Showing posts from November, 2008

Don't Let This Get Lost in the Closure Clutter

Monday, December 1, there will be a discussion of state funding for public schools at district headquarters at 7 p.m. From the Seattle Council PTSA flyer: Learn more about basic education, find ways for your voice to be heard and help ensure Olympia is listening to the needs of public schools in this state. Representative Ross Hunter will review the progress of the Basic Education Finance Task Force, scheduled to release their recommendations in Dec. 2008. WHY: Our Education finance system has not been overhauled in over thirty years! Budgets and curriculum that were established in the 1970’s do not work in today’s global economy and technological world. It is time for change. The result of this task force’s efforts and the outcomes of this upcoming Legislative session will determine whether public schools are on the right track to make changes to ensure that our kids graduate ready for university, college and work. Questions, or to reserve child care, please contact: Heidi.Be

Timeline & Process for Making Your Voice Heard

UPDATED UPDATE (Monday morning): The Seattle School District e-mail server is working again . And if you use the phone, call (206) 252-0042 for sign-up to testify at the various public hearings listed below. But call a different number, (206) 252-0040 for sign-up to testify at the School Board Meetings . *********************** In addition to posting on this and other blogs, make sure to make your voice heard where it really counts, with School Board members and district staff. You can comment on the recommendations and the process in person, by e-mail, and by snail-mail. According to the district, "All recommendations must include how they support the Guidelines for Building Closure ." So make sure to review the guidelines document to help you frame your response. In Person Sign-ups for public testimony at the public hearings will be limited to 3 minutes per speaker, and should focus on the school building about which the hearing is being held. To sign up to gi

Capacity Management Proposal Response

Capacity Management questions, comments and concerns I believe this list summarizes the current status of my thinking. I would not complain about a decision if I couldn't offer a better one. 1. While the proposal shows evidence of capacity reduction, there is little evidence of capacity management – which would include expanding capacity where needed. Elementary capacity in the northeast is improved and elementary capacity in Queen Anne/Magnolia might be. The proposal does nothing to improve middle school capacity in the northeast or high school capacity for Magnolia, Queen Anne and the Montlake Cut. 2. This process has revealed the dishonest and unfair way that building renovations have been prioritized in the past. It’s obvious that the buildings in the worst condition were passed over for renovation in favor of other buildings in less need. District needs to acknowledge and apologize for that. The District also needs to resolve to follow a fairer process in future. 3. Al

Inviting Temporary Blog Contributors

As I posted earlier this month , I'd like to extend an invitation to parents/staff/community members from any of the schools impacted by the Closure and Consolidation recommendations to become temporary blog contributors, giving you the ability to post your thoughts and start discussion threads. So far, we have two Summit K-12 parents and one AS#1 parent who have joined us for this purpose. Any parents/staff/community members from other schools want to become contributors? This blog currently has over 700 hits a day, including district staff and Board members. Just e-mail me if you are interested.

Rushing to make a decision may cause more problems than it solves

There are other options and it is the board's job to direct the district's staff to look at them honestly even if this means changing the timeline. If they don't take the time to understand all the repercussions of their decisions they may find themselves in even more financial trouble then they are in now. Many of the families effected by the last round of closures chose to leave Seattle Public Schools rather than abide by the new assignment they were given. I believe the superintendent and her staff have a hidden agenda and are not presenting the information objectively. They are using this budget crisis as an excuse to make major changes without giving the board enough time to look at the issues responsibly. I accept that the district must act quickly to cover the budget gap. I accept that buildings need to be closed as a part of the solution. I can even accept that the building where my children go to school (Pinehurst) should be considered because of its size and con

Public Hearings Announced

Here is the schedule for the public hearings. Unfortunately, only those schools whose buildings are closed get them (meaning, Arbor Heights, for example, won't get one as their building is remaining open but their program may close). PUBLIC HEARINGS ON BUILDING CLOSURE Public hearings will be held at buildings proposed for closure from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on the days and locations below. Monday, Dec. 15, 2008 T.T. Minor - 1700 E. Union St. Pinehurst - 11530 12th Ave. N.E. Van Asselt - 7201 Beacon Ave. S. Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2008 Genesee Hill - 5012 S.W. Genesee St. Mann - 2410 E. Cherry St. Old Hay - 411 Boston St. Thursday, Dec. 18, 2008 Lowell - 1058 E. Mercer St. Public testimony will be limited to 3 minutes per speaker, and should focus on the school building about which the hearing is being held. To sign up to give testimony, please call (206) 252-0042 or e-mail

