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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Community Engagement Meeting #1

I attended the first Community Engagement meeting on closures (I love how the district is using "capacity issues" for closures) on Wednesday night. I was surprised that the room wasn't full but it nearly was by the time the meeting started. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson went through the whole process (and frankly, I think it could have been abbreviated to give people more time to talk).

We were asked to discuss the closures/moves at each table and come back with questions or comments. Staff was going around the room to see if there were any questions they could address.

I was at a table with 2 Lowell parents, 3 TT Minor (1 a parent and 1 a teacher), a Summit parent and myself. We all introduced ourselves and afterwards one parent said he knew I blogged here and asked if I would be blogging about the meeting. I said yes but anything off the record, I wouldn't write about. He asked that I not blog about anything the table discussed because it would as if a reporter was there and it might stifle the discussion. I said okay but it was a public meeting so it's not as if a reporter couldn't come and write down what we were talking about anyway.

So I can't really say what we discussed in detail but basically each person talked about their concerns and questions about the process.

There appeared to be parents from Lowell (in large numbers), Arbor Heights (ditto), AAA, Van Asselt, Summit, and AS#1. If I missed anyone, my apologies.

Here are the report-outs from each table (keep in mind: these are other people's words):
  • Could Lowell move to Meany? (this was mentioned by 3 different tables)
  • The assignment plan should have come before the closures.
  • There should be more compatible mixes of schools - who will help smooth the process?
  • There should be more information available for school communities.
  • Maybe all the schools could cut back and we wouldn't have to close schools.
  • Clarify commitment to alternative schools.
  • Closed schools' students should get priority in assignments.
  • Develop non-standardized tests for non-traditional learners
  • High school students at Summit should get to finish at Summit
  • Van Asselt has the highest number of students in its bilingual program
  • What are the capital costs for moving a Special Ed program?
  • Lobby the legislature
  • Hawthorne students should be integrated with APP students.
  • Criteria is not applicable to alternative schools; they need their audit first
  • Keep Lowell; merge Hawthorne and Marshall
  • AAA should sit down with other closure schools
  • Don't split APP cohort at Lowell; those students will have no place to go if they want to stay in that neighborhood as Stevens and Montlake are full
  • Don't lose the SE Initiative.
  • Don't pit people against each other in a rushed process
  • Is move towards closing so many alternatives a move towards standardization?
  • More marketing for SPS to get more students (mentioned at least twice)
  • What are the costs for closing a building?
  • If you keep half of APP at Lowell, you could move Montlake in
  • Move Pathfinder to Denny
To address some of these comments:
  1. I think Summit is better at Meany than Lowell especially since Summit has upper grades. That space would also allow Summit to grow. (There appeared to be no one at the meeting advocating for Meany.)
  2. I have my doubts about how much time or resources that the district will have to commit to smoothing transitions. This is particularly important for Lowell as they are not really co-joining with a new school as merging into it. I doubt that the name of either Hawthorne or Marshall would change (as did High Point when Fairmount Park merged into it - they became West Seattle Elementary). Plus, Lowell isn't just another group of regular ed kids coming into those schools; they have a very distinct program. And, from my previous post, it appears the district seems to think the APP parents will get busy creating music and art programs and raising money. That's got to be done in a very careful manner so that it works for parents on both sides.
  3. Maybe all schools should cut back? Wait for it; when the state ends I-728 money, we'll all take a hit.
  4. It would be nice if the district could tell all of us how much money they have saved from closing the 7 previous buildings from the last round of closures and how much they spent to close and secure those buildings. It's not rocket science; they know very well what they spent and what they saved. What's the mystery?
  5. I doubt the SE Initiative can be sustained past its timetable.
  6. Marketing - I'm not sure the district knows how to do it (although I would be willing to bet you could get a team of parent-professionals in the field to volunteer to help create a campaign for it but the district never seems to want to ask parents to help on these kinds of issues). But this would be the easiest and fastest way to get more money into our district.
  7. I think the idea of keeping half of Lowell there and closing the Montlake building and moving their program to Lowell is a good idea. Montlake's building is not viable, will never be rebuilt and it's costing money to keep alive. It's probably in the top 5 of worst bulidings in the district. It would certainly solve a problem for the district AND create what would likely be a strong school. (Trouble is, I could see how those APP kids who would have to leave Lowell would be very unhappy but that's going to happen anyway.)
  8. Move Pathfinder to Denny - at first blush, I'd say no but there are merits to it. One, it's a better building than what Pathfinder is in now. Two, it's already a middle school so there's lockers and science labs. Three, you could have a lot of shared buses with Denny and Sealth so there might be cost savings there.
Saw Tracy Libros and asked about projecting assignments from the closure plan. She said they are working on that but that the plan is obviously still fluid.

If anyone attended yesterday's Community Engagement meeting, let us know what you saw and heard. Here's a link to a Times article on it.

66 comments:

Eric B said...

Pathfinder K-8 also had several parents there.

Beth Bakeman said...

Mel, did you hear anything from any Van Asselt parents you can report? I'm really curious about how they feel about the proposed move.

jason said...

I was at the Saturday morning community meeting, and pretty similar suggestions came up. Here are the suggestions I can remember:

Many groups suggested moving people out of Montlake.
Move the north half of APP to BF Day
Lots of groups wanted to keep the Special Education kids at Lowell to minimize their disruption.
Keep Lowell and have 1/2 APP and Special Ed. and add in either Montlake or TT Minor
Keep the AAA school open because there's been lots of violence in the area recently
Close Rainier Beach. High Schools cost the most money.
Virtually everyone said the assignment plan should be done first.
People were trying to move just about every closed school/program into Meany
Keep Arbor Heights open because it's in a non central location and has lots of families who live close to it
Alternative programs hit hard

Shannon said...

Did you hear anything about the timing of final announcements versus the timing of school enrollment choices for next year?

I was wondering about the many families like ours who are entering the SPS this year and will not know where programs will be located.

I still have no idea whether to enroll my son in APP or try for a NE neighborhood school. Right now, it seems unlikely that a number of our programs will even be in the cluster in the form they are now.

So, will they be announced before our decisions are due? Or the other way around.

Beth Bakeman said...

The Superintendent's Final Recommendations will be announced Tuesday, January 6th. The School Board will vote on the recommendations (making the final decision) on Thursday, January 29th.

The Open Enrollment period for 2009-2010 has been delayed because of this. Open Enrollment is now from March 2nd to March 31st.

So your decision, as a parent, about where you want to enroll your child is now not due until March 31st, about 2 months after the final decisions are announced.

Details about the revised Enrollment timeline and process are on the Open Enrollment Update Flyer

Melissa Westbrook said...

Nope, just the comment about Van Asselt having a lot of bilingual kids. I am confused about this move; their building isn't good, true, but how can a K-5 fill over 600 seats?

Shannon said...

Beth
Thanks for the link to the Open Enrollment Flyer. I had missed that one!

- Shannon

Beth Bakeman said...

No problem, Shannon. That's what this blog is here for. There are many knowledgeable parents and community members on this blog who can answer questions or point you in the right direction.

