Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Superintendent's Reaction to Questions about Preliminary Recommendations

Full slide deck of Superintendent's presentation from December 3rd Board meeting is posted here. Some interesting excerpts:

"A team of former teachers and principals is visiting Elementary, Middle/K-8, and High Schools to do building walk-throughs. The purpose of these walk-throughs is to validate the functional capacity of each building, and the current use of these rooms. It is important that this data is correct so that it can be usedto help determine building functional capacities. This information will be shared with the building closure team and will be used to determine student assignments and program placements during the capacity management/building closure process. We are proposing a Tuesday work shop to go through this analysis."

"Questions about amount of change to the Central cluster. Response: Central & South clusters contain a large number of excess seats. Staff are evaluating additional ways to eliminate the large number of excess seats in the South cluster.

Questions about the creation of two APP/ALO programs. Response: While the APP programs cannot expand significantly in either Thurgood Marshall or Hawthorne, two strong programs with access by reference area students will be created. This is a model for creating strong accelerated learning programs in other areas as the new assignment plan is implemented. This is an example of duplicating a successful program."

"Questions about the location of Summit at Rainier Beach. Response: Staff are evaluating whether the co-location of Summit and Rainier Beach is fiscally feasible. Transportation to Summit/AS#1 currentlycosts upwards of $900,000 each year. This does not appear to be a viable expenditure with the current budget situation. We have received substantial feedback that a majority of the Summit students will not travel to the Rainier Beach building, which will continue the excess capacity problem. This may result in a final recommendation to discontinue the Summit K-12 program."

"Questions about the need to close a high school in South or Southeast. Response: Staff are evaluating the ability to merge Rainier Beach and Cleveland at the Cleveland building. The new program would retain the math/science and performing arts focus.

Questions about the need to close a middle school in South or Southeast. Response: If the recommendation is made to merge Rainier Beach and Cleveland, the Rainier Beach building becomes available for closure or repurposing."

"Questions about the need for additional closures. Response: Staff are exploring options for using the excess capacity at The New School, which may involve closing an additional elementary building in the area and/or changing the grade span of The New School.

Questions about locating Pathfinder at Arbor Heights or at Cooper. Response: At the work session on November 25 the School Board indicated that the option of altering the Student Assignment Plan to permit the location of Pathfinder at Cooper should be evaluated. Staff are evaluating this option."

"Opportunities for the Rainier Beach building. Response: Move Aki Kurose to Rainier Beach/close Aki Kurose building. Move the Bilingual Family Center to Rainier Beach. Assign displaced SE Meany, African American Academy and Summit (if discontinued) middle school students to Aki @ Rainier Beach. Rainier Beach building is in a better condition and has better performing arts facilities than Aki. Retains larger building which allows more flexibility in the future."

"Proposed Tuesday Workshop Agenda: Review of functional capacity numbers. Review of comments heard at December 4th and 6th community meetings. Review of questions/concerns raised after November 25 work session. Review of potential final recommendations."


Additional interesting comments by Superintendent during presentation and/or questions from Board members:

  • Chow: Would like to hear more about the African-American Academy rationale for why it is being considered for closure. Goodloe-Johnson: responds quickly, seems to have no qualms about this recommendation.
  • Bass: It would be really helpful to have a fuller picture of transportation costs for all schools. Questioning where excess capacity really is, depends upon how clusters are divided up...we can adjust reference areas...we can adjust clusters...would rather work on the assignment plan fundamentals first before making closure/consolidation decisions. Also would like to see middle capacity numbers sub-totaled by cluster. Making decisions about Nova and Summit K-12 but not considering the rest of high schools. If we look at a piece of anything, we should look at the whole...should look at high school capacity.
  • Sundquist: "Clearly, this is a process which creates tremendous anxiety...any dollars that we can save by going through a closure process are dollars we can repurpose to use for all our children in all our schools...very committed to going through this process and closing some schools...but which schools are the right schools." Talking about Arbor Heights/Cooper/Pathfinder decision and the complexity of the system and the decisions. "Ideas for change need to come soon rather than later..." to allow adequate district analytical time and adequate time for community feedback. Encourages community to send feedback to capacity@seattleschools.org as soon as possible.
  • Martin-Morris: Encouraged by tonight because it says that this is an iterative process...glad that people are listening and making changes to earlier recommendations. Biggest concern for his district...what happens if Summit K-12 and AS#1 families stay in the North...continues capacity problems that already exist. "One of my major concerns."
  • Carr: Agree with Martin-Morris almost exactly. Building on comment in presentation that indicates potential for closure of Summit K-12, those students will absorb excess capacity that's been created...make sure we accommodate students and leave potential for growth.
  • Maier: Concerns not addressed in presentation are being worked on by staff? (GJ says "yes") Two things to keep an eye on: 1) For every move that we make, make sure that we land in a way that transitions smoothly to the new student assignment plan in 2010; and 2) For those schools where we are closing the building altogether, have an indication of where those students can go and will go...more definition about the alternatives for children for those schools. (lots of fumbling over which schools fit this category)
  • DeBell: Agreeing with Bass that we have to always remember the whole system...an organic system...linkage of building/program decisions with assignment plan...points out that with previous closures only about 1/2 of the students went where the district thought they should/would, and many left the district. "Need to have special care in this process to address desires of families..." because of impact on revenue. "We need to make sure that we are offering the right kinds of education for the families that want alternative education..." concerned about how many alternative learning environments are impacted by this proposal..."If we ask people to travel very long distances (APP, Summit K-12, etc.) it is asking a lot families...there are dollars associated with that as well." Points out that "net costs" to district for transportation are more important than gross costs..apparently district gets reimbursed differently for different kids, different programs. Suggests looking at high schools as well since that is where the greatest savings are possible.
  • Carr: One other request...pointed out earlier in testimony that we need to be attentive to how this is impacting special education students...want a timeline for when we will be able to give them (special education families) a sense of how this is going to impact them. On Tuesday, would like to talk briefly about facilities' commitments to SBOC.
  • Bass: Want to make sure we think about renaming issues as well. (Martin Luther King, commitment to Sharpless family, and others) Telling audience that she talks openly and directly with Superintendent who listens well. Shares things directly with GJ that she doesn't necessarily say in public. Impressed with public testimony and creative energy and ideas.
  • Chow: As we look at the numbers, we know that there is excess capacity in the SE district. Every school that could be impacted feels as passionately as the audience in front of us. A large number of low-income families lives in the Southeast, the Central area, and the southwest area of West Seattle. As we continue the discussion...remember that not just numbers, but are real children and families that will be impacted. "Timeframe is tough." Also, when they get to that other school, what will we do to support families and children when they get there? District has ignored SE for decades. Now we have a capacity issue. "Most likely we are going to tell South and SE high school kids that they can't go north for high school anymore...not okay unless we have quality programs for them to go to. I know this is a tough budget situation, but if the changes are going to be happening in one or two districts, we better make sure that the transition that we provide and the programs that we offer are quality programs just like anywhere else in the district."
  • Superintendent G-J: All parents will get information about assignment at the same time. We can't do the technical decisions about where students will go until the final decisions are made because it keeps changing. In order to be open and able to be receptive and make changes, we can't do the work that people want on student assignments right now. Said that special education and APP and bilingual program decisions are all based on comprehensive program audits that have been done. Finishes by mentioning upcoming meetings for additional community input, and encouraging people to check this page on a regular basis on the web as it continues to be updated.


Roy Smith said...

We have received substantial feedback that a majority of the Summit students will not travel to the Rainier Beach building, which will continue the excess capacity problem. This may result in a final recommendation to discontinue the Summit K-12 program.

Poison pill working as predicted - staff presented Rainier Beach as the new Summit location, and when people pointed out that that proposal is probably infeasible, staff responds with "well, then we'll just close Summit entirely".

I wish I could say this particular chain of events was a surprise, but it isn't.

SolvayGirl said...

Thank you Beth for all your hard work on this...and for providing those of us who could not attend with this valuable information.

snaffles said...

If students will not travel to Rainier Beach, and the District closes Rainier Beach...WHERE do the students who are attending Rainier Beach AND Summit Go?

Ending the Summit program does NOT get rid of the students, so WHERE do the students go?

With Rainier Beach closed, and the Summit program ended...Where are all the students attending? Seems to me that a building is still needed so why throw out a program?

Perhaps that is not logical.

katie said...

I agree with Snaffles. Harium, Michael and Sherri all said that Summit needs a central location because that will be the only program that draws folks out of the over crowded north end. I think a Centrally located Summit will be very successful.

SE Mom said...

Snaffles said,
"If students will not travel to Rainier Beach, and the District closes Rainier Beach...WHERE do the students who are attending Rainier Beach AND Summit Go?"

Maybe some southend Summit families with middle school kids would consider Orca. Orca is very close to Rainier Beach and started adding a middle school last year. Obviously that would not take care of alot of Summit kids, but it could work for Summit families living south.

There also seems to be many empty seats at Franklin, which is just north of Rainier Beach. I was surprised that there were so many -
almost 300.

