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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Pathfinder K-8

From the PTSA Board at Pathfinder K-8 comes the following response to the Preliminary Recommendations.

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The question has been repeatedly asked: “What does Pathfinder K-8 think of the preliminary recommendation to move its program into the Arbor Heights Elementary building?”

This is a tough question to answer. The Pathfinder K-8 community is extremely grateful that in these challenging times the District supports keeping our program open and intact. This is clearly the most important thing to us. That stated, the community is more than disheartened, once again, to be put in the position where advocating for our program directly puts other schools and programs at risk.

Pathfinder K-8 is a vital part of public education in West Seattle. It is the only Alternative School and only K-8 in the region. It provides an important and necessary option for the many non-traditional learners in our community as well as a unique, quality education for families and kids seeking a more exploratory and holistic public education experience.

For the last 4 years we have surveyed prospective parents during enrollment tours to discover their thoughts about what we offer. Overwhelmingly, the majority of survey respondents rate our programs, curriculum, and teachers highly and rate our building very low. Our facility poses a large obstacle for families to overcome when choosing Pathfinder for their children. In a building with a sound structure that is appropriate for our program, our ability to better serve all of West Seattle increases dramatically.

As a bit of history, Pathfinder K-8 has now been on the receiving end of 5 preliminary recommendations, in the last four years, to move our program to a different building.
This comes after a district-mandated change from a K-5 to a K-8 school in 1999, with little additional funding to provide for an upgrade in facilities. Our upper grades, 6th through 8th, have been in portables ever since. Despite this challenging situation, the staff and community persevered and today we have strong and cherished upper grades. There is a detailed timeline and background information on Pathfinder’s facilities issues available on our website (building history). Please take a look at it so you can understand the situation in detail.

Suffice it to say that Pathfinder K-8 has a history of receiving preliminary recommendations that are reasonable for its program and address its facility issue, but come with the heavy burden of causing pain to other parts of our shared community. It has always been an extremely difficult, painful and energy-draining situation to be placed in. It is also true in the last 4 years that reasonable preliminary recommendations have turned into less desirable final recommendations that our community could not support.

Last spring and summer, questioning that a suitable building for our program would be found, built or otherwise manifested and, not willing to wait for another BEX levy, the Pathfinder K-8 community rolled up its sleeves to do what it could for its kids and community. Volunteers spent over 1,000 hours in 5 months, weekends and summer break with brushes and ladders, painting its 6 double portables. Thousands of dollars of paint and supplies were donated by the community. The staff hand painted a new sign for the portables and the eighth grade students began the work of reclaiming planting beds.

So, what is Pathfinder K-8’s response to the recommendation that our program move into the Arbor Heights building? We struggle with what it should be. We ask the community to understand how difficult it is to answer this. In light of our past experience, how can we ensure the safety and integrity of our program, defend the need for high quality schools for all children in West Seattle, and still meet the goals and constraints set forth by the Seattle School District?

While there are certainly many possibilities, the ones that meet everyone’s needs are not as easy to find. The School Board has indicated that they are interested in hearing ideas and creative approaches, as are we. It is unfortunate that, due to the current state of our School District, none of the likely scenarios are easy or painless for any of the schools involved. Still, we are committed to enduring this process and working through the appropriate channels to find resolution.

3 comments:

Melissa Westbrook said...

I have read what Arbor Heights has said and I have read about some of the thinking out of Summit and now this from Pathfinder. All of these parents groups have had measured, steady responses that do not try to pit school against school. Summit, for example, evenhandedly looked for the pros (and not just the cons) in their possible move to RBHS. They talked about how their program could help RBHS.

My point is none of these groups have been "what's in it for us?" and that is very gratifying to see and hear.

I feel so sad for Pathfinder because all they really want is a decent building for their program. It's what every program deserves. They have made do and put sweat equity into their building (as Summit has now for 20 years). I advocated for Pathfinder to get a rebuild under BEX III given that they do have the space for it. It seems apparent now that AAA could have been closed sooner and New School could have moved there (a whole mile away) and the money being used for New School could have gone to a building in far worse condition than the South Shore building that houses New School - namely, Pathfinder. But that didn't come to pass and somehow Van Asselt is to fill that building.

I plan on writing about what staff said in their closure plans just 3 1/2 years ago compared with now. But, in Pathfinder's case, staff said there were only TWO buildings in WS/SW that could potentially be K-8s. Those were High Point (now merged with Fairmount Park in High Point and called West Seattle Elementary) and...Cooper. Now, has something dramatically changed in 3 1/2 years? Not really but somehow staff changed their minds. The question is why. Anyway, I'll go into detail later but it's worth asking questions now.

Good for you, Pathfinder.

zb said...

I too am heartened to see so many on this board trying hard to work together in the common interest. School districts commonly see themselves as the advocates of all the children, while parents advocate only for their own child. This justifies the district's antagonism towards listening to parents (because the district sees themselves as protecting the vulnerable child who has no advocate).

By being magnanimous and working together for common solutions, perhaps parents can come up with *better* solutions, and not solutions that appear to pit one faction against another.

seattle citizen said...

Yes! Work together! Meet together, organize together, find common ground together, elect a voice to firmly and eloquenty present the UNITED voice of the community! The district, in a positive light, does serve ALL students and must balance all their needs. We, the community, can do nothing else; we must work together or a) there is too little voice to be effective (unless one has the ear of powerful people) or b) the small self-interested group (no slight intended) is merely advocating for a sort of "I'll get mine, you get yours" system which is NOT what public schools are all about.
For instance, look at the ways different groups interact to the benefit of the whole: Some have said that APP and the Special Ed program at Lowell have served both populations...where are the studies about such things? Let's hear more of that!