Former Board Member Weighs In

Former Board member, Dick Lily, who writes for Seattle Crosscuts, weighs in on the closures. (I saw him there last night and he did stick it out the whole time.) In his article he suggests that the Board should wait until the following items are done/considered before closing any schools; assignment plan busing bilingual ed stop confounding operating and capital budgets. He also says they didn't create enough K-8s and that this plan signals the slow end for alternative ed. From his article: "The Goodloe-Johnson plan kills outright AS #1, and the African American Academy, mostly for poor academic achievement, and moves Summit from the far north to the far south — a thinly disguised poison pill."

Working Together Across Schools: Lessons Learned

This blog was created over two years ago during the school closure and consolidation process. My main goal in creating it was to create a place for parents across schools to discuss news, share information, learn from each other, and work to improve schools for all children. Now is a perfect time to refocus on this effort. Parents in many schools, buildings, and programs are confused and upset and trying to figure out how to effectively advocate for their children and their beliefs. And many other parents, including those on this blog, have been through this closure and consolidation process before and have lessons learned they can share. Unfortunately, my children's schools have been involved in every phase of the closure and consolidation process so I have some experiences I can share. Here are some quick thoughts: Organize your school's parents quickly, using blogs, wiki, e-mail lists, "kid mail" or whatever works for your community. Collect data and talking po

Open Thread for Thornton Creek at Jane Addams

Open Thread for Hawthorne/Thurgood Marshall/TT Minor/Leschi

Open Thread for Meany/Nova/Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center

Open Thread for Summit/RBHS

Open Thread for Arbor Heights/Pathfinder

Open Thread for Lowell/APP

Open Thread for AS#1

My Reactions to Closures

I sat through this 4+ meeting. I also served, during the last round of closures, on the Closure and Consolidation Committee. And, I get that we have too many buildings for too few students. But there is a lot to disagree with on this list and once again, staff, not the Board, is making the calls. To their credit, the Board is asking hard questions but the staff is manipulating data to get what they want. The Board should not fall for it nor stand for it. What's good: -Thornton Creek would make a fine K-8 so that move isn't bad. However, they were promised if they moved they wouldn't displace another alternative program which they are (Summit). Creating a new and exciting elementary at Thornton Creek's old site will likely help with capacity issues in the NE. -a building needed to be closed in the Central area and TT Minor is a building that is not in good shape. -there will be more room at Salmon Bay K-8 because Thornton Creek students would not get preference

Discussing the Recommendations

I've moved the recommendations out from my earlier live blogging effort to keep this post shorter and easier to get to the comments section. Also, the earlier district FAQ doc isn't working on their website at the link below right now, so I've uploaded it to my Google site here so you can view it, save it and send it to others. ************ 8:00 pm Recommendations are now on district website at: . Also check out the Capacity page for more information over the coming weeks as the district posts it. Summary below: BUILDING CLOSURES Genesee Hill Lowell Mann TT Minor Pinehurst Van Asselt Old Hay (may be temporary depending upon enrollment) RELOCATED PROGRAMS Lowell APP to Hawthorne and Thurgood Marshall NOVA to Meany Pathfinder K-8 to Arbor Heights SBOC to Meany Summit K-12 to Rainier Beach Thornton Creek (AE#2 to Jane Addams building and becomes a K-8) TT Minor K-3 Montessori to Leschi Thurgood Marshall EBOC to

Closures & Consolidations - LIVE from the Stanford Center

7:40 pm 3 tired children, a very hot room, and a very slow-paced meeting led to my decision to leave and go home. ****** 7:05 pm --- the recommendations....finally but Board members asking questions after each section so this could drag on for a while - Six buildings permanent closure - One building temporary closure - Nine programs recommended for relocation - Two new programs - Five programs discontinued Queen Anne/Magnolia - Relocate SBOC from Old Hay to Meany and co-locate with Nova High School - Meany Middle school students assigned elsewhere - Involves change in SBOC model, students allowed to stay in school longer - Carr asking question about whether or not honoring earlier promises to SBOC community - Martin-Morris asking how Meany students will be re-assigned; Tracy says it's complicated and provides different scenarios based on where the student currently lives; described some of the transportation implications as well. Looked at reassignments where children w