Hearing about those empty Franklin seats also made me curious about what is going on there to improve academics and enrollment. Franklin has not been part of the SE Initiative, so what's been going on?

I appreciated hearing that Cheryl Chow commented last night about how they need to make sure that south and southeast students need good options in their neighborhoods if they will no longer be able to attend north end schools under the new assignment plan.

I want to believe, but it's tough!
What's making me the craziest about all this is hearing about money being thrown here and there for improvements at various schools and buildings (over a million for building improvements at Lowell and SE Intitiative at RBHS) and then the plan is changed and it seems the money just goes down the drain.

dan dempsey said...

Does this sound like academically sound planning for middle school?

From the Superintendent:
"She proposed either closing the Rainier Beach building or shifting several programs -- which she previously proposed to be cut -- to the building, including Meany Middle School, African American Academy and Summit, while also moving Aki Kurose Middle School there."

Stack 'em deep and teach "em cheap, you get what you pay for. Almost anyone who could afford to would run from that plan to private schools.

Sahila said...

"Stack 'em deep, teach 'em cheap - you get what you pay for"....

the diffference between planning capacity and functional capacity and last night's statement that many schools have spare seats - eg T/C and Salmon Bay, both with long waitlists

Dr Goodloe Johnson is cherry-picking again... dont you know that our kids all are just units of economic production?

Its the difference between putting only twelve eggs into a moulded carton, and stuffing a box full of as many eggs as you can get in, to minimise the cost of getting them to market....costs more to get the eggs in the carton to the shop, but you get them there pretty much intact... you save money through volume delivery, but you suffer greater losses because more break in the process.... and dont ask me where that image/analogy came from! But it kinda works to point out the ridiculous nature of the District's process/rationale in arriving at their figures... kids, like eggs, are fragile!

SolvayGirl said...

SE Mom...
I was under the impression that Franklin has been having waitlists every year. I too am surprised to see that it is under enrolled. I believe one of the issues may be its confusing system of "academies" within the school.

When looking at it for my child on the web, I can't really determine what courses are actually offered within each academy, and, more importantly, if they are all college prep. I know the humanities track is, but not sure of the others.

Some standardization of information would be helpful for those of us trying to make an informed choice. For example...Roosevelt has detailed course descriptions on its website, where Franklin is vague, and The Center School is "coming soon."

The District could do a lot in helping its schools market themselves to prospective families.

TwinMom2003 said...

Just wondering?

What would happen if the district ran out of money? Would they declare bankruptcy like a private organization? Would that allow for a reorganization of the structure - perhaps make a few smaller districts out of the current large one?

Anonymous said...

Solvaygirl, maybe I can help with Franklin. I never foundit to be confusing-the site listed all the requitred courses for the academies throughout the students' four years. My daughter graduated in June.

She was in the "Finance Academy" was required business courses like finance, accounting and economics. It WAS college-prep, she and several friends went on to college, majoring in various business subjects.

In addition to the academy courses, kids have to take all the required subjects like math and language arts, but can choose AP if they want. There's also required arts credits and PE.

Each year when she signed up for the next year's courses, I had to sign off on them and got a follow-up call from the counselor's office to remind me to look them over.

The school isn't perfect, but it suited my daughter well, and I found the staff overall caring and very invested in the students' success.

reader said...

Friends, in terms of right-sizing why not close the schools that are small and well performing and that sit on valuable land in the Central Cluster and move the communities into schools that are not doing so well. That would be so helpful to the schools that just can't seem to get traction, at a minor inconvenience to the schools that would be closing. It is a redistributive measure in many ways and financially responsible in terms of where the district has land to sell.

I know this is not a popular idea --people seem to believe that you should not touch well performing schools. But whatever makes them work well is not location or building, it's the parents and the high expectations that they bring with them. So let's bring those expectations to the places that need them instead of creating more and more pockets of terrible insularity as we see in the Central Cluster.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Central, I get what you are saying and there is some merit to it. However, I would just put out there that it isn't any school community's responsibility to come in and prop up someone else's community.

I was going to write about this elsewhere but here's some of the problems:
- an existing PTA might feel threatened by new people coming in with new ideas
-a principal might feel threatened by new people coming in with new ideas
-in a way it's paternalistic to come in and say, we know a better way, we were successful and you're not, here's what to do

This seemed to be the case a Madrona as it gentrified and more parents tried to go to Madrona and ask for some different things. It became very hostile and uncomfortable.

I know that people of good faith can sit down together but I can also see where tension and resentment could arise. I particularly see this as a problem for Lowell parents and students and it would be one not of their own doing.

reader said...