And welcome to the craziness that is Seattle Public Schools! Despite the occasional hassles and bureaucratic insanity, we have some of the best public schools around.

handel said...

I know that there was also at least 1 nova parent and 4 or 5 students were there and maybe some teachers. Also from who I talked to I know that teachers from the sboc program were there. It almost sounds like people at the meeting, especially at lowell, were acting like those two programs don't exist because they are so small (I might be wrong though). Meany doesn't have enough room for the sboc program and lowell, considering that the bilingual program will be expanding largely. I want to know what people proposed for these two programs

Melissa Westbrook said...

SBOC has been waiting, patiently, for their own space. I think Summit is a better placement at Meany. I was thinking that AAA would be a good place for SBOC given that it does have lockers and science labs (that you need for secondary) and it's a very nice building. (I just don't see Van Asselt filling this building and it seems more likely that bilingual services could do that more easily.) Nova wants to stay put.

Central Mom said...

For all the folks suggesting moving Montlake out of their building to keep part or all of APP folks in the building. Have any of you looked at a map of school locations?

Lowell is farther south than Stevens. None of the current Montlake "walk" population could walk to that school. Some of the "walk" population of Stevens could walk to that school, but many of them could not do so. None of Eastlake's children could walk there either.

So you are proposing to upset the enrollment populations of two extremely popular, academically excellent and parent-engaged neighborhood schools, in order to keep part of APP in place at Lowell? Is this truly looking out for the best solutions for all children in the district, or just the APP population? Have any of you in the APP elementary community been involved with Central Cluster capacity issues in the past 4 years? Because many of us on this blog have been.

I don't know any north central cluster parents who desire to see the APP elementary cohort broken apart, but the district is broadcasting its intent loud and clear. In reacting to the district, please be respectful of the populations of the other schools in this area, instead of trying to move the Central district populations around like so many pieces in a game of Risk.

Charlie's out-of-the-box thinking on an opt-in Spectrum program at TM was a respectful solution. Another parent's idea of co-housing at BF Day, which has excess capacity, seems to be thoughtful. (Although I haven't seen the reaction from the BF Day community on this blog.)

A blogger on the Parsing APP Outcomes thread says he/she feels badly that they are "throwing Montlake under the bus" so to speak, then cites a long rationale for doing so.

Arbor Heights has been very impressive in its ability to suggest alternatives to closing its facility...even though some of these alternatives would affect its neighbors. They are thinking about neighborhood commitment/non-commitment to adjacent schools. They are thinking about academic achievement at those schools. Even when naming a particular school as an alternative closure to theirs, they are respectful.

It's a lesson many in the APP community, which again, I do support, could take to heart. You might even ask parents at Stevens and Montlake to brainstorm with you on additional ideas, and to advocate for you to the district. Some of them would be happy to participate.

dan dempsey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dan dempsey said...

Correction the link is to the PI not the Times. It will be interesting to see what happens with our Newspapers as staff continues to be cut. The owners of Chicago Tribune and the LA Times are looking at possible bankruptcy according to the NY Times.

Hopefully a competent free press will survive or return. Some one needs to keep track of the scoundrels.

dan dempsey said...

It was said:
Despite the occasional hassles and bureaucratic insanity, we have some of the best public schools around.

A true tribute to the many excellent teachers in the SPS, and the parents and community that support Seattle Schools.

Now if we could only reduce the level of bureaucratic insanity.... High School math adoption coming.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I certainly apologize if it seems like in offering other solutions I was not being respectful. Montlake is another solution (although I never heard Stevens discussed here or anywhere else) only because (1)the district has mentioned them previous to this round of closures (2)their building, as I have often said, is a worse building than Lowell's, on a small lot (read:not going to be remodeled by the district) and their small population would fit into half of Lowell. As well, they likely would be a good fit of populations.

My thought on keeping half of Lowell there (and bringing in a general ed population) is that (1)the special ed students at Lowell could stay and (2)only half of Lowell would have to move.

The district could accomplish what it needs to do - close the worst buildings and move some of Lowell APP further south to allow for ease of transportation and possibly add diversity.

I know Montlake would not be happy about this but if we are all in this together, if the good of the district is that we close buildings and consolidate populations, then everything should be on the table. Dr. G-J has made that clear from her latest words about the closure list.

Unknown said...

We are walking neighborhood attendees of Montlake Elementary.

The real concern for me is that we need to wait one year to make a decision for Montlake until the assignment plan is done. We move to Lowell next year and then have one year at the school before we are then forced to attend Stevens because that is a closer school? Or maybe they will finally open up some more neighborhood seats at TOPS which also is closer? What is the point if the program and student population isn't sustainable at Lowell? With the new focus on neighborhood reassignments, it makes no sense to disrupt us if most of us in the actual Montlake neighborhood will no longer qualify to attend at Lowell in two years because of distance.

We aren't unreasonable here at Montlake. We know that there are some serious changes going on and we will be closed by the very school district who allowed the building to get so bad in the first place. I hope that there is some very serious long-term consideration in moving this great program and PTA and then potentially disbanding it a year later after the reassignment plan. I imagine the Lowell idea would float better if there was some sort of "guarantee" for continuity for Montlake residents. Sigh.

This makes me so sad. My kids "pick up" our neighbors everyday and the four kids walk to and from school together. Kids grab each other for playdates all the time because we live around the corner from each other. We always run into school friends at the park, the library, the pub, the coffee shop, the community center--all within four blocks of our home.

dj said...

I am an APP parent, and I wouldn't be thrilled about moving Montlake into Lowell because I am hard-pressed to think about how you could better serve to magnify the PTA funding differences between schools within the same cluster. I am still pretty dismayed, as a relative Seattle newbie, that you have this in a public school system in the first place, but I don't quite understand why the goal isn't great schools with level funding for everyone, rather than tolerating funding and quality differences between schools so close you can walk from one to another in ten minutes.

reader said...

DJ

When this matter has been raised with the Superintendent, she has stated that it is a matter for the PTA Council to take up. I agree with you. The differences are creating the equivalent of private schools in our public school district and Central Office has zero clout over the the schools with the big fundraising capacities.

These, of course, are also the disabilities free zones in the district.

BL said...

First off, I agree with the concensus that school closures before before the new assignment plan is the cart pulling the horse.

Second, the notion of closing Montlake and moving the program and students to Lowell seems convoluted and creates new transportation costs.

Lowell could remain 1/2 APP, special ed, and gen ed reference school with a boundary line further west than Stevens current line, offering relief to the undercapacity issue for QA/Magnolia as well as what I understand to be an undercapacity issue for Stevens. It could also replace BF Day as the dual-cluster offering to QA/ Magnolia.

Anonymous said...

The Superintendant's assertion that the school district has no control over the spending of PTA's doesn't pass the laugh test. The district could simply set a policy that prohibits principals from excepting outside funds raised by the PTA unless x percent of the funds raised are contributed to a general fund to be dispersed among all schools or among nearby schools with lower fundraising bases. Presto--more equity.

Charlie Mas said...