School Closure/Consolidations Rumors & News

What are now just school closure and consolidation rumors will become news by 6 pm. Affected school principals are talking to their staff now. The "workshop" for the public with the Board and District is at 6 pm tonight at the Stanford Center. (I hope to attend and "live blog" the event.) And then a statement will be released to the media and all district employees at 7 pm. I have mixed feelings about spreading rumors that are already out there, but I decided to go ahead and post here what is already posted on the The Stranger's blog (The Slog) to generate discussion and hopefully collect more information from anyone out there who knows. ******** From The Slog : City School Closure Rumor of the Day Posted by Jonah Spangenthal-Lee on Tue, Nov 25 at 12:08 PM The Seattle School District will announce its preliminary closure plan at a school board meeting tonight (6 pm at district headquarters) and there appear to be a few big surprises on the agenda: Accor

Where's the News?

Here's what the PI had in today's edition about the closures. The district also ran (probably because it is a legal requirement) a notice about the closure meeting (good time to run it, the day of the meeting) and the "workshops". The Times had not one word about the meeting or the announcements tonight. I expect that from the television stations but I would think the Times would do better. Is this event at the district website on either the events or district calendar pages? Nope. Just on the Board's calendar page. On the News and Calendars page, you'd have to hunt for it to find it. Almost as if no one wants to discuss this or say that it is really happening and yet a lot of people are going into their Thanksgiving with stress and sadness and uncertainty.

So Where Else Can We Save Money (Other than Closures)?

So over at Denise Gonzalez-Walker's education blog at the PI, she talks about "leadership by example" and comes up with so good (and startling examples) of where the district spends its money. From her blog: "At the same time (July), the board voiced optimism over the "creation of several new positions, such as a math manager and a director of school improvement." Yep, more executive-level staff. Goodloe-Johnson isn't the only one enjoying generous salary increases. When Chief Academic Officer Carla Santorno came on board in April 2006, her salary was $142,653, according to a Seattle Times article . A little over a year later, the Times lists her salary as $150,821 --over a 5% increase. More recently, OSPI data accessed via the Seattle Times searchable database shows Santorno's 2007-08 salary at $183,408--over a 20% increase since being hired on in 2006." Over a 20% increase since 2006? Wow. Look, all of us know that education is not

Ripples From Closures Already Starting

From the district website: "A School Board vote on the final recommendation for capacity management and building closure is planned for January 29. The enrollment calendar for this year has been adjusted to ensure that families have time to consider options and to prepare registration and application materials prior to the rescheduled Open Enrollment period. Seattle Public Schools welcomes new and returning families for 2009/10. Please call on us to answer any questions you may have about the enrollment process or timeline. Key dates are: • Open Enrollment for 2009-10 has been rescheduled. Originally in February, Open Enrollment is now March 2 -31, 2009 • The School Fair has been cancelled. Originally scheduled for January 10 • Information on School Tours and Open Houses will be posted at by December 5. • Assignment letters will go out by the end of May." I knew that the assignments would be late but I thought early/mid May. End of May

Where is the conversation?

On November 5, the Seattle School Board wrote a guest column in the Seattle Times about the need to close schools. In this announcement, the Board wrote: We need the public to be engaged in this conversation and we understand that many of these discussions will focus on the fate of individual schools. As members of the School Board, we pledge to continue to act in the best interest of the entire district, and make our decisions based on what will be most effective in serving students across the city. We hope Seattle students and families join us in a dialogue to bring "Excellence for All" to life. We believe our success as a community and the success of our children hinges upon our coming together. We must do whatever it takes to make our students successful. They make reference to a "conversation" that they need the public to engage in, and state their hope that students and families will join them (the Board) in a dialogue. When and where is this conversatio

What's in a name?