Melissa, with all due respect, I'm afraid that your outlook on this only increases the insularity and localism and exceptionalism of some of the district's most popular schools. This is a public school district. Sure, there's a "community" at a school, but then there's our Community. And if a school where expectations are high can come in and help where expectations are not high, let's get on with it.

Unknown said...

Right on, Central.

I've got an APP kid in Lowell. If the program goes to Hawethorne, then he'll go there, too. Lowell (the building) deserves to be mothballed. The APP program can be moved.

I've been disappointed by the Lowell community reaction. After being urged by the school and the PTA to be willing to work with the proposal, the response is basically "don't change anything". I can't get behind that. The financial situation is dire and tough choices need to be made now so we can get on with educating our kids.

Don't think the Hawethorne community can't teach us anything, Melissa. These are people, not WASL scores.

reader said...

And in terms of the budget shortfall, I've heard that the RBHS site is a potential lucrative sale for the district. Think about those small older school buildings in Central Cluster that are sitting on big potential income for the district: any developer would jump at the McGilvra acreage, and the Montlake site would be vastly lucrative too.

Roy Smith said...

Central District Parent, I don't think it is Melissa's outlook that is "increasing the insularity and localism and exceptionalism of some of the district's most popular schools" as you put it; I think she is diagnosing a problem that exists, whether we like it or not.

I used to make similar arguments as you are making, until it finally sunk in to me that when parents are are asked to accept changes in which the long-term outcome is uncertain (or even which are merely inconvenient to them personally), they feel they that they are being asked to put the welfare of the community ahead of the welfare of their own children and families. Most parents are extremely unwilling to do that. Whether this is right or wrong is not relevant; this is merely an observation of how parents behave.

Why not close the schools that are small and well performing and that sit on valuable land in the Central Cluster and move the communities into schools that are not doing so well?

It is my feeling that if a proposal such as this were carried through in SPS, a very sizable portion of the families from the "successful" school would bail out and go elsewhere (and it seems like the most active parents seem to have their escape routes from unpleasant change already planned out) rather than accept the risk that the merged school would more resemble the "unsuccessful" school than the "successful" school - and after a chunk of the most committed families had bailed, there would be a self-fulfilling prophecy, and parents at other schools would take note and the problem would be even more pronounced the next time it was attempted.

And selling school district property as a strategy to fix operating budget shortfalls is a recipe for long-term disaster; just ask anybody from Queen Anne who has worked on the issue of high school access for that neighborhood. What will SPS do if the school-age population of the Central District increases 30% and those properties and buildings are needed again for use by SPS? Once they are sold, the district will probably never have the funding to buy them back.

seattle citizen said...

I have to agree with Roy Smith on selling properties. While some of the properties might bring in a nice chunk o' cash, it's spit in a bucket as far as the overall budget picture, and then it's gone. Say you get twenty million for a property (if you can in this climate...lots of holes in the ground from stopped projects around this city....), you've fixed half the deficit, the deficit is still there next year, and you're now out the property.

Additionally, I don't feel that the properties are the district's to sell: They're public. They belong to the people, eternally. I know that's idealistic, but why is it right for the district to sell these public assets, never to see them again?

Thirdly, as Roy points out, who knows what the next ten, twenty or one hundred years will bring? We sold Queen Anne HS for a pittance, long gone, and that was only twenty years ago. Now people are screaming for a Queen Anne HS.

Melissa Westbrook said...

It's great that some APP people want to come in and roll up their sleeves. And of course, all children have gifts to share. (And of all the people you might tell that students are not WASL scores, I'd be the last one. My record of working to better this district speaks for itself.)

I was pointing out what happened when APP was with Madrona. I was pointing out what happened when parents with energy and resources came into Madrona and were shut down. It's not idling thinking and what I am saying is there ought to be an awareness of this history and a plan to work together from the get-go. But even parents at a low-performing school have pride and may not embrace the new high energy parents. What will the administration do to work this out? Can the Seattle Council PTSA help ease the transition? You could ask High Point and Fairmount Park how their merger is going and what challenges they faced (they are now West Seattle Elementary).

However, keep in mind; APP isn't merging with these schools. It's becoming two groups of students moving into two schools. There's a big difference.

Ben said...

Mark writes: After being urged by the school and the PTA to be willing to work with the proposal, the response is basically "don't change anything".

Not exactly. The consensus was that we wanted APP to remain at Lowell. Barring that, we would like to keep the APP cohort together in a different school. And barring that, we would like to explore different options for splitting the cohort.

The wish to keep the APP cohort together is a principled one. You might not agree with it. You might not think it's a big deal one way or the other.

