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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Odds and Ends from the School Board Meeting

What can you say about a Board meeting that - 2 1/2 hours in - wasn't even halfway done? And the speaker list wasn't even full?

First, you have one speaker who is a long-time public annoyance and got up and proceeded to make racist remarks to Dr. Goodloe-Johnson and then, when Cheryl Chow asked him to stop, made racist remarks to her. Cheryl asked him to stop, he shouted about his First Amendment rights and Cheryl called an intermission and the entire Board left. Then he goes on and on with Security who are then forced to call the police who had to drag him out. I wouldn't have any problem banning this guy from speaking. He's done this numerous times and it just gets old.

One interesting thing I learned from one speaker is that AE II is now called Thornton Creek School (and they want the Assignment plan to give them an "in" to Salmon Bay).

I myself was speaking against an Action item to take all the 15% contingency fees that each BEX III project has and put them into one big fund. I really worry that this will allow Facilities to hide any cost overruns. They are already dipping into the $20M Program Reserve - now - for Hamilton and New School. I hate to think what will happen for projects on the tail end of this bond measure. (The Board approved this measure.)

Also, I pointed out that I had learned that Hale will stay on-site for their rebuild. This is something that Facilities said - and continue to argue against in the new draft of the Facilities Master Plan -that they wouldn't do but are doing. And, the smokestack at Hale that was a "critical seismic problem "which Facilities told the Board before the election? Not so critical now so it won't be coming down.

I told the Board and the Superintendent that it is my belief that someday, either because of internal pressure or external pressure, there will be an audit of Facilities and it will probably surprise and dismay many people. I don't believe at all there is anything illegal going on but I do think there has been movement of money hidden and cost and time overruns that no one wants to admit to.

Then, all the Board members (except Darlene Flynn who was in Hawaii - this was the last Board meeting for the current Board) were saying public goodbyes to each other with one particular Board member taking almost 20 minutes. Of course, Brita was the kindest and most gracious in her remarks, remembering to thank many people.

But there were some bright spots. It looks like the School-Family Partnership Committee has really got a lot going on and is hoping for a larger budget (or maybe the Alliance for Education could kick in here) to get many of their initiatives going. Also the National Conservation Update was really great - they have saved about $272,000 this year at the headquarters and at many schools. I think the district is really serious about going green (to some extent) and I hope they have some ideas for schools to implement.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes, AEII is now called Thorton Creek. Besides the fact that they are always getting mixed up with AS1 (very different schools), AEII has wanted to take the "alternative" out of their name for some time now. Staff fear that some parents shy away from the school just because of the connotations that are attached to the word "alternative".

As for the "in" at Salmon Bay, or the "assignment preference", AEII has always had it. There is a long history behind it. Before Coho and Noms merged to be "Salmon Bay" and moved to Ballard, NOMS was located in NE Seattle. It was created by parents from AEI (yes, there used to be an AEI), AEII and AS1, so that their students would have an alternative middle school of similar philosophy in their neighborhood. For years NOMS struggled through growing pains and had less than favorable test scores, but the AEII families stayed dedicated and eventually grew it into quite a successful program. Then Olschefski decided to merge NOMS and COHO, and move them to Ballard. To justify moving the school out of the NE neighborhood and away from the families that built it, he made an agreement that AEII families would have an assignment preference. Salmon Bay has since grown to be a popular, high performing, hard to get into school, and two Superintendants later, the promises threaten to be forgotten. AEII is left, once again, fighting to keep their preference. They have had to fight for it every year. And to top if off, Darlene Flynn has continually called these families "a bunch of whiny north end parents who are never satisfied". It's sad.

It's always interesting to learn the history of a situation.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks for that history. It will be interesting to see what the district's take on it is. I think with that history, Thornton Creek should retain its preference to Salmon Bay.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't bet on it staying that way on its own. Get it in writing so two superintendents from now they can remember what was done four superintendents ago. Take it from someone who watched as another group back East were called whiners. Their promised preferences for sacrifices made were eventually forgotten because it became more expedient push them aside.

Anonymous said...

Deidre:

Where (and when) was AE I ? I can't find it on the District website.

Am I right in assuming that we have AS and AE because AS is designed as a K-8 and AE as K-5?

Anonymous said...

I think Deidre is thinking of Orca, which was originally called Allen Free School or something like that. I think AE2, Orca and AE3 (the alternative program that preceded the Stanford School at Latona) were behind the creation of NOMS. NOMS was actually never in North Seattle, it began in portables at Washington Middle School and was moved to Old Hay after a year or two. Everything else said was correct. Originally there was an "assignment preference" for anyone who had previously attended an alternative elementary, but as more elementaries became K-8s the preference was narrowed only to the K-5s. AE2/Thornton Creek is the only K-5 alternative program left in the district. They have made it known many times that they're willing to grow to a K-8 with proper building support (the current building does not have the capability to grow larger, but the grounds are large). Parents will fight to keep the Salmon Bay preference unless AE2/Thornton Creek can be grown to a K-8 in a supported way.

Anonymous said...

AEII/Salmon Bay parent you are right about the three schools being AE2, AE3 and Orca. Thanks for catching that!

The fact that AEII and Orca were k-5 schools vs k-8's had a lot to do with the granting of the preference. The families of kids graduating from these elementary schools wanted continuity in a middle school. Today AEII is the ONLY k-5 alternative school in the district. Two years ago when my kids were at AEII they were very open to growing to be a K-8, if done with proper funding, as they have plenty of space (one of the largest sites in the district!).

Melissa Westbrook said...

The Closure and Consolidation Committee had asked staff about AE II becoming a K-8 (as parents, throughout the district, said they wanted more K-8s) AND staff said there was room at AE II. Of course, we are likely talking portables (like Pathfinder). But the problem is you already have an alternative K-8 in AS 1. I can't see the district creating another one.