AS#1 (Alternative School #1) is considering changing its name as a way to reposition itself within the Seattle Public Schools community. Many families of young students (K-3) feel like a new name would help breathe new energy into the school. It would allow us to distance ourselves from the inaccurate reputation that we are a "hippy" school that lets the children run wild or that we don't care about education. These families have chosen AS#1 despite the threat of closure and misrepresentation by the enrollment centers because it offers a dynamic learning environment that values each individual child in a small school environment Others argue that the name AS#1 is historic - we are the first Alternative School in Seattle and we set off the chain of events that helped bring choice to Seattle schools - and the name should be preserved so the work we have done for the past 35 years is not lost. Many families have left over disagreements with the more structured and less demo

E-mail From Dr. GJ

I received this on Friday: Dear Seattle Public Schools staff members: I want to ensure that you have easy access to information about the capacity management and building closure process as well as answers to any questions and concerns you may have. This email provides updates and links to key information. On October 29, the School Board unanimously voted to accelerate the capacity management process, which is one of the five key focus areas for this year as we implement Excellence for All , our Strategic Plan. As we balance capacity in each area of the city, we are considering how to ensure that we provide equitable access to quality programs for all students. On Monday, November 3, the Seattle Times published an opinion editorial by the School Board that sets out the context for capacity management and building closures. At the School Board meeting on November 12, we discussed the guidelines and foundational questions that will be applied as buildings are considered

Latest Budget Missive

Hello I received this on Friday: Dear Seattle Public Schools Staff Members, Earlier today I held my first brown bag lunch discussion on next year’s budget. The discussion, which occurred in the TV Studio at the JSCEE Center, was a live internet broadcast that allowed a studio audience and me to interact through a question and answer session on the budget. We also had several people join the conversation via teleconferencing. The feedback I received after the session was that people liked the opportunity to express their concerns about the budget and to get immediate answers to their questions. Two weeks ago, after I announced that I would hold the brown bag lunches, I received feedback from some of our teachers that the times of the studio brown bags would not fit their work schedules. I am therefore modifying the schedule for the next two sessions as follows: · Tuesday, December 2, from 2:30 to 3:30 · Wednesday December 17, from 3:30 t

The Calm Before the Storm Or Not?

The district is going to close some schools and the number is somewhere between 3-9. The last time this happened there was A LOT of talk and articles and discussion. Is there anything about the announcement of the preliminary list in either the Times or the PI today either as an article or editorial or op-ed? Nope. The last "education" article was about a couple of cheerleaders who took nude pictures of themselves, sent them out to someone(s) electronically and big surprise! the pictures got out to the entire school. Not much on education there. Maybe they might discuss it on KUOW this week but their schedule isn't listed yet. Crosscuts, ditto, nothing (and they even have a former School Board member, Dick Lily, who writes for them). The only place talking about it - true to form - is the great West Seattle blo g which has information listed that we don't even have here (and I'll put it below). Those people, wisely, know that this process needs to be t

Grading Policy Reform

The High School Steering Committee has been meeting for over a year. One sub-committee of the Steering Committee has been discussing changes to the District's grading policy. The High School Steering Committee is a staff committee. There is no one on the committee who does not work for the school district. The School-Family Partnership Plan (on page 15) calls for the Board to: "Develop policies and procedures that require parent and family involvement in district decision-making and advisory committees." But the Board hasn't taken the first step towards enacting this policy, so there was no student family representation on this committee. This committee is about to make a number of recommendations to the Board. These include a shift to an eleven point grade point average system and rules and procedures for awarding high school credit for classes taken in middle school, among other things. The Committee is supposed to be doing their community engagement on the propo

An Interesting Speech

Hello I subscribe to the Public Education Newsblast and here is an article I received today: In her first speech since being elected president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten signaled her openness to a number of school reform ideas that have been unpopular with teacher unions. Speaking at the National Press Club, Weingarten stated: "With the exception of vouchers, which siphon scarce resources from public schools, no issue should be off the table, provided it is good for children and fair to teachers." Weingarten urged that all stakeholders in public education -- parents, teachers, school administrators, business leaders, and elected officials -- take responsibility for public education and work to find common ground on divisive issues like differentiated pay, tenure, and teacher assignment. She also took exception to what she considers the widespread scapegoating of teachers and teacher unions for low student achievement, and called the No Child Le

More about Science at Summit K-12

A question was posed, in response to my last post, and I took it to one of the science teachers at Summit K-12 to make sure my answer is accurate. She says: "You are correct that we are using district curriculum that is supplemented by each individual teacher. I was told by the district to teach the subject matter I am teaching this year, and I do have kits from which to draw for the teaching of the units. I am also supplementing instruction with other readings, field trips, and hands-on activities of my own creation." I also know that the elementary teachers use the science kits provided by the district, though am currently uncertain as to if they have a district-assigned curriculum like the upper school does. When I get that information, I'll update here. Happy Friday, all! Updated about 2:45pm, 11/21 "Elementary also uses district curriculum with kits."