But you make it sound like other Lowell APP parents are motivated mostly by not wanting to accept any changes and not by what they believe to best for the kids and the program.

jason said...

Thank you, Melissa, for chiming in on APP. It really seems to be the favorite punching bag these days.

Mark, my kids are also at Lowell. Many people ARE willing (though it's not a first choice) to go along with the split. The split, as proposed now, is not good. The north end school is in the southern part of the city. That's unreasonable. And, what money is this going to save the district? If you have the figures, I'd love to see them. We were told closing the building with save about $300-$600,000 per elementary school. I doubt this is true for Lowell. The program is moving, so the teachers and staff (most anyway) aren't being let go. There will also be additional busing to take kids a further distance. Again, how much more will this cost? We don't know. We are also going to over-fill two buildings. How will this work? There are tons more questions we haven't been given answers to. How are they going to control class sizes? Will all the classes be splits (i.e. 3/4)? You have a lot less control with half the students.

I am not willing to send my children to a school for 30 hours a week and go along "for the greater good" when there are so many unanswered questions. The district is asking too much. They are treating us like children by saying "because we said so" when we deign to ask them questions. My other favorite line from them is "it could've been a lot worse." Yeah, how? If the district wants anyone, from any school to go along with a huge change, they must be specific and treat us with the same respect they want from us.

jd said...

Melissa -- I've been looking into numbers, based on the Superintendent's presentation, and information about building capacity on the district web site. I really think there is a strong case to be made for using BF Day as the APP North site -- I posted details over at Director Martin-Morris's blog (http://harium.blogspot.com). The only downside would be having to reshuffle the QA/Magnolia overflow, but that's a lot easier than finding a place to put a program of 250 kids.

If the "north" site winds up at Thurgood, I'll throw myself into the community to make it work, but I guarantee I'm going to gripe about traveling to south of downtown every. single. time. BF Day gets APP a site with strong socio- and economic diversity, that is also north of the ship canal.

reader said...

jd, you don't seem to be reading what the super is writing. She wants to move half of the APP to a south end school, in part, to provide advanced learning opportunities that are lacking at those particular locations. And, it closes a building. No, those same attributes don't happen at BFDay... and that creates problems for QA/Mag. She wants to duplicate a successful program, isn't everyone always whining about the district not duplicating success? Clearly, she expecting a little more integration of APP and other programs in their new building. Clearly, she is spreading a wealthy parent base around. Clearly, if some of them opt not to go, and some probabably will stay at their neighborhood schools, that would be fine too. As to communities, the district created the community via the program... the district can re-create them for the best interest of the district as well.

jd said...

Reader -- I'm basically aligned with the superintendent on the split. I accept the justification for the split, and I've accepted that it's coming since it was announced. If it goes through as planned, our family will be at Thurgood, and I'll be happy to be back in a diverse environment. The only thing I won't be happy about is my kid being separated from half of his/her friends, spending 3 hours a day on a bus, and rarely being able to participate in school activities because I can't get to the school without an hour or more round trip by car or bus.

Under what I'm suggesting, Lowell will still be closed, and both halves of the program will move into underpopulated socio-economically diverse schools. One of them happens to be north of the ship canal. Not all north end schools are lily white and wealthy. The split stands a better chance of being a successful duplication of a program if geographic access doesn't gut one of the two sites. If they put the "south" half of the program at Montlake, I'd be arguing just as hard that it should be at Thurgood to make it work for the south end families. Lowell doesn't work for many south end families (no diversity, too far) and for many north end families for exactly the same reasons. A split can fix that problem, but not in the current form, which only fixes half of it.

I just feel like this process is bringing out the worst in us. Across the board, we're all jumping to the worst possible interpretation of what everyone else is doing. It bums me out. I keep telling myself its because we all care so much about having something so important work out well.

anonymous said...

Reader, have you looked at BF Day's statistics?? Not only are they the official school site for the districts homeless/transient families from all over the city, they are 20% African American, 13% Latino, 43% free/reduced rate lunch, and they perform below the district average on the WASL.

In fact their stats look pretty close to Thugood Marshall's stats. I think JD's suggestion to house APP is a good one, and at the very least worth investingating.

They have the capacity. They are diverse.

There are certainly many positives. The more affluent APP community would infuse the school with fund raising dollars and all of the enrichment opportunities that come along with those dollars.

A school that hardly has a voice would become a school with a very active parent community that would advocate on behalf of the entire community.

