Thursday, May 22, 2008

Open Thread

So now we're a little less than a month out from the end of school. How was your school year? Longing for summer or worried about your child's academic progress?

What celebrations does your school do for the end of the year? (I remember at Whittier they had a Field Day just before the end of school with lots of outdoor activities and then, a great slide show of everyone at the school at the last day of school assembly. Roosevelt has, what looks to be, a fun day that's a little bit of everything called Moving Up Day/Rider Recess. But that takes place in early June as the seniors get done by then.)

Any other burning questions or are we all burned out from another busy school year?


anonymous said...

Our youngest child goes to Bryant, and I have been frustrated this year with the culture of the school. I feel like the culture is one in which parents are not heard and their opinions are not valued. Parents questions or suggestions are treated in a dismissive and defensive way. Furthermore, they do not provide many avenues for parent input IE surveys, input forms, etc. I think the school culture has become one of arrogance "we are doing well and well should be left alone"

We also attended another elementary school in the district, and did not find this culture of arrogance. Parents input was welcomed and celebrated (within reason) and the operation of the school was much less intimidating and more transparent.

Cailean said...

Our oldest is at John Rogers and I've vacillated between wanting more and being "okay" there. The teachers are good and the parents are great. What truly makes a "good" school at elementary age, I don't know. We have her on a waiting list to switch for next year but I'm not sure how likely that will be - she's #5. Ad Hoc, I'd love to know which was the other school your child attended in the district...

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ad Hoc, is this coming from other parents or the staff? I've encountered this a bit at other places and it surprises me that any school would be satisfied with the status quo. Have you gone to the PTA about this?

Cailean, #5 is a good position. You'd be surprised how waitlists can move especially after school starts (if you are still willing to move after it does).

A good school to me, for elementary is one that is open to parents, sustains your child's academic needs (and grows love of learning i.e. not all WASL based), has school activities after school/evening that you enjoy with your whole family (after all, you are there for 6 years).

zb said...

See, I have a different view on parent input. I actually think that if the teachers are doing well, the kids are doing well . . . the school should be left alone so that the teachers can do their job, which is to teach the kids.

And, my kids attend a private school, which I don't believe is particularly responsive to parents. I like this, 'cause I don't want the *other* parents to change/interfere with something that I think is working pretty well.

anonymous said...

Cailean, the school we attended before Bryant was AEII, now called Thornton Creek. My oldest son went all the way through the program, and my youngest went k-2. It was the best community that a family could ask for, very welcoming, very inclusive, very transparent. Staff and a long time principal that not only took parent input but truly valued it and recongnized how important it is to the community as a whole. Academics were good too if you are interested in an inclusive environment, no ALO's or Spectrum. We moved our son to Bryant because he needed a bit more structure, both in the classroom and on the playground, and Bryant has filled this need. Bryant does a great job and is a fabulous school, they just don't value or recognize parents as well as other schools do, and it can be frustrating when your input is not valued, and your concerns are dismissed or ignored.

We have a friend who lives near John Rogers but sends her child to Laurelhurst and she said she has been shunned by both parents and staff. She says they feel like outsiders, and that her kids have never been accepted, don't get invited to birthday parties, play dates, etc. How sad.

On the other hand, I have heard that Sacajewea has a great community and is very welcoming.

I think being part of a community at all levels is important to families. Most parents spend a lot of time in elementary school - volunteering, fund raising, sitting on committees, and it is important to be in a welcoming environment where your work and input is valued.

For this reason alone I would not choose Bryant if I had to do it all over again.

anonymous said...

ZB- Parent input comes in many forms, and it is invaluable to a community.

At AEII when the parent community wanted to add a foreign language to the program, the principal firmly told us that he could not fit it in into the already busy school day. But he recognized our concern, and encouraged us to pursue an after school class on site, and he provided the portable for us! In other words, even though he couldn't give us what we were asking for, he valued our input, and worked with us to find a solution.

That's just one of very many examples of how parent input can impact a school in a very positive way.

jp70 said...

ad hoc - what input were you giving at Bryant that made you feel ignored? My kids don't go to Bryant, but I've always had the opposite impression of that school. I was very impressed by their forum I attended last week and how open they seemed to getting parent input. I have many friends with kids at that school and have never heard that complaint.

I also am sorry to hear your friend's experience with Laurelhurst, but have also heard different things. I have tons of friends there and have also heard great things about their community. A ton of families attend that school from outside the neighborhood. I know someone who lives near John Rodgers who has been very happy and active taking a huge role with the auction this year. I also remember touring there and the two tour guides lived near John Rodgers and Green Lake and loved the school enough to be tour guides and marketed it as a school with a broad community often from outside the reference area. I just don't want generalizations to be made based on one family's experience.

anonymous said...

jp70, yes Bryant will take parent input on things that their administration has collectively decided to take input on, much like the district does. So, yes, they asked for and took input at the forum, because they recognized that they needed a collective voice to activate a movement. They are nowhere nearly as welcoming to input that is not on their approved list. I do think much of his is principal driven, and since the principal will be leaving at the end of this year, their is hope for more communication with parents in the future.

