Thursday, July 05, 2007

PI's Take on "Pro Bono" Work

This editorial appeared in yesterday's PI.

Also, just to put some perspective on how this lawsuit came to pass, Ballard was not a popular school in the late 80's/early '90s. It ran almost full but was not a big first choice. In 1991, the then-Superintendent recommended the building be demolished and rebuilt but could not get a bond measure passed until 1995. In 1994, a student there was killed in a drive-by shooting. It would be interesting to know where Queen Anne and Magnolia students spread out to after Queen Anne High was closed in 1981 but, given that Ballard High wasn't full, I don't think they were all trying to get in there. Ballard was really in a bad state.

So Ballard was rebuilt and became a success story (with the biotech/maritime programs put in to make the school more attractive). The district success in reinventing Ballard did cause more parents in Queen Anne and Magnolia to try to send their students there and thus you got the oversubscription.

Also, in doing some research, I found some interesting capacity numbers (given to the PI by the District). This was for 1989:

Enrollment Capacity
Ballard 993 1054
Roosevelt 1238 1345
Hale 780 933
Garfield 1165 1173

In all the time I've done research, I've never seen these capacity figures so low. If Roosevelt's capacity was 1345, then they were really packing them in at 1600. My point is that Facilities figures are troubling given the variation in them from year-to-year, decade-to-decade for the same buildings.


Jet City mom said...

same time frame-
for ontime first choice/ ontime 9th grade wait list

Garfield / Roosevelt / Ballard/
2001 361/70 422 / 62 530/109

2002 371/103 443/101 492/102

2003 402/116 439/64 503/111

2004 442/199 420/59 547/145

During this period the ontime waitlist went from 115 at Nathan Hale in 2001 to 18 in 2004.
West Seattle went from having zero wait list in 2001 & 02, to 46 in 2003 & 41 in 2004.

Ingraham also went from 84 students making it their first choice in 2001, but then the next year 1st choice went up to 127, in 2003- 185 * in 2004, 213 students made Ingraham first choice.

I hope that is readable sorry I didn't take the time to figure the formatting
I think Ballard was still seen as a choice- but it was a pretty bad building.

We looked there for my oldest ( she began high school in 1996- Ballard began @ Lincoln in 1997)
We also toured it for my youngest- but it wasn't high on her list, she began high school in 2004.

The building isn't a make or break thing for us- oldest began private grade school at the same price you can now attend the UW inc. room and board, in a old Seattle print shop building, but if the program isn't wonderful, the building better be nice.

Jet City mom said...

Enrollment Capacity
Ballard 993 1054
Roosevelt 1238 1345
Hale 780 933
Garfield 1165 1173

so I have the
Utilization Rate Analysis for Seattle Public Schools
*The foundation for calculating building capacity is class size by grade span (K-3, 4-5, 6-8, and 9-12). In this example, class size is set at the
number specified by the current SEA contract, which is K-3: 26; 4-5: 28; 6-12: 30.
*Capacity for each building is the number of teaching stations multiplied by the class size for each teaching station. If the building also has
portables, the portable capacities are added to the building capacity. Portable capacity is calculated at 25 students per portable teaching
*The sum of building capacity plus portable capacity is then multiplied by 75%. Using only 75% of the total capacity allows for variations in
class sizes and teaching stations based on program requirements such as special education, six periods at high school, PCP time, and other
types of space usage that cannot be generalized in a formula. This conservative approach underestimates actual capacity to account for
these needs.
*Utlization Rate is then calculated taking the current enrollment in the facility divided by the buildings capacity. This rate is a general
measure of how effectively a program is using the space within the building.

dated 1-27-2005

for Ballard
capacity is noted as 1567 no/with portables
enrollment is 1625 in Oct 2004- for 103% capacity- no portables/with portables

Oct-2004- Roosevelt
1567 capacity
Enrollment 1623 @103 capacity

Oct-2004 -Hale
1369 no portables
1594 with portables
Enrollment was 1074 for 78% of capacity with no portables or 67% with portables.

