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Thursday, November 27, 2008

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 condition. I don't accept that the current proposals are the best way to save money. Goodloe-Johnson even said they haven't looked at the financial implications of the proposal yet. Which begs the question, what were they really trying to accomplish?

The cost savings from closing one of the undersubscribed HS would eliminate the need to displace so many central cluster students and is the most cost effective choice for the short term. It will disrupt the least amount of students while directly affecting the disparity between oversubscribed and undersubscribed schools. Long-term work could be done to bring that HS back online when the population increases and the district has put together a desirable program that will entice parents to choose it.

The district needs to take enough TIME to assess the best way to deal with the capacity and program issues such as SBOC, APP, and Alternatives. These are complex programs with very specific needs. The current proposal does not add seats to the North End. In fact, it eliminates 270 seats by closing the Pinehurst building. It does not proportionally reduce the amount of excess capacity in the South East and West Seattle clusters.

The board needs to take enough TIME for the communities effected to be engaged in the process. The current timeline is a joke. The communitee meetings for the buildings being closed have multiple schools scheduled on the same day. This guarantees that not all the board members will be able to hear from all of the programs that will be impacted. As a further insult, only the schools whose buildings are being closed get a meeting. Programs that are discontinued (Meany and Arbor Heights) don't get a meeting.

The district needs to take enough TIME to do an Alternative Schools audit and look at the best way to provide access to Alternative programs throughout the district based on best practices determined by the audit. Goodloe-Johnson clearly doesn't understand Alternative schools and needs to learn how to evaluate them before making decissions about how to move around Alt students.

26 comments:

north seattle mom said...

I don't think more time will help. The last time the district worked on closures it went on for two years and the end result was not great, one building the first year and six the second year.

The current timeline is rushed mostly because that process was not completed. I honestly don't see how more time will help. Buidlings need to be closed and it will be painful. Sometimes, you just need to move forward. And I say that even believing that closing Pinehurst is a HUGE waste of time and money and will contribute to the capacity crunch in the north end.

However, closing pretty much nothing but small buildings and moving a dozen programs to do it, can't be cost effective. Closing 1-2 large buildings would do it with the least amount of disruption.

Mary Bass said it best. She said that all the excess capacity is in S and SE. She asked why all the movement in North and Central when the excess capacity was South.

Moving Aki to RB and creating a 6-12 was discussed and dismissed. That seems to be something that would have a much larger cost savings.

anonymous said...

Combine Aki and RBHS in the RBHS building.

Combine Summit and NOVA in the Meany building. Central all city location.

Put Meany in AKI or AAA. Or move MS APP out of Washington to Hamilton, and then Meany students could go to Washington and stay in their own neighborhood.

Close AS1, but use the Pinehurst building for a new program. Or, alternately leave AS1 intact, and move some of the spec ed programs into the pinehurst building instead of Jane Addams to help fill it. AS1 is an accepting community so that should be a good fit.

Charlie Mas said...

I like momfist's idea of Aki Kurose and RBHS together in the RBHS building.

Not only would it save a lot of money by taking the Sharples building offline (Aki Kurose Middle School is located in the Sharples building), it would be a response to Aki Kurose's NCLB Step 5 status.

The District's document says that Summit and NOVA wouldn't both fit into the Meany building, but they really fudge these capacity numbers and who knows what the capacity of the building will be following its renovation in BEX IV. The S.B.O.C. could then continue its current plan of moving into a renovated McDonald.

Another alternative would be Summit and the S.B.O.C. in the Meany building. This might be a better fit. In that case, NOVA could stay at Horace Mann and get a long overdue renovation in BEX IV or could relocate to Lowell or T T Minor.

Why didn't the District consider moving Summit to Lowell? Yes, it would require some renovation, but they could do it in BEX IV and Lowell is certainly due some work.

Why didn't the District consider moving Summit to Wilson-Pacific? Yes, it would require some renovation, but they could do it in BEX IV.

dan dempsey said...

Megan Mc said...
Goodloe-Johnson clearly doesn't understand Alternative schools and needs to learn how to evaluate them before making decisions about how to move around Alt students.

None of these closure decisions have anything to do with academics. Somehow I expect schools to make decisions related to academics and building learning communities. This does not happen in the SPS .. in this regard both the Administration and the school board have failed.