I always presumed that when people said "move Montlake to Lowell" it was shorthand for "close Montlake and re-draw the reference areas in the Central Cluster to remove the Montlake reference area and create one for Lowell". This would, of course, shift the Stevens reference area north to cover the current Montlake reference area and create the Lowell reference area in the western parts of the Montlake reference area and the southern and western parts of the Stevens reference area.

Of course, the students currently at Montlake would have to go somewhere, and that would be Lowell. It would strictly be transitional because new students rising in that area would be in the Stevens reference area.

An alternative - one which would not make much sense to the district, but would make sense to everyone living in the Central Cluster - would be to leave the Montlake community where they are, and have the Lowell reference area reach south towards T T Minor.

Bring the 206 T T Minor students into Lowell and you will have the socio-economic and ethnic mix the District wants (more so than from bringing Montlake to Lowell). It would also disturb fewer communities. Too few.

The problem with the Lowell/TT Minor mix is that it does not eliminate enough excess seats. The District would have to close another Central Cluster elementary. By process of elimination, that would be either Thurgood Marshall or Leschi.

Perhaps the best solution would be to do both. To close Montlake without pulling all of the reference areas north. How? Re-classify Seward as a neighborhood reference area school and give it a significant portion of the Montlake reference area (maybe part of Stevens', too). I recognize that the freeway makes it tricky for students on Capitol Hill to walk to Seward - even if they are close - but that's a place for some creativity or at least a crossing guard.

I cannot predict how the TOPS community would react to such a proposal. I'm sure that they would be very concerned for their diversity and the resulting changes in their community. It would also leave the Central Cluster without an alternative school option. It is possible that the Montlake reference area would only half-fill Seward, so it could be half reference and half all-cluster draw.

Another possibility would be to offer the Thurgood Marshall building as the home of a new alternative program to be selected from proposals. Perhaps it could be the new home of the African-American Academy - reconstituted as a K-5. That could be decided now or it could be put in competition with other proposals.

So, to sum up: Seward becomes half all cluster draw alternative and half neighborhood reference school taking the Montlake reference area. Montlake is closed. Lowell gets most of the TT Minor neighborhood reference area and brings those students in with the north-end APP and the special education students who all stay. Thurgood Marshall becomes an alternative school, possibly the African-American Academy reconstituted as a K-5.

Then I think we all hold hands in a circle, sway from side to side, and sing Kum Ba Yah.

Charlie Mas said...

The District ABSOLUTELY can control all of the money coming into any of the schools.

That said, there is as much or more money coming into schools with students from low-income homes than coming into schools with students from affluent homes. The Compensatory Education funding is significantly greater that all but a couple - if any - PTA's can raise.

The question is: what are the schools doing with this money?

It's easy to see the extras funded by PTA money. Where are the extras funded by compensatory education money? Is it ALL in lower class sizes? Is it spent on literacy and math coaches? Does it go into professional development for the teachers? Why isn't some of it used to fund enrichment efforts the way PTA money is spent?

When you ask the District about what they are doing to close the academic achievement gap and get all students working at grade level, they will invariably point to professional development efforts, including literacy and math coaches. In other words, they are spending a lot of money on teaching the teachers. I, for one, would much rather see them spend that money on teaching the students. I think no literacy or math coach should EVER be more than two years out of a classroom. I think it would be GREAT if the literacy and math coaches at a school were used as substitutes whenever a teacher is out. Not only would it save on substitutes, but it would give the coach some real world, hands-on practice and experience and it would give the students access to our best teachers. These people are certified to teach, they are in the building, and they already know the students and at least part of the lesson plan because they have been coaching the teacher.

Tell me why we aren't doing this. It would save money AND improve education AND keep the coaches sharp.

seattle citizen said...

re PTA fundraising:
It is my understanding that while some schools do very well with fundraising (up to maybe $200,000 per year, this is somewhat offset by extra funds/services that go to some high "free and reduced lunch" schools - schools identified as having needs, district or federal, get extra funds.
Additionally, while $200,000 isn't chump change, given operational budgets of 2-3 million, it's not a huge percentage.
That said, I think what the fundraising demonstrates is an active parent/guardian/community group: THIS is what's REALLY valuable. Spreading the money raised by fundraising around won't spread this around. Can this be diffused throughout the district, this volunteer effort?

Sahila said...

How are you going to spread fundraising/volunteer effort around the District? Ask parents to fundraise/volunteer at schools other than their own?

Its a socio-economic problem, not a problem of some parents in osme schools and communities being more conscientious and enthusiastic about supporting their kids and school...

According to District stats for example, T/C has 4% of its population where students are living in households without both parents. For AS#1, that figure is not far from 50%...

If almost half of your school population is made up of single-parent families, where the adults are doing the job of two parents, where is the person-power to spend hours and hours volunteering and raising money?

The labour force isnt there, and given that single-parent families are generally less well off financially, the extra money isnt there either...

So, this becomes an equity issue - do the poor kids have to do without because their families arent on the same place on the resource spectrum as the rich kids?

And there's no way that extra govt funding through the Free Lunch qualifier closes the gap between rich and poor schools...

Its time this society tackled this issue...

Melissa Westbrook said...

The transportation costs to send Montlake to Lowell would be less than what the transportation is going to cost to bus APP kids to both Hawthrone and Marshall. A lot less.

I addressed the "neighborhood" school issue in an e-mail to the Board. Look, we have too many buildings for too few students. We are now embarking on closing more buildings which has to be done. What the district needs to say, and right now, is while the new assignment plan is going to try to have a focus of neighborhood schools, with school closures it is not going to be possible for every neighborhood to have a neighborhood school.

Closures and neighborhood schools don't compute. Something has to give.

I'm sure that Montlake students would get a grandfather clause in the new assignment plan to stay at Lowell OR go to Stevens if they choose. The closed buildings generally get a first choice push.

Charlie, you have so many ideas - such a busy brain.

I have always thought TOPS should be a reference school because of the lack of seats for the Eastlake area which has NO reference school. No matter what, I'm sure under the new assignment plan that TOPS will not get the same reference area and will likely draw from a smaller area.

jason said...

I wanted to comment on the Montlake people saying others were "throwing them under the bus." Please remember what the community meetings are. They are a room full of mostly ignorant (myself more than included) people coming up with "better" ideas than the school district did. We came up will all sorts of ideas, and remember Montlake looks pretty bad on paper, but didn't know the ins and outs of anything. All of our great ideas died when someone from the district sat at our table and told us that all we came up with is a bunch of bad ideas.

I guess it's good the district has these meetings, but most of the ideas we came up with will be thrown out because they are "non-starters" for various reasons. You are trying to move groups of kids around and save the most money, but the general public just isn't expert enough of the ins and outs of the district. The person from the district who sat with us seemed very knowledgeable and told us specifics about why things couldn't work the way we wanted. I didn't know enough about many of the programs to question her reasoning.

This is a long way of saying that I think the community meetings are a show for the public to make them feel involved. I think they lead to some anger, though, because of course you're going to find other schools to close. That's what you're there for.

jd said...

You know how a lot of democrats felt about Nate Silver (at fivethirtyeight.com) during the election?

That's how I feel about Charlie during school closure season.

SolvayGirl said...