BTW - this is just my experience and my view, not a generalization. And, in all fairness to Laurelhurst, we only know the one family, and their experience could be unique.

hschinske said...

Does anyone know whether Garfield will be having a later start time next year? It was supposed to be discussed at a recent meeting (which I'd planned to go to, but couldn't make), and I never heard the result.

Helen Schinske

TechyMom said...

The full text of the strategic plan is posted, and it's being discussed at the School Zone Blog.

I'm reasonably happy with this plan. It is baby steps, but I think they're baby steps in the right direction. I was pleased to see that there was a discussion of value-added measurement, and of addressing the needs of kids in the middle and top of the achievement curve, not just the bottom.

There's a lot of basic management in there, which we desperately need. Just because they're basic doesn't mean that it will be easy to implement them. If it were easy, we would have done it long ago.

Once basic management is in place, and we've cleaned up the IT mess, and we have value-added measurement, and goals for students at all levels, we'll be in a good position to make larger steps. It probably will take several years to complete this plan. That feels slow, but it is realistic. Realistic is good.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Helen, I talked with the Transportation Dept about Roosevelt. I was told no more high schools on late start until all of them go that way. The issue is students that use yellow buses (ESL, Special Ed). At Ballard and Hale they have alternative schools near them (Salmon Bay and Summit) that they can coordinate yellow bus service with but the other high schools do not.

My son is very disappointed.

Maureen said...

Melissa, can you clarify what you mean about bus coordination? Are Ballard and Hale Sped and ESL kids sharing bus rides (as opposed to buses) with Salmon Bay and Summit kids? Does this mean that if Summit is moved, Hale will have to go back to early start?

'I was told no more high schools on late start until all of them go that way.' Did they explain why it would be easier to do it for all of them at once vs. a few at a time? I don't see how that will solve the ESL/Sped problem. And if it will then why not just do it now for all of the schools (or at least for a region). Or does this really mean that they will never do it for the other schools?

(I really want Roosevelt to adopt late start!)

Melissa Westbrook said...

From what I understood, yes, Hale/Summit and Ballard/Salmon Bay share yellow buses for students. I believe most of them are ESL/Special Ed. I was told this physical proximity between the schools in being able to do this is what allowed the late starts. Given that other high schools don't have this and, until we have the assignment plan straightened out, Transportation doesn't seem likely to entertain any ideas of changing any other high schools' start times.

No, I'm not sure how doing it all en masse makes a difference but I think the point is that Transportation believes that with a new assignment plan, the transportation will change and they want to wait for that to happen.

SS said...

Re: Later starts at High Schools for next year-
WSHS has just announced it will be starting at 8:10am next year. Most Metro busses arrive in that area around 8:00am, thus the 8:10 start.

There is concern for students living outside of WS (Beacon Hill, South Seattle) because with Metro they will have to go downtown & transfer as there are no busses going directly from Beacon Hill to WS, for example. I've heard this will take up to 1-1/2 hours each way!

Sealth will stay on the 7:45 am schedule for the next 2 years, because of it's move to the temporary location on Deldrige Ave. This seems good, because many families were worried about the lack of east/west busses, with horrible connections.

I've also heard that Garfield will start at 8:30am next year, but not directly from the school. Can anyone verify this? The later start will help WS kids, as it is also a long haul, with a transfer downtown also. Bummer!

SS said...

re: Sealth HS
I forgot to mention that they will remain on yellow busses for the next 2 years, which requires the early start still.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I was wondering, SS, about those yellow buses. Apparently they wanted a late start at Ingraham but the parents of the students on yellow buses who would still have an earlier start time pushed back.

I wonder if the WSHS parents of the yellow bus students are aware of this issue for their students.

It gives me food for thought and if Garfield et. al are going for it, maybe Roosevelt should.

Maureen said...

OK, here's an out of the box thought. What if High Schools go to late start for kids who can take Metro but the ESL and Sped kids (I'm assuming they are the yellow bus population) come at the original early start time (and leave late) and have an extended school day? They could spend the extra time with specialists in small groups (this would reduce the impact on teacher's contractual hours). Things like intensive WASL prep or homework support/tutoring/counseling could happen then. It would make it easier to mainstream those kids into regular ed during the rest of the day. Kids who take Metro but who could benefit from those programs could attend them too. Could this solve multiple problems?

Maureen said...

I just posted on High School late starts and transportaion at Harium Martin Morris's blog (24th comment under transportation) to see if he can clarify anything.

SS said...

re: Metro & yellow busses
I have heard many times at school meetings from the district that all regular ed. high school students next year will be using Metro (not yellow busses)- except for Sealth which recently announced that it will still use the yellow busses.

I have not heard what WSHS will be doing for the special ed/yellow bus kids. The teacher's decision to start at 8:10 was co-ordinated with the major Metro busses arriving at 8:00am. It's been apparently announced to the students about the new start time (verbally).

Letters were sent to families at Seatth to confirm that they would still be using the yellow busses & would therefore have the early time still.