In the summer of 2007 during the campaigns for four school director positions school closures was a major topic. Oddly we heard nothing about this until almost one year after the elections. We heard Mr Sunquist tell us how badly out whack the budget was at the MG-J 10% June raise meeting. But even though he spoke of 12 million needing to come from reserves no mention of school closures.

The fact that it appears that the Administration is trying to push this through with minimal public response can come as no surprise to anyone that watches the modus operendi of the SPS.

Thoughtful well developed plans with public input are not allowed. Look at the Denny/Sealth fiasco .. we either hear this train is too far down the tracks and so much has been spent thus far that we can not stop now (NO TIME FOR INPUT -- too late) or it is the sky is falling, the sky is falling we must act now (NO TIME FOR INPUT -- fast action required).

Much could be made about how dysfunctional public input prevented appropriate closures from being made during the last Manhas round. That should hardly be a reason for keeping the public in the dark for the last year in regard to this situation. The Manhas administration was incompetent during the rejected phase of school closures. This went as poorly as it did because of poor SPS administrative performance.

I proposed that an alternative to closings would be using schools as more multi-use facilities. Renting space to day care, senior centers, health care providers, local service agencies etc. There have been encouraging academic improvements in sections of urban districts that have used this multi-use approach.

It is more than Megan Mc's thought that MG-J does not understand alternative schools. The push has been for larger schools, and more uniform programs the idea that one size fits all. In the math adoption Carla Santorno said that the curriculum really does not matter it is the fidelity of implementation so that the same thing happens for each child in the district..
... One size fits all uniformity is a defective notion as there is huge variability in individuals. One of the goals of education is not to provide the same schooling for all {that is stupid thinking but heard too often}. The goal is for us to provide an appropriate education for each child that is suited to that child to the best of our abilities given available resources.

The reason that I expect to see little academic improvement in SPS schools is that the board and the administration seem to have little idea about how to bring about academic success.

There is nothing academic really being considered in these closures except in the most off-hand way.

I do agree with north seattle mom who said... I don't think more time will help.
If the people who run the district don't ask the right questions, or have an adequate understanding of how to strengthen education and learning communities... then more time will not help.

Did more time help the k-8 math program? We have a school board that allows school board policy in the areas of academics to be ignored. They allow the posting of grade level mathematics performance expectations k-8 by administration, while at the same time the administration admits they are doing nothing in the classroom to promote these expectations ... just following the Everyday Math pacing plan ( which has nothing to do with the State k-8 standards or the posted grade level performance expectations).

No with these people attempting to guide us ... it is unlikely more time will help ... unless they were actually going to consider public input. No they just don't do that despite what they say.

reader said...

Clearely, MJG is in synch with the board... something which wasn't true for Manhas. So, Manhas couldn't get board buy-off on the first closure plan. Now she has the synergy, so now she needs to act... because she will get a "yes" vote now, but maybe not later.

Merging Aki-RB is a horrible idea, as is merging Cleveland-RB. We shouldn't think that taking schools with the biggest challenges and mashing them together will benefit anybody, except the rest of us who don't have to attend. Spend some time at West Seattle Elementary if you think that's a good idea.

Charlie Mas said...

It's not so much a Cleveland-Rainier Beach merger as a simple closure of Reinier Beach that seems to be called for.

If the District wants to move 500 students into the Rainier Beach building to justify keeping it open, Aki Kurose would be a better candidate for co-location (not merger) than Summit. A better decision would be to close it.

And again, why should NOVA move to Meany, with a building condition rating of 47.34 when they could move to Lowell with a building condition rating of 53.72 or T T Minor with a building condition rating of 54.61?

reader said...
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uxolo said...

How can the Center School remain open and not enter these discussions? Ms. Libros made mention of the Center School not having "gigantic waitlists." Not only does the school not have a waitlist, but there are only 41 seniors and 56 juniors. This school does not maintain its enrollment. Students start at the Center School and then they transfer. At this time, there are 247 students enrolled in a school created to educate 350.

anonymous said...

Southender how will co-locating AKI and RB be any worse than co-locating Summit and RB? Won't the RB gang members pick off the younger kids at Summit too?