I agree with Sahila on the issue of school funding.

There's so much more to it than money. Schools with higher rates of low-income students do get additional money form the District, but that money goes to a variety of things that aren't academic enrichment.

When we were at Graham Hill, the FRL was about 60%. The additional money that came in helped pay for a full-time counselor (much needed), a part-time psychologist and a full-time family support worker. Though all of those positions definitely helped the learning process by helping kids and their families cope, they did nothing to reduce class size, or add in art or language.

The Montessori Program at GH brought in a number of middle and upper-income families who had the time and ability to fundraise and with a group from the traditional program, create a strong PTA. We developed FR programs that everyone could participate in (catalog sales do well) and managed to bring in about $35,000/yr. We did a lot of grant-writing (that resulted in a $400,000 playground renovation).

The resulting funds provided a variety of things for ALL of the school--everything from field trip buses to the Powerful Writers Program to artists in residence. The school is now thriving and was awarded a School of Excellence for its academic work across programs.

As I noted on previous threads and in Harium's blog, "choice" has led to segregation of schools. Savvy parents enroll their children in the best school they can, creating a vicious cycle of declining schools in some neighborhoods and ultra-popular schools in others. Though this is most prevalent in the south and central areas, it happens in the northend too.

Since most of our neighborhoods are relatively diverse (at least socio-economically) our schools should be able to reflect that diversity and thus be more equitable. Unfortunately, the system has stacked the deck against the less desirable schools, so voluntary assignment will not happen. I know I am not willing to be the only, or one of just a few, to try and pump up a failing school. Without a firm assignment plan and a commitment to make the schools more equitable (in both staff quality, course offerings, rigor and level of expectations), we will never solve the problems faced by our District.

I disagree with Melissa in part. There are definitely under-enrolled schools, but there are also over-enrolled schools and far too many district students attending private or out-of-district schools. If the District were to enforce a neighborhood assignment plan that offered a few alternative choices in EACH quadrant (coupled with a commitment to quality in each school), we may not have as much of a discrepancy in capacity.

In the end, some schools may definitely need to be closed, but the list might be very different if most of the kids went to school close to home. At the least, we need to be working for this, rather than trying to move the chess pieces around.

anonymous said...

Buildings have to be closed. Too few students for too many buildings. I agree with that 100%. But....why close Montlake a school that is full to capacity with a wait list? A school that is performing way above standard and doing well by all accounts? A true neighborhood school that so many kids walk to. Montlake is small but it is large enough to serve all of the kids in the Montlake community. So, while it is small, maybe it's not too small? Maybe it serves it's purpose.

We have so many schools that are not performing. That are not popular. That nobody wants to send their kids to. That are severely under enrolled. Why not focus on those schools? Why disturb a successful program?

I know Montlake is a small school. I know the building is not in great shape. I know it is in disrepair. But I would like to see the district do what they should have been doing all along.....repair and maintain the building. Use some of that BEX money for Montlake. I know they can't rebuild it. I know the cost per pupil is expensive in a small school, but hey, I think many citizens would be happy to see their tax dollars used to preserve a great school and thriving community.

anonymous said...

And Solvaygirl, I very much agree with you. Until we figure out exactly the assignment plan, it is futile to randomly close school buildings, and draw hypothetical reference areas and boundaries. Better to play to Monopoly to occupy your time. We need to overhaul the assignment plan, not tweek it. We need to bring kids back to their neighborhoods. In other words we need to rebuild the system. Only then can we really know which buildings to close.

And unless there is some pretty creative redistribution of special programs, if kids stay closer to home with a new assignment plan, we might be looking at closing Hamilton and Ingraham instead of RBHS and ???

TechyMom said...

I also think we need to question the assumption that a lot is too small to build a bigger school. Where is the rule that says you can't have a 5 story elementary school on a small lot? Whose rule is it? Can it be waived? Has anyone asked?

If you added a story or two, couldn't you fit another 150 kids into Montlake, making that high quality program available to more kids? Then, you could close one of the under-performing schools in the Central cluster.

another mom said...

Has anyone suggested turning Rainier Beach into a 6-12? Does Rainier Beach need to close as a high school in order to accommodate Aki Kurose? It may be not doable because of the need for more middle school capacity in SE. But again without the new assingment plan and knowledge of the new reference areas it is all just a guessing game. I have a hard time believing that Rainier Beach will be closed during this round.

anonymous said...

And for the Montlake families. If the district does follow the notion of closing or moving Montlake due to it's small size, here are some figures for you. There are many small schools in this district, some much smaller than Montlake.

Montlake serves 237 students.

South Lake High school serves 137.

Middle College High Sschool serves 177.

Indian Heritage high School serves 177.

Olympic Hills elementary serves 205

TT Minor elementary serves 206 kids

Northgate elementary serves 210

Hawthorne elementary serves 240

McGilvra elementary serves 250

Roxhill elementary serves 257

Thurgood Marshall elementary serves 264

Leschi with 274

Center School(high school) serves 276 students

West Seattle elementary serves 284

Nova HS serves 293 students.

Sanislo elementary serves 297

Gatzert elementary serves 298

SolvayGirl said...

Adhoc...
Can you revise that list with each school's corresponding building capacity? There's a big difference between 273 kids in a building that holds 300 and 273 kids in a building that hold 900+. Thanks for being a data wonk—much appreciated!!!

another mom...
The kids are here in the RBHS and AKI reference area. Many I know are traveling to other schools:

For middle school they are at TOPS, Asa Mercer, Hamilton, McClure, Washington, private schools and Mercer Island schools.

For high school, they are at Ingram, Sealth, Franklin, Garfield, NOVA, Center School, private schools and Mercer Island School.

I am sure there are others sprinkled around the District. The majority of families who have the ability to work the system, provide transportation, and/or afford private school (or qualify for financial aid) do whatever they can to avoid RBHS and Aki Kurose.

If the district could improve the offerings and atmosphere of those schools, most of us would choose to stay in our neighborhood. There is no reason that RBHS could not be an equal to Garfield or Roosevelt.

Roy Smith said...

According to this map, 1,840 high school students live closer to RBHS than to any other high school. On this map, it shows that 1,877 middle school students live closer to Aki Kurose than any other middle school.

If either of these schools is closed, it will be nearly impossible to buy the idea that SPS is serious about reducing transportation costs or about getting more students to attend their neighborhood school. SPS needs to fix these schools and dispel the notion that the right way to get students an education is to put them on a bus and send them north. Perhaps the SE initiative needs to be hugely expanded.

Central Mom said...

TechyMom,
I believe it is state requirements about size, combined w/ Montlake's zoning, that makes a rebuild of its school (to hold additional students) at its location problematic. Could both items be addressed and waived/modified? That would take a whole lot of coordination between the Montlake neighborhood, the district, the city and the state. Outcome highly uncertain, esp. given the lack of history of all parties banding together to provide innovative solutions for our public school children.

SolvayGirl said...

