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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

General Thoughts From the Work Session

First, hats off to Beth. Blogger supreme - she hung in after I gave up (after 4 hours so maybe it wasn't giving up so much as giving in to fatigue).

(Sorry about the wacky formatting - I was tired and having trouble getting it right.) np: I did some quick fixes for you. -- Beth

General Notes from the Meeting:

  • early on, before the new list came out, there was this curious statement: "Seattle has more facilities than districts of comparable size - mean more administrators to support those extra buildings." My reaction to this was to wonder if this was (1) an opening shot to getting rid of principals (and good luck to those low on the totem pole) and (2) to deflect attention from the fact that, as well, we have more central office administrators than other districts.
  • Charlie and I had spoken before the meeting and he said (and some parents here have echoed it): why doesn't the district ASK people what they want? Not about closures, clearly no one wants schools closed. But, before starting the SE Initiative, why not ask parents in those areas why they don't choose RBHS, Aki and Cleveland? Is it safety? Is it academics? Is it staff? Combo? Why doesn't the district ask parents, when they have the opportunity, why are you leaving SPS and enter it on a graph?
How do you know where you are going (and how to get there), if you don't know the reasons for the situation?

  • there was a presentation by Fred Roe (who is either the Acting Director of Special Ed or new Director - I couldn't hear) about Special Ed. He mentioned parent concerns like keeping groups together, addressing transitions, improving access to services, predictibility/early notice of service placement, making services more welcoming and addressing secondary school scheduling (possibly giving Special Ed students access to general ed/elective classes first). It was also mentioned that all the recommendations last night may not address all Special Ed needs.
  • I'm not sure I agree with Charlie that the Advanced Learning presentation was all that. It was good but the problem is - always - implementation and follow-thru. It's not that I don't believe Bob Vaughn, the director of Advanced Learning, doesn't mean it. But the district is swamped and AL has taken a backseat so I don't expect it not to now. He talked about four areas: acceleration in all elementary and middle schools, increased number and array of AP/IB courses, specific options for Spectrum/ALO and APP working two grade levels ahead. He specifically said that high school teachers would get more training, and ID students for advanced courses. There is also a move about to give more weight to grades from honors, AP and IB courses.

    Dr. Vaughn also said something curious about not being able to compare the elementary APP program with anything else when there wasn't. Well, there is in other districts and that's how you make the comparisons. He said with two elementary ones you could compare.

    Sherry Carr asked about how there were 15 Rainier Scholars at TT Minor and yet they weren't in APP. How to find kids like them? He claimed there would be more room with two programs but said that every advanced student doesn't have to crowd into these two programs. Cheryl Chow started speaking at one point in this discussion and, oddly, struggled with what to call non-APP students. General Ed was the answer but it just seemed weird.

    Charlie was correct in pointing out elsewhere that neither Dr. Vaughn nor Carla Santorno had an answer to Michael DeBell's question about accomodating growth in a reference area school? Which brings me to my main question: in the past, APP students' sibs couldn't go to Lowell unless they were in APP. Well, now that both Lowell and Marshall will be able to have APP and regular ed students, how will all these sibs be put in? Will the enrollment plan favor one sib over another (APP versus regular ed)? I'm just thinking it might not work to have APP sibs in the building (if they are out of reference area) so reference area sibs (either APP or regular ed) can be in the building.
  • While Dr. Vaughn was very enthused (in his own mellow way), I'm not sure good intentions are enough. Harium Martin-Morris seems skeptical on this issue as well. Dr. Vaughn did say that Garfield has given the PSAT to all freshman/soph/juniors for the last three years and had good results and that all these student levels in all the comprehensive high schools took it this year and he expected good outcomes (i.e. more kids being interested in higher level learning) immediately.

5 comments:

dj said...

It was good but the problem is - always - implementation and follow-thru.

This is what I have been saying (OK, in the like three threads in which I have participated). What some of us in the Lowell-to-T.Marshall community are now working on is seeing to what extent we can really work on and solidify that implementation. I do not have longitudinal experience here in Seattle. What is the best way to work with the district on details? What kinds of details (moving teachers/principals, after-school activities, etc.) should we be focusing on with realistic hope of getting input into the district's plan? I'd love advice from more experienced folks.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Call the co-joined schools from last time like West Seattle and talk to the principal and the PTA president(s). Ask what the district did for them and was it enough and did it work?

Make a detailed list of all your concerns, go over it with both schools' principals and PTA presidents. Then, take it to the Board and staff. (The Board loves when communities work together and you may get more of what you want if they see this.)

Charlie Mas said...

I can't wait to meet the freakin' superheroes they have on these "design teams". These people can do anything! I'm ready to hear Carla Santorno tell us how the design teams will cure cancer, bring us peace with honor in Iraq, fix the economy, and end world hunger.

Beth Bakeman said...

Charlie, thank you for being you, and for not only doing wonderful, detailed data analysis, but also making comments like the last one about "freakin' superheroes" that make me smile.

Anonymous said...

Charlie said:
"I can't wait to meet the freakin' superheroes they have on these "design teams". These people can do anything! I'm ready to hear Carla Santorno tell us how the design teams will cure cancer, bring us peace with honor in Iraq, fix the economy, and end world hunger."

Oh you are so absolutely on-the-money with this one. Who are these superheroes, and WHERE IS THE MONEY TO PAY FOR THEM?! There is no money to pay for principals, ffs, where are they going to drum up money for "design teams". I can hear the legislators laughing already.

They need more than "design teams" for the proposed middle school APP split. Uh, didn't the district learn from the last go-around all the reasons that was not going to work as advertised? We're magically going to have a music program sprout up at Hamilton? Maybe something musical, but not a serious program any time soon.

What about math? Think Hamilton will have an Integrated 3 for 8th graders? Guess those kids are just out of luck. Oh wait, by pulling 1/2 the kids from Washington you're killing the most advanced math for those kids as well, because there won't be enough students to support even one class anymore.

What about the fact that Hamilton is not "Hamilton", but Hamilton INTERNATIONAL. The previous principal made it very clear that if APP was in that building they would need to have an international focus. Unlike the proposed booting of 1/2 the elementary kids, I haven't seen anything that suggests they would insert a principal with gifted-ed experience in the incoming middle school. Nothing against the principal there right now (well, maybe...), but it's inconsistent policy, at best.

How AND WHEN are these design teams supposed to itemize the problems, propose solutions, find mistakes in their thinking and re-propose new solutions, and then ultimately implement them? Uh, during the next 6 months??