I think co-locating Aki and RB is a good idea. I think the district could offer some very intense support services and intervention, and be able to focus on one location, rather than spreading the services between several schools.

As far as Hawthorne and TM creating separate silos of uequal learners, look no further than Washington and Garfield for this model of service. They are very divided communities, with huge disparity between the reg ed and APP programs within the school. Can this be avoided, without isolation (As in a self contained APP program such as Lowell)??

And uxolo great questions about Center School. Seems like the program is small enough that it should co-locate with another smaller program. Maybe with Nova, or Summit, since they are both non traditional too. I had no idea they lost enrollment at the higher grades. Why are kids transferring out? Does anyone have any insight.

reader said...

Momfirst, Summit is obviously not going to be co-located... that is why the Summit-RB plan is better, it isn't going to happen. The real plan is to kill Summit. Duh! And no, the Summit kindergarteners aren't going to RB. If they closed Aki... then the Aki-ites wouldn't really have that same choice as the Summiters will be getting from their by-choice-alternative-school, since there aren't other middle schools to speak of around there. So yes, the Aki-ites would actually be forced into a giant challenge. Yeah right, intense intervention.... that's right up there with the tooth-fairy.

Sahila said...

I was talking with an African American ancillary services person on Wednesday...that person wondered why the Board had decided to close down AAA, rather than relocate it to RBHS, and was of the opinion that moving Summit there would kill-off Summit.

The person I was speaking to was of the opinion that a AAA-RBHS co-location or merger would work, as the AAA children already share a cultural and ethnic commonality with some of the RBHS population, are more likely to understand and handle some of the issues that RBHS is currently dealing with, and will be more successful at bringing healthy change to RBHS.

SolvayGirl said...

I attended the Center School open house last year and their declining enrollment in the upper grades was addressed. Here's the reasons they gave:

1. Students transfer out because some come into the school thinking it will be an "easy, artsy-fartsy school." Actually though the Center School has an arts focus, it also has a very high-end academic program and expects its students to be preparing for college.

2. The Center School has a unique humanities program that mixes grades 9 and 10, and alternates what it covers over a two-year spread. I can't remember the exact focus, but it was something like World History one year. then American History the next. Consequently, it makes it harder for students to transfer in at the upper grades. Again, I don't remember all the details, but we were told that the structure of the curriculum was such that the school did not accept transfers in after 10th grade.

And, as I've noted on this blog numerous times. The Center School has a number of arts partnerships with groups located at Seattle Center. These partnerships (and most if not all of their performing arts program) would dissolve if the school were moved to another location.

So, it just wouldn't be a candidate for moving. Close it outright, but don't try to relocate in the hopes that the program would thrive. Right now, The Center School has some of the highest SAT and WASL scores in the city. Personally, I think it would be foolish for the District to close one of the few successful high schools that is accessible to students throughout the city.

ParentofThree said...

The Center School is fairly new, this being its 8th year and is just starting to "catch-on" with families. They enrolled a record number of freshmen this year, which took pressure off of Ballard and Roosevelt. Given a chance, the school will continue to grow.

And of those 55 2008 grads, 90% went onto 2 or 4 year colleges, the remaining 10% opted to take a year off and travel to overseas to do service work. That is very impressive.


Now, should Center be part of this closure discussion, of course it should. It probably is more expensive to run than the comprehensive high schools. But should Center be closed or moved? Well if you do that then Center and will never have the opportunity to be used a model for sucessful small schools. All we will end up with is big high schools because once Center goes, then NOVA follows, then Hale is forced into the model.....and in the end all we have are big generic highschools.

This is Seattle, we thrive on the alternative.....let's work to save the Summits, the Centers and the Nova's of this city. Even if these schools are not a "good fit" for your child, they serve a great purpose in the Seattle schools.

Mimi56 said...

Uxolo,

Indeed, why leave the Center School? Perhaps there is a lease involved which prevents moving or closing it.North seattle mom's suggestion of closing one or two large buildings may make the most sense in terms of immediate short term cost savings. Then come back later with a list that can be defended. The capacity issues in the s.end still need to be addressed.

Unknown said...