Oct2004- Garfield
1372 no portables
1541 with portables
Enrollment was 1626 for 118% of capacity without portables and 105% of capacity with

Its pretty creative to change the numbers that a building can hold depending on what we want those stats to tell us.

Is this the "new- new new" math?

Anonymous said...

Here are the two letters to the editor that also came out on this subject, both also touch on the building issue:

Parents who sued got a remarkable remedy
I am ashamed of Kathleen Brose, joined by other parents who advanced their case against Seattle Public Schools assignment plan recently overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. As I recall, the disgruntled, irate over a missed assignment to the then-brand new Ballard High School, lobbied our School Board so successfully that they got a remarkable remedy -- a new high school at Seattle Center, close to their residence in Queen Anne. She could hardly be called an "aggrieved party" with this result and benefit. Our school choice plan was excellent; it resulted in most students getting their first and second choices. Only a handful of students each year, at initial assignment, missed their preferences. And in truth, as anyone can tell you, if you keep your child's name on the waiting list, additional spots open in the fall, as families move or make other choices.

Instead, this self-righteous group, led by Brose and aided, amazingly, by the premiere law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine, destroyed a sound plan that succeeded in maintaining high school enrollments and diversified programs and populations. I cannot imagine Brose feeling victorious.

The loss for the greater good is huge. As a final blow to our financially troubled district, the U.S. Supreme Court awarded the right to recover legal fees. But the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine claimed that it took this case "pro bono." Now the lead attorney says he will seek his fees, in the range of $1 million? At the very least, a law firm of this stature should consider its "pro bono" case truly that and back away from demanding payment from a district that can ill-afford to pay them.

I am saddened by the behavior of the plaintiffs and their attorneys. Where is the great good?

Robin Landy Amadon

Could new building have any bearing?
As a Ballard resident and the mother of a very successful 1996 graduate of Franklin High School (that South End school so unacceptable to Kathleen Brose's daughter that Brose sued to keep her out of it), I have been surprised and irritated never to read any comment in media reports about the timing of that suit. It so happens that the brand new beautiful facility at Ballard was just opening at that time.

If the principle of attending one's neighborhood school is so important, why weren't people suing to get into Ballard High School when the ceiling tiles were falling on people's heads?

Nina Christensen

Anonymous said...

Class of 75 included the quote that "West Seattle went from having zero wait list in 2001 & 02, to 46 in 2003 & 41 in 2004." Also got a nice new building in the same time frame.

Jet City mom said...

it does look like Ballard was enrolled at capacity before the remodel.
in 2004- 1625 students were enrolled at Ballard- Five years before the new building was opened.

I hadn't been following the particular case of the Brose family closely, but the families we heard about- weren't assigned to Franklin, but Cleveland.

A school that for 1213 students last year, was their closest high school, but only 600 were enrolled. ( in 2004- there were 775)
69 9th graders chose it for their 1st choice school in 2001 & 80 did for 2004.

They had triple the suspensions that the district did- but zero expulsions.

While 67% passed the reading WASL and 59% passed the writing in 2006, only 21% passed the math WASL.

Next year- if students haven't passed all three tests, they will not get an academic achievement certificate. Yes for next year they will still be allowed to graduate without it, but it may be difficult to earn it without passing all three WASL tests.

Jet City mom said...

I don't think I have been in the West Seattle building- but thanks for the update on the construction.

That may explain why so many students don't attend Cleveland- I wonder if they are at West Seattle instead- because my map shows that 700 students have West Seattle as their closest school, but it enrolls 1367.

I can't keep up with the buildings- I attended a meeting in a really nice- what I thought was a pretty new middle school in west Seattle, but now- I can't figure out which one it was.( I guess it could have been an elementary- or farther south than what is considered "west" Seattle.)

This is off the pro bono topic- but since such a large % of residents have lived in Seattle 5 years or less & single family housing is becoming unaffordable/unavailable, what strategies are being used to insure that residents have available & appropriate services?

If we are being taxed equally, we should expect the same level of access to amenities, like working streetlights, parks, sidewalks & "police" protection.
And schools? thats pretty much a "no, duh".

