Bravo Broadway Bound and RBHS for Dreamgirls

This article appeared in today's Times about the Broadway Bound production of Dreamgirls. I have only the highest regard for BB and their standards. They determined they would pay the kids involved in the production but only if they were on-time (docked their pay if not) and kept the high standards for BB (lost their role if they didn't). It's about demanding excellence and this kind of expectation should follow them to the classroom. Things like being on time, listening to directions, following directions, are all life basics that help kids succeed (who was it that said half of life is just showing up?).

Re the district:

"Cleveland doesn't put on musicals. Rainier Beach has for the past two years, a labor of love by a young English teacher doing her best with a budget of a few thousand dollars."

And then later in the article:

"That was one of the main reasons for building the theater in the first place, says Michelle Jacobsen, a Rainier Beach teacher who pushed for its construction. There's so much talent that goes untapped.

A decade after the theater opened, the building is there, but the programs aren't close to what was originally envisioned. The drama program at Rainier Beach just started up again two years ago after a hiatus. There is one band class, taught by Robinson, with about 18 students. A volunteer writes grants that support the band, dance and other arts programs.

"It's been painful," Jacobsen says.

Broadway Bound staff members say they peeled the shipping plastic off the theater's soundboard and found lights that looked as if they'd never been plugged in.

"It was like walking into something that's been cocooned," Nixon says.

Many hope this production represents a new beginning. Not only does Broadway Bound want to continue working in the South End, the school expects to receive an infusion of resources this year under the district's Southeast Initiative, some of which is earmarked for a music teacher and drama teacher.

Nixon knows what it's like to have lot of desire and not much money.

In Jersey City, where he grew up, he lived in a four-bedroom house shared by 15 people. Until he was 13, he figured he'd be a P.E. teacher. Then his priest took him to see the musical "1776," and all that changed.

"A program like this," he says, "would have meant the world to me.""

Jimmy Nixon is the founded and director of Broadway Bound.

It is very sad that the district doesn't have the vision or the money to help these programs succeed in schools that don't have the parent base to support them. This is where a good public-private partnership could really help.


Anonymous said…
"This is where a good public-private partnership could really help."

Umm, I am sorry, but after how the TAF public-private partnership was chased out of RB, how many private entities (as well as district administrators) are going to be willing to take that chance again?

The reality of this situation is that the drama program fell victim to site-based management decisions that axed a drama program in favor of core classes.
No, the district did not follow thru 10 years ago when they DID have arts groups who wanted to help. A more fragile, less solid school doesn't stand a chance. Why did the district bother with getting the taxpayers to pay for the performing arts hall with no follow-thru? Nope, this one is on the superintendent at the time and the Board at the time.
Anonymous said…

What about the parents and the community around Rainier Beach? Don't they deserve some of the responsibility? You can't blame everything on the District. I don't want to hear about institutional racism, cultural differences or socio-economic circumstances.

Someone needs to say it, not enough parents have gotten involved enough in their children's education. That is why Rainier Beach has failed.
Anonymous said…
Last I checked, SPS was still using site-based decision making 10 years ago, so again, the blame should be attributed to the school leadership at the time.
Anonymous said…
Rather than find the place to point the blame, let's recognize we now have an amazing opportunity to see a public-private partnership at work!
Anyone who hasn't seen this show is really missing something remarkable and special! Most audience members leave in disbelief and astonished by the talent and quality of this production.
I hope that the TAF experience hasn't discouraged the private entities or the district administrators - because NOW is the time to take the chance again. Anyone who is interested in helping Broadway Bound & Rainier Beach succeed in creating the performing arts magnet school of the South End - please email
Anonymous said…
what makes the previous anonymous think parents around RB aren't involved. Are you relying on old racial stereotypes?

Parental involvement is important, but money pays for teachers and things like a drama program. If money isn't important, take it from your school and give it to RB.
The reality is parent involvement comes in many forms but money comes in one important form. Parents cannot carry a public high school on their shoulders without strong financial support nor should they be expected to.
oh, and the blame game is tiresome. Each administration, including the current board, has bungled the handling of RB.
Anonymous said…
No, RB has bungled the handling of RB.

Do you think for a minute the drama program could be eliminated at Roosevelt if the current principal decided to cut it?? Of course not. There would be enormous uproar and resistince from the community.