"This is Seattle, we thrive on the alternative.....let's work to save the Summits, the Centers and the Nova's of this city. Even if these schools are not a "good fit" for your child, they serve a great purpose in the Seattle schools."

Hey, MomAsks, don't forget about AS1 - the school that started it all! I agree we should work to save these programs, especially while we're waiting around to see what they learn from this audit that Sundquist said on KUOW would happen next year... these are all excellent programs that don't fit the mold, and therefore cannot be adequately evaluated by WASL scores and enrollment numbers. That's like trying to cut paper with a hedge trimmer - it might be possible, but it's sure not the right tool for the job.

Melissa Westbrook said...

As I posted previously, Center School's building costs (lease + utilities and janitorial) is around $100,000 (this was said at the Board workshop). Dr. G-J also said they had a lease for another 5(?) years but didn't have a "out" clause. Has anyone asked? Nope and I'll bet the City would let them out.

Is there room to grow Center School? I don't know that beyond 300 they can get any bigger. Will they be rebuilt with extra space when the Seattle Center is rebuilt? Don't know (the manager told me there were no decisions yet).

I do not agree with the assertion that Center School would wither if not at Seattle Center. As a quasi-alternative, they should not be attached to their building (and it's a space we don't even own). There are arts ALL over this city and that's exactly the push for RBHS. I don't know Summit is a better fit for RBHS than Center School would be.

The last time the district worked on closures it was drawn out because the district did it that way. They offered a ridiculous plan, then back-off for several months, then appointed the committee I served on, we had (barely) 2 months to do our work and, in the end, closed 7 buildings. Then, there was phase two (again, staff created) and guess what? that went down in flames. It's not that the processes were drawn out but that staff - clearly - has an agenda that involves plans that only they know of.

I agree with Charlie about Aki because it makes sense in savings AND Aki is Level 5 (AS#1 is only level 4) and staff said at the meeting that it's a federal law that something has to changed at level 5 (see AAA).

Again, staff CANNOT apply criteria selectively because it makes all their claims look suspicious.

dan dempsey said...

I still think this is a rush to action that is uncalled for.

Yes something thoughtful may need to be done.

I think Dick Lilly has it right...

Seattle's school closure proposal is a really dumb way to make policy.

It puts school closures ahead of much more important policy decisions, and it is a poor way to solve budget problems.
----Dick Lilly

Interesting that someone brought AAA into this discussion... why were the results of Project Follow Through not applied to the AAA curriculum choices and focus ???
Why does the district choose to use curriculum choices that are proven to be detrimental with the population served at AAA ... just so AAA can be instep with one size fits all uniformity is my guess.

As Charlie had noted AAA was supposed to already have had a restructuring plan and to have already implemented it.

This district avoids thoughtful decisions that involve promoting academic improvement preferring instead to shove unproven "Club Ed" mumbo jumbo at us.

Instead of focusing on improvement most of this discussion may focus on sniping at the other guy. What is the matter with the Center School and Summit and Aki and RBHS etc...

I certainly appreciated the invite to look at West Seattle Elementary... Consider what would have happened there if instead of closure and consolidation we had brought additional service providers in as part of school co-locations with non k-5 entities.
A principal can serve two small elementary schools that are close to each other.

This district continues to leap before thoughtfully looking. It seems that those in power are against thoughtful decision making.

Let us now hurry into the next big mistake. For if we wait who knows what will happen???? If we wait likely the same result as if we full speed ahead because thoughtful consideration rarely happens in the SPS (no matter how much time is taken). Look for the coming High School Math adoption to be perhaps further evidence of this. The elementary and middle school math adoptions certainly were.

It seems like closing RBHS as a high school would save a lot of dollars but what about the South East initiative??? Wasn't the SE initiative going to spend additional money at AAA, RBHS and Aki now it seems they should all be closed ... Is there any rational consistent thinking taking place or is this just continual crisis management?

ParentofThree said...

Sorry, I wasn't trying to exlcude any alternative school. Was just looking at it through the high school lens as both Summit and NOVA are in motion and there seems to be a push to move Center by folks on this blog.

Charlie Mas said...

Rushing a decision is making it before you have gathered the necessary data and considered the possibility of contingencies or unintended consequences. After that, the decision process takes about forty seconds.

