middle-class Pathfinder parents want their children associating with. It makes my blood boil to think how long Cooper teachers, staff and children waited for a new facility to be built only to have it now be taken away from them by a bunch of pushy, rich parents too cheap to send their kids to private schools. And I am NOT the only person upset by this obvious racism. If the Seattle School District decides to wipe out Cooper Elementary for the sake of Pathfinder, I predict they will be facing yet another civil rights lawsuit for discrimination. This explosive situation is NOT going to go away just because the Seattle School District doesn't want to deal with it.

WHAT THE SEATTLE SCHOOL DISTRICT SHOULD RECOMMEND TO THE SEATTLE SCHOOL BOARD: I would suggest the Seattle School District follow the more prudent path outlined below:

1. Move Pathfinder intact to the empty Boren school building. They can keep their program an alternative one plus they will have plenty of room to grow because Boren is a much larger building than Cooper.

2. Leave Cooper Elementary alone to flourish and grow. In fact, because Cooper is such a lovely building in a natural setting run by a hardworking team of teachers and staff, more elementary students from West Seattle should be sent there to make better use of this new facility. Either Cooper's enrollment boundaries should be enlarged or another local elementary school should be merged with Cooper Elementary. Cooper could become a lovely magnet elementary school for the Seattle School District -- IF only the School District could see its potential.

Beth Bakeman said...

Anonymous,

Thanks for sharing your letter to the School District. I hope you will also speak at the hearing tomorrow night.

I agree with many of your points about the dishonesty and lack of clarity by the district about what they are proposing, the insufficient space to house both programs, the uncertain fate of the teachers in both programs and the fact that a traditional/alternative merger just doesn't make sense.

I couldn't disagree more however with the statement that "Poor black and ethnic needy children are obviously the last people the white, middle-class and upper-middle-class Pathfinder parents want their children associating with."

Forty-two percent of families at Pathfinder are non-white. More than a third qualify for free- and reduced lunch. I see the economic and racial diversity of Patfhinder as one of its strengths. All people are honored, welcomed, and made part of the community.

The last thing I want, however, is to have the alternative school philosophy changed through a merger with a traditional school into something that risks serving none of the children from Pathfinder or Cooper well.

This is the third school my daughters have been at in three years. They did not thrive in traditional school programs, which is why I moved them to Pathfinder. What I am fighting is the destruction of two quality programs (one alternative and one traditional) in the name of a poorly thought-out and unclear merger to solve district facilities and financial problems.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous states:
"PATHFINDER HAS ALREADY BEEN OFFERED (AND REFUSED) RELOCATION AT THREE OTHER SCHOOLS: BOREN (WHICH HAS THE REQUISITE TYPE OF BATHROOMS NEEDED), HUGHES AND FAIRMONT PARK. It is unclear why Pathfinder refused these offers especially since Cooper Elementary, as is, is inadequate for its needs. In addition, why should Pathfinder be allowed to take over and boot out the occupants of the newest and nicest elementary school in West Seattle when there are empty school buildings (with the requisite bathroom facilities) that the Pathfinder program could easily move into instead? Frankly, in their refusal to consider alternatives, the Pathfinder program comes across as an insufferably greedy institution that really doesn't care who it has to trample on in order to get its own way. I am appalled that such self-serving arrogance is allowed to exist in the Seattle School District."
Wow. Well, anonymous, once again it is a case of people not getting to know the Pathfinder community and jumping to conclusions.
First off, the Boren building does not have the sufficient bathroom facilities for Pathfinder - what about our little kids? Also, no playground, and scary halls for the little kids! Pathfinder never wanted to "boot out" the Cooper community - if you will read most of the blogs on this website you will see from Pathfinder parents that they are also concerned about the Cooper community - this situation works out for no one's benefit.
Another statement, "Move Pathfinder intact to the empty Boren school building. They can keep their program an alternative one plus they will have plenty of room to grow because Boren is a much larger building than Cooper."
What? Did you go to any of the meetings where we spoke of the many, many reasons why Boren would not work for our program? The huge size was one of them. Maybe we sound "greedy" to you, but just as Cooper fought for a new building, we would like the same. Pathfinder is a wonderful program, many times the only one that works for many kids, and I wish people would get to know our community before saying such rude and hurtful things. We are a diverse community (by the way, I am not rich, or even middle class!!), and love all of our children, no matter the race. Cheers to the Cooper community members who are trying to be helpful in this matter, instead of flinging hurtful barbs.

Lisa said...

Anonymous,
Your message is lost in your insults. As a Pathfinder parent and community member for 8 years my children have sat next to, made friends with and become educated with wonderful children from all walks of life, from all over the world. This is something we as a community are very proud of and a main reason I chose to send my child to Seattle Public Schools. Your comments are counter productive to helping the community you care about. And as offensive as you find the idea of Pathfinder moving to Cooper you have sunk to levels as low with your mean spirited comments directed at a community you know so little about. "You don't know a man until you've walked two moons in his moccasins." You are making sweeping generalizations based on little knowledge of our intentions. If you would be courageous enough to reveal your identity possibly you would count your words before you spoke. It is easy to say mean things when you personally will not live the consequence of your words.