Anonymous said...

Class of 75, I think the nice WS building you are thinking of is Madison Middle School.

Does anyone have numbers for Ballard's enrollment before the new building project was announced? I.e. for the mid-90s? I think that would be the better comparator than post-remodel numbers.

This year will be a peitree dish year for the theories of what works in turning around a school. I think the answer with Ballard was three things (1) new building (2) attractive programming and (3) dynamic principal.

Does a nice building alone solve an enrollment spiral? I think that up until last month, I would have said, we will find out when the remodeled Cleveland High School opens next fall. I can only hope that the nice building, coupled with additional funding through the SE initiative will make a difference. It will also be a test of the Cleveland leadership, if they get a beautiful new building and extra funding, but still spiral downwards, you have to wonder what is holding the school back, and my answer would most likely be lack of a quality principal.

Does quality programming do it? We will see with the IB program at Sealth, who will have, in my opinion, two of the three things that changed at Ballard, an attractive programming option and a dynamic leader in John Boyd. I think that Ingraham, and its current downward trend (in particular for North end kids who live near the school) is proof that program alone (the IB program) will not turn a school into a marquee school absent a quality principal. It is my hope that Sealth - and maybe it will take until they get the trifecta of a new building - will be the South end turn around story.

And, back to the original topic of the post, I think DWT needs to just bask in the glory of being victorious at the Supreme Court and let go of the idea that it is in the public’s interest for the public’s money to be taken from public schools and instead put into their paychecks.

Anonymous said...

Class of 75- I am confused.

You write: "it does look like Ballard was enrolled at capacity before the remodel. in 2004- 1625 students were enrolled at Ballard- Five years before the new building was opened."

Did you mean five years after the new building was opened? Last I checked, we are still aways away from 2009 :-)

Anonymous said...

"it does look like Ballard was enrolled at capacity before the remodel.
in 2004- 1625 students were enrolled at Ballard- Five years before the new building was opened."

Either I'm reading this wrong, or there is a typo here: five years after 2004 hasn't happened yet.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

I am going back to the intial post, and putting my two cents into what is the hieght of hypocrisy:

Davis Wright Tremaine is listed as a sponsor of Seattle School District Alliance for Education and contributed between $5000 and $9999 according to the 2006 Annual Report.

So it is apparent that Davis Wright Tremaine believes that as a corporate citizen they should be supporting the Seattle School District. Seems like that they now want to take the money back (along with at least another $990,000) to boost the firm's bottom line.

Anonymous said...

I am going back to the intial post, and putting my two cents into what is the hieght of hypocrisy:

Davis Wright Tremaine is listed as a sponsor of Seattle School District Alliance for Education and contributed between $5000 and $9999 according to the 2006 Annual Report.

So it is apparent that Davis Wright Tremaine believes that as a corporate citizen they should be supporting the Seattle School District. Seems like that they now want to take the money back (along with at least another $990,000) to boost the firm's bottom line.

Jet City mom said...

obviously the quote about Ballard is way wrong because I believe the building opened in 1999

Jet City mom said...

I apologize for the confusing and erroneous stat. BUt I have a question, if the school was intended to fit 1600 students but we know that 2387 students currently have Ballard as their closest high school, that seems to be a bit off from our earlier projections.

How do we know we are getting more accurate with our current projections?
( thats rhetorical)

Jet City mom said...

I did find stats from Ballard for previous to new build.
in 1994 there was 1275 students
1998-1096 ( @ Lincoln)
2000- 1338 students in the new building

Anonymous said...

Class of 75, of the families involved in the PICS suit, none were assignmed to Cleveland. Most were assigned to Franklin, Hale, or Ingraham. Ms. Brose's daughter was given her 4th choice school, Franklin, but she transfered to Ingraham as she wanted a school with a string orchastra.

Ironically, one PICS family, the Hacks, actually benifitted from the tie-breaker. All of thier children, including the ones still there, got in because the oldest sibling was adopted and African American.

Jet City mom said...

I wasn't talking about the families who originated the suit- but the families who don't have a neighborhood school and were assigned to one that they did not choose.


regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, we have students who dont have a seat at a school a reasonable distance away.