People who have principles often need less time because they can make their decisions based on their principles and accept the consequences whatever they may happen to be.

If the idea is to take time so the public can adjust to the ideas and perhaps even buy in, well, that presumes that such a thing would happen within a reasonable time frame. Actually, I think most people have. I think most people are relieved that the District is finally moving forward on the closures that they should have done years ago.

Sometimes, when you're really deeply involved in all of this, it's hard to remember that most people in Seattle - even most people in Seattle Public Schools - are probably okay with this plan already. That's not to say that they would say it is the best possible plan, nor is it to say that the plan shouldn't be improved, but I think that most people think it's a good enough plan (if they think of it at all) and would like the District to take some action already.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Mom Asks, who is pushing to move Center School? My discussion has been that, just as staff and the Board said, every school should be looked at thru this closure/consolidation lens (and that would include Center school) and that, in a time of financial crisis and too many buildings, I'd like a good answer to why we lease space for one school. It is costing us money we can't afford to spend.

Good schools are not dependent on their building or location. It's the education that happens inside them.

North End Mom said...

I don't think more time would necessarily be a good thing. I actually like that they aren't wasting time. The last time there were closures on the table, it first surfaced as rumors, right around spring enrollment time, then festered over the summer, and announcement weren't made until the fall. THAT was ridiculous. What happened then was that the press had time to do their own faulty analyses, and ruin the kindergarten enrollments of schools that were never actually on the official closure lists (this was horrible, because it was still during the weighted-student formula days), and the entire process created long-term anxiety.

What I do have issues with is the magitude of the closures and relocations. I vaguely remember a few months ago someone from the district, it may have been the superintendent herself, saying that they didn't have the resources to move more than one program this year. What changed! Why on Earth do they need to cause so much turmoil (I love Harium's term for it) in less than one year's time? If any of these steps are pulled off in the time frame alloted, it will be absolutely amazing!

ParentofThree said...

"Good schools are not dependent on their building or location. It's the education that happens inside them."

OK, so that means that Summit will remain exactly like it is now at RBHS. The AP program will be exactly like it is now at two schools, instead of one.

You could then say that the entire music program could be moved from Roosevelt to RBHS and the program will remain exactly the same in terms of its success (i.e. awards and talent etc.) Just pick a program or a school and move it, it will not be impacted.

That is essentially what the discrict IS saying, that programs and schools can be moved at will and they will remain intact, exactly as they are now.

I completely disagree with this notion and can only hope that the board does also.

SolvayGirl said...

I agree with MomAsks. A school's success depends on so many factors that sometimes changing just one small thing can have a huge impact—sometimes positive, sometimes not.

Picking a school up in its entirety (same students, admin & staff) can work if the move is a lateral one—to a similar facility with a similar location. But moving a school like Summit to co-house as far away from the original site as possible will not work. (And I have yet to see some details on how co-housing works in regards to staff and admin).

Melissa keeps insisting that The Center School can be moved because there are "arts all over the city." And that right there is the point. Yes, there are arts all over the city—all over. At The Center School they are all in one place. There is no other location that will give the school access to a variety of the arts—including four professional theater companies, the symphony and the ballet—all in one location that is accessible by walking.

If she is correct in thinking that the lease, etc. is too costly (and Melissa knows much more about this than most of us), then it should be considered for closure. But moving it will just take a vibrant program and cause it to struggle to regain its former partnerships and status.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Of course, every school and its programs are different. My point on Center School is that to say it can't be moved because of the access to arts isn't true. Of course it and any other school that is moved will be impacted (whether they want the move or not).

What we need to ask is if these moves (1) solve financial problems for the district and (2) have a likelihood of succeeding?

(And, by the way, AP and APP are NOT the same thing. Lowell APP is being split up and not any AP courses.)

ParentofThree said...

I had my terminology correct by referring to "APP" as the "AP program." I know the difference, as do the readers of this blog.

Melissa Westbrook said...

My apologies; when you said:

"The AP program will be exactly like it is now at two schools, instead of one."

I thought you were referring to Lowell and not Summit/RBHS because only RBHS has AP (Summit does not). So my confusion was in the idea that both schools have AP.

It's a common error to confuse AP and APP; the Times editorial did it just today.