I want to note as an addendum to my prior post. The families who shun RBHS and Aki come from all economic backgrounds and racial/ethinc mixes (very representative of the 98118 zipcode). I know immigrant families, microsofties and everything in between who look for other options. So it's not just white and/or middle/upper-income families who look elsewhere. It's anyone who desires a quality education for their child and recognizes the major challenges at our local offerings.

another mom said...

"If the district could improve the offerings and atmosphere of those schools, most of us would choose to stay in our neighborhood. There is no reason that RBHS could not be an equal to Garfield or Roosevelt."

SovayGirl, I agree with you 100%. When I looked at the 2008-09 enrollment and school choice data, I was appalled. GHS& Roosevelt, are way oversubscribed. Ballard to a lesser extent. If I lived in SE, I would be doing the exact same thing as most SE parents, that is finding a quality school out of my neighborhood. The district owes it to the S and SE to rebuild the academic offerings at the middle and high schools. The families are there and they need to be served.Families in the S & SE are no less committed to their children's education than any other area of town. I did not mean to offend at all. Because there are so many families that live in the S. SE, I don't think it is a good idea to close RBHS. Maybe it could close for one year,undergo an academic make-over,and then reopen the following year. This would take a tremendous amount of work, time, and marketing to pull it off.

rugles said...

"Marketing.... But this would be the easiest and fastest way to get more money into our district....
closing the Montlake building and moving their program to Lowell is a good idea."

Sorry Charlie, but I fail to see how closing a popular, high performing school is good marketing. Unless you mean marketing for private schools.

"Montlake's building is not viable, will never be rebuilt and it's costing money to keep alive. It's probably in the top 5 of worst bulidings in the district."


Which clearly indicates to me that buildings are way overated. Except by Baugh, Skanska, Lydig et al.

"It would certainly solve a problem for the district AND create what would likely be a strong school."

Nothing is certain with the school district AND you would be closing a strong school.

I know you are in love with the idea but, pragmatically, I think it is a waste of time during this "unforseeable crisis" to be considering it.

SolvayGirl said...

another mom..,
I agree, it would take a major overhaul of the school with, at least, a new administration to make many of us comfortable there.

I keep recommending that the school build on its performing arts offering (quality teachers needed as well as course offerings), but I also envision the school as an Environmental Science Magnet. Lake Washington is just across the street. Pritchard Beach Wetlands and the Audubon Center at Seward Park are within walking distance. There is no other school that has this wealth on ecosystems so close by. I can't help but believe those two programs could draw a huge group of families. But, again, they would have to be high-quality with high expectations.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Okay to address the issue of district staff poo-pooing ideas from the public. Yes, most people either (a) don't have enough info and/or (b) haven't sussed out all the ripple effects. I certainly fall into the latter categories at times.

BUT, staff, particularly Facilities staff, have a master plan that exists only in their heads. They (and the academic side) have a reasoning only they know. They do NOT want to diverge from these plans. I give Dr. G-J some credit for stepping back from her original list seemingly in the face of some Board/public backlash. It takes courage to see how something might not fly with the public (but you also see, in the case of Summit, her answer is to summarily close it
not find it a new home).

It is likely that staff have run through multiple scenarios and dismissed them for good reasons OR their own reasons. But don't ever think your ideas are "bad" just because staff says so. I can see it through their eyes; they are trying to do a job as professionally as they can and sometimes the public is in their way. However, I have seen great ideas passed by because it just wasn't in "the plan".


For example, it seems clear that APP at Lowell, as a program, is open to anyone. It doesn't matter where you live; you can apply and be tested and be accepted. This would be true no matter where this program is located. So the guideline for equity and access is true in this case already. If they feel there is not enough diversity, that fault lies with the district and not the school. (But, I do know, for a fact, that the director, Bob Vaughn, has bent over backwards to try to get schools to pass on info about Advanced Learning, gone out to schools, called parents whose children test high on the WASL, etc. I'd be hard pressed to know what more to do with limited funds other than universal testing.)

So the district is splitting this program in a search for both equity and access (by placing both pieces in underenrolled, mostly minority schools) on the hope that the regular ed kids (and their parents) will see the program and possibly test and enroll themselves? Maybe but there's no guarantee that will happen.

As for the argument of why should we move a high performing program like Montlake, well, why move APP? Its building is higher rated than Montlake, its building is much larger and fully enrolled than Montlake's (which wouldn't even have the population it has except for portables which the district has stated, numerous times, that they are against.)

I am not going after Montlake. They are fine progam. But the district said every school is part of this action.

I do have a growing suspicion that much of this APP move is about PTA fundraising and parent involvement that may not be at Hawthorne and/or T.Marshall and this district wants to shore up those schools. Putting in a large population of students with a solid parent base would do that. But is that really following the guidelines? That's iffy to me.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Rugles, I think you were quoting me and I don't want Charlie to take the heat for something I said.

another mom said...

This is a little off topic here but GHS and Roosevelt garnered about 46% of first choices for the 2008-09 9th grade class. When Ballard is added it jumps to well over 50%.
The information is available:
http://www.seattleschools.org/area/eso/hist_enr_final0809.pdf

Central Mom said...

Melissa, to your point about one goal of breaking up APP being about shoring up other schools...MGJ appears to being saying so herself on the thread she just completed on the Seattle Times site.

"In the interest of getting to what I perceive as the most central questions, I am going to respond to a couple of your main points. The existing program will remain, we will be creating a new comprehensive accelerated program that offers two programs of study, APP and ALO (advanced learning opportunities). This will include expert leadership and a program design team to ensure a high quality program. I strongly believe that parent involvement makes a huge impact on school and student achievment. There is research to support my statement. When parents commit together as a cohort to send their students to neighborhood schools, it makes a positive impact on student achievement. We have great examples within our system."...

Charlie Mas said...

Sahila writes:
"And there's no way that extra govt funding through the Free Lunch qualifier closes the gap between rich and poor schools..."

Is this a reference to money, or to things that money cannot buy?

If it is a reference to money, then I wonder if it is written from an informed perspective. Does Sahila know how much extra funding comes into schools as Compensatory Education dollars? It is hundreds of thousands of dollars per school. It is commonly more than any of our schools can raise.

If it is a reference to things that money cannot buy, then I agree, but I cannot offer a solution. It doesn't actually work out that well when well-meaning citizens come and volunteer at low-income schools. It is a tricky dynamic that usually ends with everyone feeling resentment of one kind or another.

I got busy in the brain and this is what came. The solution for the Central Cluster that occurs to me is for Seward to increase from 25% neighborhood enrollment to 50% or 75% and take over most of what is now the Montlake reference area. Stevens' reference area skootches a bit north to cover some elements of the Montlake zone that Seward cannot accomodate and to make room for the space right around Lowell. Lowell keeps the south-end elementary APP students and the special education students and adds a neighborhood program drawn from the blocks right around the school and as much of the T T Minor reference area that will fit.

This would give the Montlake community a school within their neighborhood - or at least within their current reference area. The freeway does create a barrier to walking, but maybe posting some crossing guards will address that.

This would diminish the diversity of TOPS and might dilute the school's culture a bit, but I think they can handle both of those consequences. I don't imagine the Montlake community will have any trouble adopting the TOPS culture and the school will remain about 25% all cluster draw, but couldn't draw from the South Cluster. This will cut transportation costs.