I would like to see numbers of Queenanne- Magnolia and Ballard students broken down, instead of grouped together & I do know students from Queen Anne who are attending Ingraham, but that is still awkward & time consuming to get to, if you are depending on Metro.

Melissa Westbrook said...

One thing I have always wondered about was if QA/Magnolia parents had worked with Don Nielson when he created Center School. It was supposed to be an answer to the problem. What was their reaction when he didn't create a comprehensive high school? What ideas do they have about creating one?

Anonymous said...


That is a good question. Many parents in Queen Anne and Magnolia clearly wanted a comprehensive high school, and they still do.

The school board candidates know that we need a new high school for Queen Anne and Magnolia. If they are elected, we'll see if they make it happen.

Even though the racial tiebreaker was not used for the fall high school assignments, there is still a seat capacity issue in these neighborhoods.

Someone has to deal with this problem.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Brose-
What is your response to the PI's editorial and the letter's to the editor questioning why DWT is claiming that this is both a pro bono and for profit case? Are you going to ask them to not seek fees so that the public's money can stay in the public's schools?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm glad you commented Kathleen but surprised you had no answer to my questions. You were there when Center School was created. Did Don Nielson ever come to your group or you and ask about what was wanted? Did your group ever state that you didn't want Center School because it wasn't what you were after in the first place?

I ask because Board members need to listen to what parents asked for or say that they want in a school.

Anonymous said...


I have already said that our attorneys at Davis Wright Tremaine should be reimbursed for their work. We could not have won the case without them. They worked for free for 7 years. I know that many people are unhappy with PICS for suing the District. I know that many people are unhappy with the District for not settling this case before big money was spent. The money that the District will end up spending on this lawsuit is a drop in the bucket compared to the costs incurred by parents and the students during 25 years of forced busing in Seattle, both emotionally and financially. Until your child is denied access to 3 different schools because of their skin color, you just don't get it.
What price can you put on one's civil rights?

PICS members did not sue for damages. We sued to stop the use of the racial tiebreaker. That's all.

To Melissa:

I dropped off of the Magnolia/Queen Anne High School Task Force board when we began the lawsuit. I would talk to Janet Bell or Lindsay Browne, who were on the task force, about how the school finally came together. They were there from the beginning. You could talk to Joseph Olchefske about the District's perspective on how The Center School evolved.

I do remember during the meetings that some parents were unhappy that they were not getting a comprehensive high school with sports.

Many parents, including me, were just happy to get some kind of school close to our home.

I believe that The Center School has been a partial fix to the Queen Anne/Magnolia High School issue.

Even though the lawsuit is over and my youngest has only two years left of high school, I still care about the state of Seattle's public schools.

We all want great schools in every neighborhood. I hope the new superintendent and the school board can work together to make this happen.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Bross-

IF DWT was happy to work for free - and reap in the publicity and free advertising for doing "pro bono" work - for seven years. they should leave it at that.

Please don't be trite by saying that "this will allow them to do more pro bono work," DWT - like every other large law firm - will keep doing pro bono work from the proceeds of actual for profit work. All this will do is be spread out to the other attorneys, and boost your lead attorney's profit share.

You are right, you did not seek damages. You could have, but you did not. So why take money from the schools just to make a rich law firm richer? Kicking the school in the shins for following 50 + years of law that only changed because of who was on the bench?

Anonymous said...

"We all want great schools in every neighborhood."

Are you willing to back that statement up by not having your law firm go after fees that they were happy to write off so long as you lost?

Anonymous said...

"We all want great schools in every neighborhood."

Are you willing to back that statement up by not having your law firm go after fees that they were happy to write off so long as you lost?

Anonymous said...

Even the Times, whose lawyers are DWT, keep running letters to the editor chiding the firm. I wonder if the Times will take the risk of actually wieghing in directly via editorial.