And, from a financial perspective, not only would the district save money by only busing north end kids to the north end, their might be another added transportation bonus. Since the school would have a north of the ship canal draw and buses would come from all over the north end, perhaps the homeless students who the district currently pays for taxi cabs for would have a bus coming through their neighborhoods

I think that the students both APP and homeless would have so much perspective to offer and share with each other.

Are there any negatives? Is there any reason these two communities couldn't or shouldn't co-house? If the goal is to "spread the wealth" as Reader put it, this would definately fit the bill.

jd said...

B.F. Day actually already has very good fundraising capacities. They have very strong ties with the local merchant's association (which includes Suzie Burke), and there's an incredibly successful auction every year. The PTA is a low key affair, but it still manages to get things done. In both regards, they are better off than Thurgood, even way below what is typical in much of the NE and parts of the NW clusters. It's not quite the "voiceless" community, but it's certainly less on the radar than the north end schools that people think of when they hear "north end school".

reader said...

Roy Smith and Seattle Citizen: the current closures are netting the district almost nothing (3mil) whereas property sales would net 3-4 times that. I guess that I am not really following your financials.

And there seems to be a double standard about what's even thinkable in terms of selling property: I have not heard a single word of concern raised about RBHS although the point about it sitting on lucrative land has been raised many times.

To the point about parents not accepting the risk of a merger with a less successful school than their own, that's really putting the cart before the horse isn't it? Why not feel the district out on this and see how much it would play ball? I keep going back to the point that this is a public school district. Think about the schools that aren't on the closure list and the discussions that are not being had about spreading the wealth as another poster mentioned.

reader said...

It's true that BF Day would be a good north end candidate for an APP split, and I also realize it isn't a hugely popular school and has some disadvantaged populations. But, they've already decided to use BF Day for QA/Mag spill-over capacity issues, which is similar to the north end. And there aren't very many other places to send QA/Mag residents that would be in any way convenient and also underenrolled. Especially hard is finding a school with any proximity to Magnolia. Looking at T. Marshall, it's unpopular and underenrolled... almost exclusively because of it's demographic, and not for any other real reason. It seems completely feasible that it could become a popular and thriving school. Distance would be the only inconvenience, but not much different than the current situation. So, the plan at T. Marshall actually seems to fix many problems... but not all.

Charlie Mas said...

I hope we all know that the District can't use the proceeds from the sale of property to meet operating expenses. The law requires that money to go to the capital budget and be spent only on capital expenses.

While it is a fine idea to merge successful programs with weak programs, does it matter if it the combined site is school A or school B? If the combined site is school A, then isn't the culture of the merged program going to be the school A culture? And if the schools are combined at school B, then wouldn't it be more likely that the culture of the combined program would be the school B culture? Doesn't the culture of a school reflect the leadership of the school? So if we want the School B culture to be the dominant culture of the newly merged program, wouldn't that suggest that we combine the programs at School B under School B's leadership?

This is what seems likely to me. Does it not seem that way to you as well?

Let's also be clear that moving APP to a school does not add advanced learning services to that school. The presence or absence of APP has nothing to do with whether the school develops an ALO for the general education students at the school. If Hawthorne wants to have an ALO they can do it with or without APP in the building. They are fully capable of doing it themselves.

Let's also be clear that splitting APP does not duplicate APP. When you duplicate a program you still have the original intact. If, for example, we wanted to duplicate TOPS, we would no do it by closing the Seward building and moving half of the TOPS students into one building as a separate program within that building and moving the other half of the TOPS students into another building as a separate program within that building. Not at all. To duplicate TOPS we would leave TOPS intact and start another program with all new students and teachers in the TOPS model. So let's stop this foolish talk about duplicating APP.

If the superintendent wants to "spread a wealthy parent base around" then she should say so. She should say that she regards some families as a resource to the district that they need to allocate. What other wealthy parent bases should we break up and re-distribute? Why stop with APP? This is such a good idea that we should do a lot of it. Is there any reason that the same mix couldn't be achieved by breaking up and re-distributing a low-income parent base? If so, then which low-income parent bases should be broken up and re-distributed?

Please tell us more about this plan and how it would work. Is this the new version of bussing? I'm sure we'll all be very excited to learn of the benefits of this sort of manipulation of communities. We'll want to get started on this plan right away.

Charlie Mas said...

reader writes:
"Looking at T. Marshall, it's unpopular and underenrolled... almost exclusively because of it's demographic, and not for any other real reason. It seems completely feasible that it could become a popular and thriving school."

I was not aware of any attribution analysis for the reasons that Thurgood Marshall is unpopular and underenrolled. Please share that data with us all.

There could, of course, be "real" reasons for these outcomes. What would be a "real" reason? What are some schools that are unpopular and underenrolled for "real" reasons?

