December 17th School Board Meeting

See the Superintendent's Update slide presentation for details on the budget, high school closure, special education and functional capacity updates.

7:50 pm Meeting continues, but I'm signing off for the evening. See the West Seattle Blog for more details.

7:37 pm Functional Capacity Analysis; Brad Bernatek; reviewed process and timeline; talked again about "building walkthroughs." Final functional capacity done by January 13th. Elementary & K-8 process different than for secondary schools. Work done in consultation with principals to make sure fully understand spaces and uses. Existing portables are included in functional capacity.

7:33 pm Special Education update; Carla Santorno; special education student assignment information connected to closures will be released in the final capacity management recommendations on January 6th. In addition, we have really looked at making some changes based on our audit and students will be reassigned based on service delivery model and in conjunction with IEPs. Will continue to work with special education families to communicate about this.

7:25 pm Program Design Team concept; Carla Santorno; The purpose of a design team is to have a dedicated team charged with successful implementaiton of the new programs and identifying possible questions, concerns and solutions. Can't read rest of slide Carla is presenting. Look for it online later. Once final recommendations for closure are passed, we will start implementation of design teams.

Carr: What lessons learned from "Bricks and Mortar" team from 2 years ago? Santorno: This goes a step further with a more structured group. The design team structure will be based on final recommendations. Will make sure that will involve all affected schools and programs.

Martin-Morris: I'm a little concerned because it's a lot of teams. Assume we will have staff from Central Office working on this as well. 1) Will we have enough capacity in the Central Office to work with all these design teams? and 2) Are we going to use any of the resources outside of the School District (like universities) to bolster up that capacity? Santorno: haven't gotten into that detail, but it makes total sense to bring in university partners to help us with that design. G-J: there is a reality about what gets put on hold. Will not be able to do some of the work we are currently doing because priority will be making sure transitions go well. Santorno also talked about project management structure that will support this.

DeBell: Confidence of the public will be born out if families choose the schools that we would like them to choose. I believe that the work of the design teams will be critical in maintaining that public confidence. Who will be in charge of the design teams? G-J: haven't gotten that far yet. But will bring more details when final recommendations are made.

7:15 pm High School Closure Recommendation; Dr. G-J speaking in support of not closing a high school at this time. Wants to "align our work this spring with the implementation of the new Student Assignment Plan." "Need a thoughtful discussion about comprhehensive vs. small school vs. alternative school" Also probably 6 or 7 other bullets I couldn't get because she is going quickly. Assume she will post the slides on the web after this meeting.

Sundquist: deferring this question, but will consider this question throughout winter and spring, but will link with with assignment plan discussion so if decide to close a high school would be take effect 2010; is that right? G-J: yes.

DeBell: does this mean Center School will not close and Aki Kurose/RBHS merger will not happen in this round? G-J; that's correct. (lots of crowd applause)

Bass: What about Nova? G-J: still a part of preliminary recommendation. What about Summit K-12? What's good one for one is good for all. G-J: preliminary recommendation has not changed.

7:05 pm Superintendent's Update
- Budget: by Don Kennedy; repeat of information presented two weeks ago at Board meeting "just to get numbers back in front of you"; also presented timeline of budget process; elimination of COLA (cost of living adjustment) and medical insurance increase; potential reduction of state funding. Numbers have not changed today; will change next week after get Governor's proposed budget.

6:50 pm Back from dinner to hear the tail end of a Nova student speaking
- Dave Overman, Summit K-12 parent (ceded time by Melissa Cain who provided me with the name); by eliminating 9-12 grade portion of the program, endanger their chances finish high school; willing to be flexible
- Pam Berry, RBHS alumni parent and advocate for arts education; "declining enrollment was not by chance but by design...where is the equity?" District needs to curtail internal expenditures, cut payroll, cancel expensive seminars and training material. Sell the John Stanford Center to "zero out" district deficit.
(taking 3 people from wait list, which means 3 people didn't show up from original 20 people)
-Kevin Washington, Friends of African American Academy, gave Board members proposal that the AAA remain open as K-8 African center; serve Central, South and Southeast clusters; academic goals aligned with district benchmarks; would like to be funded throughout SE Initiative.
- Jack Jennings, Center School alumni; reconsider closing Center School; currently attends RI School of Design. Small alternative high schools over a distinct culture. Prepares students not only for tests but also for working together.
- Barbara Kelly, Meany; "seeking to preserve a middle school that is not academically tracked." Offers kids an opportunity to learn who they are.