Anonymous said...

It would be an incredible shame if the presence of AS-1 (a school that serves only a very small community with very specific needs) kept the district from supporting the growth of Thornton Creek/AE II to a K-8 if that's where the demand is.

Crazy, in fact.

Charlie Mas said...

Mel, could you say more about the School-Family Partnership Committee and what is moving forward there?

Their presentations are usually some of the most depressing as they run through their list their recommendations and note that little or no progress has been made on all but a few of them.

Anonymous said...

There is a huge misconception that all alternative schools are the same.... all are created equal, when in fact that couldn't be further from the truth. Each alternative school has it's own unique philosophies and guiding principals. AS1 is a school with a very unique philosophy (democratic school) that is not at all similar or compatible with AEII's, Experiential Learning Outward Bound program, which is a Harvard founded, national program. Not to mention the fact that AS1 is in the North cluster, not the NE cluster.

Roy Smith said...

AS 1 is an all-city draw, which means, at least in theory, that its geographical presence in a particular cluster shouldn't impact decisions that are specific to regional alternatives, such as whether AEII should become a K-8 or not.

Anonymous said...

AEII/Thorton Creek is not an all city draw. It is a North and NE cluster, neighborhood, alternative school. If it grew as a K-8 it would be a neighborhood K-8, unlike it's alternative neighbors, Summit and AS1, which are all city draw schools. I would also like to second what the previous poster said... these schools have very different philosophies and are not inter-changeable or even necessarily compatible.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Of course what is being said about alternative schools being completely different is true. What needs to be understood is that the district hasn't exactly embraced alternatives and, in thinking of the assignment plan, they may end up saying either "you can go to any all-city alternative but provide transportation" or "you may go to any regional alternative but provide transportation".

And, many people, as has been pointed out here, are leery of any alternative label and would argue for a "regular" K-8 in the NE (such as moving Summit out of Addams and creating one there). It seems like if AE II (Thornton Creek) already has an established program that is popular that the district would expand that program rather than reinvent the wheel elsewhere. But who knows? Keep it as a suggestion for the assignment plan meetings.

Anonymous said...

This entire background on alternative schools is interesting. The idea of k-8 other than alternative k-8 I had not given much thought about.

During the last school board meeting Don Alexander spoke about how Marshall was designed to meet particular students needs.

My question would be how is Dr. G-J's current thrust toward much greater uniformity going to interface with many of the ideas presented in the previous 13 comments?

As an extension of that idea:
how can the SPS help meet coming needs of our city in regard to changing social structures and demographics?

I am thinking again of the idea of mixed use facilities that combine a small school with other tenants that can assist small neighborhood's in retaining and enhancing social connectivity.

Again I am not sure that the SPS is headed in a positive direction in this regard.

Anonymous said...

Melissa,

AS1 has about 240 students K-8

AEII has about 290 students K-5

AS1 has enough middle school seats to accommodate their 5th grade class. They do not open any seats for "new" students to come to their school at 6th grade.

Just FYI, Summit does not open seats at middle school either. In fact they have less seats in the middle school than they do in the elementary as many students leave Summit at the middle school level.

Even if AS1 and Summit were compatible programs with AEII, there is no room for them to take their 290 graduating 5th graders.

This is yet another reason that the AEII community needed and continues to need the preference to Salmon Bay.

About 1/2 of the Salmon Bay 6th grade seats go to graduating 5th grade students from Salmon Bay. About 1/5 of the seats go to AEII students and the rest go to the lucky lottery winners. They usually maintain a 120-130 student WL for 6th grade.

I think with the need for more capacity in the NE cluster, as well as the district seeking to spend LESS on transportation, it would be a very viable option to grow AEII into a K-8. They are a very popular program with a WL every year, they have the space, and the NE needs capacity. It seems like a no brainer.

Charlie Mas said...

If a program has a waitlist, that's a program the District should be duplicating or expanding.

The District has given lip service to duplicating or expanding popular programs but hasn't been able to do it because the District abdicated authority over program placement. The District gave up the authority to go to a school and tell them "You will implement a dual language immersion program" or "You will offer Montessori" let alone, "You will offer an alternative program."

One of the potential positive impacts of greater central control is the possibility that the District might actually implement the duplication or expansion of popular programs.

Anonymous said...

I sure hope you are right Charlie!

I see some evidence of this happening already, for instance the new IB program at Sealth, the growth of ORCA to a K-8 program, and AP classes being added to High Schools that have not offered them in the past.

This is the good side of centralization.

Anonymous said...

It is the good side of centralization if the students are prepared to be in the AP classes.

In many places AP classes are added to make the school look good. Without a solid k-8 foundation AP classes are seldom worthwhile for very many students.

Hopefully Seattle can support AP classes successfully.

Anonymous said...

What should a parent look for as a solid foundation in K-8? What schools in Seattle are doing a good job with this preparation?

Anonymous said...

Dear 1964,

Find out what your child knows.
You need to monitor what is really happening.

Have your child read to you.

You can download excellent placement tests from
www.singaporemath.com for free.

If a child can pass the Singapore grade 6B placement test they are better prepared for high school than a student coming out of Middle School connected math project.

In the present age of Dr. Bergeson's OSPI school reform, there is an astonishing lack of content. Schools have gone way overboard on process. Does your child know there are seven continents? Can your child name them and describe important characteristics of each?

Why is the West Bank spoken of in the news? What is the Gaza strip?

How often does your child read a book? magazine? Newspaper?

An adequate k-8 foundation is as much about interests and habits and attitudes as it is about knowledge, content, and skills.