Overfilling the school with APP students will not make it any more popular than it is right now - at least not with the neighborhood families. In fact, placing half of APP there would not leave room for as many neighborhood students as the school has today, so there will actually be fewer neighborhood students in the building after the program placement than are there right now. So the school may become popular, but for fewer students. Whom does this serve?

seattle citizen said...

Central District Parent,
Well, yes, the sale of a few properties could net the district quite a few million, probably 15 to 20, at least. But as Chralie points out, this has to go into the capital budget, not the operating, which is where the deficit is at the moment.
And my other three pints stand: short-term infusion, soon gone; public assets not to be lost forever (one hopes); and facilities that might be needed in some future city that grown dense as long-distance commuting falls out of favor, the city continues to develop urban villages, and parents/guardians see a revitalized city, improved schools, and give up on the privates...

I haven't seen much discussion, tho', and would be interested to know what the district intends to do with the properties

Roy Smith said...

Charlie Mas writes: If the superintendent wants to "spread a wealthy parent base around" then she should say so. She should say that she regards some families as a resource to the district that they need to allocate. What other wealthy parent bases should we break up and re-distribute?

Any plan which is based, even in part, on the view that parents, students, and families are "resources to be allocated" is wrong, and contrary to the principles of a free and democratic society. Families are people with needs to be met, not resources to be allocated.

I expect that the Superintendent does not hold the view that families are resources to be allocated. If the Superintedent or Seattle Public Schools do in fact have this view, then I would be hard put to criticise any family that chooses not to play in the public school system because they would rather not be "a resource to be allocated".

Central District Parent writes: people seem to believe that you should not touch well performing schools. But whatever makes them work well is not location or building, it's the parents and the high expectations that they bring with them. So let's bring those expectations to the places that need them

I can't see how this statement can be read in any way other than viewing some parents as a resource that we should be exploiting. Is there another way that this can be read? If so, I would love to hear it.

hschinske said...

Charlie says, sarcastically:

"What other wealthy parent bases should we break up and re-distribute? Why stop with APP? This is such a good idea that we should do a lot of it."

How about moving half of Roosevelt to Rainier Beach, so their much-vaunted drama program can take good advantage of that theater we keep hearing about?

I note that the word verification I have to put in before posting this is "phics." That's a sign, that is. Can we phics it? Yes, we can (uh -- I think so).

Helen Schinske

anonymous said...

I don't think APP should be broken up, I think a central location like Lowell and a larger cohort works fine for them. But if it has to be broken up I don't see what the problem is with putting the north APP site in a building that could use the resources that the APP community could offer. I listed the reasons that I thought BF Day sounded like a good idea...shared buses, shared fund raising, advocacy. Why shouldn't those resources be shared??

TOPS does it without a mandate. Their philosophy is that the families that have more resources, support the families who have less. Many schools do.

I'm not saying parents are resources or that they should be moved around for their resources. But, from human perspective, from a social justice perspective, we can help one another. Strong, affluent communities can help their weaker, low income counter parts. It's kind of like the sister school program most of our kids schools participate in.

Roy Smith said...

To be clear, I absolutely agree that families that have more resources can help families that have fewer resources, and many do just this (including in most, if not all, schools that I am aware of).

However, this is sharing that is done voluntarily. My point is that the school district doesn't get to decide who helps who; the people involved do. Given the chance, most people will work to build strong and inclusive (including being inclusive of those with less) school communities. This sharing works because it is clear to everybody involved that everybody benefits. On the other hand, if the district were to move populations arbitrarily around (to "fix" low-performing schools, for instance), the mutual benefit would not be at all obvious (if it even exists), and thus many would decline to participate.

As adhoc writes: But, from human perspective, from a social justice perspective, we can help one another. Strong, affluent communities can help their weaker, low income counter parts.

I absolutely agree.

But as adhoc also writes: TOPS does it without a mandate. . . Many schools do.

It can and does happen, but the essential point is that it cannot be mandated, and almost any effort to mandate it will be met with a level of resistance that will likely result in failure.

Dorothy Neville said...

Roy: "I expect that the Superintendent does not hold the view that families are resources to be allocated."

Roy, you are being naive.

This is not that odd a notion, and in fact has been used in the past as part of closures and consolidation discussion. (Pre Dr GJ) And I do not doubt that a lot of people feel that way about spreading the wealth. I completely believe that is Dr GJ's motivation.

Here's just one example. Back in a previous discussion of closures, Mary Bass briefly flirted with an alternate plan.