6:15 pm Public testimony continues
- Center School parent speaking to success of school, based on data and description of program offerings. Partnerships with arts organizations and other groups at Seattle Center essential. Center School does not meet criteria for school closure.
- Bev Thompson, works for Seattle Rep & Center School; importance of keeping Center School where it is. "Students at the Center School have the freedom to be themselves...all students are accepted at the Center School."
(stopped live blogging to have time with my family)

6:02 pm Public testimony Long wait list for tonight.
- Chris Jackins on Garfield construction project. 36% above original budget already. School Board did not enforce guaranteed maximum price (GNP) agreement. Ask that the Board vote no on this item. Also ask that School Board drop all proposed closure plans.
- April Bolding on behalf of Arbor Heights PTSA. Propose a new student assignment plan before closing any schools. More than 300 WS South students attend WS North schools. Some program inequities between North and South clusters. District needs to offer full Spectrum program in West Seattle South cluster. Mentioned several plans for growing Arbor Heights.
- Eric Iwamoto (Arbor Heights PTSA) ceded time to Brittany (Cooper parent). Test scores and results at Cooper show that Cooper is excelling with its demographic. Don't understand why you would want to dismantle a successful school to try to build it up elsewhere. Children will be sent away from school that they love to schools that are less successful which is not fair.
- Kelli LaRue (NE capacity & Thornton Creek); speaking to scope of turmoil; suggesting have additional counseling services at affected schools; concerned about impact on students; wants to make sure there is long-term strategic plan.
- Maria Guttierez (Thornton Creek); Thornton Creek are unanimously opposed to the proposal; would like to remain a K-5 expeditionary learning program at the Decatur building. Moving Thornton Creek to Jane Addams does not address capacity issues. Instead, create a math/science magnet building in the Jane Addams building or create a traditional K-8 with Spectrum classes and an ALO program. Could be staffed with existing teachers, which is necessary because of hiring freeze.

6:00 pm Meeting starting; Cheryl Chow absent (out-of-town); Sherry Carr arriving shortly.


I ceded to Dave Overman, another Summit parent.
Beth Bakeman said…
Thanks, Liss. I made the correction.
Roy Smith said…
One of the Key Assumptions for K-5 capacity analysis listed on page 22 of the slideshow is an average K-5 class size of 25 students.

Does this seem like a reasonable average class size to the readers of this blog? I'm really curious as to what people view as reasonable.
S Sterne said…
In my view, 25 is reasonable for grades 2-5, but too large for K and for 1.

squeagle said…
There were 28 in my son's Kimball kindergarten, and IMO that was too many. Kids who weren't "average" slipped through the cracks.
reader said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
dj said…
My daughter was in a K-2 class with 26 students (more K than 1, more 1 than 2). Twenty-six seemed like a large class size. This year, her class size (first grade) is 23, which at least in my data-set-containing-two-points view, seems more manageable.
cody said…
My child is in a kindergarten class of 30 this year. By any rational criteria this is far too many for a good educational experience, no matter how many parent volunteers, etc there may be. The reaction from the district has been underwhelming, and it took until November even to get a consistent teacher's aide.