Do you think Eckstein's principal could decide not to offer their award winning music program any more. Nope, nope, nope. The community would never stand for it.

So, the community HAS to take responsibility for TB in some way. It is joint. Poor leadership, and a community and district that allowed it to happen. The community is no less responsible than the district or school administration.
Anonymous said…
In addition to a strong arts program, RB could really use strong academics options in the form of Honors and/or AP classes, as there are a contingent of parents who are seeking out these classes for their kids. The lack of challenging academic opportunities has greatly cut the enrollment in RB.

According to the data on the SSD website in regards to the student assignment reconfiguration, many RB neighborhood families opted to send their children to the northern most high school in the district--Ingraham, although it's not a popular draw for the IHS neighborhood. Hmm...what are these southend families seeing in Ingraham that the northend families aren't? Why aren't they choosing to be involved with their neighborhood schools?

Furthermore, according to the article in the Seattle Times about the BB production, at least two of the leads are from Renton H.S. How many south Seattle students are opting to attend Renton H.S.?

The district needs to interview families and find out what they want in their local neighborhood schools--and these interviews should include the high percentage of families who are opting for parochial (especially non-Catholic families) and private schools.

With regards to successful school drama programs, the involvement of parents and local community members cannot be overlooked. Roles include fund-raising, purchasing ads in programs, providing transportation to practices, sewing costumes, helping with production and backstage tasks, attending the production, etc.

In addition to the funding coming in through the SE initiative, and the opportunity offered by BB for drama, enough local southend parent and community involvement and support will need to be there to make RB successful and to sustain its programs.
Oh geez - of course the community should have done more. However, the district asks the taxpayers for money for a new performing arts hall at RBHS, promising a performing arts program at that school. What, build it and it will come? More challenged schools need district and Board support. If not, then don't waste taxpayer dollars on buildings that won't be used.
Anonymous said…
Could it be that the RB community is just not that interested in drama and the arts??? We saw this at another predominantly low income, black school, Madrona. Wasn't it Madrona that resisted the "white" families attempts to add music, art, a garden, recess, etc., as they thought these extracurricular things would detract from academics. Perhaps the previous poster who said "ask the community what they are seeking in a HS" is right. Why are these kids leaving the comfort of their neighborhood and going north to Ingraham and Hale.
Anonymous said…
RB is getting at least 4 teachers out of the SE intiative, including a dedicated drama teacher and AP teachers.
Charlie Mas said…
I think a number of forces have been at work at Rainier Beach for a number of years to bring it to where it is today.

The top of Rainier Beach High School 1999 Annual Report reads: "A magnet school for the visiual and performing arts". The body of the report includes this news:
"we were awarded a Federal Magnet grant for Visual and Performing Arts. This grant will bring over $300,000 a year over the next 3 years. Through this grant, we are expanding our curriculum in the areas of art, music, dance, and video production. Our state of the art Performing Arts Center provides a backdrop for our performance groups which have doubled in the past year."

Some writers have wondered why the Rainier Beach community didn't step up and demand a performing arts program. Maybe they did but were ignored. It wasn't that long ago that students and families were picketing at RBHS for the removal of the principal. That principal was eventually paid two years' salary to step aside, but the school's reputation, enrollment, and resources continued to dwindle.

There is no need to make conjecture about the history of Rainier Beach High School. You can read it or speak to those who lived it.

When people talk about community involvement in a school and wonder why some schools have it and some don't, sometimes the answer is that some schools welcome it and some don't. Schools that don't welcome it, don't get it and don't have any real chance of becoming great schools.

I know some of you will be astonished to hear that a school didn't welcome volunteers, but it is the case more often than you would ever suspect.

Enrollment at RBHS:

1998: 812
1999: 786
2000: 683
2001: 707
2002: 710
2003: 601
2004: 528
2005: 530
2006: 457
Anonymous said…
Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson, the much hyped new Superintendent of Seattle Schools, is rubbing many staffers and community members the wrong way.

Principals have complained that her 'nothing phases me' attitude was taken to a new level when, during a meeting of principals last week -and after sharing one too many war stories in an hour and a half lecture- she stated "I've seen it all...bring it on". Reportedly the Super has been doing a lot of talking about firing "bad" teachers, another issue which has principals rolling their eyes; teachers are reassigned; rarely are they fired.