What Works? Views From the NY Times

The NY Times this week had several articles that overlapped in their take on education. There seem to be a couple of different issues. One article is a column by Nicholas D. Kristof, "Obama and the Our Schools". He first takes issue with education coming in 5th on Obama To Do list. (I'm thrilled it's even there at all.) He then had this startling piece of news: "The United States is the only country in the industrialized world where children are less likely to graduate from high school than their parents were, according to a new study by the Education Trust, an advocacy group based in Washington." Then he goes for his premise: "The most effective anti-poverty program we could devise for the long run would have less to do with income redistribution than with ensuring that poor kids get a first-rate education, from preschool on. One recent study found that if American students did as well as those in several Asian countries in math and science, our e

From The State PTSA

I received this e-mail today from the state PTSA. ******** As you know Basic Education Funding continues to be the #1 Priority for the State PTA, Seattle Public Schools and most of our local units. State budgets that were established in the 1970’s don’t work in today economic and technological world, our kids aren’t getting enough from their public school education. The Seattle PTA in conjunction with the League of Education Voters and CPPS, has scheduled a conversation with Rep. Ross Hunter who is on the Basic Education Finance Task Force . The Task Force is working on their final recommendations to be presented in mid- December. Rep. Hunter will present the current proposal and be available for questions Where: John Stanford Center Auditorium, 2445 3d Ave S (at Lander) We are asking that every school send at least one representation to know more about changes that will affect our schools and opportunities that lie ahead. Also, please spread the work and announce this event at yo

Closure Guidelines

The Superintendent has announced that district staff will use five guidelines when making school closure recommendations: Geographic Need - do we need seats in this area? Building Condition - what does it cost to maintain this building? Cost per Pupil - what are non-instructional costs (including admin) on a per-student basis? Proximity - are there other schools nearby that serve the same grades? Academic Performance - has the school made AYP? How would your child's school fair by these guidelines? I can think of good schools that might not look so good by these measures - Montlake and NOVA, for example. Meany would be at risk because all of the Central Region middle school students could fit easily into Washington if APP were not there - and there are rumors of changes in APP. How does Rainier Beach or the AAA measure up if judged by these criteria? What about Thurgood Marshall or the various programs at Wilson-Pacific? What elementary in West Seattle would shake to t

Math curriculum concerns

As we all know, the keystone of the strategic plan, "Excellence for All", is to align the math and science curricula across all schools. We are assured that this doesn't mean that every third grade teacher gives the same lesson on the same day, but it does mean that they all teach the same body of knowledge and skills to their students during the year. As we all know, within the last couple years Seattle Public Schools adopted new math curricula for K-5 and 6-8. As the Board considers the adoption of a new textbook for high school math, the head of the Math Department told the Board that the curriculum is set by the state through their standards and GLEs and that the teachers pick and choose elements from the textbooks to support that curriculum, but that the textbooks dictate neither the curriculum nor the lessons. She was really strong about this. She assured the Board that "reform" style textbooks could be used to support traditional style teaching and vice

Hands on Science at Summit K-12

Hi, all - Thanks to Beth for letting me post on here! For my first post, I thought I'd share with you one of the really cool programs that Summit K-12 has. The upper school has a science field trip to Maui, and their trip this year just started. If you would like to find out what sorts of things they're doing, visit their blog at . I am eagerly awaiting their first update, myself. Cheers, Sabia