I wish everyone arguing for a delay in closures/consolidations until 2010 would walk through the schools in the NE cluster that are literally bursting at the seams - with more kids coming down the pipe next year. A lot of the recommendations seem excessively complicated, and perhaps many closures could wait a year or so, but there are simply no seats for these kids in our cluster right now. It seems to me that the current recommendations simply set Thornton Creek and up for a lot of problems, and do little to solve the capacity issue.
Josh Hayes said…
cody, I think I lost something in translation there; you said:

A lot of the recommendations seem excessively complicated, and perhaps many closures could wait a year or so, but there are simply no seats for these kids in our cluster right now. It seems to me that the current recommendations simply set Thornton Creek and up for a lot of problems, and do little to solve the capacity issue.

Can't parse that -- are you saying it doesn't make sense to move TC into the former Summit building? I'm just trying to understand your point here.
WS said…
Sorry I didn't stay past the break either. Next time let me know and I will ... you guys do this for the sheer love and volunteerism for it, but WSB is our job, so I would be happy to stay longer and take notes on behalf of this site too if need be - I watched the last 20 minutes or so over dinner upon returning home but there wasn't much discussion on those various BEX-money-shuffle votes ... Tracy @ WSB
Unknown said…
My second child is in a class of 26 at Graham Hill. It is too many kids. The physical space is cramped (very small room), and one teacher to 26 kids means there is not very much individual attention. My eldest child was in a class of I believe 21at Beacon Hill for kindergarten; it was 17 for first grade (school prioritized an extra teacher for 1st grade where most of the children learned to read). Seventeen seemed like a much more manageable class size. More than that, and a significant amount of time is spent on making sure you avoid chaos.
beansa said…
My daughter's K class had 29 kids and it was chaos. I didn't even like helping out in her classroom because it was so crazy in there. During literacy groups, which was when I volunteered, there weren't even enough tables for all the groups so some of the kids were doing their writing work on the floor.

And, when my kid was having some challenges in class and we tried to work out some solutions with her teacher, we were told that there were too many kids in the class for the teacher to give our daughter any "special attention." Unless that special attention was keeping her in at recess...

Now she is in a mixed 1st & 2nd grade class with 18 kids and it seems perfect. She's doing much better in this smaller classroom.
I've heard rumors that one way the district may deal with budget challenges is by pushing class sizes to the maximum allowed under teacher's contracts, instead of using WSS ratios.

From a meeting I attended awhile ago, I jotted down these maximums:

K-3: max 28 students/teacher
Grades 4-5: max 32 students/teacher

(I don't know how to explain those 30 student K classrooms in the NE cluster, unless they had an aide?)

Interestingly, here's what the recently-released Joint Task Force on Basic Education Finance report says should be average class sizes:

Basic class size ..... 25.0

Basic class size in schools where more than fifty percent of the students are eligible for free and reduced price meals..... 22.0

Class size in grades kindergarten through three..... 15.0

However, Goodloe-Johnson always sounds dismissive about the educational value of smaller class sizes, and with no funding tied to the Joint Task Force's recommendations, I'm certainly not holding my breath.
Maureen said…
My kids classes have always been within one or two of the contractual maximum. Kid one had 28 in kindergarten, 31 in 1st grade (with no aide). Kid two currently has 31 in 5th grade. Classes are always too big, but I wouldn't want to lose any of the kids. I can only imagine how much more they all would have learned with 17(wow!). I don't understand how some popular schools have such small classes. Why doesn't the District just keep sending them kids until they reach the max?
North End Mom said…
Lauren McGuire was not at the meeting. She was not the speaker for the Center School (her slot went to someone on the waitlist).
Beth Bakeman said…
Thanks, North-End mom. Made the correction.
I can explain the 30 kids in K. All K classrooms in the NE were seriously over-loaded. The district assigned 30 kids to nearly every class in addition to adding a full 5 extra K classrooms in the NE.

Because of waitlist moves, some schools dropped down to more reasonable numbers in the 25-27 ish range. And yes, 27 only seems reasonable when compared to 30 but that is another topic. Also some families just decided to wait it out. They either went private or homeschool at the last minute when they saw 30 kids or if they had summer birthdays decided to wait until next year.

So all the K classrooms in the NE are on the largish side and folks are happy when they get only 25.

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