Stevens would not be much changed, at least no more than might be expected when all of the reference areas change.

The north-end elementary APP students are moved to B. F. Day. The south-end elementary APP students and special education students stay at Lowell. Lowell is so big that even with the special education students it has more room for a general education program than Thurgood Marshall with half of APP. The addition of the general education program allows the Special Education students to remain - sparing them an unnecessary transition and sparing the District the expense of re-creating their equipment. By having the Lowell reference area reach primarily to the south, the District gets the mix of students they were looking for.

I'm not sure if that will take up all of the excess seats in the Central Cluster. If more remain then the District can re-locate a re-constituted K-5 African American Academy at Thurgood Marshall. T. Marshall is well-located between arterials and is very close to the South Cluster.

I don't think anyone would be thrilled by this solution, but it does give people what they claim to want: Montlake gets a neighborhood school, Stevens gets largely undisturbed, Lowell gets a mix of students and keeps the Special Education program, the District closes expensive buildings in poor condition, and, possibly, we save the K-5 part of the AAA that wasn't working too badly.

If you think about it, although this sounds like a lot of shifts, none of them are very far. The longest ones are half of elementary APP to B. F. Day and the AAA to Thurgood Marshall. Montlake's shift is short, Stevens has none, and T T Minor's is short. It takes half of an alternative school out of the Central Cluster (TOPS) but it also puts one in (AAA).

Obviously the Seward building will be very crowded for a while. It's already full and it will have to add the Montlake students. We'll need to work around that.

I didn't understand jd's reference so I googled Nate Silver, and currently believe I've been complimented. Don't anyone tell me if it was really intended as an insult.

We all want every school to be a quality school, but that's tricky because it isn't something that the District can mandate and it isn't something that the District can fund. A quality school begins with a school culture that expresses a high value for education, for achievement, for personal responsibility, for community, and for compassion. That culture is set by the school leadership. After that, it requires a steady hand balancing the funding between competing interests. It would be easier if the state provided the ample funding which is their paramount duty, and it wouldn't rely on PTA donations so much. I definitely think that schools should not be allowed to use non-competitive grants (PTA money) for basic education expenses (teachers and textbooks). That is contrary to the intent of Washington State Law and it's blatantly inequitable.

There are a lot of middle and high school students in the south-end, but their families will not enroll them at Aki Kurose or Rainier Beach High School. The primary focus of the Southeast Initiative was to make these schools into schools of choice. There was some mission-creep, however, and the project lost that focus. To my knowledge, at no time did anyone ever survey the community to ask "What would have to be at Rainier Beach to make you choose it?" To the best of my knowledge, there has been no meaningful effort to promote the south-end schools. To the best of my knowledge, there has been no effort to attract the sort of students who are now going north for their education. How in the world did the District get the idea that these families were craving a performing arts focus? There is no such focus in the schools they choose in the north-end.

Close Aki Kurose. Create a new middle school in the South Shore building. Put The New School in the AAA and leave Van Asselt where it is. Van Asselt cannot begin to fill the AAA. Close Rainier Beach and open Lincoln as the new home of Summit and a 1,000 seat comprehensive high school. To make space in the south-end for the 400 high school students from Rainier Beach, move high school APP to Lincoln.

Then, take some time and think. Take some time and talk to people. Take some time and put together a team. When you know how to build a high quality middle school and a high quality high school that the local families will choose for their children, re-open Aki Kurose and re-open Rainier Beach.

If it makes people feel better, say that the comprehensive high school at Lincoln is Rainier Beach. Pretend that you're renovating the building for two years and the school needs to be at an interim location. Only instead of renovating the facility, you'll be renovating the school culture, the programs, the staff, and the course offerings.

Ben said...

@Melissa, 11:43

I still don't understand how splitting APP in half and moving the halves to two schools will result in an expansion of the program. There won't be room to expand APP at Marshall and Hawthorne.

Moreover, MG-J is talking about an overhaul of Marshall and Hawthorne to facilitate APP moving in? I would like to know more about that.

The one equity issue that would make sense to me is something I have seen no numbers on: Minority families who test into APP, but who decide that Lowell isn't the right place for them, but who would say otherwise if Marshall and Hawthorne were APP sites.

Central Mom said...

Charlie, a comment on your TOPS proposal. TOPS doesn't take a 25% community enrollment right now. It takes 20% of the incoming kindergarten class (only)from the surrounding community. That's 4-6 seats.

The program has been around for only a couple years now, so the community 20% hasn't moved through all grades.

Like all solutions, this one isn't perfect. Both Eastlake, Roanoke Park and TOPS had to compromise, and no community got its full desire. That said, this compromise seems to be working pretty well. (Although the number of small children in Eastlake and Roanoke Park seem to be increasing.)

It's a big leap from this compromise to moving all of Montlake into the school. That's one of the reasons this proposal met with strong resistance a few years ago.

There is also no way to grandfather in current TOPS students and move all of the Montlake students into the building. Like Montlake, the campus is constrained (no place for portables) and the building's classrooms are fully utilized.

As the NE cluster is realizing, dealing w/ capacity issues in a manner most-fair to all communities is a very complex problem, even when all parties are well-intentioned. That's why this blog is excellent. It's a great place to brainstorm (as long as folks stay respectful).

zb said...

"Is this a reference to money, or to things that money cannot buy?"

I've always found bizarre the comment that the Fed funds (or Title yy or whatever they're called) for schools with high numbers of economically disadvantaged students balanced private fundraising.

Extra funds are provided to those schools because we (as taxpayers) recognize that the economically disadvantaged students have "extra" (or "special"?) needs. (and, some of those needs can be addressed with money).

The government agrees to buy wheelchairs for children without legs. That in no way is morally balanced by buying trumpets for children who'd like to play them (with private funds).

another mom said...

Charlie, I like your out of the box approach with regards to R.B. and Aki. In a previous post I suggested combining Aki and R.B. at R.B. Apparently that will not work per Dr. G-J. In response to a question in the Times Q & A session, the Super indicated that a merge of R.B. and Aki was not possible due to the number of middle school seats that would be taken off-line.

On another front, I remain very leary with the rationale for carving-up APP. In the responses to today's Times Q&A, Dr G-J cites the Special Ed. population, & the spreading of parent wealth(so to speak).But I have yet to see the educational reasons. If the APP elementary is split,why not do the same at the middle and high school? I am not trying to be contrary here. Just making the next leap of logic.

This may have been suggested, but if it is split: half of APP remains at Lowell with Montlake and Spec. Ed. and half at TT Minor with k-3 Montesorri and neighborhood with an ALO. The distance between the two halves of the APP is then minimized and might allow for better collaboration between the sites. It also does not displace the previously displaced from the closed M.L.King. Just a thought.

The other point that I want to add is, that there is no guarantee that students will be found eligible for APP proportionately by grades north and south. There may be years when 3/4ths are from one part of town or the others. Having the two halves of the program at least geographically close would help in this circumstance.

Sahila said...

zb said:
"I've always found bizarre the comment that the Fed funds (or Title yy or whatever they're called) for schools with high numbers of economically disadvantaged students balanced private fundraising."