KOMO Investigation Into Missing District Property

KOMO-TV decided to do an investigation into missing assets at the largest districts in the Puget Sound area. They found the worst problems in Tacoma but here's what they found in Seattle: "In Seattle we found more uncertainty and more guesswork. Among an inventory of 40,180 assets, 1,908 of them are gone. District spokesman David Tucker said some computers, printers, scanners - even big items like universal weight sets - haven't been seen in more than three years. But it doesn't stop there. Inventory sheets put question marks around another 2,225 'unresolved' assets. School administrators suspect they're in some school, somewhere, but they can't tell us which one. On this long list of unresolved items: a Kubota Tractor, three John Deere utility vehicles, and a Steinway grand piano. After the Problem Solvers started asking questions, the district tracked down those five items. They also located most of the missing universal weight sets. But whethe

BTA Levy Nominations Invited

The district is asking the community to make BTA Levy nominations by December 1st . (see below) My question is, what point is nominating a building for renovations if the district is about to close it due to building condition? Does the overlapping schedule, logistics and cascading effects of assignment plan, closure and consolidation, and BTA Levy decisions make anyone else's head hurt? ********* Community invited to nominate projects for next Capital Levy scheduled for public vote in February 2010 Community Input due by December 1, 2008 for BTA III, Buildings, Technology and Academics III Seattle Public Schools invites staff, families and community members to provide input as the District plans for the next capital levy, tentatively scheduled for a public vote in February 2010. Staff and community members are encouraged to nominate (suggest) projects for consideration as the capital program package is developed. The nomination form, together with background materials and a

Two New Summit K-12 Contributors

Two parents responded to my earlier post inviting Summit K-12 and any other parents/staff/community members affected by the upcoming closure and consolidation to become temporary blog posters Please welcome Sabia and Liss to the blog. Hopefully, we'll see posts from them soon.


The APP community has heard, through undisclosed sources, that the District has changes in mind for the program's configuration. There is no word, no hint, other than that whisper of change coming. No one from the District has made any effort to engage the community regarding the problem, let alone the ideas or the plans. APP has capacity issues. The elementary program, at 500, is bursting Lowell at the seams. There was an abortive attempt two years ago by Raj Manhas to split this program between Lowell and Broadview-Thomson. The high school program, at 400, comprises about 25% of the enrollment at Garfield. There was an abortive attempt three years ago by Raj Manhas to dismantle the program. The middle school program stands at about 425 students and is located at Washington Middle School. Last year, Carla Santorno tried to split this program between Washington and Hamilton, but a board review revealed just how capricious that idea actually was and Ms Santorno, unable to provide d

Speak Up; She'll Listen

I have now attended two of the meetings for the new Assignment Plan. I am pretty impressed with how Tracy Libros is making this a low-key discussion-based process. Plan to attend one of these meetings between now and January (some are listed in other threads and the later ones will be listed as we get information) or forever hold your peace. Tracy is giving us all the opportunity to say what we think as parents on many topics. The meeting I attended on Friday at the Northgate Community Center had 13 parents and 3 staff members. There were many scatter maps available for viewing. It's always interesting to read and analyze where students go to school versus where they live. (The maps are to be available online and I'll link them when they do.) There was a bit of confusion about them because they had maps for alternative schools (but left out Nova). Additionally they had maps for some schools only because they served certain populations or had all-city transportation (

A Positive Place for Kids

Some good news: the Rainier Vista Boys & Girls Club and Rainier Valley Teen Center opened this week. It was profiled in this article in the PI. From the article: "The steel-and-cement building with large windows has two gymnasiums, several basketball courts, a dental clinic, an audio-and-video recording studio, classrooms, computer centers and an Internet cafe." It hopes to serve 4,000 kids a year up from 1,000.

No plan for Aki Kurose, AAA

All schools in Step 5 of sanctions under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) elements of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) are required - by federal law - to either close or reconstitute. All schools in Step 5 this year were in Step 4 last year. Schools in Step 4 are required - by federal law - to develop their plans for either closure or reconstitution in case they enter Step 5. For more detailed information about NCLB sanctions, please see this document from the OSPI web site. Here's what it says: Step Four In this step, school districts are required to undertake "school restructuring." The district has one year to prepare a restructuring plan with an implementation timeline for schools in this step. The plan must be implemented the following year if the school does not make AYP again and enters Step Five. The restructuring plan needs to include at least one of the following three actions: • Replace school staff, which may include the school pr