One provision of Bass’ plan proposes two strategic transitions of students from Lowell Elementary, which is located on Mercer Street in Capital Hill, to two Central Area grade schools — Leschi and T.T Minor. First, she plans to take the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders from Lowell and move them to T. T Minor and secondly move the 4th and 5th graders to Leschi.

The plan not only focuses on moving students, but also focuses on moving teachers and resources that are critical to the academic development of all students within the building, and will allow all students to grow in a strong and progressive academic environment, explained Bass.

This never went anywhere, but sure shows the thinking. Just what do you think Ms Bass meant by moving teachers and resources? What resources? Books and playground equipment or involved parents?

This blog
the proposal. Read the comments to see the reaction then to the idea of splitting up APP in such a way. How different is the current proposal?

Helen has the right idea, with moving some RHS kids to RBHS, but she's not thinking far enough out of the box. You don't have to move any program or kids, just move Van Kemper down to RBHS. Why not move Acox and Brown to Franklin and West Seattle. Move Knatt and Escobedo to Denny and Meany. Have all the APP teachers at Lowell switch places with teachers from Thurgood Marshall and Hawthorne.

Because honestly, teachers legitimately are resources, aren't they? More than kids and parents. So why not reposition your resources to be more effective?

Oh wait. Teachers are adults, professionals with rights and dignity. They don't deserve to be moved like pawns on a chess board.

Roy Smith said...

And I do not doubt that a lot of people feel that way about spreading the wealth.

I'm sure many people support spreading the wealth when it's somebody else's school whose wealth is being spread. When it is their own child's school which is being considered for wealth-spreading, not so much.

Teachers and principals ARE resources (being employees), unlike families, and moving them around would absolutely make sense. As much as possible, the school district should be doing this; but how much is really possible?

How many teachers would quit and move on to another district rather than be transferred someplace against their will? Would union rules/teachers contracts even allow teachers to be involuntarily moved? If not, how do you propose to entice enough teachers to voluntarily move to make a difference?

In the current fiscal climate, paying a bonus to talented teachers who volunteer to teach in challenged schools is probably a non-starter, and even if there was money to pay for it, would probably be killed by the teacher's union as it smells too much like merit pay.

It is a fairly well known fact that teaching positions at high-performing schools are much, much easier to fill than in low-performing schools. Many teachers, just as much as many families, seem to go to a fair bit of effort to avoid poor performing schools, even though they are probably the ones that could be most able to change that poor performance.

Dorothy Neville said...

Me: And I do not doubt that a lot of people feel that way about spreading the wealth.

Roy: I'm sure many people support spreading the wealth when it's somebody else's school whose wealth is being spread. When it is their own child's school which is being considered for wealth-spreading, not so much.

Oop, by "many people feel that way" I was not talking about parents, I was talking about the district staff and board.

Jet City mom said...

I've advocated before - before we ( the district) went to the Supreme Court and spent beaucoup taxpayer dollars to try and maintain the right to assign students to schools by race- to assign them by socioeconomic group instead.

However- that wasn't the message they( we) wanted to make-we wanted to establish that we were interested in racial diversity
- however- we were not going to make the point that economic diversity-
even though it was legal, could also be an end to the goal of a classroom that better represented the students in the district.

So now- to hear some parents argue that they want economic diversity-
after all the money that was spent, is a tad ironic.

I don't know anything about a sister school program.
My child attended Summit- that had about a 47% FRL population- but still the smaller than average group of parents
( since many families had more than one child at the school, but the amount of time/money they had to spare, did not multiply), who got things done- were able to accomplish quite a bit, considering.

I also think re: Lowell, that it is a travesty that they are considering moving the students for whom the specially designed playground was built for- any place else.

Anyone who knows anything about special needs children, MUST know that transitions are more difficult & consistency more critical, than for other students.

to another building-
could deplete any momentum that has been built up for these kids.

Saying that they need "access" to "regular", students, is a smokescreen.

I also have revised my thinking around APP.
While Spectrum and ALOs seem to be dependent on the staff/building, and may or may not be supportive of talented children-
they do seem to capture the students who are traditionally ( across the board) gifted.

However, after speaking with a few APP parents, I feel that these kids, could quite accurately be described as having " special needs".

They are often lopsided in terms of skills and interests & if they were dispersed in the " regular" student population as the district intends with the IEP students, the APP students would stand out just as much.

While our district does have a few strong schools & many strong teachers- it isn't easy or common to find.
Lowell does seem to work well- JUST THE WAY IT IS. and for Petes sake- do we really have that many success stories that we can afford to tear it apart?

Why not examine it & take the useful parts?
Oh wait- that sounds like a charter school.