I was thinking this very thing while I took my son to school...

We hang out with a family which has two sons, one 5 yr old and the other 7 ... both very, very bright boys... the younger one is high functioning autistic...

The parents do whatever they can (which, relatively speaking, is a lot) to give each child every opportunity to learn and grow - lots of experiences, classes, camps, fun activities etc...

Nevertheless, a significantly larger proportion of their time and resources goes to their younger child - he's had access to extensive services and intensive individual and group therapies over the past three years and now he's doing amazingly well at a public montessori kindergarten, has leaped ahead and it would be hard to tell from outward appearances that he has autism...

This child had his needs met, at whatever the cost necessary, and with that foundation he has flourished, he's growing into his full potential...

Despite the apparent inequity in funding and time spent on him, the older brother hasnt suffered any lack...

Isnt this what a caring, compassionate, equity-focused society does - share out the resources according to need, so that every member of the community can grow into their full potential?

And isnt it in our own economic (and social) interest to do that, so that we as a society might in turn benefit from whatever gifts that fully-potentiated individual brings back to us?

And if that is the philosophical basis for our society, then why the difficulty in eradicating the gap between rich and poor schools and the kids who are their communities?

Dorothy Neville said...

Charlie, a comment on your TOPS proposal. TOPS doesn't take a 25% community enrollment right now. It takes 20% of the incoming kindergarten class (only)from the surrounding community. That's 4-6 seats.

The program has been around for only a couple years now, so the community 20% hasn't moved through all grades.


Do older siblings of these kindergarteners get in as well? The same year or the following year? How about twins? Perhaps the twin issue hasn't come up yet though.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Somewhat on the same note (but not about closures), I did ask Tracy Libros, at some point, about the so-called lottery seats that the new assignment plan may offer at the high school level. I asked if a student got in on a lottery seat, could siblings follow? She said that was under discussion. My feeling is, no, because it was almost like winning a raffle ticket. If we went the sibling route with lottery seats, we'd rapidly have many kids at schools not living in the reference area and thus be back where we are now.

SE Mom said...

Melissa -

Did Tracy provide any information on the number of lottery or choice seats for high schools or other details? Is Tracy calling them "lottery" seats now? The last I heard they had not decided if the choice seats would be determined by lottery or by tiebreakers such as distance.

anonymous said...

It was pointed out that the upper middle class and affluent schools with all of their fund raising dollars do not come out financially ahead of the low income schools that have little fund raising, but receive much larger amounts of funding from the district.

I didn't read anywhere in any post that families from middle class and affluent schools felt that this was unfair or unacceptable. I have heard no complaints what so ever about it.

However, despite the fact that lower income schools receive this extra funding, they still, for the most part, do not perform very well. It was suggested that perhaps this is because children from affluent families receive things that no amount of school funding can buy.

As far as funding goes the schools that really lose out are the schools that have a high percent of moderately middle class families. Often they do not qualify for the extra funding from the district, nor can they afford to fund raise significant amounts.

TechyMom said...

Charlie, I often like your ideas on moving the puzzel pieces around, but this one, not so much. Combining TOPS and Montlake would send this particular Central cluster parent running directly to private school.

The problem in Central is not that we have too many seats. There's a baby boom in the north part of the central cluster just like in the north end. The problem is that we have too few seats in quality programs, and so too many parents choose private school. There are 10 or 12 private schools in the Central cluster (and I'm only counting the ones that offer K). I recently attended an open house at Bertchi, where there were close to 200 families looking at 8 seats in K at $18K a pop. Tours at the other private schools are similarly crowded.

The standards I'm using for picking a K next year include a well-rounded program, academic rigor, an environment that is not overly strict or "locked down", and a student body that is at least 1/3 middle-class. Diversity and a nearby location are nice-to-have, but not requirements. By these standards, there are 4 good public schools (TOPS, Montlake, McGilvra, Stevens), 1 ok (TT Minor), and 3 bad (T. Marshall, Madrona, Gazert).

The current plan already closes the OK school, though I'm hoping that moving the Montessori to Leschi will make it an OK school. My options have already narrowed.

Charlie's proposal closes one good school and reduces my access to another, narrowing my options further, and making my chances of getting into an acceptable public school feel like buying a lottery ticket. I'm already applying to both public and private, and this might just tip it far enough that I don't even bother filling in the form for public.

What is needed to address the issues in Central is to add quality programs to the 3 "bad" schools. I'd start with Madrona, because it is a nice, big building in a neighborhood with a very diverse population both racially and economically. It's bizarre to me that this school doesn't reflect its diverse and accepting neighborhood. It's in step 4 of NCLB, so something will have to be done with it anyway next year. What would fix Madrona? I can see two options that could be done this year: Move Summit there, or replace the principal with one who believes in serving the neighborhood families, adding art, music, and foreign language classes, and recess.

APP at Marshall might draw more local families, but as Charlie and others have pointed out, there won't be much room for them. I'd leave Lowell alone. There seems to be no reason to mess with this successful program. I'd also leave TOPS, Montlake, and McGivlra alone, and perhaps look at buying nearby property to expand these schools. Private schools do this all the time, expanding into a warren of nearby houses.

I'd move Spectrum from Leschi to T. Marshall instead of APP, and create ALOs to go with it. I'm assuming based on the APP plan, that the principal there is interested in having an advanced learning population. I'd also add art, music, and/or language, and get rid of the uniforms and "silent passing".

I'd add a language immersion program to Gazert. French? German? Russian?

If we did these things, suddenly, there would be lots of interesting options to draw middle and upper class central families back to the local public schools. The kids who don't get into TOPS, Montlake, McGilvra, Stevens and Montessori, would get into a quality neighborhood program at Madrona, Language immersion, or an advanced learning school instead. The kids whose parents don't even bother to fill in the form, might take a look at one of these programs. Each school would get an influx of parents with time and money to dedicate to "extras".

Closing and merging the popular schools is not what Central needs. It will just cause more families to flee. Improving the unpopular schools, so that they look like a good option to families that have reluctantly chosen private schools is what Central needs.

Central Mom said...

Tech Mom...
That was a great post re: the Central District issues. Might I suggest that you also post it on Harium's blog as this particular discussion is happening in both forums?

anonymous said...

Charlie, are you proposing assigning reference area kids to TOPS? Isn't TOPS an alternative school? Am I missing something? Why would you assign any family to an alternative school? Or did I mis understand your intent?

I don't think any alternative school would like to have families that do not buy into their alternative philosophy assigned to their school. Alt ed is a buy in type approach to schooling.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I told Tracy that Director DeBell had used a number like 10% which made me gasp (give up 100+ seats at Roosevelt - that would be interesting). But that was off the cuff and off the top of his head. I told Tracy and she said it wasn't her decision. I had always heard them called lottery seats. I do not know if the tiebreakers would come first or lottery seats. It's all speculation until they actually get down to it.

TechyMom, I like your optimism. I hardly know where to start. The district buy land? Very, very unlikely. McGilvra has space to expand (and I had hoped they or Laurelhurst would have been on BEX III but no such luck)so they could. (By the way, someone asked about a 5-story elementary school. Anyone ever seen one of these things lately? There's fire code regs; I doubt it can be done.)