The Super isn't shy about telling Principals to watch their backs, and they're already feeling the heat after the very vicious firing of Principal Drake at Marshall Alternative. While the move was reported to be the first major decision by Goodloe-Johnson, it was actually the CAO who recommended it to her; the Super never met, nor has ever met with, Drake about the school for troubled youth. The CAO is reportedly working with the head of AP and Special Ed to use the North End property for an exclusive Advanced Ed program, a plan that has its Greenlake neighbors much happier. Look for Marshall on the next levy; an AP Program is the perfect reason to spend 100 million renovating another Seattle School. For his part, Drake has hired an attorney, and, has not been fired.

While she hasn't made any official announcements about her plans, Goodloe-Johnson is working behind the scenes to 'reorganize' the central office, firing staff and changing job duties at will; Santorno, who is despised by many in the district, has been using Goodloe-Johnson's arrival to oust staffers who are critical of decisions she has made (math adoption, anyone?) The recent firing of staffer Ramona Pierson has many up in arms, particularly in light of the district email from Santorno claiming Pierson resigned her position; no word as to why that email leaves out the fact that Santorno had Pierson- respected by Principals and teachers alike- dragged from the JSCEE by security and thrown into the parking lot. Things are a bit tense around the central office.

The power trip has gotten so out of control that many have sighed a collective 'it's not worth it' and moved out of the district. While Santorno attempted to put together a team to carry forward the secret South East Education Plan, one after the other, staffers have left. Sakara Remmu, said to be in discussions with Santorno for the past few months about the "Plan", backed out last week after meeting with the CAO, the Super and other staffers. Though Santorno met with her again this week, Remmu refuses to reconsider. No word as to why the district would want the ranting raving Remmu's 2 cents, though, she is a district employee.

At the conclusion of the same meeting last week, Cleveland High School Principal Donna Marshall immediately resigned from the school district entirely. Rather than positioning the much respected, current Cleveland High Vice Principal as interim, Santorno dismissed the wishes of Cleveland staff and (again) rehired the 7 year retired Chuck Chinn to step in at Cleveland until an "acceptable" permanent hire can be found; the Cleveland staff is up in arms about Santorno's blatant disregard for yet another school community- after all the African American Academy just went through this with the CAO a few months ago, and tempers are still flaring. The loss of Marshall, a prestigious Milkin National Education Award recipient is a blow to the district, who can't afford to lose principals (because there's no one out there who wants to replace them!), and a loss for the students at Cleveland. Since she is known for her 'is it good for kids?' motto, one can only wonder what that means about the secret "Plan" ans what exactly it will accomplish. Marshall has no plans to return to the district any time in the future.

To shore up the "Plan", the Super and Santorno have pulled a current elementary school director to somehow save the sinking ship and make the secret "Plan" a success; with Cleveland out of the game, Aki's brand new out-of-state Principal- no doubt all eyes are on Rainier Beach High School and their Principal Robert Gary, but people are already calling for his head in light of a supposed sexual assault that happened on campus during school hours, which school officials failed to report to the District or to the Police Department. The Super is said to be wondering if one of the high schools in the plan should merge with the other in order to increase funding under the current model; since Cleveland's re-opening is days away, that leaves RBHS, which is falling apart anyway. Gary is said to be feeling the pressure; another school closure should make for lively Board meetings in 2007-08.
Anonymous said…
Wow anon above, you have a LOT of inaccurate information.

Joe Drake has been put on leave. He has not yet been fired, but he should have been fired three or four superintendent's ago. Dr. G-J got an outside report that verified the things that had been swept under the rug by Drake's friend/supervisor for years and took action. Bravo to that!

Ramona Pierson was not fired. She quit. Dr. G-J even asked her to come in to confirm in person that she quit because ill informed people started rumors that she was fired. She confirmed she quit. There is no dispute on that one.

Donna Marshall is going to Altanta to take care of her sick daughter. Wayne Flood, the AP is stepping up to be the interim principal. Chuck Chin is coming on to be a consultant for him to use as a reasource, as Cleveland moves into the new building. Anyone who knows anything about SPS knows that Chuck did the same for Roosevelt last year, and before that supervised the Ballard move into the new building.