New definition of "pro bono"

So Seattle law firm Davis Wright Tremaine will extract over $1 million from Seattle Public Schools for "pro bono" work in the recent legal battle over Seattle's admissions policies ["Income not always perfect tiebreaker," Local News, Jun 30]. This will punish the district for honest efforts to comply with the Supreme Court's Brown vs. Board of Education decision, which was the law of the land until last week.

Law partner Harry Korrell claims that this money "will allow the firm to do more pro bono work." But if this future pro bono work has been paid for in advance by the Seattle Schools' $1 million, it will hardly be pro bono, will it?

"Pro bono" means "for the good of," and is usually short for "pro bono publico" -- for the good of the public. In Mr. Korrell's use of the term, however, it is evidently short for "pro bono Davis Wright Tremaine."

Until now, I have associated the firm's name with sponsorship of local public television. For me, this made them one of the good guys. They could restore some luster to their name by reconsidering their intention to require a payment that will have a serious impact on Seattle's schoolchildren.

-- Beret Carlson Kischner, Seattle

Anonymous said...

The Everett paper did a very interesting editorial:

Law firm's pro bono work costs Seattle schools plenty

John Burbank

For 200 years, Americans have built our democracy with the growth of universal public school education. Public schools are gathering places for democracy. They take in all children, from different walks of life, different families and different backgrounds. One crucial lesson that children learn in public school is that you can get along with different kids. Some may be richer, some poorer, some white, some black, some fast, some slow, some smart and some not so smart, all Americans.

In Washington, we have embraced that notion. But last month, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, set in motion the means to unravel the social compact of integrated public schools. In a case brought by one small group of Seattle parents - Parents Involved in Community Schools - the Supreme Court decided that the best way to remedy racial discrimination in public schools is to not address racial inequities. It endorses a game of pretend - if we pretend that racial discrimination isn't a historical and current fact of life in America, then it isn't!

Seattle has open choice for high schools. While the idea of choice itself resonates with parents, there has to be a formula for deciding who gets into schools that are oversubscribed. Factors for that included, first, if another sibling was already in the chosen school (sibling preference), and then race (if the school is way out of whack with district averages) and proximity to school.

Parents Involved in Community Schools did not like the schools that their kids were slated to attend. So they sued the school district. They didn't sue over sibling preference, or proximity, which they could have done. They chose to sue over the racial integration tie-breaker. This attracted support from the turn-back-the-clock crowd of people who oppose integration. The result is a whole lot more damage to racial integration across the country than the Parents Involved in Community Schools probably anticipated. But who knows - they seem to be happy about the outcome.

So does the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine (DWT), which took this case for the Parents Involved in Community Schools as pro bono - that is, they didn't charge for their services. Now they intend to request that the Seattle School District pay the bills for their work for re-segregation. They say they will plow this back into more pro bono work, but we don't need any more of this kind of community "service" litigation.

I am surprised DWT is embracing the Supreme Court decision - the firm has a big emphasis on diversity in its partnership and mentoring new minority colleagues. Former Gov. Gary Locke, who knows a lot about discrimination, is one of the partners. DWT states, "We believe that increasing the diversity of our attorneys and staff is central to our ability to fulfill our commitments to our clients and the community. In short, diversity is critical to DWT's long-term success."

After the Supreme Court decision, DWT stated that "School districts around the country should now focus on improving how and what they teach all children." That's nice, but hard to do when you are billing the Seattle School District for over $1 million - money that could go to teaching children. DWT did make a donation of between $5,000 and $10,000 to the Alliance for Education to support the Seattle Schools. Now that appears to be just a figleaf for legal greed.

In fact, if DWT is sincere about improving education across the country, the firm would acknowledge the need for full-day kindergarten, high quality pre-kindergarten, more school days in the year, lower student-teacher ratios, and funding for music, arts and athletics, to start with. It is a lot easier to have true color-blind education when the resources are available for high quality education for all children.

So here's an idea for DWT's next pro bono venture: Lobby the Legislature to meet the constitutional paramount duty of education for all children. They could start by proposing that legal services should no longer be exempt from the sales tax. That new revenue, close to $200 million a year, could be dedicated to the public schools, improving the educational opportunities for all children. That would be true pro bono work.