I suspect TOPS' will change somewhat and not be as much a regional draw and thus allowing more Eastlake kids a neighborhood school under a new assignment plan. I would think to save money the district would only have APP and Summit as all city draws with transportation.

French or German or Russian? Really? French maybe but Spanish or some form of Chinese seem more likely. (German? I'm not even sure any of the high schools each German. The most exotic one is likely to be Latin.)

"Each school would get an influx of parents with time and money to dedicate to "extras"."

And I think that's just what Dr. Goodloe-Johnson is banking on. Interesting that it's parents who are the solution and not the educators and administrators.

TechyMom said...

I agree that the administrators, and not the parents, should be funding extras. I aslo beleive that you need a critical mass of middle class families with time and money to dedicate to the school in order to make the school a community. I read about a study awhile ago that said that low-income and at risk kids did a lot better in schools with a critical mass of middle class kids, and that the middle class kids didn't do worse. So, on that part, I guess I agree to a certain extent with the Sup. I don't think that APP is the right group to do this, and I don't think that forced mergers are the best way. Programs that draw in different students do seem to work: Montessori at TT Minor and Graham Hill, IB at Ingraham and Sealth, Language Immersion at JSIS and Beacon Hill. I would choose any of these if it were in my neighborhood (Montessori at Leschi will be on my K list next year). I haven't heard much complaining about having "two schools" or a "little white college" at these schools, where I have heard a lot of this about APP at Madrona, Garfield, and Washington.

Oh, and I chose French, German and Russian because other immersion schools already offer Spanish, Japanese, and Mandarin. There are 2 French private schools on the east side, so there seems to be a market. There are also a lot of Russians in Seattle, though most live up north, so Northgate would probably be a better place for Russian Dual Immersion than Gazert. But, honestly, any language would do.

SolvayGirl said...

Techy Mom...
I too am hedging my bets between public and private (though at the high school level). One big problem though..the closure mess has pushed SPS enrollment ahead more than a month with the student assignment notices not coming out until the end of May. By then, anyone who is unsure of getting their desired public assignment (or even one of a handful of desirable schools) will need to commit to a private school if their default assignment may be unacceptable. Most expect contracts signed in April; some want first month's tuition in May.

Personally, I am furious that I live in a progressive, highly-educated city and pay high taxes, but because of my geographic location do not have good high school (or middle school) options for my child. All of this moving around of pawns on the chessboard will do nothing to create better programs in the less-than-desirable schools. Until Seattle Public Schools works to create schools that serve everyone without having to bus them all over town, these problems will be never-ending.

And to those who keep talking about how much additional funding goes to Title 1 schools and how that makes up for the lack of fundraising...
My daughter attended a school that had Title 1 status for most of her elementary years. Yes, they get extra funding, but as I have noted ad nauseum: that extra funding gets eaten up by school counselors, family support workers, ESL specialists, reading specialists, tutors, etc. It DOES NOT provide art classes, music, language...or any of the other extras that are often purchased through PTA-funding. Luckily, we had a program that attracted middle-income families to fill about a third of the school (in my mind, the critical mass to make it work) and thus raise funds to provide many of those extras to the school.

Even if all of this turmoil shakes out somehow in our family's favor (a miracle), I will have a hard time feeling secure in the District's choices. Will we be right back here next year after the new assignment plan is released? Will everyone be arguing about where the lines should be drawn? Which elementaries feed into which middle schools, that feed into which high schools? As long as there is such disparity between the schools in ONE district, there will be unhappy "customers" of SPS.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Solvaygirl for reminding us that the real tragedy here is that we live in a wealthy allegedly progressive state that refuses to provide a complete quality school experience to its public school students. The obvious solution to the current crisis is the same as the solution to the underlying problems: a 1 or 2 % income tax on those making over $500,000 or $1 million with all the $ slated to public education. That, of course, will happen when pigs fly.

Roy Smith said...

Will we be right back here next year after the new assignment plan is released? Will everyone be arguing about where the lines should be drawn? Which elementaries feed into which middle schools, that feed into which high schools?

I will be astonished if the debates over how the new assignment plan will work, where the lines are drawn, and who gets access to what are not at least as acrimonious as the debate we are currently witnessing.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'd always stated to people that drawing assignment boundaries will make closures look like a kindergarten tea party. The assignment plan will affect everyone and therefore, many people will have a dog in the fight particularly if they have more than one student.

Charlie Mas said...

Thank you all for your suggested improvements to my version of the Central Cluster slide puzzle.

How's this?

North-end elementary APP to B.F. Day. This puts a cohort of viable size in the half of the city where the students live.

South-end elementary APP to Hawthorne. This puts a cohort of viable size in the half of the city where the students live.


Leave the special education students at Lowell to avoid an unnecessary transition for the students and the capital expense of re-creating their equipment. Add a 400 student general education program.

The District has already committed to closing T T Minor. I reckon this puts me 650 excess seats over the District's plan. So I propose that we re-purpose Thurgood Marshall as the African-American Academy K-5.

This still leaves me with about 250 excess seats and turns a sharp eye at Montlake. However - I propose that we leave Montlake open and try to fill those 250 seats with students now in private school.

If Lowell had a reference area it would cover a lot of ground where families are not confident of their access to their reference area school. It would also allow the Stevens reference area to shift and right-size, followed by Montlake and McGilvra. I think we could get to a map where every family on the north half of the Central Cluster could be confident of access to their neighborhood reference area school. I think that would pull an additional 42 students a year into our public schools, which translates into 252 additional students in the Central Cluster.

If it doesn't work, then we close Montlake. I reckon that will give the Montlake families an incentive to support the effort.

As TechyMom wrote: "there are 4 good public schools (TOPS, Montlake, McGilvra, Stevens), 1 ok (TT Minor), and 3 bad (T. Marshall, Madrona, Gazert)."

By keeping all four of the "good" schools open, replacing the program at one of the "bad" ones, and creating a new program at Lowell - which we can hope/expect to be good - that only leaves Leschi, Gatzert and Madrona in need of reform. The Montessori should help Leschi. Gatzert can find a way if they feel they need to. As for Madrona... if they do not change from within, then change will be imposed on them.

There are two ways to eliminate excess seats. One way is to close buildings. Another way is to fill them with students. We are doing plenty of the former; where is our effort on the latter?

Sue said...

You are all correct - you haven't seen anything yet. Wait until the budget cuts hit, wait until the assignment plan changes. Then we will see battles that make this look like a cakewalk.

I love the superintendent's comment on the Times discussion yesterday, that the private school families will be forced back in to public school and that she can attract middle class, active parents back into the district .. . I am not sure I see that happening at all. I think many more folks will go private - applications are at a high this year, DESPITE the economy, because people cannot count on Seattle Public Schools for their kids any more.

Just my opinion.

Roy Smith said...

I like the idea of moving the AAA K-5 into the central area. It has never made sense to me that the three all-city draw programs in SPS are all located at the extreme ends of the district.