Anonymous said...

I love you Lisa Gluckman! Very well said.
I would like to state that Pathfinder is very concerned that there may be no more alt ed left in West Seattle if this merger takes place - there are many traditional schools for the children to choose from - but if the merger takes place like the superintendent (in his latest "clarifications") intends, there will be no alt ed left for us here.

Anonymous said...

anonymous said "by a bunch of pushy, rich parents too cheap to send their kids to private schools."

I have no relation to the Pathfinder situation, but I take offense to the statement that people who have lots of money and send their kids to public school do so because they are too cheap. Nothing could be further from the truth - there are a lot of weathy families who want to support public education - public school advocates.

Anyway, your letter has some good points, but sounds much too angry and judgemental to be taken seriously - I'd consider rewriting one with a less angry but firm tone.

JMO.

Anonymous said...

To Lisa Gluckman:

My message is lost in my insults? Well, your message is lost in your personal attack on ME. Why don't you stick to the subject at hand? For example, why don't you explain why such an "enlightened" program like Pathfinder thinks nothing of demanding the newest school in West Seattle, no matter what the consequences, because they believe Boren, which stands empty and available, is just not good enough for them? For all your elegant temporizing and obfuscation, Beth, you come across as just as greedy, nasty, and unprincipled as you accuse me of being.

But enough. My carping about responses to my letter is a waste of time. The REAL problem was stated in the first response:
"What I am fighting is the destruction of two quality programs (one alternative and one traditional) in the name of a poorly thought-out and unclear merger to solve district facilities and financial problems." Let's not forget that Cooper and Pathfinder have a COMMON ENEMY at this point--the Seattle School District.

Anonymous said...

I can say this enough; 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 do think that New School has probably made clear that they expect a new building and would probably walk if they don't get it. That's the problem with private money; if it's not their way, it's the highway and you're left with a program that cannot sustain itself without the foundation money.

I think Pathfinder being the only K-8 AND Alternative in SW Seattle rates it receiving a new building. I think that its current location is more central than Cooper. I'd have to look at the land issues; maybe a Pathfinder parent can tell me what has ever been said about a rebuild on that site.

I am likely to mount a campaign against the levy because of these glaring issues. It will be hard because the levy (technically a bond) also has the Operations levy on it (which is about 25% of our district's budget and a ridiculous way to fund a district long-term). If I say don't vote for the BEX III, I have to be careful to say "but do vote for the Operations levy". I don't want to hurt the district. It would be diasterous on the operations end. The district would love to have you think the sky will fall if they don't get the BEX III money but it won't. It will be a clear signal, on so many levels, that parents and taxpayers are unhappy with the leadership of this district.

P.S. Don't pit parent groups against each other. There are very few school communities in this district whose parents deserve some measure of scorn; I don't think Pathfinder is one of them. Also, I'd put many of Seattle Public Schools up against many private schools any day.

Anonymous said...

Thank you to everyone who is trying to bring us together instead of tearing us apart - I hope we can join together and make sure we get a superintendent who can actually communicate and do the job right.

P.S. Pathfinder never "demanded" the Cooper building - if anything, we would rather have our own new building or have our existing remodeled!!

Anonymous said...

This response will be old news now as the Pathfinder and Cooper site hearing has occurred. There's new stuff to talk about. Thanks to both communities for the outstanding testimonies and a united message tonight.

I just want to clarify one point that is huge and I think anonymous as well as everyone else, including the District seems to overlook. Pathfinder has to attract families in order to survive. The District can't send anyone to our school even if there are empty seats. If no one chooses to come, there is no school.

Our program, our staff, and our building are all tools we have to attract students. To date the building is the part of our program that is least attractive to prospective families (a survey was conducted during enrollment tours last year, so there is even data to back this up). This is largely due to the inappropriate spaces for a K-8 student body and the run-down appearance of the building.

In looking for a solution to Pathfinder's facility issue, IT HAS TO BE UNDERSTOOD that to move anywhere that is either in
a) the same condition as the building we have or
b) worse than the building we have, is counter-productive to the survival of our program. We'd be better off to stay where we are than suffer a move to continue facing the same problems the Genesse Hill Site poses.

As well, Pathfinder moving to a new building, but losing its program will not help the school attract families (as many spoke to tonight). In fact, there's lots of discussion of overcrowding but, I worry that not enough families will choose the school to keep a viable program running.

If this recommendation should pass (which I doubt), this continual challenge of how to attract families to keep the program strong and the doors open will be one that Cooper families and staff get to share with us.