As to "The CAO is reportedly working with the head of AP and Special Ed to use the North End property for an exclusive Advanced Ed program," I presume that you are five months or so behind and don't know that Colleen Stump is not in change of advanced learning any more. As Bob Vaughn, the head of APP has not yet assumed his job, I doubt he and Colleen Stump (who don't particularly share any philosophies) are currently cooking up a super secret plan for a new school with the CAO.

I won't bother pointing out all of the other things you have gotten wrong, I think that is enough for the those who post to get the jist of the misrepresentations and ill informed gossip you are speading.
Anonymous said…
"The recent firing of staffer Ramona Pierson has many up in arms, particularly in light of the district email from Santorno claiming Pierson resigned her position; no word as to why that email leaves out the fact that Santorno had Pierson- respected by Principals and teachers alike- dragged from the JSCEE by security and thrown into the parking lot"

I am to agree with the above poster, you are really wrong on this one.

I would say that there is a serious deabte as to if teachers and principals thought Ramona Pierson was listening to thier needs or off doing things that sounded really cool to other techies but were not all that useful to meeting thier educational needs. I suggest you look at the prior posting thread in which many people expressed a concern over her focus on creating a program for SPS students to compete with "MySpace" rather than on educational tools.

I know for a fact that Ramona quit, and that the CAO was not involved at all. Ramona quit to the HR manager. No one from security threw her out either, though most businesses would have had security walk someone with her level of access to computer infra structure out.

Who exactly is the "many up in arms" that you are referring to? Most people I know (central office and at schools) considered Ramona to be very smart, but very volitile and really hard to work with if you did not wholeheartedly agree with her immediately.

I think it is ironic that you are championing both Joe Drake and Ramona given that Ramona wrote the first review of John Marshall and is the person who took the Times into the school. Her report was far more critical of him that any other that the newspapers have posted.
Anonymous said…
I am a principal, who will remain nameless, though I suspect my colleagues will recognize my rant when I get started. I am looking to leave this district as well and I can tell you most staff are looking to leave this very minute. First of all, I was outside of Ramona's office looking for Allison, who has quit as well, at the same moment when Ramona had her discussion with Michelle...Ramona absolutely resigned because Michelle just did not "get it". We (principals) all are wondering how Ramona tolerated working for someone who esentually does "not get much of anything". Besides that point, Ramona basically seemed to be told to turn the source off. What a stupid order that was when all of my students and teachers have their work and assignments and information in that tool, which is an awesome tool for me as well. I am angry! So Ramona said NO, and tried to explain to Michelle the importance of this tool for the kids and families. Michelle told her she should think of leaving the district so Ramona I believe said, OKAY. That was it. No firing, no security.

Ramona cried and told her staff how much she honored them and the kids. She hugged another principal who was also a witness (there are many of us who know the truth) and cried. We all did. I am still very upset as are all of the principals. Many of us visit Ramona, who is a beloved leader in this district. Even the education directors and Board like Ramona. My teachers are angry because they all respected her and her dedication and passion.

This district lost a brilliant and passionate beloved leader in Ramona. We will never see the likes of her ever again. Her staff is mostly gone now. They all know that the central office is leaderless right now so most of central is falling apart.

I have been in this district many years and this is the worse I have seen it. I think we are going to see many more people leave. I will not be back next year either.

Drake should retire. Marshall needs to be updated. Also, Ramona did not cause the issues at Marshall, she was ordered to look at the data and report what she knew. It was her evaluators her did the report anyway, not her. Those evaluators really report to Michelle so whatever came out is Michelle's work since those folks report to her. The secretary in central told me that Ramona refused to take the reporters into Marshall lots of time, but Michelle ordered her to do so against her best advice. You people forget that we all report to people above us and if they make poor decisions it lands on us when it should land on those above us.

Dan Cole was there when Ramona left, Rosalind, principals, student interns who worked for Ramona. We all know what actually happened but everyone is afraid to speak up. I am tired of being afraid and so I am telling my truth.
Anonymous said…
Sounds lke Ramona wrote her own description of the resignation events...the conflict related to unfunded changes being made to Learn. She was asked to slow it way down and she refused, such arrogance.

Ramona was not loved by all and those that really listened to her spin realized she was smart but without educational experience (a great pretender - ask the staff at Franklin and Cleveland), lied to many (ask her REA staff), and took 2 good people with her.

Hopefully, the mess of Learn and the Source will be cleaned up and done properly.

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